Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Varkala

Day 4-9 of solo travel South-East India 2016/17, Coast to coast...


Although it meant that I would probably be late in reaching Varkala, I decided that since I was in Fort Kochi, I did need to visit some places rather than just be watching Kathakali and dance programmes. Besides in all honesty there didn't seem much to Fort Kochi anyways. A Synagogue here, a museum there and some glorified Chinese nets that certainly catches more plants than fishes. Nevertheless as I started my walk I was joyfully surprised.

First off the Mattrncherry/Dutch palace is ----- ok. Maybe because for the past few days I have been seeing & reading so much about the Travancore erwest royalty that i frankly got bored of the history. Oh yea by the way, no photography allowed so I have only lousy pictures of the exterior.
This is front he back entrance- Jetty side. the so called palace museum is just the first floor, ground looked to be closed. maybe a Temple??

Forget to take outside pictures of the Jew Synagogue and the Jew town is basically tourist lanes selling usual curio items.
 But what I love about Fort Kochi is the amount of art every where. Be it a crumbling house with intricate lattice work on the windows or the numerous shop selling antiques although to me, they seem to have dubious origin.

 I wonder how many churches & Temple are missing bits & pieces...

Both the statues, above & below are beautiful.
 it's difficult to imagine that 80% of these items will graced someone's home and not in a sacred place. I don't recall the name but one of art gallery/cafe/boutique/boutique hotel is nice to spend a quiet moment with a quick cup of coffee.

Fort Kochi also has a number of stalls selling seashell at reasonable rates. The large seashell was being quoted for around Rs1500.

 Yet another random church
There are many struggling artists around...
 Victoria is one of them, lives spending her time doing what she loves. She also writes poetry on select items...
The journey to Varkala uneventful except there seemed to be no trains any time soon and I ended up taking the passenger trains and changing train to eventually reach Varkala post 8pm. I booked for a night at the Heavenly Breeze, they have 3 dormitory, 2 mixed and 1 ladies dorm each with about 2-6 beds each. It's the cheapest bed in North Cliff side at Rs240 nett for a basic bed. (Wi-fi signal excellent at ladies dorm and free).

Unfortunately since I had book only 1 night, the  next days were fully booked. I chose to shift into another hotel eventually staying in "Dolphin Bay". Super spacious and ensuite bathroom. Super!

Since they had recently reopened I managed to get it on a discounted rate of Rs500 per night, which I guess might be the normal rates on off-season. The folks are friendly & helpful at Dolphin Bay, only drawback was lack of wi-fi (I know right????), and no card payments accepted.

A walk to the beach revealed rocks full of mussels!!! I didn't see anyone BBQ at the beach like in Gokarna otherwise I would have surely started a bonfire and have fresh mussels, clams for starters every night.
Quite a few dogs do come for their morning romp in the sea..
Even the wild flowers look so cheery
There are orchids everywhere! :))
Appams with potato curry for breakfast, Rs20 only, in the behind Mummy Bamboo Grove guesthouse.
Most of the time I usually sit in "the Arbica" reading a book or stare out into the sea.
Time for a homework revision by the sea.
Seafood soup, not bad, at Rs150- good. Some breads would have made it excellent and I don't mind paying separately for the breads. From café Arbica.
I had gone to the town several times to visit the ATMs. All thanks for the 2000 withdrawal limit via card. Tea break at random stall by the road,r s25.
I tried food from various stalls, this seafood meal was delicious.  Rs100, small stall behind Mummy Bamboo Grove. They give both the fish curry & fried fish.
Veg Phing with Tingmo (Tibetan steamed bun) at Tibet restaurant, rs160. not most tasty I had .. recommended only if u r only really really craving for Tingmo. And no the garlic chilly paste is not spicy.
But still you might still get a few souls hungry for some crumbs and a nice belly rub.
Breakfast of cheese omelette & ABC juice at Café Arbica, total 220rs.
Normally while returning from the town I walk back coz no ways am I paying 100rs for a 7min auto ride, I sit for a cup of tea (it's proper boiled tea!)& super fast wi-fi. It's called the Garden Cafe.
The proprietor also makes some unique cakes. This was chocolate pineapple strawberry cake with chocolate sauce.
I still can't quite decide if I like it..
Tibetan breakfast set at Little Tibetan Restaurant, rs200. Best part of the set is the garlic potatoes!
Lunch was veg thukpa at Little Tibet Restaurant, rs110.  A little bland but lots of vegetables.
Cup after cup
Larger than life
Till the last... One can't help but just stare into the sea.
Varkala has the nicest beach along the touristy beaches of Kerala. The beach gradient is smooth with  gentle waves, just enough for a beginner during the winter months and spending a whole day sun bathing. the only drawback was mediocre food.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Indian classical dance forms

Here's the videos I had taken during the Indian classical dance show  & Kathakali show at the Kerala Kathakali Center, Fort Kochi.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Kochi~ an early night

Early morning I rushed to the station to book a ticket for an onwards journey to Ernakulam/fort Kochi. I should not have rushed so.

