This post is way out of sequence, as we completed our India trip a number of weeks ago. There’s a video of the Spice Trails part of this holiday.
Fort Cochin is definitely worth a visit. There’s quite a history to the place, there are interesting old buildings, ‘Chinese fishing nets’, and various gorgeous boutique hotels and nice restaurants. It’s far more touristy than Kochi and offers many opportunities for shopping.
We enjoyed a couple of very nice meals in Fort Cochin. The restaurants were busy, and on one occasion I couldn’t help overhearing what was being said at a nearby table. The customers were French (like quite a high percentage of tourists in Fort Cochin) and, of course, they were taking their food very seriously. One ordered a soda and hot water with lime, but no honey, the next one ordered a soda with honey but no lime, and the third wanted to know whether the meat curry contained coconut. When the waiter said that it didn’t, she decided on the fish curry instead. They then spent most of their meal discussing what they were eating. I tend to not be like that when in a restaurant – I simply make a choice and leave it to the cook.
We had a couple of days in Fort Cochin and then Kochi before joining the Exodus Spice Trails of Kerala group trip, and after walking around various sites we visited the Kochi branch of Kaylan Silks. Well, I can honestly say that I’ve never been in a store like that before. I found out later that there are 240 staff in the shop, most of them dressed in identical sarees, and they are very attentive. In fact, you end up with your own assistant, who guides you through the shop and points out various goods of potential interest. She doesn’t package up any purchases, though – this is done by someone else. Another person deals with the bills. That person doesn’t take cash, though – that is done by other assistants on the ground floor, where you collect any purchases when you leave. Everything to do with money is double-checked by a second salesperson. There were also several lift attendants, guards, money counters, and so on. After trying on several sarees, Lindsey bought a pair of Indian style trousers and a lovely blue dress. When we came, eventually, to collect our packages on the ground floor, we were told that because we’d spent a certain amount we were entitled to a 40 rupee (about £0.40) discount in the food store on the top floor. Well, I’d had enough by then, after watching Lindsey try on I don’t know how many dresses and trousers for over an hour, but the assistant was adamant that we had to spend the voucher, so we went back upstairs and bought some crisps. This shopping trip was a good introduction, showing us how different many things work in India.
Alcohol is very restricted in Kerala. A previous government brought in a near-complete ban, but more recently this has been partially lifted. Many hotels are still not allowed to sell alcohol, and if you want to buy beer or spirits you have to go to special shops, run by the government. One of the first stops on the Exodus tour was one of these shops.
It’s a bit of a cliché to say so, but the Indian experience is definitely a bombardment of the senses. That’s why it is so great! Every meal is a new experience, and the traffic in the streets is almost unbelievable.