Backwaters of Kochi, Kerala, India

I decided to have another Kerala backwaters experience. After an early street-side breakfast a mini-bus picks me, and a few others up, and takes us 30 minutes away. We get on board a traditional houseboat and start cruising around the backwaters. The waterways here are not quiet as interesting as those of Alleppey, but the houseboat is lovely.

We stop and take a look at a small factory that converts mussel shells into calcium for use in pharmaceuticals. We carry on cruising and stop for a fantastic Keralan lunch. After we drive a little way further and jump in canoes. Our driver punts around some quiet narrow backwaters. The canoes are my favourite backwaters vehicle; quiet, leisurely, and able to reach right inside the intricate canal network. We stop to see how canoe husk fibres and made into string, and we also stop for a coconut, yum.

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A small India, and souveners

Whilst walking I spot a German couple I chatted with at Patnem Beach in Goa. We talk for an hour about the various things we have been up to. India is a massive country, but even here you can bump into the same people again. They are staying in Ernakulam, which I didn’t really understand as it’s a ugly bustling city. Anyway, we were talking about souvenirs and I realised this is my last chance to get any. I also realise that I don’t have any from India, just Nepal.

After a quick walk around I buy a wooden Ganesh and a lovely elephant. Now my backpack will be even heavier. Once I get to Bali I hope to send a package home. I suspect my girlfriend will quickly have a few things to send back also.

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Chinese cantilever fishing net in action

After seeing hundreds of Chinese cantilever fishing nets in the backwaters, and none of them in use, I finally see one being used in Fort Cohcin. They only catch a few small fish, but it seems to be fairly efficient.

I stop a fish mongers and have a quick chat. The big fish in the front is an Indian Salmon, which costs INR600 (£7, $14). The biggest fish are at the back, and they are king fish. There are several restaurants nearby that will cook any fish you buy and bring to them. I might give it a try some time.


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Alleppey and onto Fort Cochin, Kerala, India

Up at 6am as I an being eaten alive by something. My room has a mosquito net, but I don’t think it’s mosquitoes. Bed bugs maybe? I dunno, but I’m up early. After a quick fuss around the room I’m out the door and I take a walk. Alleppey is quiet and I like it at this time. I head up to the bus station, which is not so quiet. I take a seat at a road-side chai stop and have a couple of cups of coffee and a fried banana, all for 15 pence, bargain.

Back at the guesthouse I’m a bit lost as they guy there says that the next train is not until 1pm, about 3 hours away. I decide to try my luck anyway. At the railway station I buy a ticket and have to wait about 5 minutes for the train, perfect.

At Ernakulam I grab a tuk-tuk and head over the Fort Cochin. The driver gets stopped at one bridge and makes a big fuss with the police. He turns back saying to me about another bridge. Over the other bridge and we finally make it to the peace and quiet of Fort Cochin. The driver makes a fuss about the extra distance, but I think it has been a ploy all along, and give him an extra INR20. It has been a long drive to get here. I think I’ll take the ferry back.

Fort Cochin is my last stop India. In 4 days I fly to Bali. My hotel of choice here is full, but after a quick walk around a lady directs me to man who has a nice place and a single room for INR200, bargain.

After a few walks around town I realise there is not so much to do here, which is fine, but I have 4 days to fill. I know I can take a backwaters trip on a houseboat at a reasonable price, and I need to catch up on my writing, so I should be fine. When I start traveling with my girlfriend in a few days I won’t be able to spend quite as much time writing, so I’m keep to get everything up to date.

Fort Cochin is a nice place though, and the riverside location is beautiful.

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Lazy day in Alleppey, Kerala, India

After breakfast with the locals at the bus station, I catch up online, and take a walk to the beach. The beach in Alleppey is surprisingly nice. It’s quiet and undeveloped, except for a few guesthouses nearby. There is an old pier, which looms like it was last maintained when the British left India.

I grab some street side snacks and watch the fisherman for a while.

Back at the guesthouse I get chatting with the owner and his friends. They are nice guys, and we talk about a lot of things. They love chatting up the visiting girls, and seem to have a lot of success with them.

