South India Day 3: Alleppey To Kochi
On this day, I literally woke up with the birds and spent about an hour listening to them as the sun came up. It's amazing how peaceful it can be at this time of the morning with only an occasional commuter boat slowly humming by or a distant dog barking to interrupt the birds. There are a few videos below that I took which are mainly for listening since there's not much to see, but a lot to hear.
Adam and Stacy joined me after the sun had risen a bit and the crew prepared to leave our dock and head back to the starting point from the previous day. Around 7:30 a.m. we were served a nice breakfast of toast with ghee, sweet coconut idli, scrambled eggs (yes, I suspended my vegan diet on this trip and ate dairy) and fresh mango juice. We arrived back to meet Rajesh, our driver, around 9 a.m. and were back in the car for the drive back to Kochi.
Along the way, we noticed a Ganesh temple while waiting in a traffic jam and Rajesh was more than happy to pull over and give us an impromptu tour of the Mullakkal Temple in downtown Alleppey. It was an interesting little temple and almost a miniature version of what we would soon see in other temple towns. There was an ancient banyan tree surrounding the temple and Rajesh picked a leaf and explained the parallel of the shape of the leaf to the human life cycle. Pretty interesting point of view.
We finally arrived at the Kochi Marriott at 11:06 a.m (yes, 11:06 a.m.), checked in, took showers, relaxed, checked email and went down to the lobby to get a cab to the Penguin Bookstore since I had finished my book and was now book-less on vacation, not good. After a long winding drive through Kochi, we were dropped off at the small shopping center and soon found out that the Penguin Bookstore is long gone along with half of the other businesses in the little shopping mall. From here, we walked a few blocks and headed north on Marine Drive along the waterfront in Kochi which was, decidedly, scuzzy. I had higher expectations of Kochi but it basically just seemed hot, sweaty, and not very interesting. Who knows, maybe we were just in the wrong area. We hailed a tuk tuk (video below) and sped back to the huge Lulu shopping mall, which happened to be adjacent to our hotel. This mall was surprisingly fancy and even had a roller coaster and amusement park inside. There was a great bookstore inside called Crossword, where I purchased Agatha Christie's Murder In Mesopotamia and also Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh, both great books by the way. We were hungry at this point and had a strange but tasty meal at a restaurant in the mall named 'Cream Centre'. I think this was my first and last experience with 'Mexican Nachos' in India (photo below....it's the odd A-frame concoction).
Back at the hotel and resting after a sweaty day, we all agreed that we were too full from our late lunch to think about dinner. However, on my nightly quest for a beer, Adam and I went on a wild goose chase looking for the elusive Nila bar where you could actually drink a beer and take one with you on your way out. We were sent back and forth and up and down and finally spotted a sign that said Nila. After looking inside this place, the manager realized what we wanted and we were sent back outside, behind the building, down an alley and finally found the door to an incredibly dark bar lit by three dangling fluorescent lightbulbs. The clientele seemed fairly drunk already and the sight of two westerners in this place brought on much interest, stares and giggles. As we were sitting in the bar and our eyes were accustomed to the dim lighting, it became apparent that this place was a streamline moderne art deco bar painted a sickly green now that had seen better days. I wish I could have taken a few photos during the day. After downing a Kingfisher Red, I went to the bar and bought one more to go. Adam and I returned to the Marriott after our little adventure and settled down to watch a few minutes of the New Hampshire primaries on CNN, a quite idiotic network. Bed at 10 p.m. to get ready for Ooty in the morning.