We live off the tourists’ beaten path. Nobody who’s traveled to India for fun comes back saying: “I went to Bangalore, man, that was so rad…” Ok, I may be using some old hippy stereotype here, and I don’t think I have ever heard anyone use the term “rad” in real life, but the truth remains: Bangalore is not a city that attracts tourists. We see tons of foreigners around the software bubbles, ITPL and Electronic City, and they go to work, visit a couple of temples, stay in the nice hotels where the food and the water are safe. Be careful though, even most five star hotels don’t always have potable water out of the bathroom sinks, so watch out for that Delhi Belly!
My point here is that we are spared the granola munching, traveler’s checks carrying, ganja smoking, patchouli smelling and backpack-hauling crowd. We do see them once in a while, when they are tired of the homestays and need a good scrub. You can spot them a mile around as they often try to blend in by wearing Indian clothes, but the wrong way. I saw a man wearing a churidar (woman’s pants) and don’t get me started on girls wearing the churidar and tank-top combination. Women in India cover up. Especially their legs. And their shoulders. It is true that a younger professional group wears Western clothes, including sleeveless shirts, but they are rare and few. You see a lot of tummies with the saris, but no ankles.
But I digress.
We spent a few days in Kochi, and it has all the above-mentioned people. It’s a very touristy place. It’s however lovely. A couple of friends from the States were vacationing, and hop on a plane we did and visited Kochi.
I told you it’s touristy: we could not for Heaven’s sake, make the young receptionist understand that we live in India and do not have a foreign address. We tried but failed. She kept presenting us with a form asking for a foreign address and would not take no for an answer. I admit that for the first time since we moved here, I raised my voice. Not loud. More in the vein of pronouncing each syllable independently, accompanied by a firm pounding of fingers on the counter: we-do-not-live-in-America-we-live-in-Bangalore. Yes but I need an address, where do you live? Repeat. Look, she says while showing me someone else’s form, this man from Spain has an address in Madrid. We-do-not-live-in-Madrid-we-do-not-live-in-America-we-live-in-Bangalore. You have an American passport, you live in America (granted here I have had the exact same problem with French banks). E. who was not as hot headed as I was (yet) crossed out our India address and wrote “USA” in the appropriate box. She was satisfied with that.
We were traveling with a very well connected crowd. By this I mean that a quarter of our group is sometimes referred to as “Google Aunty” as she has a connection to the beginnings of Google, like, you know, in the 20th century, and another quarter works for Qualcomm (they make chips that are on your smartphone, that makes you able to use the above mentioned Google and look stuff up). Yet, we got lost. And it was fun! We couldn’t find the restaurant recommended by Trip Advisor so we tried to wing it. First try, not so good. We sat down, looked at the menu and while the waiter went away, two gentlemen who were about to leave told us to run! Hygiene problem they said! So we ignored our good manners and left. We are ready for substandard taste or accommodations, but hygiene is not something you want to be callous about. Bad water can kill you. Back to Trip Advisor and Google maps. Ha! You need an internet connection for that and we were off the grid. But the surroundings were so pretty. Dark and scary a bit (I was more scared at hearing my husband going “huh huh!” than by what I was seeing) and so lively. It was dinnertime and the cooking smells emanating from houses were making us even more hungry. We did walk pass a river (we’ll call it that) that was littered by a week’s worth of refuse. That didn’t smell too good. You had to watch where you stepped. And we did see a few of the people described in the first paragraph: the people who insist on paying a dollar for a hotel room so they can feel authentic. Right… We ended up in what looked like a cafeteria, but where the food was awesome. Shrimp kebabs with tons of pepper. Yum.
Kochi is by the sea, so they live off seafood. During daytime, we were mainly around water, on a boat, on a beach facing the Arabian sea, or Fort Kochi, which is where the fishing boats come back to unload and sell their catch. We went for a boat ride and got the big boat all to ourselves. You’d think that in a place with so many white people they would be used to it, but no, wherever we went we became celebrities, wanting pictures with us, the whole shebang! We passed boats full of young Indian tourists taking pictures with phones, who became our instant distant friends, and ferries full of people going to work, some not too happy. There are also a lot of naval warships.
If there’s one thing that I like above else in this country, it’s the smiles.
We visited a couple of churches, tried to go to Jew Town (it’s the actual name) but it was so crowded that we gave up. We went to a dance/martial arts representation, once again done for the foreign crowd. We did a lot of driving, daydreaming of buying an old bungalow, fixing it up and turning it into an orphanage or a hotel or a school or just a nice house to spend a few months out of the year. If you’ve seen “Hotel Marigold”, you get the idea!
Kochi is very nice. I could have done without the kids and blind cats being used as photography props for tourists, but it was really pleasant to be able to simply meander around and take it easy.
Minus the patchouli, I really don’t like that!