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Published: March 13th 2018
Kerala port of entry: Cochin aka Kochi– day 4-7
Airport security is high, an armed man checks you have a ticket at the door and looks at all your passports & faces, no ticket no entry.
Queuing & check-in is quicker in Delhi than Sydney international airport, although I expected as much volume in Delhi domestic terminal. Vistara airline premium economy very nice, booked cause that’s what was available. No inflight entertainment so kids on own devices, they were pretty good but air hostess did notice how “alive” they were! Vege food all good, pre ordered but in hindsight I don’t think I had to.
Nice to see sunrise from way up in the clouds, 5yo was amazed. 3 hours later: hello Kochi. Got the hotel to pick us up as I could see it was 25km away. Paid slightly over the odds but nowhere near $11.70 a km! Driver was nice, journey was good & he pointed out a few things of interest, chatted to the hubby and the girl. Boy napped, mother read the newspaper J
More warm welcomes to the Vivant by Taj with sandalwood paste administered to foreheads and nice welcome juice in lounge area while they whisked away passports – same airport style security luggage scan on way in, unobtrusive though.
Shown to our room… 2 single beds!!! Called for the manager who checked us in and explained this wouldn’t do at all. Luckily they had availability and we were shown to a 1 bedroom suite, with a dressing room and living room so there was plenty of room for 2 foldup beds for the kids. Of course it cost more than I booked via <em style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">expedia.com that made it look like the original room had 2 double beds, wide angle lens!! But what’s more annoying is that I entered 4 people in the booking engine and had to specify kid ages! So what was point in that?
Anyway no matter, ensuite was a lovely big bathroom with a bath (that the boy loved) and double sinks and separate shower. Master bed was a 4 poster with muslin curtains so naturally the 7yo girl was questioning why it wasn’t for her!
Fold up beds for kids were big substantial things with thick mattresses. Housekeeping staff were very good although didn’t call themselves butlers this time, there was also a pillow menu! They brought nightly chocolates and dried bananas and yummy sweet aniseed-y balls (that didn’t get replenished for some reason). Santa had one too though. Also fruit provided which we shared with Santa & Rudolph as well.
Lunch was a buffet affair (1000rps per adult $22aud) very nice but not quite as good as the Leela. 5yo & I stuffed ourselves with desserts. Think had gained 3kg by this stage! The man held back and the girl is a super picky eater anyway.
Pool was gorgeous with 3 elephant head spouts. There was a church clock nearby that chimed the hour and the kids took it to mean elephant blessing time so were “baptized” by elephant trunks each hour. Temperature 25-30 degrees with an infinity aspect that over looked the Kerala back waters (that you cannot nor would want to swim in). We took it easy that afternoon with lime sodas by the pool, checked out the grounds and Wi-Fi etc. then forced small people to have a nap.
Dinner was, unsurprisingly, wall to wall buffet. The husband started really restraining himself on desserts by this stage; the 5yo old and I were looking at him like he had 2 heads!
There was an outdoor function (I think for a first holy communion) in the grounds that night so we could hear the music/people watch from the balcony which was good in between calls to prayer and Catholic Church bells in the distance.
Kerala day 2 (aka Christmas Eve) Cochin
After more “W2W buffet” breakfast we braved the outside world. There was kids cookie decorating and a post office visit run by the hotel available in the morning time but - tough luck kids -that is when we go sight-seeing. I asked at the travel desk about transport. Options:
1. Get hotel car at a premium
2. Get an outside car for cheaper
3. Get hotel private boat (900rps/$20aud)
4. Get the public ferry round the corner for 4rps each!
So off went to the public ferry. Where I walloped my forehead on a cast iron girder but spent the 10minute journey in a blur of pain but no matter it was all pretty easy. (For some reason have you to wait till boat going the other direction is gone before you can buy your tickets from the man in the kiosk though, it was not a busy stop.)
Got off the boat & went wandering, refused numerous tuk-tuks, saw loads of stray goats and dogs including some very cute puppies sheltering in a drain. Paths were pretty precarious. We ended up outside a catholic church at the end of mass where we took a shade/water break. 5yo had had enough. Relented & took a tuk-tuk.
