Monday, March 25, 2019

Kochi, Kerala: The Kaleidoscope of Experiences

From the historic St. Francis Church (KOCHI: PEELING THE LAYERS), we navigated through the bustling traffic and finally arrived at the enchanting Kumbalangi Chinese Fishing Village. Kumbalangi, India's first model tourism village, captivates visitors with its iconic "cheena vala" – the Chinese fishing nets that grace its serene backwaters. Introduced by Chinese traders centuries ago, these nets offer a mesmerizing glimpse into Kerala's traditional fishing practices. The village thrives on a harmonious blend of rustic charm and sustainable tourism, inviting visitors to engage with the local fishing community and witness traditional crafts like coir making and crab farming.

 



Amidst the tranquil beauty and vibrant local life, we observed fishermen striking deals over their catch and petty traders hustling to earn a living, all while children enjoyed their playful moments. As time pressed us, we reluctantly moved on, eager to catch the internationally renowned Kerala Kathakali show. Wandering through the narrow back lanes, we indulged in some window shopping and stumbled upon a fascinating display of India's Barbie Dolls dressed in exquisite costumes, a delightful first-time sight.

At the Kerala Kathakali Center, a mix-up delayed our entry, and by the time we were ushered inside, all seats were taken, leaving us only a few spots right at the front. The room was packed with Westerners, all eagerly anticipating the show. As the Kathakali performance began, the actors, with their bold swordplay, heavily painted faces, and dramatic eye movements, took the stage. Sitting so close, I found the exaggerated eye-rolling both terrifying and oddly hilarious. Oh-My-Gee!

However, after the first 15 minutes, the novelty wore off, and the repetitive scenes left me a bit bored. Despite this, we applauded at the end, though I didn't dare take photos with the elaborately costumed characters or the skinny drummers. 




On our last day in Kochi, we dedicated the morning to shopping. After a hearty breakfast, we strolled through the bustling streets, engaging in some window shopping. Nothing really caught my eye until we reached the Himalaya Brand store, where I couldn't resist the allure of products priced about 40% cheaper than in Malaysia. After stocking up, we grabbed a simple lunch and returned to the hotel to rest.

As evening approached, we set off early for Kochi airport, heeding our driver’s warning about potential traffic jams. Along the way, we made a pit stop to buy the famed Kerala banana chips from a roadside shop, captivated by the sight of them being freshly fried and packed. With our snacks in tow, we made our way to the airport, concluding our trip and heading back to the comfort of home sweet home.
Travel Reflections: Kerala Experiences and Cultural Observations
Kerala Food
Like Sri Lankan (COLOMBO & KATARAGAMA) Kerala food is sincerely delicious. Elevated with spices and coconut milk, none of our meals were a letdown, including the Savory and the rich, creamy and luscious desserts. But the setback was that, most of our meals were in hotels, which were not short of deliciousness. However, I felt that we should have dined in restaurants as well, as it will be a broader scope of food experience. Meal arrangement were already included in our tour, therefore, we had to go with the flow.

Sightseeing

I truly enjoyed all the sightseeing spots we visited, except for the visits to art galleries and zoo, which was indeed part of experiencing Kerala, but nothing extra-ordinary. If I am to pick the best, it will the Alleppey Houseboat overnight and the Poovar Backwater. These two were truly the stealers.

(Alleppey Houseboat Overnight)


Shopping

I was not keen in shopping; therefore I can’t say much. However, from the window shopping we did, there was also nothing really that lured my attention. Except for getting some Himalaya skincare products and I did also a packet of Kerala tamarind, known as Kodumpuli for my cooking, at the suggestion of the lady tour guide. She also gave some tips on how to use the tamarind for cooking.

 

Keralites

There was not much interaction with the Keralites, except for the lady tour guide, who did a fantastic job. I suppose its her profession? But our driver, hardly spoke, and he will just answer if we ask him questions. At the hotels we stayed, service was as expected, and nothing special.


But one of the shocks was they were staring at me. I suppose it was because of my knee length pants and t-shirt, which was not obscene though. Yet I had stares, from the males and females as well. On the last day, when we headed to the departmental stores, the sales staff were even giggling amongst themselves, giving eye signals to each other.


Decency Interpretation
As much as the strict regulation to dressing at the one and only temple we visited, what didn’t go well with me is, seeing the local ladies in sarees, most of on the overweight size, and their flesh literally hanging out of their saree blouses and at the stomach, which literally like hanging out of their sarees, which definitely looked hundred times more obsene than myself in knee length pants and t-shirt. Seemingly, showing the stomach when wearing a saree is considered decency and acceptable to the gods in Kerala, and the people as well. 



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