No Bla Bla….
Day 96/138 2022/2023 Viking Neptune World Cruise. Cochin, India
Well we made it to India! We’ve both never been here before and now are here! And the welcome we got this morning was amazing! Dolphins were jumping and playing off our port side deck this morning as we were preparing to go on our tour. Richard got a great video of a dolphin catching a fish, which I posted already on Facebook. What an amazing way to start our day in India!
When I looked at the private tours for Cochin or Kochi as it is called locally, there was not much being offered, other than what we were going to see on the Viking included excursion, so today we were going on the 4.5 hour included tour. We packed our QV boxes, and made sure we had all of our pieces of paper and passports to get into India, as we would be meeting with the local immigration authorities for a face to face inspection, before we could go on our tour.
We were to meet in the Star Theatre at 8:45am and when we got there there were still quite a few groups being called ahead of us. We finally got called for our tour around 9:20am
After we walked out to head to immigration in Cochin, the heat hit us like a ton of bricks. The temperature was 32C and heading for 42C later today. Man it was hot!
We proceeded into the cruise terminal building and despite being the last ones to enter the building, because I had to make a quick pit stop after leaving the Star theatre, the lineup moved fast with all of the immigration counters open processing Neptune cruise passengers.
First I was photographed and then I had to have my finger prints taken. The finger print process was a bit complicated since each hand was done separately and only when the green light came on. Wait for the green light, right hand, lift up and off the pad. Wait for the green light, left hand, lift up, wait for the green light. Then both thumbs together and then lift up. Each time I did this procedure the immigration officer would shake his head but I wasn’t sure if his head shaking was affirmative or repeat the process. Anyway, another gentleman came over to help jam my fingers on the keypad to make sure I had my hands properly photographed. At this point my passport was put into a drawer and I was given my stamped tourist card back. We had been told that Viking would get all of our passports back at some point, but it still does not make me feel good that my passport is now in someone’s little box and I am in a strange country with only a stamped passport card.
At immigration Richard and me were sent to separate lines. Since I know waiting just after visiting the immigration officer, in the terminal is frowned upon once through immigration, I proceeded to our waiting bus, but Richard had our bus 22 tickets, so I could not board. The very rude female Viking excursions individual told me that I should proceed to another bus since the immigration process had taken so long and they needed to send out the tour buses. I explained that my husband was coming because he was behind me with the tickets, to which she said “It is my perogative Madam on when to send out the bus.” There was another older couple also missing from our bus and they arrived just before Richard, to get on the bus. I know it’s hot and things were behind schedule but why send me on another bus when Richard is less than two minutes behind me? I found her tone quite officious and not a great way to start the day. I will be speaking to guest services about the matter later today. Someone is forgetting who is paying her salary and unfortunately for her, I will not tolerate her behaviour.
When Richard did arrive with our tickets two minutes after me, we got on our bus number 22 and our guide did a head count before we proceeded on our way. Joe was our guide today.
Our guide told us that he used to be a teacher but he got out of teaching to make more money as a tour guide. He told us he did not get married until he was 39 when his sister and mother went and found his wife for him at a village and then told him he should marry the woman. So he did. Fifteen days later. He has been married for 21 years with three daughters.
As we pulled out of the port area we could see trucks which had been hand painted and had the names of the owners on them. The trucks were for hire at the port. We still do not know the significance of why the trucks are so elaborately painted, but they sure looked interesting.
Our included tour was to be 4.5 hours today. We left the port around 10am so it was going to be a long hot day of touring.
The drive to our first stop was through narrow, congested streets with garbage strewn everywhere. We had really hoped we could stop somewhere after our tour to download pictures and upload them into the Wix blog program, but it sure did not look like the area we were going through would have any of that available to us.
St Francis Church, Cochin was the first European Church to be built in India within the oldest European settlement in India called ‘Fort Cochin’. It owes its beginnings to the Franciscan Friars who accompanied the Portuguese in 1500. The church was originally built out of wood, but later was rebuilt in stone. In 1663 when the Dutch were ruling this part of Cochin, the church was converted to a protestant church. When Vasco de Gama, the first European explorer from Portugal to find a sea route to India, died of malaria in 1524, his remains were buried in this church. In 1539 De Gama’s son came to India and had the remains of his father exhumed and his body was returned to Portugal. The tomb of de Gama still remains near the front of the church.
St Francis Church, Kochi. India, with Vaso de Gama’s now empty tomb.
From St. Francis Church, we had about a 10 minute walk to the beach in the Fort Kochi area. Everywhere we went on this walk we were pestered by people trying to sell us all manner of goods. I was tired of saying “No thank you, No thank you.”
Fort Cochin beach area.
I can see them now! The famous ‘Chinese fishing nets’!
Drying fishing nets on the beach, mixed in with all kinds of garbage.