While returning back, popped for quick bite to eat, ordering the masala channa with idiyappam  & egg roast.
while I'm not fond of idyli i adore idiyappam, and finally a channa masala tarkari that reminds me of home food. It's spicy with just a hint of coconut.
 The egg roast was tasty too..I have a mind to try it out the next time I get access to kitchen.
 this is the cafe, the owner is an early bird opening up by 7am. Located on SS Kovil Rd, Trivandrum, about 10mins walking distance from the train/bus station.
 my first views of Ernakulam  water bodies.
 So this is me after a harrowing  5hra journey from Trivandrum to Ernakulam. Even though I bought a sleeper class ticket, i ended up in the second class, getting more squashed than mula archaar.
I stayed in Fort Kochi choosing to ignore Ernakulam & Wellington island.
 I stayed in an airbnb room that was bigger than a studio apartment, it's on Bernard Master Lane. It's a kick ass place as I had the entire flat to myself during the duration I stayed there, with a reasonable rate. And best part its right behind the Kerala Kathakali Center, David the host can book the tickets for u. The only drawback is no kitchen and I'm not sure if breakfast is included. Since I tend to normally leave by 7am, that was not an issue for me.
 I had just enough time chat with the host & refreshen up before heading to the show. The actual show actually starts off at 6pm but they start the make up by 5pm to show the guest the progression. The above picture  is when they are more or less dine with the make up and the little girl decorating Ganesh & Nataraj to light the evening diyas.
 The singer/host explaining how in Kathakali the pigment used for the makeup is entirely natural, using rice flour, coconut oil & rocks.
 the start of any auspicious project starts with the blowing of the shanka/sea shell.
play for the evening was a small partion of the Ramayana when Draupadi rejects Kichaka's advances.
tearfully she runs to Bhima who vows to get her revenge.
 they hatch a plan to corner him...here Bhima hides under the covers awaiting to ambush Kichaka.
 using his immense brute strength to crush him.
 Kichaka as he succumbs to his injuries. The play was wonderfully acted but the highlight for me was the soulful backdrop accompanying singing. I went to sleep with vivid images of the play.

The next day was unfortunately a state strike  so many places seemed to be closed at least at 8am in  the morning
an interesting way to promote a restaurant. 
 I had heard that Koch's Chinese nets were over rated and I agree. There were perhaps about 10-15 of these nets and I think it was just kept there as a marketing gimmick. The waters around it are highly polluted mostly with weeds and sadly no one really seemed to be interested in pulling out them out.
 There are signs of the old ways of fishing still co-existing as a fisherman waterproofs his boat.
 And where there are ample fishes, there are cats lounging around, by the mini bonfires set ablaze to burn the fallen leaves.
Or maybe meowing a duet early morn.
 I love the random art on the walls..
And the doors!
I wanted to have breakfast at Kashi Art Cafe but it opened only past 8:30am, thankfully Oy's Cafe opens its door bright & early at 7am.
 Selfie against the cherry backdrop
Santa Cruz cathedral..
Subsequently post a leisurely siesta I walked to Mattrncherry as it seemed nearby as per the map. #snort
St
Stopped for refreshments along the way..
Enroute to the Jew Synagogue I got distracted with shopping for some embroidery. 
From dollies, to the usual delicate hankies, table clothes-runners & bed spread. They also courier it is anyone is interested. 
There mainly 2 shops, one is...
And the other one is called "Sophie's Embroidery" or something to that effect. I bought mine from this shop including this Irish prayer as an mini Birthday gift to myself..
I have plans to frame it up..these items a little pricey but I guess it's worth for the manual labour. The French Knots piece with the butterfly is a cool 6000rs.  While I guess one could & should bargain a little abit, frankly I had no idea how to pay for such art and erred on the side of paying a little more, consoling myself as the good deed for the day.

I had read somewhere where one could sit down next to the waters and by chance stumbled upon the place- Heritage Art Cafe. It's pretty easy to locate it in Jew Market, there's a huge Ganesh statue and a boat at the entrance.

They have numerous articles for sale. Mostly exported given the hefty prices tags. This tree like structure is similar to the one in Sree Padmaswamy Temple. As for me I had come for the cafe & ensconce myself the best I could; liberally applying tubeful of odomos.
The place is nice but both food & beverage is kinda crappy and the ample mosquitoes breeding ground....argh..plus the service is sorely lacking. Soo not worth it for food/beverage..just come to take a quick snapshot.
By 7pm all the shops were shut. Not sure if it was result of a bandh or just a normal practice here in Fort Kochi.

Dinner was at a Tibetan place next to Kerala Kathakali Center where I went to see yet another show this time 4 types of Indian dance form.


While it was nice, it wasnt as impressive as previous night. Maybe because the dance recital for each type of dance was appx. 10-15 mins each.

Even the dinner that day was a let down, chicken momo in soup...

The next day was better...