We arrived in Cochin, India about dawn. We had been previously made aware that immigration procedures in India were more stringent than any previous port we had visited. What’s more, the procedures are subject to change at any time: even day to day. Our procedure was as follows: everyone was assigned a GROUP NUMBER which apparently was dependent upon whether you had a scheduled excursion and the time of the excursion. When your number was called, you proceeded to the upper dining room where you were physically given your passport, a photocopy of your passport and a boarding form which you had previously completed (a couple of weeks earlier). You then moved to another area where an Indian official meticulously (and very slowly) compared your passport photo to your likeness, then your Indian visa to your likeness and finally examined your boarding form. If all was well, he then stamped your form, and passport photocopy which he returned to you. He kept your passport. You were now free to exit the ship where ONCE AGAIN, an Indian official examined the boarding pass and the passport photocopy and finally allowed you to set foot on the mainland. The captain informed us we could have arrived earlier, but the dock workers were on “shift change” and would not let him enter the port.
The result of all this bureaucracy was that all excursions were from 45 minutes to an hour late in departing.
While waiting for our number to be called, I watched the harbor activity from our veranda. There was a huge and continuous parade of boats of every variety.
We bordered our bus about 45 minutes late at 9:45 to begin our 5.5 hour excursion. Since the all-aboard time was 4:30 and there were tours which were longer than ours, we knew the ship would not be sailing on time.
Cochin is in the southern most part of India and is considered to be an area with one of the highest literacy rates and also highest personal income.
The first thing we noticed was the crowds, and I understand Cochin is sparsely populated compared to Mumbai which we reach in two days.
The second thing which was obvious was the disrepair of most buildings and the trash along the streets.
A line of Tuk-tuks. One of the major form of public transportation is the tuk-tuk. A small taxi which can normally carry two persons. Unions are very strong in India and the taxi industry prohibits the ship from providing any shuttle service so you are forced to use their services.
We made a bath room stop at this hotel along the way. The facilities were quite clean although there were piles of trash next to the building.
Our excursion was for a backwater tour of Alleppey by Motorboat with lunch. Alleppey is an area of miles and miles of rivers and canals which crisscross. It is a community and a popular holiday area for locals. The one thing we have realized in both Sri Lanka and here in India is that the sense of time is not the same for the locals as it is for us westerners. What they say is a 10 minute drive to the restaurant is really a 30 minute drive. A 2 hour return to the ship is more like 2:45. I am not sure if this is really a misconception of time or simply an unsuccessful effort to make their clients “more comfortable” about the travel time. It might work if no one had a watch!
For me, I enjoyed seeing all the different types and styles of boats from canoes to three bedroom house boats (in the background of the above photo). But what I especially enjoyed was watching the people who live along this waterway performing their everyday life chores.
This young boy was fishing, something we saw repeated many, many times. It sees customary for the locals to simply step out of the house, catch a fish, dress it, and have it for lunch. I can’t get any fresher that that…
I flailed to photograph our boat, but this one is similar. We did have plastic lawn chairs on the upper deck of our boat. First class all the way!
A very familiar scene. This lady was doing laundry in the time honored manor. She would beat the clothing on the stones, rinse and repeat.
These guys just seemed to be taking a swim. Our guide said most of the river people could swim before they could walk.
This is not swimming for fun. This father and son are diving for clams. They are eaten and the shells often used for various purposes.
This lady is cleaning the mornings catch to cook for lunch.
Not only do you wash your clothes, your dishes, but also your body in the river…
While mom washes the family’s pots and pans, the daughter fishes.
Sometimes you just have to sit back and look at the rice paddy…
“Billy Goats Gruff”???
Another lady dressing fish for their meal.
Their fishing equipment is quite simple, just a cane pole, but it seems to work.
Traveling in style.
Sorry for so many laundry and fish photos, but It just fascinated me.
These guys were rug sellers. Our guide told us they were from “up north”.
The scenery was beautiful.
A pile of raw rice, recently harvested and waiting to be bagged.
