A Travellerspoint blog

Another Ferry Trip

February 16, 2016

sunny 34 °C
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We caught the early (7:30) ferry to Kottayam, which is a city of about 375,000. We saw a large group of fishermen out in their canoes on the edge of the lake. They have some method of fishing with a large square net on a long pole. They put the net down to the bottom and kind of scrub it along the bottom. We have no idea how this works or what they catch. It looks very strange compared to the fishing we are used to seeing.
Fishing

Fishing

Schoolbus ferry stop

Schoolbus ferry stop

A little passenger who was bored until I took her picture

A little passenger who was bored until I took her picture


This ferry we were on was also the school bus, we stopped regularly to pick up kids and they all got out at the last stop as well. I don't know how much further they had to go to get to school, but it wasn't right at the ferry stop.
We had read this trip would be about 2 1/2 hours, but it turned out it was only 1 3/4 and we were at the last stop. However, the last stop was 10 km from Kottayam. There is a new highway bridge being constructed across the canal, and it is closed for the duration. So we got out and got a tuk tuk for the last part of the trip.
Lovely canal

Lovely canal

Blooming water lilies

Blooming water lilies

Road at the end of the ferry ride

Road at the end of the ferry ride


We had the driver drop us off at a restaurant we had picked from the guide. We figured then we would know where it was and we arranged to be picked up from there later. We walked down the street and lucked into finding the Kairali Crafts Fair. It was the last day of the sale. It was held in a big building which was still quite cool in the morning. We spent quite a long time looking at all the various wares - clothing, fabric, brassware, jewelry, artwork, carving, etc. Don bought a couple of shirts and I bought a dress, as well as some fabric. It turned out that lots of the stores were closed that day due to a strike, so we were lucky to find somewhere to browse and shop. As we explored further down the street, we heard a loudspeaker and lots of cheering. We walked into a courtyard of a college. There was a big assembly building packed full of college students, wildly cheering. We were taken in hand by a security guard, who escorted us to a couple of girls who spoke English very well. They wanted to take us right to the front of the hall so we could see what was happening. We said no, we only have a few minutes. They said it is an arts festival and this is the "Smiling Comedy" part???? We didn't get it, but they were obviously having a great time. We had to take pictures of our helpers, shake hands all round, and then got on our way for lunch. We didn't want to miss the 1:30 ferry back, because there wouldn't be another one until 4:30.
Assembly hall packed full

Assembly hall packed full

Don with all our helpers

Don with all our helpers


We had a much safer lunch for me at a restaurant - no curry for this girl - and then met our driver and returned to the ferry. On the way back to Alleppey, it was amazing how many houseboats we saw. They were everywhere - at one point where we cross the bottom of the lake, I could see 50 all at the same time! They say there are 1000 of them based in Alleppey.
Some of the many houseboats - its like a boat freeway!

Some of the many houseboats - its like a boat freeway!


After we came home and rested for a bit, we went out and wandered around a different neighborhood before having supper. We found a shop selling these great birdhouses - a coconut shell covered with coir (coconut fibre). Very cool, but a bit bulky for putting in the suitcase.
Coconut birdhouses

Coconut birdhouses

Posted by katdill 17:39 Archived in India Comments (0)

Exploring the Backwaters

February 15, 2016

sunny 32 °C

Having read about the different kinds of trips into the backwaters, we decided against the typical tourist trip of a houseboat tour of the backwaters and went on a local ferry. This was about a 2 hour trip across a couple of lakes and along several different canals. Some places the dike at the side of the canal just divides the canal from the rice paddies. Little houses are built on the dike, very close together and with no room in front or behind. Other places there is more solid ground and that is where the villages are located.
Line of palms on the dike

