Friday, January 30, 2015

India 2015 Kolorful Kerala : Day 6 - Of Fishing Nets & Mosquitoes

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India 2015 Kolorful Kerala : Day 6 - Of Fishing Nets & Mosquitoes
Fort Kochi - 11th January 2015
From Alleppey we moved away from the rustic countryside and back to the city, but not the busy urban centre of Kochi yet. It's to the old & historical part, it's to Fort Kochi. Will the city be as interesting as the countryside?

This is page 5 of a 6-page blog, click on the respective titles below to go to other pages :
 - Kolorful Kerala Day 1 & 2 - Of Spices, Tea Valleys & Cool Hills.
Kolorful Kerala Day 3 - Of Tahrs & Kalaripayattu.
Kolorful Kerala Day 4 - Of Elephants & Kathakali.
Kolorful Kerala Day 5 - Of Kerala Backwaters Houseboats.
Kolorful Kerala Day 7 - A Dahl Shopping Day.

We left Alleppey in the late morning and headed north along the peninsular formed by the backwaters lake to Fort Kochi, the scenery slowly changing from rustic to urban and then to metropolitan as we got closer to Fort Kochi.

In the morning the girls went to check out the church near Maria's Heritage & Spa and left us guys at home. Getting bored and not having cycled for almost a week (see, I am a avid cyclist) I played with the Indian-style platform swing imagining myself to be riding on a magic carpet!

But why ride an imaginary magic carpet when I could be riding a real bike.
Heck! Desperate I took a walk out to the lane outside that runs next to the river, there were houses next to it. I saw a couple of boys riding an old beaten down bicyle.

How desperate was I? Well, my cycling itch made me desperate enough to approach them to see whether they could rent me the bicycle. "Sure, why not? But first we have to ask our father." was their reply and with that led me to a ramshackle house facing the river. I asked the father the same thing, and he just told me to take the bike; no need to rent it just return it when I have finished.
Such are the simple-mindedness of these folks, their honesty just shines through.

Light-heartedly I cycled off, my destination the church on the other side of the river.

My cycle ride, gave me an opportunity to take a closer look at life here:
A close-nit family of goats...

... beautiful water lily flowers and ...

... snipes lounging in the water.
(... read more of this cycling stint).

10:30am - We said our goodbyes to Alleppey and headed north for Fort Kochi. The roads here were busy with traffic, nevertheless I was able to witness the colourful going ons along our journey up.

Colourful fruit stalls.

Colourful carpets and rugs.

Colourful pots and vases.

And... colourful people! I did mentioned that India is a colourful place.

Red banner flags fluttering in the wind above the street signalled that we are getting close to Fort Kochi.

Into Fort Kochi- except for the main roads, most of the streets are narrow. Near the core of the heritage zone, remnants of Portuguese influence can be seen in buildings like the one above. Their gable end walls are distinctively Portuguese architecture.
It's much hotter here than in Alleppey. We dropped off at our hotel, the Chiramel Residency Homestay, it's a nice cosy place. But straight away I noticed something odd, the doors leading to the bedrooms upstairs were swing doors and we were told to keep them closed. See, this area here has lots of mosquitoes and this became more evident when we walked out for dinner in the evening. Fort Kochi is in a low-lying area and often the drains are full of water when there is a high tide, just right for the snappy mosquitoes to breed.

After a quick refreshing bath, we ARE ready to look more closely at Fort Kochi.
But first thing first.... our stomachs!
We popped over to Tower Street where there is a food court with many stalls selling   seafood for which Kerala is famed.  Our lunch was at the Kerala Cafe, the operator looked helpful and more importantly was honest.
Among the food we had was this grilled Pomfret wrapped in a banana leaf. It was nicely done, with a crispy skin and the meat was tender inside. Also the marinating was done in a way that it seasoned only the outer layer; the inner layer was pure fresh fish; we just butter the meat with the covering spice paste to our individual liking.