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Backwaters cruise from Kollan to Alleppey, Kerala

Up early, a quick walk around and breakfast at a Indian coffee house with the locals. I decide to take the backwaters cruise to Alleppey.

I jump in a tuk-tuk, and after a little confusion, I get to the lakeside jetty. There is only one boat with any activity, but no one seems keen to check tickets, so I get on, assuming it’s the right boat.

It turns out it is the right boat, and we start cruising. Right from the start the scenery is stunning. After chugging across lakes we enter the rivers and canals. The scenery is constantly changing between empty fields, small homes, and boats with people fishing or transporting goods.

After a few hours we settle into the canals proper. There are lots of villagers waving. This looks like an idyllic place – living on an island, with everything you need, a canoe for transport, and endless sunshine and fish. I’m tempted to get off the boat and somewhere to stay on an island!

We pass several houseboats which look lovely, and a perfect way for a couple or group of friends to spend 24 hours, floating on a beautiful waterway with stunning scenery. Unfortunately I am traveling on my own, and these houseboats cost INR6,000 for 24 hours. My cruise today has cost INR300. I’m happy with the cruise today, it’s much better that a bus or train. I might take a canoe ride tomorrow in Alleppey, to see more traditional backwater life up close.

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Kollam, Kerala, India

After the long train ride (18 hours) I step off into Kerala. Kollam is a busy town, which, surprisingly, doesn’t irritate me after several weeks of relaxing at the beach. I quickly get into a very reasonable hotel, the room is just INR150, back to normal prices, and probably the cheapest room on my trip so far.

After a quick walk around I realise that there is not much to do in town, so tomorrow I will head over to the lake and jump on a boat towards Alappuzha, for a Kerala backwater experience.

I don’t have quite enough time to do everything I want to do in Kerala. So, I’m going to freestyle it to the last hour, and see what happens 🙂

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Somewhere near Kerala, India

I woke several times before sunrise, but I dose until the sun has risen. This is a noisy carriage, but my earplugs help greatly. Surprisingly it’s not the children, who behave impeccable, but the adults who generate the noise. I convert my bed to seats and watch the dawn landscape rushing by.

After a couple of coffees, a lot of reading and some samosas, I decide this train ride is no where near as exciting as the last one. It’s Ok though, as I have several interesting books, and a number of good conversations which see me through until 17:30.

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Waiting for the train to Kerala, India

I say goodbye to Ramnath and his team, who I’ve come to know well over the last days. I’ve loved Goa, but it’s time to move on.

At Canacona railway station I start a conversion with a man from New York. He has come to India mainly for dental work, but also to find the mystical India he longed to visit as a youth. He says he hasn’t found that India though. He became unwell in Varanasi and caught the train to the south to get well.

We talk for hours about many things; mainly India, it’s troubles, frustrations and the future. He constantly compares India to the USA, something I have noticed other US citizens do more than any other nation. He is highly praising of the British influence left in India. He says our train, which rolls in 1.5 hours late, would have been punctual and spotless 50 years ago, during the British Raj. This is something I hadn’t paid too much thought, but I think he is probably right. He also refers to the Western world as Europe, including the USA and Australia. I don’t question him about that, but think I understand what he means, presuming that all Western countries evolved from European settlers.

The train is packed. I have no bedding in my birth. I mention this to the ticket inspector who informs me ‘He is coming with it’. ‘He’ never shows though and I’m glad of the blanket I bought.

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Final thoughts on Goa, India

Today is my last day in Goa. Tonight I catch the overnight train from Canacona to Kollam, in Kerala. It’s a long ride; from 11pm to 5.30pm the next day. It’s a big distance though, something I didn’t really realise until I checked a big map earlier. I am traveling to the southern end of Kerala, and making my way back north as I fly from Kochi to Singapore.

I have loved Goa. The sun drenched beaches, beach huts, friendly faces and great food have made my stay better than I had imagined. There are a few things I would like to have done, but chose instead to relax and concentrate on some writing.

I have probably stayed too long in Goa. I have about 7 days in Kerala, which is enough time to see the essentials. I left it a little late in booking my train ticket. But, I know I will return to both Goa and Kerala in the not too distant future, and I always like to leave plenty to come back for.

Now, to swap my books and charge my MP3 player for the long train ride….

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