I started my trip to India in Kerala for two reasons. The first reason was my friend from college, who was staying there with her family, the second was Slava
, whom may not have been there yet himself, but managed to spill his enthusiasm into my travel plans (he is also responsible for the Dragonfly out on the Playa
last August, so he’s building a good track record).
When I got to Kerala, I had to pinch myself to make sure that I really was in India already (and not some intermediate place in the Indian Ocean). Thanks to my blog
, I can recall how surprised I was to see the relatively clean streets and public toilets, how there were not too many people on the streets, all of whom were friendly and didn't offer to take me to their cousin’s carpet shop or offered a fantastic deal on precious stones. I admit, had I done some homework, these things wouldn’t shock me as much, but since I haven’t planned anything, except for the flight, ahead of time, all of my expectations of India were formed from talking to people who have traveled in Delhi, Rajasthan, and other more populous, more touristy, and less sanitary places.Kerala greeted me with lush rice patties, rolling green hills of tea plantations, endless meandering rivers, and delicious home-cooked meals three times a day. In the Backwaters, it’s easy to forget the pace of time, as it only flows as slow, as a house boat down a river or as fast, as you can slurp down the coconut water to get to the soft creamy meat of a young coconut. It completely stops when you are being kneaded by the experienced hands or feet of a massage therapist while smothered in hot aurvedic oils. In the colonial town of Cochin, the Chinese fishing nets on the beach create a beautiful foreground for the sunsets over the Arabian Sea and provide tasty seafood for the fish curries and spicy Kerala-style prawns. Cochin used to be home to a sizable Jewish community and the Jew Town (there’re China Towns and Japan Towns, so why not a Jew Town?) and the Sephardic-style Paradesi synagogue (unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take photos inside) are still major tourist attractions. The town also used to be a temporary home for the body of that Portuguese dude who “discovered” India and then died on his third voyage after contracting malaria in Goa. Vasco de Gama was buried here until his countrymen scrambled to bring him back, some 14 years later.
Cochin remains a busy port and the warehouse district is a fun place to wander through, while taking in delicious biting aromas of cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cloves and nutmeg, all of which are prominently displayed in the local cuisine, to which I’ll dedicate a separate gallery.