Tuk-tuk man was nice, told him what we wanted to see – Vasco de Gama (Dutch protestant) church, Catholic basilica, Chinese fishing nets. He was surprised we didn’t want Dutch cemetery and Jewish quarter too, I explained we’ve been to the Netherlands and Israel and even Berlin & Auschwitz so were ok, plus 5yo’s head may have exploded. He (tuk-tuk man) did insist we go to the central laundry which was not in the Lonely Planet but he was correct as it very interesting, they even had irons with hot coals in the base and happily posed for photos. They tried to get me to pose with the iron but that would’ve been taking the piss seeing as I so rarely do it, I politely declined.
The Christian churches were fairly uneventful which if you are Christian you’d kind of expect. Vasco was a Portuguese explorer (we also encountered his legacy in Goa in ‘07) who was buried there for 14 years until then they took him back to Lisbon. It being Christmas Eve there were church services on too.
In between churches the 7yo hit me up for an Indian outfit cause “how could she possibly go to Christmas Eve gala in India in western clothes?” How indeed? So I just picked a tiny shop opposite the basilica and haggled for a gorgeous silk green skirt with gold trim & gold silk top for her which she finished off herself with a gold scarf (1000rps/$20).
The Chinese fishing nets (unofficial emblem of Kerala) while were impressive in their cantilevered-ness weren’t all that in the midday sun, plus I stupidly paid way over the odds for 2 whistles made out of gourds as it was hassle-y and tourist trap-y there.
After the laundry visit the tuk-tuk man asked us to go to a shop where he gets a kick back even if we don’t buy anything. Cue rolling of husbands eyes, but it was a nice big shop like the Kashmiri one in Delhi and we picked 2 Indian outfits for the kids but amazingly couldn’t agree on a price and wait for it… they let us walk out the door!! So they do have a breakeven point it seems and can go no lower.
While the haggling was going on I lost sight of the 5yo for a while.
Me: Where were you?
Him: Taking a selfie with that man.
Aka a nice shop employee with no ulterior motive - as we would come to see all over Kerala. No stranger danger here! Tried to explain to the kids it was ok here, so dunno what sort of mixed messages I’ve sent now!
Tuk-tuk man reckoned he could drive us back instead of taking the ferry so I think 3 hours of him cost (350rps/$7) which I thought was ok.
More food and pool swims followed and then at 5pm we went to the complimentary tea service, which we thought would involve some sort of tea ceremony but no it was a nice cup of tea and a cake or savoury snack. Then the hotel boat takes however many guests who want to on a complimentary 45 minute back water cruise at sunset. This is when you see what the fuss about the Chinese Fishing Nets is about. OMG they looked amazing with a sunset back drop. Our first backwater cruise was pretty memorable, what a great ride. Our fellow travellers were French and Indian ex-pat Americans.
As we were leaving the hotel there was an off key choir singing Christmas carols and when we got back there were sound checks for the Gala happening where the awful choir made an appearance too! We all dressed up, not that the 5yo would participate in any photos. Gala kicked off about 7:30pm.
The Gala was a bit like going to a colleagues wedding complete with M.C. and a live cover band and surprise, surprise loads a buffet food which was lovely. So this night cost way more like 4000rps ($85aud) each but I asked for a pizza for the kids and was only charged accordingly which was good. A weird looking Santa gave out ‘bounty bars’ too.
The kids had a great night and never got off the dance floor! I danced once with them under duress and won a spot prize of a weekend in a hotel in Calcutta! (Valid Apr- Oct 2018, ha ha). We did have a couple of G&Ts that night but on a very civilised level. 7yo made friends with Sophia from England with who she shared a birthday but Sophia was 2 years older. They are supposedly going to be pen pals. 5yo fell asleep at one stage and woke up while being carried up to bed, which he was having none of and went back to dance. Finally wrestled them up at 11pm, reminding them they had to be asleep pre the real Santa’s arrival! The girl was convinced she heard hooves on the balcony.
Children amazed Santa found them and brought 2 small gifts each. So were very happy people. After more sumptuous breakfast, we were not up for buffet lunch too which I think was probably more turkey ham based, so I asked for club sambos & chips & lime sodas by the pool which was grand. Very lazy day had by all, swimming & reading, 5yo even fell asleep under towel on a sun lounger. Checked out the spa but there was a power cut for a while in afternoon so I took that a sign to not spend any money on expensive treatments. Life guards were off duty though that day but the spa staff was not.
We did brave buffet dinner and played cards with our tiny poker sharps. I think we tried the complimentary wine left by our “butler-not butler crew” that night and it was gak. Yuck. So first ever dry Christmas since we were kids??
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