#Kochi #Kerala #India: Third Time’s a Charm
I wouldn’t even be here if I hadn’t been dissatisfied with my previous digs in Varkala and Alleppey, so I figured if I’m going to make a move, then I might as well head up the road. Actually that was my conundrum from the beginning, knowing that Kerala in general is interesting and diverse, so where exactly then do I start and stop? So I punted and caught the train to Trivandrum, figuring to find a nearby beach whereon to hang. I’ve been backtracking ever since, though still no more than a few hours from the big city.
Kochi’s worth it, maybe not for the beach, though I don’t really know, but for the historic city itself, based around the old fort and port. This was an old stronghold for the Portuguese and an entrepot for many over the centuries, including ancient Christian sects and Jews expelled from the Roman burning of the temple at Jerusalem in 70 AD. The fact that it was so easily reachable from the early Roman world even adds fuel to the fire as to whether Jesus himself might not have wintered over here in his formative years, doing something similar to what the Beatles would do some two thousand years later.
Confusingly enough, Ernakulam is the nearby big city where all the trains and buses stop and to which arrangements must be made. Once there, though, Kochi is the little gem in the tiara, over by the port and the waves, polished by the centuries and the surf. That includes the old Portuguese port, a Dutch cemetery, and even the original ‘Jew town’, their term not mine. It all makes for a picturesque little city, once you know where to look, and a pleasant one at that.
The European influence means that you won’t have to sip your wine in the dank dark corners of your imagination, indulging in forbidden sins while the world of lightness and being goes on without you outside your little opium den. No, here you can drink without fear of censure or recrimination, wine with your supper, beer with your burgers, or however the mood strikes you. Okay, so it’s still not exactly a pub crawl in high Aussie style, but a welcome breath of fresh air after some of the fetid ‘wine shops’ elsewhere in India. Imagine the possibilities. Terrence McKenna, we love you.
And then there’s the food, of course, ‘multi-cuisines’ at reasonable prices, complete with tablecloths and silverware. But I’m more interested in the locals’ haunts and the street food. You shouldn’t assume that something you had in Delhi or elsewhere is exactly the same as here. If you thought you had enough samosas to last you the rest of your life long ago, then you might want to revisit the issue. It’s a revelation. Ditto for the curries. Curries on the south coast sometimes more resemble what I had in Tanzania than what I had in the North, tomato-based and fresher, not so dark and murky the flavors.
Add to that reasonable prices and quality of rooms, a power grid that generally stays on and a WiFi that generally stays up, and you’ve got a pretty nice place to hang. I only wish I’d known sooner. But things like that are hard to predict. And I’m sure there are decent beaches to be had here, too, even if maybe not exactly surfers’ paradise. It’s not like I’m looking to lie in the sun on a rock somewhere.
And then there’s the watermelon, glasses of which are ubiquitous around the city, ten rupees a glass, pulp and juice together just like God planned it. I’m good. I’m only sorry that it has to end… almost. Back to the grind, and a beach near Trivandrum, ho hum…