Line of palms on the dike

One of the many houseboats

One of the many houseboats


We ended up in the town of Kavalam, where the ferry stops. We had been advised that maybe we could get a different ferry to take us on further. Once we were there, very little English was spoken and it seemed that if we went any farther we would end up riding a bus back to Alleppey. We wandered around Kavalam, looking for a place to eat lunch. Someone passing us pointed to a little place at the side of the road and said "fresh eat". So we had a look - there were about 3 tables in front of the house, with roof for shade and fans to keep us cool. So we had our first banana leaf plate meal of this trip. It was a typical curry lunch, with a big pile of rice and lots of little curries and pickles, etc. to eat with it. This is the kind of meal I have been avoiding the whole trip, but it was all there was and they did not speak English, or very little English. The man of the house was sitting at a table across from us and watched us most of the time we were eating. He made sure I had a spoon to eat with, although Don demonstrated his expertise at eating with his hand. They were so focused on whether we were enjoying it, I just had to eat it and enjoy it even though I knew I would pay for it later. They urged us to have more and when we said enough, they brought out two different liquid desserts for us to try. They were very good as well. This meal cost us all of 100 rupees or $2.00 CAD.
Banana leaf curry meal

Banana leaf curry meal

Umbrella hats are a great idea

Umbrella hats are a great idea


After lunch we continued walking the road thru town and found our way past a school down to the canal and a ferry stop. The canal has these concrete steps/landings every so often and you just go sit in the shade on one until a ferry comes your way. Then you stand up and signal you want on and they stop for you. We had the entertainment of the young teens from the school on their lunch break. They wanted to talk to us and have their pictures taken. 13 year old boys are pretty much the same everywhere!
The ferry cost us 13 rupees each for each way. Much much cheaper than the fancy canal boats and houseboats and we went further and experienced more! We even had a young fellow on the trip out that spoke some English and was very cooperative about trying to answer our questions about what was that? and why? etc. His name was Sebastian and he didn't live on the canal, but was going to visit some friends.
Dredging the canal

Dredging the canal

Getting the laundry done

Getting the laundry done

Some of the rice harvest

Some of the rice harvest


After we got back to town, we had a bit of a rest in our room. Once it started to cool off, we went out exploring the town for a bit before eating supper. We found a couple of stores that sell only handwoven fabrics, saris, toweling, shirts, etc. This is supported and encouraged by the government. So we had to buy something - a dhoti or 2 metres of fabric. We also discovered a man selling garden seeds, although there were several we had no idea what they were. And we discovered the best shop ever - a store that only sold umbrellas!! There were actually about 3 or 4 of the umbrella stores, placed very close together. That's the street to be on when it rains.
Umbrella store

Umbrella store

Hardware/kitchen ware vendor

Hardware/kitchen ware vendor


Finally we had supper at Kream Korner, which had lots of choices and good food. And so ends another exciting day.

Posted by katdill 08:12 Archived in India Comments (0)

On the Bus Again

February 14, 2016

sunny 32 °C
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We took a tuk tuk to the ferry terminal, a ferry to Ernakulam, a tuk tuk to the bus depot, and after waiting 1/2 hour finally got on an A/C bus to Alleppey. This bus ride is supposed to take around 1 1/2 or 1 3/4 hours. Today if took 3 hours! Apart from the usual horrendous traffic, the police closed the main highway for part of the way and the bus had to go off on a smaller backroad to finish the trip. It looked to us like the Communist Party of India was having a rally or something, there were red flags everywhere for miles and busloads of men dressed in white. Anyway, we finally arrived and luckily our accommodation is only a couple of blocks from the bus terminal so we could just walk over.
Family transportation

Family transportation

The crowd outside the government liquor store

The crowd outside the government liquor store


The government in Kerala has closed down a lot of liquor outlets, alcoholism is a big problem apparently. So now there are a few government liquor stores and a few tourist places which sell alcohol. It was fairly appalling to see the crowds of men outside every liquor store we went by in the afternoon!
Venice Castle is a very nice house with wide hallways and spacious rooms. After we settled in and cooled down in the A/C - walking with luggage in this heat is very hot work - we went out to see what we could find. I wanted to have supper early because lunch had really just been some fruit and snacks on the bus.
Our room

Our room


Alleppey is the Venice of India. Canals connecting the ocean with the backwaters, lots of boats for hire to take people cruising on the backwaters, so very touristy. We followed a little lane that wandered around between properties and finally came out on a road beside the canal. Some boats were setting out, some coming back. Lots of activity. We finally found a restaurant which had limited food available because of the time of day, we were too early for dinner. But we managed to fill the gap.
One of the many boats

