Sunday, January 15, 2012

Exploring South India - Part 3: Kochi Day 2

It was already around noonish when we decided to take a short trip to Fort Cochin. We asked our driver to drop us off at the ferry dock and headed over to Fort Cochin by ourselves. Fort Cochin was not as crowded as the previous day, which was Sunday. We walked around for a while and first visited Old Courtyard for lunch, which was highly recommended by the owner of our hotel. The food was good, and the ambiance was great. Just at the time we came out of the restaurant, one rickshaw approached us. We were like... oh god, not again, as we were typically hit by those money-grabbing auto guys who pick up foreigners and ask for a ridiculous amount of money for a ride. But, this guy seemed genuine. He said he would take us around the major sightseeing areas only for Rs 50!! It seemed to be a bargain. So we took it.

It was good that we did, as the sun was high and the temperature was rising. Plus, unlike Bangalore, the humidity was high, too. And the rick guy was pretty nice, as was his rickshaw (no comparison to the ones in Bangalore!). He first took us to the Church of St. Francis, said to be the oldest European church in India, and where Vasco da Gama who died in Kochi in 1524 was originally buried. His remains were later transferred to Lisbon, but you can still see the original gravestone. The church itself was very simple looking and not too impressive to be honest, but it was good to see the oldest church in India :)

We then headed to the Dutch Cemetery, but it was closed so we just peeked inside from the gate. But of course all you could see was a bunch of graves :) Our next destination was The Santa Cruz Basilica, one of the eight basilicas in India. Originally built by the Portuguese and demolished by the British, it was proclaimed a Basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1984. After seeing so many magnificent looking churches and basilicas in Europe, we were not so impressed by the structure itself, but it was again good to see one of eight basilicas in India :)

By then, we realized that Kochi was not really the place to do major sightseeing. But the auto driver wanted to take us to the handwash laundry place, so we said "sure!". And, it turned out to be the highlight of our little tour! Also on the way to the laundry place, we saw a huge tree decorated with a whole bunch of colorful strings. The auto driver told us it was a rain tree and that it gets decorated like that once a year. Pretty cool!

The laundry place, just like the garment factory we visited in Tirupur, was the real-life thing. A whole bunch of women and men were there, washing or ironing clothes, pursuing the profession of laundry person. We had a chance to talk with a washing guy. Just wearing a tropical looking blue lungi around his waist, he looked around 70 years old. His hair was still thick, nice romantic grey I would say, and with nicely trimmed beard. He seemed to be proud of his profession. He told us he had been working there for the last 40 years! That is a serious devotion! He also told us that he makes Rs 10 per cloth (up from 1 paisa (0.01 rupees) when he started). That's not bad money in India. We were also impressed by the way they hang the clothes to dry. No clips or anything. They had two inter-twisted ropes going through poles, and they just stuck whatever the clothes they want to dry in between two ropes. Brilliant!!

Highly satisfied with the visit to the handwash laundry place, we asked the auto driver to take us to the last stop which had to be Dutch Palace. Also known as Mattancherry Palace, it is probably the most visited sightseeing place in Kochi. It was built as a residence for rajas in Kochi by Dutch people. Now the place exhibits furniture used by rajas, portraits of rajas, history of Cochin, etc. It was interesting, but I wish they had an audio guide as there were tons of information written on each panel.

The tour was over. We thanked our charming auto driver and headed back to Vypeen Island. The boat ride was as usual packed, but the wind, sun, smell of ocean, and everything was very relaxing.

gG was definitely waiting for us. We relaxed in our beautiful hotel room until the wonderful dinner was served just for us at the hotel. Life is good!

No comments:

Post a Comment