India Part 8: Kochi, Allepey and Varkala
For the final leg of my India trip I went to the city of Kochi in the state of Kerala. From there I went south to the backwaters of Allepey and the tropical beaches of Varkala.
Kochi is an art hub in India. There are many art museums, galleries and street art. It is, along with everywhere else in Kerala, a great place for seafood. There is also and old part of town called Jew Town where there is a synagogue that used to be used by the now absent local Jewish community. One highlight from Kochi was a cooking class that I took. I learned to make a few different Kerala style vegetarian dishes that I will try to recreate when I get home.
Allepey is one of the best places to see the Kerala backwaters, which are series of canals that wind through villages along the coast. Boat tours and houseboat stays are some of the more popular things to do in the area and I did both. I spent the night on a houseboat with three others travelers that I met along the way. The boat included three delicious meals and lots of amazing views from the water. Quite relaxing. The following day we got off the house boat and went on a smaller canoe that could maneuver the narrow canals that the houseboats cannot. The canals were cool but it was the couple of stops along the way that really made the trip interesting. The first stop was lunch in a village where we picked out some fish and had a fish curry. The restaurant had a couple of pet eagles which was very strange. We also talked to a man who was collecting coconut sap for the local toddy shop. Toddy is a stinky, not so tasty, palm wine made from the sap of the palm tree. The final stop was at the boat drivers home where we sat with his father while he did some dishes. After the boat driver did his chores he knocked some fresh fruit out of the trees in his back yard for us to try. They had bananas, coconuts, mangoes and tamarind. Tamarind is usually used as a dried spice but it comes from a small fruit that tastes almost exactly like the super sour warhead candies kids like to eat.
After Allepey three of the four of us went to Varkala. Varkala was a very beautiful beach area with some amazing seafood. As I mentioned before the beach isn't my favorite destination but this area was beautiful. A highlight of my stay in Varkala was renting a moped and driving way off away from any sign of tourists into a small fishing village. My travel buddy and I sat with some fisherman who were playing cards at the beach and introduced us to their albino friend. Everyone in the village was really friendly and wanted to say hi to us. We asked a local kid if there was somewhere to eat and he signaled for us to follow him and he knocked on someone's door and told them we were hungry. It was an old couple who gave us some bread and veg curry. I couldn't really tell if it was just their home or if they sell food to locals. After visiting that random village and beautiful beach we climbed up to the top of a lighthouse and snapped some photos of the area. Varkala was great!
This is my last post for India. It was an amazing experience and I hope to come back some day and see even more of the country. One thing I would like to say about India is that it gets a bad rap for tourism but in my experience nearly none of the negative things people say about it are really true. Next stop Malaysia.