Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kerala travelogue - Day 1 (19th Nov 2011 - 20th Nov 2011)

Kerala Toursim
Alleppey | Aymenem | Ernakulam | Fort KochiKalariyapattu | Kumarakom | Paranthampura | Thekkady | Vembanad |
Holiday Destinations in India
         
         Started my journey on the 19th Nov 2011. Caught the LTT - Ernakulam Duronto at 08:50 pm. Watching people having their dinners packed and starting to eat before the train started, I thought, how foolish...the dinner is sponsored, then why did they get it from home. Well, they were the ones to have the last laugh as at 9:30, I realised that there's no free dinner and all you could get were veg sandwiches. Shame Shame!! This train is though no comparison to the Rajdhani, a train, I guess everyone loves. The overall service was kinda ok, not that great. The train ticket claimed no stops between Mumbai and Ernakulam, though it did keep us waiting at many stations before it reached Ernakulam Junction. I am sure the travel time can be reduced for most trains as the Nethravathi express I caught for coming back to Mumbai could also have reached much before time, if it had not stopped at some places forever (I am jumping too soon, more on that later AND maybe I'm the ignorant types about signals etc. - I guess I'll let them do there job, a good one too!!)

          We reached Ernakulam Junction at 6:00 pm next day. Please ensure what's your last stop on the train or where exactly you wanna get down as there are many Ernakulam stations viz. Ernakullam Town, Ernakullam junction, Ernakullam South, Ernakullam North...phew!! Took a tuktuk (rickshaw) for Fort Kochi (They have a pre-paid taxi booth you can try...I didn't, missed). The rick fellow gave a small Kochi Darshan as he speeded through the lanes. We passed through a nice looking traditional Kerala Temple which looked very nice from the outside, breezed pass the naval base, the old airport (not in use anymore, Sir...only politicians Charter planes land here, said the rick guy). He thought I was stupid to stay in Fort Kochi and not in Ernakulam - All shops are here in Ernakulam, Sir, and you will get cheap accommodation here, Sir, why go so far to Fort Kochi and waste your money, Sir - felt like telling him, go read the 'Kerala Outlook Traveller' which says so much about Fort Kochi, but never mind !
          Got the first glimpse of Keralas' vast Vembanad lake as we were crossing Willingdon island, hiding its big shipyard. There's something about the mountains and then there's something about the water - you just fall in love, I do!! We were to see Vembanad flowing all along as we tripped along out itenary in Kerala. A guy in the train told me that Ernakulam/Kochi is the only real city in Kerala, and I believe him after my entire trip, but it somehow is not your regular city, it retains its local outfit though donning the toursistry cap and jacket. I had booked the Honolulu Homestay on KB Jacob road - near to Santa Cruz Basilica for 2 days. Our host Mr.Abboo greeted us and took us to our room 'Jasmin', clean and cozy. Didn't have a television - didn't need one! Mr. Abboo helped us with what to see and also ran us through some programs which some of our neigbouring foreigners had just come from - a safari to see elephants being washed :). Didn't opt for that. He asked us if we were interested in a Kathakali performance but it was already late for it so we decided to go for a walk and he obliged by guiding us. As you would read in most places on the net, if you have leisurely time, Fort Kochi is best explored on your feet. We reached the beach through the 'Dutch Cemetery' road. The beach is not A beach as you would normally imagine but there are ample benches and rocks to laze around and enjoy the breeze as you see ships plying the waters near the coast. We walked on the footwalk and reached the 'Chinese fishing Nets'. Any new thing is a surprise and so was this one, even though I had seen umpteen images of it on the internet. It would be creative to see the fishermen use these huge nets to catch fish - I didn't get a chance to see them catching fish using them though :(
          Coming back via 'Princess Street', saw the various handicraft shops and open restaurants. The small shops hosting elephants in various forms, sculptures, necklaces, tourist garbs and garments, beautiful kashmiri shawls and matresses are really picturesque and bring in the tourist flavour. Most of these shops are run by Kashmiris, which I saw in Thekkady as well and in Goa and am sure in Rajasthan as well (who stays in Kashmir then, I wonder). Fresh catches of fish can be found at the little shops lining the water front and in the restaurants. My family and me particularly observed that the fish preparations here don't smell like they do in Mumbai, where I stay, of course. Saw the numerous homestays all along, on every street.
          There's nothing of a 'Fort' left in 'Fort Kochi', though I did see the remains of a fort wall at the Vasco-da-Gama square. That evening at the water front was more lively than usual as it was Sunday and had lots of the local crowd visiting it too!!
          Walking back we saw the Santa Cruz Basilica and promised ourselves to return to it in the morning and decided to call it a day!!

Annotations:
  • You have a pre-paid taxi/rickshaw booth at the Ernakulam Junction station. A rick to Fort Kochi would cost you around Rs.250
  • The best place to have food are the open restaurants near the water front or at any of the resorts (would be a little heavy on the pocket though, I guess)
  • Fish is really fresh here and doesn't smell and you have good options.
  • Homestays are a good option in Fort Kochi - believe me, there are plenty and Government approved ones too!!
  • Walk around - you'll like it - you are on a holiday anyway, aren't you...
  • Honolulu Homestay
    Santa Cruz Basilica
    Mr.Aboo(centre) with my parents

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