2009 World Cruise – After three days at sea we arrived in the southwestern port of city of Kochi (Cochin) in Kerala Province on the Arabian Sea coast. Kerala Province has one of the highest population densities in India (33 million – the population of Canada). Kochi (population 1.6 million) is mainly an agricultural center but, due to its excellent port, it is also the India Naval training center and a shipbuilding area. The bombings at the Taj Mahal Hotel and other places in Mumbai had happened in November of 2008 so there was heightened security in the ports for both of our India stops. We had also received a letter from the Captain and verbal warnings from the Shore Excursion Manager to be mindful that pickpockets and thieves would be active ashore.Kerela Province has a 95% literacy rate, the highest life expectancy (67 years compared to 63 for all of India), and the lowest infant mortality rate in India. The area is predominantly (40%) Christian (Roman Catholic from the Portuguese colonization via Vasco De Gama from 1490-1662), 30% Muslim, and 30% Hindu. The oldest continuous Jewish settlement in India with 51 persons is also located in Kerala Province. The ancestors of the Jews had fled to India to escape persecution in Portugal in the 16th century
. Playing cricket. We had a two hour bus ride to the Alleppey Backwater known as the “Venice of the East.” Traffic and driving practices were the same as in Indonesia only without the police escort. If there was not space in a lane (almost an impossible concept with all the animals, cars, carts, motorcycles, bicycles and tuk tuks jostling for position) the bus driver just made his own down the middle and kept going forward so everyone else had to stop or move. Our guide said, “In the US you drive on the right, in Britain you drive on the left, in India it is optional.” 90% of all traffic lights (and there are not many) are “decorative.” They usually don’t even work and people would ignore them anyway.
The day was actually sunny and warm. We boarded river boats and put-putted along the rivers and canals for almost three hours. The river was the mode of transportation for all the people living along the shores and you could see large rice fields behind the dwellings. It was also the bathtub, the washing machine, the dishwasher, the place you brush your teeth, and where you wash your dinner veggies. It was fascinating to see all the people doing all the different things and traveling in all types of floating conveyance as they went about their normal daily activities. The canals are popular for houseboat holidays and there were many boats along the shore and floating by. They can be rented for a day or two or by the week. Houseboats come with a pilot and a cook and cost about $100 per person per night. We had lunch at the beautiful 5-star Lake Palace Resort. The buffet offered about 20 items to choose from. Little Cormorants Yellow Bittern Gadwell ducks Egrets Oriental Magpie Robin We were quite an attraction for people on the shore and on the other boats; especially the children. After our leisurely cruise around the canals (which was quite funny when you think about it – we are on a cruise around the world and we book an excursion that puts us onto another boat) we braved the traffic mire and returned to the ship. These are laundry drying racks. These are called Chinese Fishing nets and we saw a lot of them as we sailed around in the East.
We returned to the ship 15 minutes late for the 4:30 all aboard, but, thankfully, if you are booked on a ship’s excursion the captain will wait for you as long as it is possible to do so with tides, currents and port authorities. This is one of the reasons we are willing to pay what we know is a higher price to go on tours through the ship’s excursion desk. Other reasons are; knowledgeable English-speaking guides, reliable (as much as can be) transportation, and safety. I personally am not comfortable to be in a foreign country and ask a taxi driver or private citizen at the pier, “How much would it cost for you to show me around?” If you are happy to do that, all well and good, but if there is a break-down or traffic snarl or something the ship will wait a maximum of 20 minutes past all aboard time and then set sail. You will be responsible to arrange and pay for transportation to the next port of call. That day we were late and it was nice to know we didn’t need to worry unduly about it.
Everybody hustled out of the bus and quickly got onboard. The Captain set sail a few minutes later. We had another day at sea before we reached Mumbai.