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Monday, 22 March 2010

Beaches, Ashrams, and Backwaters: Exploring Kerala (& Mumbai), India - Page 5

Written by Christina Kay Bolton
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When we arrived at Thiruvananthapuram’s (also known as Trivandrum) airport near the southern tip of India our driver, Arun, was magically waiting for us even though we’d given him the wrong arrival time and flight number. Arun works for SITA and was very personable, spoke English well, and was the source of great conversation throughout the trip. I told him we wanted to do a bit of sightseeing in town before heading out to Varkala beach, so we stopped to look at Sree Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple (non-Hindu’s cannot go inside) and then explored the city palace museum which had some beautiful ivory pieces including a basinet made entirely out of ivory, some nice paintings, and a large throne-like chair adorned with huge crystals from Slovakia.

Kochi

Beaches, Ashrams, and Backwaters: Exploring Kerala (& Mumbai), India, Arabian Soul, guest house in Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, Trivandrum, Claufouty Café, Harmony Restaurant, travel kerala, Amritapuri, Amma ashram, houseboat cruise through the backwaters, Kumarakom, Cocobay Resort, Kochi, Cochin, Malabar House, Kathakali dance performances, Chinese fishing nets, yoga and Ayurvedic retreat centers, Mumbai travel, Bombay tours, SITA, sita tours, Christina Kay BoltonBack on the road we had a two hour drive to Kochi (also called Cochin) the place where the first colonial settlement was in India during the spice trade. The Portuguese built the first church in India here. Also, the first synagogue in India was built in Kochi. We visited both of them as well as the city museum with its interesting diverse history. Kerala has many more Christians than the rest of India and they are centered in Kochi.

 

 

Beaches, Ashrams, and Backwaters: Exploring Kerala (& Mumbai), India, Arabian Soul, guest house in Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, Trivandrum, Claufouty Café, Harmony Restaurant, travel kerala, Amritapuri, Amma ashram, houseboat cruise through the backwaters, Kumarakom, Cocobay Resort, Kochi, Cochin, Malabar House, Kathakali dance performances, Chinese fishing nets, yoga and Ayurvedic retreat centers, Mumbai travel, Bombay tours, SITA, sita tours, Christina Kay BoltonWe stayed at Malabar House, a famous boutique hotel in the historic district of Kochi. It was beautifully decorated with every amenity you could imagine. Other than a strong smell of mildew, which prompted us to ask for a new room, the hotel was perfect with comfy beds, nice seating areas, and turndown service with fresh fragrant flower petals left on the soft linens.

Kochi is a great place for shopping and there were many good shops in walking distance from our hotel. We were warned against going to the Kashmiri shops because of being overcharged, but were encouraged to go to locally owned shops. We ended up at Indian Industries on Princess Street where we bought well-priced silver jewelry and wood carvings from a man named John at this family owned shop that his grandfather had opened 60 years before. There is also a good bookshop directly across the street with a large selection of books by Indian authors and a knowledgeable owner. As this was our last stop in India we also stocked up on Biotique botanical skin care products – one of the best brands in India and at Indian prices, a real deal on quality creams.

We had dinner at our hotel. The restaurant was packed with people as it is well- known. Though the atmosphere was good, we didn’t think the quality of the food was really up to par with the prices – the lamb was overcooked and the shrimp portion very small.

Beaches, Ashrams, and Backwaters: Exploring Kerala (& Mumbai), India, Arabian Soul, guest house in Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, Trivandrum, Claufouty Café, Harmony Restaurant, travel kerala, Amritapuri, Amma ashram, houseboat cruise through the backwaters, Kumarakom, Cocobay Resort, Kochi, Cochin, Malabar House, Kathakali dance performances, Chinese fishing nets, yoga and Ayurvedic retreat centers, Mumbai travel, Bombay tours, SITA, sita tours, Christina Kay Bolton

The breakfast buffet was good. It included fresh juice, granola, yogurt, frittata, fruit, omelets, and toast. My fiancé had a stomach bug, though, and I went alone. I asked the staff for plain porridge to bring to him in the room which they graciously made. We’re not sure how he fell ill – it might have been the food the night before or the fresh juice from the previous morning, but he spent much of the day in bed.

Beaches, Ashrams, and Backwaters: Exploring Kerala (& Mumbai), India, Arabian Soul, guest house in Varkala, Thiruvananthapuram, Trivandrum, Claufouty Café, Harmony Restaurant, travel kerala, Amritapuri, Amma ashram, houseboat cruise through the backwaters, Kumarakom, Cocobay Resort, Kochi, Cochin, Malabar House, Kathakali dance performances, Chinese fishing nets, yoga and Ayurvedic retreat centers, Mumbai travel, Bombay tours, SITA, sita tours, Christina Kay BoltonI walked down to the Chinese fishing nets, where fishermen lower the large nets at certain times of the day and raise them to bring in their bounty. It is one of the most iconic scenes in Kochi and tourists gather to watch as the fish are laid out along the sidewalk. You can buy a fish from a fisherman and have it cooked at one of the small places right along the water, but be sure to watch it come out of the water to make sure it is fresh. Nearby are many stalls selling everything from shell boxes to brightly colored clothing. I was also fortunate to see an Indian Catholic wedding taking place at the basilica.

(Page 5 of 7)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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