This is the delicious Keralan breakfast that we had at the Ourland hotel. I had never tried these dishes before 🙂Kadala curry, made with black chickpeas (aka kala chana or whole bengal gram), a bunch of lovely spices and, you guessed it, coconut. We ate this with palappam, a crispy on the edges, fluffy in the middle rice crepe with coconut milk, that is fermented overnight. It has a slight yeast taste which i think is not common in indian breads. We also had a lot of sweet bananas. Kerala has many varieties, and this particular one we had never seen before: it is sweet even when green on the outside.
Little M loved the bananas and had 3 for breakfast, with a whole palappam!
We left the hotel by midmorning, we had a train to catch. First we left the small island by canoe. We were bordering the riverbank, and passing under some bushy trees, when suddenly something dropped in the water like a cannon ball and splashed us with water! We shrieked, surprised. It was a cormorant diving from the branches above us! The boatman had a good laugh at our expense.
We then took a rickshaw through straw-colored paddy fields, first on red earth tracks, later on busy paved streets. Our train from Alappuzha to Kochi (Ernakulam) was waitlisted when I bought it as well… Thankfully the ticket was confirmed a few days earlier due to cancelations. We assumed the train was going to be very full but in reality the compartment was almost empty! Good for us.
We arrived to the Ernakulam Junction station, the main station in Kochi. Right away it felt a world away from the peaceful backwaters even though the station was not hectic at all for indian standards. We drove to the hotel in the historic old part of the city, called Fort Cochin. This is much more like the India I remember, crowded, noisy, dirty, colorful! There are so many goats! They roam the streets in groups, sleep under the parked cars and on street corners…
After checking in at our hotel and a much needed shower break, we went out to roam the streets. With the goats. We headed to the mega famous chinese fishing nets, the photos of which appear in all the touristy depictions of Kerala.
They are so ugly. To me they represent tourism at its worst. The tourism that robs the soul of things, that insists on selling you what lost all its charm long long ago, overexploited, unloved… The boardwalk around the nets was very busy in the early evening with local and foreign visitors. It was also really dirty. The water was dirty, the street was dirty, the food stalls looked dirty, the rat, the dogs, the cats, all looked dirty! We were in a bit of a shock after the beauty of the backwaters. Why are these people here? What do they come here to see? Yet there we were. Little M wanted to play in a (dirty) patch of sand by the water, because other children were playing. We agreed after negotiating that we would go if she didn’t take off her shoes. The children, all indian, approached her immediately and Little M got shy, so cute. “Auntie, she doesn’t want to play? Why auntie?” It’s funny to be called “auntie”, it sounds so grown up! (As far as I know, here in India this is the polite way to call an elder – uncle and auntie- instead of using their name.)
Little M attracts quite a lot of attention. It’s the same in Thailand, you would think she is used to it, but she gets very shy sometimes. It must be a little overwhelming for her!
She is not the only one getting lots of attention though. With tourist traps come the ones actually doing the trapping: the touts, the aggressive rickshaw drivers, the postcard sellers, the come-look-in-my-shop-only -5-minutes. So stressful! We really do not enjoy this at all. It’s hard to humanize those pestering you, to remember that after all they are simply trying to make a living, and maybe not even a dishonest one. Frankly, the sheer perseverance of some people trying to get your business is quite admirable. I’m not sure i would be capable of that kind of dedication to sell my services or my goods to someone. Again, in the midsts of it I cannot think of the story that these (mostly) men may have, what has brought them to annoy me today. But now, writing in my room, i wonder about the life stories, the motivations…