Having completed our shopping wishes yesterday, we joined a short tour of Cochin this morning, setting off before the heat became too oppressive.
I try hard to be sensitive in the photos I take, always ask permission of those who will be the focus of a picture and feel a responsibility to record a fair portrait of a place without dwelling on one particular aspect. I recognise that the places we visit are not all perfect in every way but yet I don’t want to give too much precedence to the more unpleasant aspects. When I uploaded today’s photographs, therefore, I was surprised to see the figure lying in the road. When I took the photograph, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t notice him – I may well have framed the picture differently if I had. But in telling the story of our day, it seems wrong to crop him out of the picture. Cochin is, I’m sure, far from being the only city in the world where someone is sleeping (I hope) on the street at 9am on a Tuesday morning.
So, having driven through the streets and made our way to Fort Cochin, the old European settlement, our first stop was at the small church of St Francis. We stepped inside and appreciated the cool, still air as we looked around.
This is where Vasco da Gama was buried in 1524, before his remains were transferred to Lisbon. Though this was interesting and our guide certainly had plenty to say about the place, I found myself enjoying a couple of different aspects in here.
First of all, the pews, all of which had beautifully caned seats. Far more comfortable than the hard wood we endure in our local parish church and a very wise choice for a hot climate.
Second, the punkahs above the rows of seating, operated by the punkah-walla sitting outside. These could be sprayed with water, offering a cooling breeze during a long service. Fascinating!
Cochin has always been a city of traders and of course, any area frequented by tourists was going to attract the trinket sellers. We walked along here to the Chinese fishing nets, with the constant and persistent attention of people wanting to sell us fans, anklets, postcards, paintings, whatever.
Having arrived at the fishing nets, the focus changed from trying to sell things to offering to move the nets for photos, “for five dollar”. Bearing in mind the heat was building, the fish was being sold nearby and the nets were drying in the sun, this wasn’t the most fragrant of places to linger.
Nevertheless, I lightened this woman’s load of wooden printing stamps by one, handing it to my hero to carry for me. Five minutes later, when we were both covered with red ink, I was beginning to question the wisdom of my purchase.
(If anyone needs a fingerprint from me, I can supply several pretty near perfect ones from the sketchbook cover I was carrying!)
Onwards, through narrow streets “like any European city” according to our guide, which perhaps revealed how little he knew of such places, but clearly the upmarket guest houses and small boutique hotels in this area are flourishing. Delightfully pretty on the outside, I wonder what the inside is like?
Cochin is a remarkably green place and we did a fair bit of fruit spotting along the way. Above are breadfruit, used as vegetables here.
Next door were many banana trees and huge jackfruit, sometimes weighing 15kg each.
The roof structure of the small museum was interesting, especially where the design on the reverse of the terracotta roof tiles was visible.
My favourite had to be this lock, though. I’m pleased to say it was given pride of place in the museum collection.
After a brief stop at the Dutch Palace, we were set free in Jew Street.
This area of the city is the main focus for tourist shopping and undoubtedly there were bargains to be had. However, most things were of inferior quality to those we saw yesterday and we found ourselves feeling pleased that we had already bought our souvenirs.
So, whilst most people dipped in and out of the clothing stores, the jewellers and antique shops, we just looked…here, inside the ginger market, where large quantities of dried ginger were being graded and sold wholesale.
Resisting all invitations to “come inside madam….just take a short look…one minute to see what lovely things are here…” we pottered around for a half hour.
Cupboard door knob anyone? I think we identified where Anthropologie sources theirs…
What about a Buddha? A metal horse? An elephant? Not really our thing!
With a final admission that we’d really seen everything, we returned “home”, to a cool beer and a change of clothes.
Cochin is lovely and indeed, a shopper’s paradise in so many ways. But once again, our mantra was the word of the day.