We did not miss this Jeera Rice too. Kev liked this simple spiced up rice, it's good as the spices just added a tinge of spiciness to the rice but does not overwhelmed it.
(... see more of this nice lunch).

Stomachs sated, it's time for us to view the historical sites of the city.
We started off with the St. Francis Church. Built in 1503 AD, this church with a distinct Portuguese design front gable roof is the oldest church in India.

To preserve the old tiles in the church, visitors are required to take off their shoes when entering.
I wonder whether this church is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, a Jesuit who was very involved in evangelization in India, the East Indies and even Japan.

The  Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was buried inside this church for fourteen years before it was removed to Lisbon. But his tombstone can still be seen here.

Our second destination, the Mattancherry Palace. A very odd fact of this palace is that it was built by the Portuguese and was called the Dutch Palace but was the residence of an Indian sultan.
Apologies, no photography is allowed in the palace, so this shot at the entrance to the palace museum is the best I can give you. It's a pity though, there are very nice murals inside done in traditional Indian style. Pity!

So I had to be satisfied with artwork like the above which I saw on display at shops in the city. If you think this is a nice painting, the murals I saw in the palace were much more beautiful and so much older.
(If you like Indian Art, see my blog on Indian Art).

After that we visited the Jewish SynagogueFort Kochi was at the crossroads of the spice sea route from Europe to the East Indies spice islands; the Europeans, Indians, Chinese and even the Jews came here to trade, so there was a Jewish Community here and even a Jewish Cemetery.
Again, photography was not allowed in the synagogue; so I will just introduce up to this old Jewish lady who is one of the few descendants who are still staying here.

It was Save The Best For Last - the site which I found the most interesting were these giant fishing nets; the Chinese Fishing Nets at River Road! The sight of these huge nets hanging suspended over the sea is breath-taking.
But then I wondered to myself, Chinese nets in India? India, a historical focal point of trade routes was a melting point of culture, so why not something Chinese in India? These fishing net techniques are a throw-back to the days when Admiral Zheng He made his maritime voyages from China to Africa.

The nets are lowered into the seas for up to almost half an hour with the hope that the currents will wash fishes into the net But these days the catches here are paltry, the few fishes we saw netted were quickly hijacked by seagulls who swooped into the nets as soon as they are raised up. Perhaps the other nets seen at Willingdon Island are doing better.

In the evening we walked out for dinner. It was now that the mosquito problem became more evident; stop walking for a while and they will come zooming in, eager for blood.
This did not deter us from reaching our dinner eats place - the Oceanos Seafood Restaurant.
While the others went for some Indian fare (albeit not so spicy), I let my grumbling stomach have a rest and took something Continental - Spaghetti Pesto. It turned out to be a good choice, the olive oil coated the pasta well....AND the prawns were very FRESH!

 Oh.. Yah... a closing note.
Most of the hotels we stayed in provided amongst their toiletries spiced-toothpaste. It's toothpaste ingrained with spices and slightly sweet. They have that aroma similar to those spicy mint provided by Indian restaurants after the meal.
Very nice touch there.... *said while blowing out fresh minty breath*.
Good night!

This is page 5 of a 6-page blog, click on the respective titles below to go to other pages :
 - Kolorful Kerala Day 1 & 2 - Of Spices, Tea Valleys & Cool Hills.
Kolorful Kerala Day 3 - Of Tahrs & Kalaripayattu.
Kolorful Kerala Day 4 - Of Elephants & Kathakali.
Kolorful Kerala Day 5 - Of Kerala Backwaters Houseboats.
Kolorful Kerala Day 7 - A Dahl Shopping Day.

Related Blogs :

Banana Leaf Fish & Seafood @ Kerala Cafe
Fresh & spicy seafood at the heritage centre of Fort Koci, Kerala, India.

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You are at - Jotaro's Blog / Footsteps / India 2015 Kolorful Kerala / Day 6 - Of Fishing Nets & Mosquitoes    | Jump to Day 1&2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5 / Day 7     Jump to Day 1&2 / Day 3 / Day 4 / Day 5 / Day 7
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