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The Mystical Adventures of Tess and Jack

Kristmas in Kochi!

INDIA | Sunday, 1 January 2012 | Views [545] | Comments [2]

With a fluey Jack in tow, we descended from the cool hills of Ooty back into the blistering heat of the plains. Returning to the delightful commercial hub of Coimbatore, we once more found ourselves in a musty train station battling bureaucracy for those holy grails of Indian travel: air con seating tickets (not sure if I mentioned it but these become available 90 days before departure and get snapped up very quickly; the situation has not been helped by our lack of organisation + inability to use the webpage). Because we were a little off the beaten track there was no English-speaking tourist counter this time, which meant we had to slug it out in queue with the locals. Surveying the jam-packed booking office (think cow yards again) I felt slightly confused as to where the lines began. It looked like a chaotic classroom with endless rows of chairs. Jack pointed out that these chairs were the line (presumably because no human would be physically capable of standing for the time it takes to reach the window...so considerate) and I knew we were in for the long haul. The minutes ticked slowly by, sweat dripping from our brows. Chair by chair, we inched closer and closer to the goal. Just as the magical window came into sight, it was abruptly slammed shut (TWO places from the start of the queue!) for a 15 minute tiffin (snack) break. Patience and perseverance...

Our mission was only partly successful in that we were able to book an overnight train for later in our trip. However we were firmly told that all reserved class seats on the train to our next destination, Kochin, were full. Luckily an enterprising staff member at our stopover hotel offered to navigate the somewhat daunting non-reserved system for us, albeit for a fairly hefty commission (approx. $2 - a total bargain for avoiding the queues!) When he disappeared for hours and failed to show up at our specified meeting time we felt somewhat skeptical, but our faith was restored when he appeared at our door that evening with the prize – 2 non-reserved sleeper class tickets for the morning.

We have been told time and again that unreserved train travel is the quintessential Indian experience, which made us slightly trepidatious. Fifteen minutes before the train was due to depart crowds of people began congregating on the platform, with many ducking down onto the tracks to cross platforms, chat to friends, sweep up rubbish etc (this is perfectly acceptable in India and happens all the time – we have even seen one guy having a snooze in the afternoon sun). We had gotten slightly better at assertive public transport entry but in no way could have been prepared for what we found inside. Sleeper class consists of narrow bunks in tiers of three crammed full of people lying, sitting or squatting anywhere they can find 30 square cm of free space. Things appeared grim but luckily we must have looked desperate and white enough because a group of Indian men took pity on us and made some room. Overall, the best words to describe our train experience are ‘intimate’, ‘humid’ and ‘culturally enlightening.’ Additionally, we were unsure where the toilet was and too scared to get up in case we lost our seats, so the word ‘busting’ also springs to mind.

When we disembarked we were in a different state – Kerala, which is known for its lush tropical environment (The God of Small Things was set here) and for being the only democratically elected state in the whole world. The difference that we noticed most quickly was the readily available beer (Jack is pleased); the Kingfisher labels only give a mild health warning – the lack of moral condemnation is quite refreshing!

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were spend in shamelessly touristy but oh-so-easy and comfortable Fort Kochin, a former Dutch colony and historical port town on the Indian Ocean. Our activities included sampling THE most amazing Indian cuisine at a wonderful place called Dal Roti, enjoying down time at various arty little cafes, viewing several centuries-old murals of Krishna’s orgies (his multiple appendages come in handy in this regard and apparently his specialty is nipple-tweaking…with his feet), and two aborted plans to see the historic synagogue (closed on both Christmas Eve and Day…umm it’s not Hanukkah guys).  I also spent an evening watching a Kathakali performance(unqiue Keralan opera/theatre, a little too cultural for Jack’s tastes) which involved lots of face paint, cymbal clashing and wailing. The plotline would have been difficult to follow if not for a printed handout received on entry. My favourite part was where the hero disembowelled his enemy to avenge his dishonoured wife and then lovingly wrapped her in the entrails (with Krishna’s encouragement and blessing).

Our original plan had been to splurge and sample some of Kochin’s fresh seafood for Xmas dinner. However we found that the set menu for the evening totaled $50/head (5 nights’ accommodation) so we forfeited the chocolate samosas and settled for some amazing dal roti (again!) followed by some Chrissie goodies (chocolate cake for T and rum for J).

Hope that everyone had an amazing Christmas with just as much delicious food and far fewer mosquito bites than,

Your happy travelers,

T & J xoxox

P.S. Jack requested that I name this blog entry 'Merry Krishna-mas in Kochin' but I steadfastly refused on the grounds that it was too shamelessly corny and contrived even for my standards. Please feel free to write and tell me I'm correct. Merry Krishna-mas y'all (love, Jack).

 

Comments

1

Tessa, I kiss you thrice with ardent affection for not naming this this blog entry 'Merry Krishna-mas in Kochin' xx K

  Deanne Jan 3, 2012 4:46 PM

2

I am happy when reading your blog with updated information! thanks a lot and hope that you will post more site that are related to this site.

  Roni Seren Jul 11, 2012 9:20 PM

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