A close up of the ‘Cheena Vala’ as the Chinese fishing nets are also known in India. Another name for these nets is ’shore operated lift nets’. Each structure is about 33 feet high and comprises a cantilever with an outstretched net suspended over the sea and large stones suspended from ropes are used as counterweights on each end. Each net installation is operated by a team of up to six fisherman. The nets are mostly found in Kochi and Kollam where these nets have become tourist attractions. This way of fishing was first introduced by Chinese explorers who landed in this part of India in the 14th Century. One interpretation of the city name of ’Kochi’ is ‘co-chin’ meaning ‘like China’.
A fisherman selling his fresh fish with his cat to keep him company.
The fish were mostly on ice In the fish market.
Selling fish and everything else in Fort Cochi.
I tried to negotiate with some vendors in the market before we got onto our waiting bus, but they were not willing to budge on their prices, so I walked. The guy who I was negotiating with was giving me the stink eye when I got on the bus to move to our next stop!
Gates to the Mattancherry Palace.
The Mattancherry Palace is otherwise known as the Dutch Palace in Mattancherry, Kochi in the state of Kerala. The palace is on the tentative list of being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite being called the Dutch Palace, it was actually built by the Portuguese as a gift to the Kingdom of Cochi after the Portuguese plundered a nearby temple. The temple is a quadrangular structure built in the traditional Kemal style of architecture called ’Nalukettu’, or traditional homestead style.
The most interesting part of the Mattancherry Palace in Kochi was the large number of murals which represent Hindu temple art, which are religious, decorative and stylized.
We were not allowed to take photos of the murals but I was able to find this photo on the internet. The murals are painted in warm rich colours in a tempera technique. Our guide walked us through the meaning of some of the murals, which were very interesting.
One of the rooms in the palace with a wooden swing and many murals depicting the history of the area of Kochi. Photos were allowed in this room. It was confusing where we could and could not take photos.
After visiting the Palace we walked about 10 minutes down and around the corner through the area known as ‘Old Kochi’ or Cochin. There were many shops and vendors selling goods in this area.
Kochi elephant t-shirts.
A nice local cafe in Old Kochi.
Traditional art in an antiques store for sale in Old Kochi.
A perfume store in Old Kochi.
I loved this store selling all manner of scarves and traditional Indian garments. The sign under the Aladdins boutique sign says “Hassle Free, No BLA BLA”. Since this area is where the tourists come to visit the Palace and the Jewish synagogue, they know that the tourists want a fair price and no ’bla bla’ negotiating. I thought it was a funny way of expressing the fair price policy in this store! We didn’t have much time to shop on the way to the temple, but looking at what was for sale gave me ideas for after visiting our next stop.
I’m not so sure their signage is culturally appropriate, but that’s what they call this area where the Jewish synagogue was located in Old Kochi.
Plaque outside the Paradesi synagogue in Old Kochi. Our guide told us there are only two elderly Jewish folk who live in the area and still use the synagogue.
A beautiful bougainvillea hanging over the gate near the Jewish temple, with some not so nice garbage in the courtyard.
The clock tower of the Paradesi Synagogue. The synagogue built in 1568 is the oldest active synagogue in the Commonwealth. The name ‘Paradesi’ in several Indian languages means ‘foreigners’ because the temple was built by Sephardic or Portuguese speaking Jews, some of them exiled in Aleppo, Safed and other West Asian localities. The land for the synagogue was given by the Raja of Kochi to the Jewish community of Kochi where the Jewish community was flourishing.
Alter in the temple.
The beautiful crystal chandelier which our guide said came from Venice but google says comes from Belgium.
Colourful lights and beautiful carved, ornate ceiling with brass decoration which reflected light when the evening services were originally lit by candlelight, when the synagogue was built.
Hand painted original floor tiles which were imported from China.
Artsy shot of the alter and the decorative metal carving on it.
After walking around the temple it was time to head back to our waiting bus. The bus ride through Kochi and back to the ship was about 20 minutes through the narrow streets.
Kochi cruise terminal.
At the entrance to the Neptune there was a local drum band playing and the Viking entertainment staff in their red shirts were shaking their booty outside to the Indian vibes the band was playing
When we got back through security on the ship, there was a reception line of lovely ladies painting something on our foreheads.
I was so hot after our day in Kochi. I just wanted a shower! The food and beverage staff had trays of refreshing mango lassi, orange juice and other alcoholic beverages for us as soon as we returned to the ship. We also received some kind of an indian potato dish with a nice green sauce on the side. Since we were returning after 2pm, the drink and the snack were very welcome.
There was also a local dancer performing when we returned to the ship, in the Atrium. We have never had such a welcome on this entire World Cruise as we did after we returned from visiting Kochi. It was very welcomed and we wondered why this was the first time we had this kind of reception after our tours? I wonder if Viking did this more last year and other years on the World Cruise?
After our visit to Cochin/Kochi, or first stop in India, we do not think we would ever go back for a future visit. It was nice to visit and understand the Portuguese, Dutch and British history and see the Chinese fishing nets, still in use, but it is not a ‘go to’ destination.
A sea day is next to get ready for our next two ports of call which are going to be busy. Goa and Mumbai!