Day 5: Fort Kochi

It’s Christmas and I am ready for the day. My host in the homestay was kind enough and offered me Rum cake and homemade wine. Seeing my hesitation she confirmed that the wine will not give me a high. I had it with a small discussion about life in general and left the homestay.

My first destination for the day was the Kashi Art Cafe. I had known of the places to visit in Fort Cochin from a fellow blogger. Our plan was to have breakfast here. Kashi Art Cafe was on a narrow alley and was difficult to spot from outside. Once you enter, it was a clean place with many art installations. There were a lot of photogenic places. The place looked so clean that one felt that you aren’t in India. The food menu adds up to the confusion, the only thing I would understand was the french toast. Even the toast looked completely different from the ones you get in smaller shops in Bangalore. Maybe this is how it’s meant to be. The place was also filled with foreigners and rich looking Indians. I felt like I was in a shopping mall in Bangalore. I have never felt like I belong there. That’s exactly the same feeling I had in the cafe. I just wanted to leave the place as soon as possible.

An art installation at the Kashi Art Cafe

My next destination was the Mattancherry Palace which was a few kilometers from the cafe. We entered the palace and exited in a couple of minutes. The place was overcrowded since it was Christmas and there were groups of school kids and family crowds. The small palace was so noisy and didn’t feel comfortable staying in the place. Since there was some confusion around the bookings in the hostel, I decided to check in earlier. Just in case if the booking was not confirmed, I would have more time to look for an alternative. But there was no such problem. So our stay for the night was in The Lost Hostels. I parked the car in the Hostel and went again to Fort Cochin.

Artwork on a Palanquin pole @ Mattancherry Palace

I had a lot of time in hand and didn’t have any other plans for the day. I just want to spend time leisurely. I was walking around the Mahatma Gandhi beach and watching the crowd around. The place was crowded and I was not able to take a single pic of the steam boiler without a person jumping into the frame. I gave up trying to do it and walked away.

Fort Cochin reminded me of White Town in Pondicherry. It looked like a chilled out place with a lot of foreigners and tourists around trying to bargain with the street vendors. The buildings around looked gothic and added more beauty to the place. The place was also dotted with graffiti art. I tried the Kuluki Sarbath from the street side vendors and also enquired about the evening shows at the Folklore Cultural Theatre nearby. This place runs shows every evening of Kathakali and Kalari. I have seen both the art form in the videos online but not as a life performance. I was not sure I would enjoy the performance. But if there was nothing more to do in the evening, this would be a backup. This is when I noticed the ferry from Fort Kochi to Vypeen. I enquired about the price and it was just 4 rupees. So I jumped in immediately in the next ferry to reach the Vypeen island.

Roaming aimlessly without any target and observing people and things around me always gave me peace of mind. That is what I was doing here, walking around the island. But before doing it I had to stuff myself with fish meals for lunch from a small shop nearby.

Then in the hot sun, I walked in the walkway. I saw a lot of Chinese fishing nets in this area. None of them were operated at this time of the day. But something interesting hit me. Each fishing net had a cabin to store the tools used for fishing nets. But during the day time it also doubled as a hang out place for the folks there. While the other side of the island was Fort Cochin much touristy and crowded this walkway had none other than a few fishermen folks.

At some point, I decided to watch a person who came to fish in the backwaters. I sat behind him on the walkway and started observing him. He had brought a plastic coke water bottle with a nylon rope tied to it and rolled on it. He undid the rope and threw one side of it into the water after hooking the worms which he had carried in a small plastic cover in his trouser pants.

The fisherman

He did have a lot of patience, for I had waited around 30 minutes watching him and he never had a single catch all this time. I was done with my patience and left the place while he was still trying to catch fish. The fishing scene made me think, if natural resources are available for free one doesn’t need much to survive. His requirements for food are provided by nature, all he has to learn is how to fish.

Then I walked back to the ferry and to the hostel. Just before my hostel, there was a communist party room. The place was filled with graffiti and Che quotes. There were a couple of young guys spending their time. It was an interesting sight to watch. I should have spent some time with them to understand their ideology better, but my desire to drive my car into a ferry overtook me.

Next plan was to take my car on the ferry. The cost of a car to board a ferry  was Rs. 45 and you save a lot of time if you want to reach the island. The other option is to take a land route with a bridge to the island and to do that, one has to travel a lot.

Taking my car in a ferry is again one in my bucket list for a long time. I had never known Cochin had that option. I only knew Goa and Andaman had such transport options. Another option for this was the Siganduru ferry in the backwaters of a dam.

But now that I knew such an option was so close, I had to try it. So the plan was to take the car across to Vypin on the ferry and watch the sunset from Kuzhupilly Beach. But we had spent a lot of time on the line waiting for the ferry and it got late.  By the time I landed on the island, I was not sure if we would be able to reach the beach. So we decided to settle down in PuthuVype beach for the sunset. So we did another car chase scene to catch a glimpse of the setting sun into the majestic west coast. But the Sun didn’t want to wait for us to see him. The beach was again crowded and the cops didn’t allow us to park the car near the beach. So we had to park far away and walk to the beach. And the place was over crowded and the time I reached the beach I was able to see the sun setting amidst the crowd of the people gathered there like me to watch the sunset.

The place was filled with festival mood. There were food stalls, giant wheels and a stage set for a fashion show too. We spent time eating street food available on any typical Indian beach and then decided to try our luck with some kites.

We bought a kite from the vendor and were posing for some pics when my friend shouted, “I think we have crossed lines with someone else kite”. Another friend suggested, lets cut his kite short and pulled the string. But it was our kite which got cut and flew away. We tried chasing it for some distance to get it back our luck didn’t favour us. Our short lived kite was gone and so did our interest in spending more time in the crowded beach.

We walked to the car and started back just to be stranded by the line waiting to board the ferry. We had to spend quite a longtime waiting for the ferry on the line watching the Christmas santas pass by while we were stuck within the car.

One interesting thing happened while we were waiting. There was a smart driver who came just in front of us and cut into the line. I abused him in Tamil with the windows closed making it sure, I won’t get into trouble and ignored it. But the driver behind me got down and walked to a police nearby, brought the police and knocked on the window of the offender. He was asked to leave the line and I came back to my place in the queue.

View from the car when in the ferry. At the horizon is the Fort Kochi

This time, I got lucky. I was first on the line to enter the ferry and I got to park the car in the first line of the ferry. All I was doing in the car was confirming my hand brake was on and that I will not roll from the ferry into the river. To watch the skyline from the ferry was one good experience. We came back to the hostel and we had company in our hostel, a biker who had come from Hyderabad. We discussed our travels and our next day plans and then we slept. That’s how my day ended in Fort Cochin.

This post is part of a series of posts. Do check the whole series here.

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