Blink and you’ll miss it, my initial thoughts on India: entirely lovable but crazy as a coconut. A good intro to India is the state of Kerala, meaning ‘full of coconuts’. I’m told that it’s much calmer than the north and the big cities. Some lubrication for the madness of the north!
It's common in Kerala when you marry to move in with the male, his parents and grandparents. Not sure how that would fly in the western world!
I was lucky to meet a lovely Keralan family in my homestay in Fort Kochi. Actually the highlight of FK, the Seahut Homestay is about 2km from the hustle and bustle that is Fort Kochi. Found on Airbnb, the glowing reviews and the ‘sea’ in Sea Hut sealed the deal. Perfect for the budget traveller and plonked right on the beach. The best thing to do is laze on one of the many hammocks and listen to the sounds of the sea. You can leave your bathing suit at home as the currents are too strong for swimming.
They were proper sweet and arranged everything for me. Greeting me with a coconut on arrival (key to my heart). And definitely eat here! Hamma (the grandmother) will cook you home cooked Keralan dishes on request at a very small cost. For breakfast curry pancakes with Mango juice. And dinner, baked fish wrapped in banana leaf, with rice and potatoes or an amazing dosa (pancake/crepe like) with curried veg and coconut chutney. Happy happy happy food, made with love. Hamma is the best!
From the homestay you can grab a tuk tuk from the street into town, its about 2km and costs 50IR (AUD$2). For anyone visiting FK, I have to warn you about the cheeky tuk tuk drivers. When I arrived off the plane, jet-lagged, confused and excited I dropped my bags and went straight into town. I wanted to get my bearings, do some shopping, find this restaurant serving up Keralan Fish Curry.
So, after I am dropped to see the Chinese fishing nets, I approach this tuk tuk driver to ask him where the restaurant is. He says it is open from 1245 – 1345 and do I want him to show me around town and then take me there. I say no I want to walk around. He says 50IR for the hour and he’ll show me the sights. “OK!” I say, why not.
He takes me to see a communal laundry, loads of churches a spice market and THEN these tourist shops selling pashminas, carpets and tourist tat at high prices. These guys are trained TO SELL and it’s hard to get them off your back, especially when you are delirious. He must have taken me to 5 or 6 of these shops. A fter a while, I’m fed up, I ask him to take me to the restaurant now as I have had enough. I’m knackered. He says please just one more shop so I can feed my family! OK, I say one more! Before he drops me at the restaurant, he turns around and says to me. “Let’s make a deal?” with a cheeky grin.
He wants to go around to more shops after lunch and he will split the profit with me. He will pay me 500IR!!
Not ready for this level of commitment, I declined!
Initially I was expecting something more sinister but these cheeky chappys are business men. Great for backpackers who are short of cash and want free rides!
Although my stay in Fort Cochin was short, I still have a few recommendations worth mentioning, mainly the restaurant I finally got to, Fushion Bay. This was my first and best meal so far in India. The most famous Keralan dish, Fish Masala! It was everything I had hoped it would be and more. Mind blowing flavours and fresh, fresh fish👌.
Go for a massage at the Ayurveda Centre Cochin for trad Ayurvedic full body massage with Keralan oils. The head massage and face massage alone is worth it. Not cheap for Indian prices at 1800IR/AUD$40 but much needed after travels across oceans.
I didn’t have time to try the yoga in FK, but there is a place 850 metres from the homestay. I had it in my head that there would be yoga everywhere in India but there isn’t much yoga in Kerala. Maybe due to the fact that FK is largely a Christian area.
It is worth checking out the morning food market for fresh fruit and veg and the fish market. For shopping, there are a lot of touristy shops around Princes street where you can have a haggle and an amazing book shop called Idiom Bookshop selling lots of English books, featuring loads of India and Keralan culture. FAB India and Anokhi are good value chain stores selling Indian clothes and fabrics at fixed prices so no need to haggle.
I bought some lovely notebooks covered in fabric from and some hand printed greeting cards for a very good price from Anokhi.
Nervous and excited about what to expect from Rishikesh this afternoon.
I’ll keep you posted.