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Kerala - Ft. Cochin and the backwater

INDIA | Saturday, 14 April 2012 | Views [495]

I decided to fly from Udaipur to Kochi, Kerala - I'm finding that booking a train within a few days of when I want to leave is hit or miss - mostly miss - as all the seats that are reservable are reserved, and I haven't been brave enough or willing to take my chances with the unreserved class as I possibly wouldn't have a place to sit for the entire journey.  I've been taking buses since I started this journey in Vietnam; I've had good and bad experiences with them - on the one hand, it allows you to mingle with the locals and see the countryside through an open window, and some sleeper buses can almost be comfortable.  On the other hand, buses can be bumpy, crowded and sometimes dangerous with crazy, daredevil drivers. For long journeys, it's so nice to be able to fly, and domestic flights are pretty inexpensive, fast and so worth it!

So I made my way to Ft Cochin via taxi shared with two other travellers - the taxi dropped us off at the ferry landing, and from there we caught the ferry to Ft. Cochin for about 2 rupees.  I actually landed in Kochi with a rough idea but no definitive plan - this is the way I've started travelling - just flying by the seat of my pants which seems to come more naturally to me anyway.  I went to Kerala with the intention of seeing the backwater, and was going to stay somewhere for the night then make my way further south for the quintessential  backwater experience - viewing life from a canoe along the many waterways snaking through the green, lush place that is Kerala.  But since the other travellers were heading to Ft. Cochin, I decided to go there too and at least check it out before heading south.  I thought I'd just stay a night or two, but I ended up staying there for about 5 days.  I really liked it - though at first it seems quite touristy, there is a laid-back, artistic vibe and plenty of opportunities to experience the Indian art, theater, dance and music scene.  There was something interesting to do every night, and by day there is the backwater to explore, and the river to wander along, and of course - shoppping, although I think everything was way overpriced and all I bought was a flute made out of a gourd sold by one of the many street peddlars.  He could make some very nice tunes with the thing, but I haven't quite got the hang of it yet.  I'm hanging on to it though as it hardly weighs anything and doesn't take up much space, so I'll keep lugging it around along with the ravanatha that I bought from the gypsy guy in Pushkar - I'll likely never be able to play that either, but it has a soul of its own, and a story to tell; I have to keep it - I'll eventually get home with it, but for now it feels like an albatross. 

Since I did and saw so much from Ft. Cochin, and since the backwater experience - while incredibly beautiful - is also incredibly touristy (meaning yours is not the only boat on the river), I decided to spend some time at the Amritapuri Ashram (Amma; a.k.a. - the "hugging saint"), so I reserved a room there online then caught a bus to the nearest town a little further south in Kerala then an autorickshaw the rest of the way to the Ashram. 


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