Note the workers in the red shirts. Another sign of the strong unions in India. These are the only workers allowed to carry the rice bags from the paddies to the awaiting boats.
A small medical facility along the river funded by the Rotary Club of Sarasota.
As we passed under some trees, I got this photo of a Kingfisher bird. The colors are beautiful.
After our river trip, we made the famous 30 minute – 10 minute drive to our restaurant. It was at the Chakara Restaurant at the Marari Beach Resort. It was a beautiful resort and a lovely restaurant.
The Chakara Restaurant
Lovely open air dining
We served ourselves, buffet style. There was a large variety of choices and a seafood grill where the chef would prepare fish steaks and grilled prawns. There was also a type of pan fried bread made to order which was very good. I enjoyed the meal, but didn’t think it was as good as the previous buffets we had in Thailand and Sri Lanka.
I did manage to get my Indian beer. Apparently this is the most popular beer in India. Suffice it to say, I liked the bird better than the beer…
We had just a few minutes after our meal and we rushed down to see the beach, which was beautiful.
On the way back, near the port, we saw dozens of these decorated trucks. Apparently each owner tries to outdo his competition. A lot of work certainly went into this decoration.
We did make it back to the ship only about 15 minutes past all-aboard. It was still almost another hour before we sailed.
I will finish up by relating a few thing which I haven’t had an opportunity to convey to you, my faithful reader. The ship has been on a health “code red” status for almost two weeks now. I haven’t mentioned it earlier because it hasn’t affected us except through some inconvenience. It appears there has been a lot of cases of GI illnesses throughout the ship, including some crew. As a result, all food in the Lido is now served by attendants and not self-serve. This doesn’t affect us because we don’t eat in the Lido. In the dining room, they have removed the salt & pepper shakers and pepper mills. Bread is served and no longer placed on the table. This afternoon, the captain with some exasperation announced there were still being new cases reported and many activities are being restricted. The four of us have personally not seen anyone who has been affected and we can’t really understand there the problem is coming from. There has been no mention of it being Norovirus. The primary emphasis is and has been personal hygiene. WASH YOUR HANDS. It is sad to think that there are people on a cruise of this nature (cost), who cannot or will not use common sense and basic hygiene.
The second item I have been meaning to tell you about is the installation of the water guns on the promenade deck. After we left Sri Lanka, I noticed that the water cannons and hoses were installed. I thought little about this because it had already been announced that a crew drill was to take place that day. When the cannons were still in place the next day, I thought it unusual because the ship crew NEVER leaves anything out that is not normally there. As we neared the Indian coast the day before reaching Cochin, I saw a number of small 20 foot boats with 2 to 3 persons aboard approach the ship and motor around it. THEN it occurred to me the water cannons were just for this purpose. If any of the small boats came too close or even looked like they were going to attempt to board the ship the cannons would be turned on them. Now after five days the cannons are still in place and I expect they will remain until we pass through the Suez Canal.
The last item I would like to share is on a much lighter note. As I have alluded to in previous blogs and posts, the four of us, Janet, Carl, Kay and myself are sometimes confusing to the other passengers as to who belongs to who. When we go to a show or sometimes when on an excursion, we simply sit in the order we are walking. In the past Kay and Carl have been mistaken for a couple as Janet and I have. Well, while in Thailand we had a new twist. One of our tour guides thought Carl and I were a couple!!! We had stopped for a break at a large jewelry company. The girls were still looking at the wares and Carl and I retired to the very elegant lounge they provided to have some of the best Coca-Cola I have had in years. It was fountain Coke and made with pure cane sugar – just like it used to be. Our guide came in and began talking with us and we made the comment that we had been traveling together for several years (by which we meant as two couples). She assumed we were partners and began to ask us about that. We explained that no we were both married and not to each other. She said that same sex couples was so common in her country now, she just took it for granted. Wow, that’s how rumors start…
Well, we arrive in Mumbai tomorrow and I hope it goes smoother than in Cochin.
Until later… goodnight…