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Vasco De Gama Wuz Here

Kochin - A Breath of Fresh Air

semi-overcast 30 °C

Kochin is not a tropical paradise - not even close; it is a large bustling metropolis with a busy seaport on the southwest coast. But this Keralan city is a world away from the pollution hotspots of Chennai and Calcutta. Here's the quaint main street in the old Jewish Quarter of Mattancherry ...
Note the absence of garbage, sacred cows and abandoned vehicles -although it doesn't pay to stray too far off the tourist track or you may come across some fairly ugly sights and smells. We found this overgrown clunker near the town centre...
The historical architecture of the old port, centred around Fort Kochin, is distinctly European because this city was an important spice trading centre from the late 1400s onwards. When Christopher Columbus was heading west in search of the east coast of India, (thereby accidentally calling the American natives 'Indians', (or is this just folklore?)), his nautical rival, Vasco De Gama, sailed east and staked a claim for Portugal here in Kerala. Poor old Vasco died here in 1498 and was originally buried in this church...
But Vasco had hardly got settled into his grave before the Dutch arrived in 1683 and kicked him and his followers out. Kochin remained a bastion of the Dutch East Indies Company until the Brits arrived in force in 1795 and gave them the boot, but successive invaders left both their buildings and their religion behind. Hindus, Muslims, Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Jains, Jews and Syrian Christians all have their temples here, although they've not always lived in harmony.
This city was built on spice: pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon among others, but fishing has also been a staple. These giant nets, said to be 14th Chinese in origin, require the strength of 4 or 5 men to raise when they are full of fish...

"Here .. Give us a hand," called the gang leader as we stood watching, and then he explained with a pitiful look, "Fishing ain't what it used to be, Guv'nor." In fact, he went on to complain, the catch was so meagre that he and his merry men were barely able to put chapatis on the table for all their poor half-starved children and their sick wives and dying mothers etc. etc. It was then we realised that this fisherman and his disciples had got religion and had become fishers of men - and we had been caught.

Tourist season is underway and northerners are slipping out from under a blanket of snow and arriving in droves, so we decided to find a place to stay away from the touristy hubbub in Fort Kochin. We've slept in 26 different beds so far - everything from an Elizabethan manor house in London to a Maharaja's home in Delhi; though mainly we've stayed in unremarkeable, but nice, 3 or 4 star hotels. But here in Kochin we took a chance on a homestay. Jose and Jenny's home in the city's residential area sounded fine on Tripadvisor, but we thought our tuk-tuk driver had made a mistake when he drew up at these front gates...
Le Royale is a magnificent modern mansion with huge rooms and beautiful furnishings. It's a seven star hotel in miniature, with fabulous 'real' Indian cuisine, delightful staff and wonderful hosts, and it's just 20 minutes from the old city by ferry.
A note for Gabriolans thinking of visiting who might be worried about the ferry fare. It's only ten cents return.

Posted by Hawkson 22:00 Archived in India

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This is different! The hotel looks fabulous and it seems you have found a little bit of off-beaten paradise.

by Janet

Wonderful accommodation. Looks like your good luck has returned.
Cataract surgery tomorrow morning so will be able to read your blogs much better.

by R and B

looks like you are enjoying a wonderful holiday. Luxury galore!! Its book club night at Susans and raining all day. I read the book almost a year ago but still remember a lot about it.(Snowflower and the Secret Fan) and then tomorrow I am going to Vancouver to the opera at the Queen Eliz Theatre - Lucia de Lamermoore(sp?) take care Jean

by Jean McLaren

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