Our journey has officially begun. We arrived at Heathrow for our flight at 6am on Saturday 16th April. After the panic subsided that Nina’s ticket was not valid (thanks Flight Centre!) we finally managed to board the plan. After a stopover in Dubai (note to all parents, Emirates in-flight entertainment and service sets an new precedent for keeping kids engaged and happy!).
We finally arrived in Cochin at 3am, excited but exhausted. After finally figuring out that we had to prepay our taxi fare inside the airport, we hopped aboard our taxi which lurched an hour into the city. After coming from London, the air was hot and humid- and the chaos was apparent, even at 4.30 in the morning. The kids peeled off their layers and giggled each time the taxi driver snorted, spat and veered (no seat belts) to avoid pot holes and cows. We fell into our hotel bed at 6am and were only seen again at 1 o’clock the next day. We met our tour guide Tony – a lovely, lovely man, who I am sure – was given to us by some sort of divine intervention. He is a local, also father of three, incredibly good natured, kind and patient (which some how makes us all behave better!). Tony is sticking with us over the next 2 weeks – arranging all our transport, educating us and generally making sure we don’t kill ourselves or do something stupid (known to happen quite often).
Day 1: Cochin to Vypeen Island
We caught a sunset ferry from Marine Drive to Vypeen Island (to which one of our daughters asked if it named after vipers. Reassuringly, not). While standing the queue for our ferry tickets, I was amused to “no spitting here” sign. Does that mean you can spit anywhere else, but not in the queue?
The locals seem so taken with our children (most of which is good natured, but does make you feel like a rare animal of sorts).
Ancient Chinese fishing nets are arranged along the coast of Vypeen Island, which have counter-weights which drop the nets down at high tide. A school of dolphin swam by and delighted the children, but not more than when George’s chair gave way in a local restaurant. How many times must I tell everybody “don’t rock on your chairs!”
Day 2. Fort Cochin and the markets
Tony felt obliged to enlighten us with some history and took us to Fort Cochin at Mattancherry (Mattan meaning Muslim, Cherry meaning place). In 1565, the Portuguese enraged the Raja (King) by tearing down a Muslim temple, so to appease him they built him this palace instead. Most of this area now appears to be Christian in faith, which is very apparent in the lead up to Easter next weekend. We headed to the local markets where us girls got an ankle chain each and we were also promptly ripped off in a store by such a kind, humble-looking Indian granny. We bought 4 bottles of essential oils at 450 Rupees each, but when we got back to the hotel the bottles contained perhaps 4 drops each. Lesson learned : sweet, kind, sideways nodding (old) person will still rip you off. Back at the hotel – one of the girls managed to change the lock on her suitcase so Mr Handyman had to be called in to break into our luggage (alarmingly easy, lets hope he’s not part of the cleaning team that come in here each day!)
As a keen photographer – I pestered our guide to take me to the local markets which has by far been my favorite 2 hours of my time here. A feast for the senses: chaotic and noisy (people, dogs, cats, bikes, cars) as people jostle for business surrounded by seemingly oblivious to the squalor and dirt. My 10 year old has written her take on the markets next. Poor Bella (8) found that somehow during the course of her market trip, she’d ended up with “pooh” (and we’re not talking bird!) in her hair, so we had to make a swift trip back to the hotel for a good scrub down!
A trip to the market (by Tati, 10)
We are in Cochin in Southern India. Today, went to the fruit and vegetable market. It was very busy so we all had to hold a adults hand (Mum, Dad or our guide Tony) and it stank because of the river and it was polluted so much! (sewerage and rubbish) uurgghhh!!! It seriously STANK. The fruit market was very pretty though and we browsed for ages looking at all the different types of fruit and vegetable that some of them we have never heard of!
Then a dark, black cloud towered over us and everybody went to find shelter and suddenly all the streets were empty, so we tried to find a taxi – in fear that it was going to pour down with rain any second. Eventually all 6 of us squished into a tuc-tuc (see photo, my little sister calls it a Pet-Pet ) and went to the Indian version of McDonalds! I must say, the food wasn’t that great. Mum didn’t let us eat the chicken nuggets, because it looked dodgy. Then we went back to the hotel, had a nice warm shower. As I am writing to you, I am very happy that we are in India J Tati x