Kerala’s Backwater, outside of Cochin, India

There . . . I think I covered it all for the search engines.

As I write this we are bouncing . . . maybe slamming is a better word . . . around in the Arabian Sea on our way to Egypt. It’s a little like riding a speedboat that’s going too fast over the waves, shuddering and slamming down each time it goes over a wake . . . lots of rocking and rolling with the ship getting banged around. I’m sure some folks are feeling motion sickness, but being a World Cruise, most of the guests have experienced rough seas before. Nikki, who once was prone to motion sickness, doesn’t like it, but is doing fine in the rough seas.

The Indian state of Kerala is described by locals as “God’s Own Country”. It is a lush tropical paradise of sprawling backwaters and lush vegetation and one of the most biologically diverse areas in India including the Indian elephant, Bengal tiger, Indian leopard and king cobra. The NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER magazine named it one of the “ten paradises of the world” and one of the fifty places you should visit in a lifetime. With 8.5 million tourist arrivals a year, Kerala is one of the fastest-growing tourist destinations in the world.

Cochin is a sprawling, typically Indian dirty and disorganized urban center of 600,000, with an extended metro population of 1.5 million. Cochin has had somewhat of a boom since 2000 and a lot of those folks you end up trying to talk to in call centers . . . are from Cochin.

 Fishing nets When the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama finally made it to the riches of India by sailing around the tip of Africa, he set up warehouses in Cochin in 1502. Da Gama served as governor of the Portuguese colony in India and shipped spices from Cochin back to Portugal. Da Gama actually died in Cochin on Christmas Eve in 1524 and for a while was buried in the church in Fort Cochin. Eventually his remains were shipped back to a monastery in Portugal. Whether he should have been buried anywhere near sacred ground is questionable since da Gama had a reputation for brutality. When da Gama captured a ship with 400 Muslim pilgrims, including women & children, he had them sealed in the hold along with the Egyptian ambassador and burned the ship while the women pleaded for their children to be spared.

Snake Charmer There isn’t much to see in Fort Cochin itself aside from some traditional Chinese fishing nets. There was the requisite snake charmer serenading his toothless king cobras for $1 a shot. Got me wondering what I could do with a toothless ferdelance in down Boquete. I don’t have any musical talent, but my three dogs like to howl in unison, so maybe . . . if the cruise lecture biz dries up, or if I get tired living in a windowless hovel on a luxury cruise ship that is continually bouncing around like a 5.8 earthquake . . . but I digress.

The backwaters of Kerala are a fascinating area of Kerala where life is lived on lakes, rice patties, and Holland-like canals that are actually below sea level. After an hour or so ride from Kerala we boarded a boat – very reminiscent of the boats that ply the Amazon – to catch a glimpse of life in the rural backwaters of Kerala.

Public transportation is by boat – might as well be a busy vaparetto in Venice!

 

The river is used for everything: laundry, bathing, cleaning vegetables and washing dishes!

About 10 years ago luxury houseboats were introduced in the backwater.  Popular with middle class Indian tourists, there are over 700 houseboats today.  People often do these all-inclusive floating resorts for one or two nights, having a luxurious dinner and spending the night on the lake.

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