Monday, February 18, 2008

Fishing and Dancing

We drove from our boat to the Southern Indian town of Cochin. We have crossed the Indian Sub-Continent, from the East Side and the Bay of Bengal, all the way to the West Side on the Arabian Sea. Cochin was first a Portuguese City then became a Dutch City. We are staying in the old port area. The city has 7 million inhabitants, but the old port part seems like a village. Think of an old city set like San Francisco or Seattle on a bay.

If there is word that is stronger than humid to describe the weather I would use it. I took 2 showers yesterday and would have like to have taken a third. During the day it is extremely hot and humid. At night, it is less hot and still humid. You just get used to it and the good part is your skin feels healthy from all of the sweating.

The hotel we are staying at is probably the nicest one of our trip. It is called the Brunton Boatyards and is a Heritage Hotel. That means it is an old building from the British Raj that has been updated including Air-Conditioned Rooms and spotty Internet. It sits directly on the water. We look out over the pool and outdoor restaurants. Like many of the heritage hotels, the reception area is open to the air with no walls.

We drove to area called Jew Town where as it name implies, sits a very old but still functioning Synagogue. At one time, there was a thriving Jewish community in Cochin. Jew Town now contains many jewelry and antique stores selling mainly to tourists. The majority of the stores in Jew Town are run by Muslims who have left Kashmir (the disputed area between Pakistan and India). Everyone gets along well. We went to the old Palace that has been turned into a museum where the walls are lined with extremely explicit pictures of sex. Shiva (the dancer in one incarnation, who I always thought was a woman but is in reality a man) was in the center of the picture. In the background, animals are fornicating, representing the active sex life of the gods. If our temple had more stories like this, maybe I would have gone more often.

The next morning we got up and went to see the fisherman. They have a great contraption to fish. It is a giant catapult like device called a Chinese Net. It is lowered into the water and then hoisted out with the catch. A complete fishing cycle takes about 10 minutes. It is fun to watch and Cathy and I pitched in, giving it a try.

Vasco De Gamma the Portuguese explorer lived and died in Cochin. We visited his empty grave, he has be returned to Portugal. The fishing village is very quaint and fun to walk around it. One of the joys of India is walking down the streets and just smelling the foods and incense.

Everywhere you are approached by hawkers either selling things on the street or inviting you into their store. We had no sense of being assaulted by the hoards and found it fun to haggle with them over prices. In the West we aren’t used to negotiating prices, in India it is a must. It becomes great fun. If you are ever in India I STRONGLY suggest that you only buy inexpensive things for the first few days and develop your bargaining skills. Then when you feel confident you will save lots of money on more expensive things. To me the whole exercise became a very fun game. The merchants are all into it.

We went to a luggage store to buy an additional piece of luggage. Need I say more! The humidity is something you finally give into; you will be hot and sticky no matter what.

In the evening we went to a very interesting dance performance. It is the local style of historical dance. It is called Kathakali. We went to the theater 1 ½ before the performance to watch the actors put on their makeup. There are no women in the play, men play all of the roles. It is very much like Japanese Kabuki. Very stylized.

Afterwards we went back to the hotel and had a dinner outside on the dock overlooking the bay. Tomorrow there is general strike planned by the Communist and we have a 5:00am wake up call to head for the airport to avoid it. We are flying to Bangalore then driving 4 hours to Mysore. Cochin is a very nice vacation spot. We loved it.

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