One of the many boats


As we continued to walk around down we came to a temple where we could hear horns and drums. The man sitting by the entrance urged us to go in and have a look around the temple. This was a temple to Ayyappa, some god we had never heard of before, but it looked a lot like other temples we have seen.
Main part of the temple

Main part of the temple

Horn and drum players

Horn and drum players

Image of the god

Image of the god


We finished our walk in the dark, which can be challenging as the street lights are unreliable (as in no lights sometimes) and the footing is very uneven. But we made it just fine.

Posted by katdill 17:19 Archived in India Comments (0)

Interesting Shopping

February 13, 2016

sunny 32 °C
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We had a slower start this morning because we had some food to eat for breakfast here. We also had the internet for the first time in a day, so we tried to get caught up while we could. When we set out, the first thing we did was visit a tailor shop and arrange to have a dress made for me. I picked a light weight blue handwoven cotton and they said it would be ready this afternoon. Then we visited the fruit and vegetable market to get more food for tomorrow, both for breakfast and to take with us on the bus.
Don at the market

Don at the market

Imagine carrying mixed concrete in a bowl on your head!

Imagine carrying mixed concrete in a bowl on your head!


When we brought the food back to our place, we had a little visit with Sheeja's father about his nice little garden. He gave us some green peppercorns off one of his pepper vines to bring home. When he heard Don was a gardener too, his eyes lit up. He had an orchid blooming and he has a teak tree in his yard. Very nice.
Orchid in the garden

Orchid in the garden

The gardener and his granddaughter

The gardener and his granddaughter


We continued downtown to visit an art gallery. It turned out to be the same place Don had picked for lunch. The Kashi Art Cafe has a small exhibition space and a larger eating area. Good food in a lovely atmosphere. After lunch and art viewing, we visited a couple of more shops, looking at some lovely textiles - patchwork pieces with kantha stitching all over them, as well as all kinds of clothing. Then we stumbled across Indian Industries, a shop which looks like all the old antique/junk shops that I love to visit. So in we went and had a browse around. There's a carved wooden sign at the entrance that says "You are welcome to browse". The man seated at the desk said Hello, but he didn't get up and attend us. When we enter most of the stores here we immediately have a salesperson attach themselves to us to help us. I'd rather look without the help, but what can you do? In this store, if you wanted help you went to the desk and said "How much is this?" and he gave you a price. I ended up buying a small wooden block stamp for the equivalent of about $2.00. Then we started talking to John and he had us sit down with him while we talked. He told us about the shop, that his father had started it and it had been open 70 years. He had lots of anecdotes about different customers over the years. He told us about Mrs. Heinz, from Heinz ketchup, who had visited Kochi, bought some stuff from a shop, wanted to meet the owner, and developed a friendship with his father that lasted for years. She ended up donating about $40,000. US to the Kochi YMCA because John's father was working on developing it at the time.
While we were chatting, people would come in and browse, ask questions, buy or not, and he would keep talking to us. He showed us a couple of chess sets that one couple were very interested in purchasing. He thought they would be back to buy them. One of the sets was made from camel bone, which is what they use instead of ivory, and the other one was sandalwood. Lovely sets and he said once they are gone, it is impossible to get them again. The carvers have gotten old and quit and there are no young carvers taking their places. It's sad to see such lovely handwork die, but it seems there are much easier ways to make a living now.
John at his desk

John at his desk

Camel bone chess piece

Camel bone chess piece

The outside of his 400 year old building with his shop and home above it

The outside of his 400 year old building with his shop and home above it


After a lovely visit, we wandered over to the waterfront. Scores of people were walking along the promenade. We realized it was Saturday, so maybe that was why, but we haven't been down there in the late afternoon before either, so maybe at the end of every day it's like that. We saw what was obviously several classes of kids walking purposefully with their teachers. We followed them and watched as they got to the end of the sidewalk and all went down on the beach by the water. Most of them were dressed very well, which seems a bit strange to me, for a beach visit. After about 10 minutes at the beach, they formed up again and away they went. Purpose? Unknown.
Some of the school girls

Some of the school girls

Others enjoying the afternoon beach

Others enjoying the afternoon beach


We then walked back to the tailor's shop, so I could try on my dress and pick it up. I'm happy with it, but it needs to be washed before I wear it, to soften it up. We walked back downtown to try and find a recommended restaurant, which we eventually found out was now closed. But we found another one on Don's list and ate there instead. Then walked home again. So I've walked downtown and back twice today and have very tired feet!

