We were introduced to Umesh our guide for the morning. We had a tour of Cochin both on foot and in the car. Umesh was incredibly interesting telling about the history of Kerala and Cochin.
The Portuguese arrived first along with Vasco Da Gama in the early 1500’s. They set up the spice trade routes between India and Europe. Then along came the Dutch, who beat up the Portuguese, trashed all the churches and carried on trading. Finally along came us Brits. Made India apart of the commonwealth and drank Gin and Tonic until Indian Independence in 1954.
We toured round the Anglican church, a synagogue the Dutch palace and a Catholic church.
The first church was the final resting place of Vasco De Gama until his remains were taken back home to Lisbon. His empty tomb still remains in the church today.
The Dutch built a magnificent palace that has paintings telling the stories of the main Hindu gods. We saw coaches for carrying the royals around, carried by men on there shoulders as many as 16 were needed to carry the biggest and most elaborate. Some so big they had to go the top of elephants.
Women were not permitted to cover the top half of their bodies, They had coaches with no windows, so in effect a wooden box. They wore only shirts. They were kept as possessions and treated as slaves, never being able to leave the houses.
Later they started wearing blouses and not until 1800’s did the Sari that we all see as traditional Indian dress appear.
A settlement of Jews arrived and were welcomed by the Keralan People. There is still a large jewish sector in the city. An area with a synagogue and many nice shops.
Kerala has many different religions, Catholics, Anglicans, Hindus, Budists, Jews, muslims, all living in harmony with each other. If a region has a festival then everyone regardless of there own religion joins in. Any excuse for a party.
Unlike most of India Kerala has no Caste system. All people are equal. All children receive a free education and are taught in English. The local language is Malayalam and is spoken at home and outside of school. As part of their education children are given pens, paper, books and uniform.
Surprisingly there is over 90% literacy here.
Everything I have seen and heard about india prior to coming has seemed to be based on the over crowding and poverty in Mumbai. We have seen none of that here. This is a very affluent area, with parents working and children in school.
Cochin is mainly Fisherman, with many women and men working in the hotel industry for tourists and working as guides and drivers. There are many shops and small restaurants and snack bars.
Very few places sell alcohol, the only three places that we have seen only sell beer or wine. If you want to buy some to take back to your hotel then you have to go to a specialist shop hidden down a back street, preceded by a queue of men.
Any booze you buy must be consumed in your room and never in public or communal areas.
The Keralan government are working very hard on educating people on the dangers of pollution and dumping rubbish. They are especially trying to advise of the dangers of plastics in the oceans and the adverse effect this will have on the fish population and therefore how this will affect their life styles. We have seen a fair amount of rubbish but we have been assured it is much better than is has been in the past and is getting better.
Finally we were taken to the town laundry. 40 families make their living washing.
No one has a washing machine, it would use too much electricity and water.
Instead these families wash everything by hand in concrete wash houses half the size of a stable with a beating and scrubbing stone in each. This was an amazing sight to see, men and women bashing sheets against the walls to get them clean then wringing them out by hand paddling about in a foot of water.
The cleaned clothes are then hung out on miles of ropes strung across a field before being ironed in a large concrete shed using massive flat irons that have the dodgiest wiring imaginable.
They can wash from 5am to 10pm, they are paid by the piece so the more they wash the more they earn.
Both very hot after walking around all morning in a very humid 36 degs.
Sat down in a side street cafe for a cold lime soda and a couple of samosas for lunch.
Spent the afternoon by the hotel pool, not as comfortable as it should be as most of the sun beds were broken. But a pleasant tell time watching a group of french ladies arrive, having a swim and each discussing their massage experiences.
Later that evening Bobby our driver came to collect us and took us to see the traditional indian dance called Kathakali. We declined the 1st hour where you sit and watch the dancers putting on the special make up.
We watched as a strange lady (may have been a man, not sure) demonstrated the various hand and facial movements depiction various emotions. It looked to me like an over dressed woman pulling faces and occasionally looking like she might vomit or at least stick out a long toads tongue and catch in insect mid flight. The seconds actor on stage was the man he had a green face, didn’t seem to move much but did keep pulling funny faces as well. It apparently takes years to learn this special dance, the skill was lost on me, I just thought it was weird. Sorry India.
Well after that experience we both agreed we has seem it once and that was enough. We found a very nice place to eat and we had a beer.
Cochin was fascinating, not a place I would want to spend more than a couple of days at, but very enjoyable experience.
Soory but the places we visited today seemed to all have a no photo policy.