Friday, October 27, 2006

Cochin : sunset through Chinese fishing nets

This has been my second visit to Cochin and Kerala in two years. Kerala is made for tourists. Honesty of people and their approach in dealing with tourist is heart warming. It is totally different from one’s experience in the North India. Take for example Delhi. Everyone you meet after landing in Delhi – from the coolie (the porter) to the autowallah (the cab driver) to the so called Tourist Information Bureau operator, will try to cheat you. This is so sick mentality and highly detestable. Even though I live here, I hate this place. I would always suggest one to avoid Delhi and go to places where people are honest. Kerala is one such place where you can travel in peace and enjoy the beauty nature has bestowed upon it.

My accommodation was booked by the Agatti Island Beach Resort (AIBER) office at Bijou’s Tourist Home on the Canon Shed Road, which was very close to the main jetty. The prepaid auto from the Ernakulum Junction station was only Rs.20/-. The hotel charges were Rs.500 + Rs75 (tax) for 24 hours. The room was good and clean. Toilet was good, a basic necessity to be called a good place to stay. Though it had a cafeteria that serves breakfast, it does not have its own restaurant. So we had to walk down to the City Park Restaurant located on its back. The food there was delicious and tasty. And the rates were quite reasonable.

I found that there are many hotels and tourist homes around this place. The landmark for the place is ‘Colombo Hotel Junction’ where the Cannon Shed Road and the Market Road intersects. This is right in the heart of the city and is very close the main boat jetty from where one can catch a local ferry to Fort Kochi or Willingdon Island. It definitely is better place than the ATS Willingdon hotel where I had stayed last time. ATS was costlier, but it is located on a secluded stretch from where one has to hire an auto or taxi to travel out. Cochin basically consists of three parts – Ernakulum is the main town (and rail head), in between is Willingdon Island and then Fort Kochi. Fort Kochi is the place where almost all ‘must see’ tourist spots of Cochin lies and hence most foreign tourists stay there. In fact I am told that the hotels there prefer only foreign guests rather than Indian guests.

This time I was determined to see the sunset at Fort Kochi in the backdrop of the famous Chinese fishing nets. Introduced by traders from China centuries back, these nets are one of the landmarks of Cochin. I missed the sunset last time as I visited the area during daytime like most regular tourists do and hence I wanted to stay in Fort Kochi this time. Being familiar with Cochin helped me to travel cheaply. We walked down to the boat jetty which was hardly 300 mtrs, may be, from my hotel. From there we boarded a local ferry to Fort Kochi. The fare was only Rs.2.50. An auto would have taken at least Rs.70/-. In half an hours time we landed in the jetty at Fort Kochi. It was about a kilometers walk to the spot where Chinese fishing nets are parked.

The place was not crowded as most tourists come here in the morning. May be the fear of Chickengunya had kept Indian tourists away from Kerala. However, foreign tourist soon started arriving to see the sunset. Restaurant owners started approaching us to avail the ‘You buy fish and we cook for you’ facility. One of them even took me to a fish seller in the nearby market. There I found the odd man out in Kerala. The fisherman tried to cheat. For 4 small unknown fishes he asked Rs.100/-. I told him that fishes are much cheaper in Delhi. May be he is used to selling at that price to foreign tourists. Thus the ‘you buy’ part ended there and so do the ‘we cook’ part. We decided to bide time sipping fruit juice.

I clicked few nice shots before sunset. One of the fishermen even asked us to come over to his fishing net. He showed us some of his catch including a catfish. He even offered me to walk to the tip of the net to get some good shots. But I was not that intrepid to walk 20 feet over water on a single trunk of log with two cameras hanging from my neck. I thanked him and clicked a photo of him. He also clicked a family photo for us.

Soon the sun started to turn orange. I found many shutterbugs, most of whom were foreign tourist, already taking their positions. Cameras were clicking fast and furiously to capture the magnificent sunset. I tried to find a vantage point and joined the group. As the sun started going down the sea in distant horizon, the sky turned majestic. For the first time I had tried exposure bracketing. I probably shoot about 10 frames in that final 5 minutes or so. I have got the results now. Some of the shots are really stunning. And the rich saturated colour of my Kodak Professional 100 made some of the shots look surreal. The outcome of the evening was worth its effort. My Cochin trip is now complete in all respect.

After the sunset, we returned back taking the same route. But this time we boarded a boat that is run by a different operator. I understood this deviation only on reaching Ernakulum as it landed us in a different jetty than one near our hotel. I had no idea about how far we need to travel to our hotel, but knew that we need to walk down the road known as the Marine Drive of Cochin. After walking for some distance we had a premonition that we might have a long way still left and it would be wise to hire an auto. So I stopped an auto and asked him how much to pay. He replied 10 rupees. When we were dropped at the hotel, we found that it was almost 2 km or so and would have been hard to walk down. Just imagine the honesty of the autowallah here. I was a tourist and was with my family looking for an auto at night. But still he did not exploit my situation. He charged me what is probably correct fare. Even if he had asked for Rs.30/- or so, I would have paid in that situation. In north, specially in Delhi, one would have been taken for a ride in such a situation. This is why Kerala is such a nice place for tourist.

So that is Cochin. You can also read about my first visit to Cochin two years back. This time I could also grab a copy of ‘Hello Cochin’ which is a treasure trove of information on Cochin. Please do write to me in case I may be of any help.

1 comment:

Hakuna Matuta said...

Can you please advice us on a 10 day trip to Kerala in April with family?
we didnot want to go through any tour package or travel agent.
we found your blog very practical ad informative :)