Posted by katdill 17:54 Archived in India Comments (0)

Ernakulam and Kathakali

February, 12, 2016

sunny 32 °C
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We set off to go to Ernakulam, which is the city here, in contrast with Fort Kochi, the tourist destination. Our hostess had told us there were international banks there, so we hoped our Mastercards would work there. We decided to go by ferry, as the ferry service is very regular and much quicker and cheaper than driving around the bay. So we walked to the first ferry terminal, which was for a ferry to Vilpin island, another part of the city. We were told we could take this ferry and then take another ferry from there to Ernakulam. We thought OK a harbour tour on the ferry! So away we went - these ferry rides cost 3 rupees each - dirt cheap! When we got to Vilpin, we had trouble finding the Ernakulam dock and the ferry left without us, so we had a wait of 45 minutes until the next one. Luckily, we got to sit in the breezy shade by the water and wait, watching boat traffic and fisherman.
Once we got to the city, we took a tuk tuk to the train station. We had a very friendly older man as our driver and he gave us helpful suggestions about our travels. Very nice and useful too. We bought a train ticket to come back north after we spend a week farther south. We wanted to made sure we had a reserved seat because the train trip is about 3 1/2 hours long. We decided to take the bus down to Alleppey on Sunday, because both our hostess and the tuk tuk driver said it would be better than the train trip. We'll see!
The tuk tuk driver also said there was a HSBC bank down the street so after we finished at the train station - you have to fill out a form with name etc, in order to buy a ticket - we started walking around.
First stop was Mr. Idlis, seems like an Indian chain fast food place. Good food, though. Then we set out for the bank, with me being distracted by all the fabric and clothing stores along the way. 5 or 6 metres of fabric in a sari for only 500 rupees or $10 CAD! Very distracting!
We eventually found the bank, but our cards did not work in their ATM either and the customer service man said there was nothing he could do. So now we will give up trying and just use the VISA card.
We took a tuk tuk back to the ferry and just caught one about to leave, so no waiting this time. Once back in Fort Kochi, we walked along to the Seagull Hotel again. We stopped at a spice store - fascinating place of sights and smells. More beer on the deck, enjoying the boats of workers going by on their way home. We're not sure if they are fishermen or if the fishing boats pick up other workers and give them a ride at the end of the day.
Spice shop

Spice shop

Workers going home

Workers going home


Then we went over to the Kerala Kathakali Centre for a cultural dance performance."Kathakali is a stylized classical Indian dance-drama noted for the attractive make-up of characters, elaborate costumes, detailed gestures and well-defined body movements presented in tune with the anchor playback music and complementary percussion." Wikipedia At 5:00 they start putting on the makeup, right on stage so everyone can watch. They use the mineral colours and coconut oil as their makeup and glue paper to their faces with rice flour glue!
Finally we had a demonstration of the different techniques used in the dances, which are more story telling than dances. One man sings his heart out telling the story in Sanskritised Malayalam, and the other characters act out the story. They are so expressive with so many little motions, quite amazing and very unlike any other cultural dances we have seen in the past.
Applying makeup

Applying makeup

Female character played by a man

Female character played by a man

Evil villain

Evil villain


We went to Oceanus Restaurant, which had been recommended by Sheeja, for supper and found we had to put our names on the waiting list and wait for about 1/2 hour before getting in. It took quite awhile to get our meals, because this is not fast food, but it was delicious when it came and I managed to have a pepper free meal! Yea!

Posted by katdill 19:32 Archived in India Comments (0)

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