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December 21st 2006
Published: February 11th 2007
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The area of Kochi consists of a cluster of islands within a natural harbour, main land Ernakulam and narrow peninsulas; it’s an eclectic mix of religious and colonial influences, parts makes you feel like your taking a tour through the different sections of the V&A museum.

We arrived in Ernakulam at the decent hour of 8am and all squeezed, with bags, into the Ferrari of autos, setting off over various bridges and Willingdon Island, past the Navy practicing manoeuvres in the bay to Fort Cochin. A district on the edge of the Southern Peninsular. First to breakfast and dump the bags while Gill and I set off in search of rooms. It was good to be back in a commercial area and actually be able to make choices for ourselves, when/ what to do and eat, as the strict but random structure up in the mountains proved to me to be rather frustrating.

Once settled in our homestay which definitely had seen better days and was now more a cheap motel without the front reception, Sue and I set off to the post office - more parcel wrapping and wax sealing; but it never fails to impress me, before catching up with the others and grabbing an much smaller auto to the Mattacherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1555 as a prizie for the Raja of Cochin and renovated by the Dutch in 1663. Much to the delight of the driver Sue has to sit up front and he positioned his arm right over her chest, his attention was definitely more focused on her assets than the road!

From the outside, the Palace doesn’t look much but once inside we were surprised to find all sorts of antique delights; jewels, textiles, swords, carriages, Maharaja portraits, and detailed murals depicting religious legends and everyday scenes including, in the ladies bed chamber, ‘a cheerful Krishna (read Casanova) using his six hands and two feet to entertain the milkmaids’! - they really were quite racey in thier day. The ceilings were low and everywhere there were little nooks and steep ladder like steps joining the different levels.

For such a small place, no more than 2 sq miles, the southern pensisular is steeped in history, just around the corner from Fort Cochin is Jew Town (yes, that is it's name) where you can find the Pardesi Synagogue, which is still servicing a thriving Jewish community. Built in 1568, destroyed in 1662 by the Portuguese and restored by Dutch in 1590 (they are turning out to be the goodies!), it’s an amazing place bedecked with shabby chic chandeliers, coloured glass lamps, an ornate gold pulpit and hand painted willow patterned floor tiles… umm I wonder where they came from? Very peaceful.

Desperate for a drink we sat down in an rather dilapidated old wooden styled shop which also doubled as a café and spent an amusing time drinking, and spilling, cold coffees whilst we worked our way through the products; leather handbags, spices, oils, postcards and all sorts of objects the owner keep producing. Loaded with spices, this is one of the main spice centers, we experienced another first… a woman auto driver, much to Gill’s relief as it was her turn up front. Not surprisingly she didn’t overcharge, drive like a looney or constantly beep her horn.

Friday 22nd Dec
After breakfast the girls went off to explore further; Vasco da Gama’s first resting places in a 16th Century European style church, Chinese finishing nets and touches of colonial England but I had to get down to some admin and spent the morning booking tickets for mum and Jem, nothing is quick and always takes much longer than you anticipated, but at least you don’t have to sit on hold listening the same music played on a loop… BA!

A final meal at our favourite restaurant, more to do with the loo, (handtowels!) and chocolate brownies (Jess!) and we set off for our next train to Alleppey to explore the backwaters.


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