Fort Kochi week three

Hello everyone

Hoping that you are all well

The week here in Kochi has been spent continuing to explore the area which is starting to feel familiar now, and there have been a few sites here that I hadn’t got round to visiting yet so have been to a couple of those in Fort Kochi this week and also got onto some of the Kerala waterways.

Ok just picking this up again after some breakfast and a walk along the Seafront then a bit of unexpected shopping to send back to the UK and a few lessons about how to tell the difference between Kashmir ( Cashmere ) wool, Pashminas and silk ( easiest way to tell seems to be looking at the weave ) but there seems to be so many blends to look out for, but I have met one guy a couple of times in Kochi and once going over to Ernakulam on the ferry that runs a shop with his father here that seems pretty trustworthy and I ended up spending awhile having tea with them this morning and being shown how to spot the difference between quality items and cheap imitations in everything from jewellery ( spotting cheap glass and real precious stones ), quality carpets and cheap knock offs ( he was using scissors to scrape across them and it didn’t seem to even leave a mark ) and authentic Cashmere shawls and cheaper imitations, it was an interesting and unexpected hour anyway, but I still wouldn’t trust trust myself to identify real precious stones from imitations, but maybe with a few more lessons could identify real Cashmere.

Earlier this week I was able to visit a Jain Temple nearby.

Jainism is one of India’s smaller religions with around 4 to 5 million followers mostly living in India.

The Jain religions main aim in life is to escape the the continuous cycle of birth, death and rebirth ( reincarnation ) so that the immortal soul lives forever in a state of bliss.

They are expected to follow 5 great vows.

The supreme one being non violence extending to all living things ( so are strict vegetarians) and goes as far as not being unable to defend themselves or protect property. Unfortunately my experience of seeing other religions in the modern world who also believed in nonviolence to that extent was that others would take advantage of that. The other 4 vows are non attachment to possessions, not lying, not stealing and sexual restraint.

The temple itself was fairly large and well kept , and after being shown the guide for entrance to the temple such as covered legs, no foot wear and no photography inside, you are given a tour by a Jain Monk or Nun.

If you do arrive around Noon, they feed the pigeons at 12.10 each day and thousands of pigeons arrive each of them circling the temple 3 times before coming in to feed ( I didn’t really believe this happened until I saw it and didn’t see any cheat by coming straight in ) I don’t know if this is a common thing with pigeons or not, but will have to watch for it in other places on my travels. I felt that it was worth a visit and enjoyed learning a little about their way of life.

Another day here in Kochi was spent at the Naval museum here and it was better than I expected, there is quite a large Naval base here ( with a motto of ” Hit First, Hit Hard and keep on Hitting ” which I thought was a bit extreme and in complete contrast to the teachings of the Jain religion) and a lot of Naval history, again involving the Portuguese, Dutch and British fighting for control and I didn’t actually know that the Portuguese held onto Goa into the 60s until India took it back by force long after their independence from Britain ( you learn something new everyday )

It was interesting looking around the different exhibits which included old anti aircraft guns and Bofor guns, missiles, mines, models of ships, uniforms and a sea king helicopter.

On Thursday I went on an organised trip onto to Kerala waterways which consisted of fourteen of us being picked up from around Kochi and a trip of about two hours which took us to the district Kollum which is about 30 kilometres south of Kochi to catch the boat for the day onto the waterways, the boat itself was covered and propelled by a man with a pole at the front ( like an Indian version of a Gondola I suppose, I’ll try to put a picture up ) . This was something that I looked forward to doing in Kerala but what struck me most when we got out on the water was just how peaceful it was away from the traffic and with the movement of the boat and just the sound of a few birds I could easily of fallen asleep.

We made few stops along the way, the first one being to an island were they showed us how they ( Toddy tappers ) tapped the flowers of coconut trees to collect sap which then fermented and turned into alcohol ( might be useful if I’m ever marooned on a deserted island ).

Then it was back onto the boat and the next stop was lunch of a Vegetarian Thali was is a mixture of vegetarian food served on a banana leaf and was very good and much appreciated as I was getting hungry by this point.

Our next stop on the way back was to see how they make ropes from the coconut fibre which looked surprisingly simple although the fibre needs soaking in water for about six months first, when it is pulled and twisted it forms thin ropes that can then be combined to form thicker ropes ( again useful if ever stuck on a desert island, I’ve been on a few survival courses , how did I not know about this ? ) it was surprising how fast they could make around twenty metres of rope ( about 10 minutes) by attaching one end to a hook an spinning it as they walked away.

It was then back to where we picked up the boat and back to Kochi. It was well worth the trip and you can get a houseboat and spend up to five days on the waterways but at least about five to six hours gave me a taste of it this time, if I come back to Kerala maybe spending longer onboard would be nice.

One thing I felt I’ve been able to do here this week is slow down a little bit and take things in a bit more. mornings are still pretty much the same, up early and yoga or run at around six before it gets busy then breakfast.

There’s always something going on and it’s been nice to see people out playing the various sports here being mainly Cricket and Football ( Soccer) but also field hockey and it never ceases to amaze me how kids can run around on gravel and rough ground without shoes and kick a football, as I would struggle to even walk gingerly over it so I have to give them much kudos for that.

Yesterday I thought I would try some of the seafood that they sell along the front which you can go and buy yourself than take it to one the the temporary restaurants nearby where they will cook it for a fee, so at lunchtime, which I haven’t really been bothering with whilst here as I find 3 meals a day a bit too much, I picked up a couple of squid for calamaris and four large prawns and took them along to be cooked, and although they were very nice I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed as the calamari had been over cooked and although they were only supposed to be cooked with some butter and garlic the cook had made them spicy which although I love spicy food when it comes to seafood it overwhelms it and you don’t get the taste of the seafood.

I also feel I’ve been a bit spoilt by a couple of seafood dishes I’ve had in the past.

The best by far was so simple and was on the coast in Madang in Papua New Guinea cooked by a woman over a portable gas stove and was just freshly caught tuna, a little cooking oil and a little salt sprinkled over when it was cooked and I can honestly say it was the best thing I have ever tasted and probably now judge all seafood dishes by that standard and don’t think anything will ever reach that, it was just so simple and no fancy restaurant or even seats, just fresh tuna and a little salt.

My other memorable experience that I’ll never forget was in a small bar/ shack on Ambergris Caye off the coast of Belize and again it was just simple, at the time I had probably only had lobster a couple of times before and had liked it but never really got to the stage of loving it, but again it was a combination of the simple fresh ingredients of lobster that I think it was grilled rather than boiled and served with some garlic butter that made it so good, ever since I’ve compared any lobster dishes to that and been disappointed.

I think that it may of been the circumstances and locations that perhaps made those meals so memorable as well.

All that talk of food is now making me hungry now and it is nearly dinner time here.

I’m hoping to make a trip inland here next week possibly to a place called Munnar which is around four hours each way by car but looks interesting and would be an area of Kerala I haven’t seen yet so something to look forward too.

I think that is pretty much it this week from here so will say goodbye for now and wish you all well until next time.

Take care. Regards Chris

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