November 6, 2012

Playing Cricket in Fort Cochin, Kerala, India

We left Alleppey (read about it here) and headed to Fort Cochin (or Fort Kochi), a region in Kochi in the state of Kerala. The area is a peninsula with a really interesting history. Over the past 700 years, Fort Cochin has been occupied by and influenced by Arabs, Chinese, Dutch, British and the Portuguese. All the past influences in Fort Cochin has resulted in some great architecture and a different feel of anywhere else in India we've visited. In the old town, the alleys and cafes have a European feel (plus cows and trash, minus good coffee), and the Kapithan Inn (about $13/night), where we stayed, made a good starting point for exploring the area on foot, which we spent most of our time doing. And, as usual, the best experience of Fort Cochi came without planning. Here's a sneak peek. Details are further below.

A Fort Cochin alleyway
After reading about it and being encouraged by other travelers, we also took in a Kathakali performance. Kathakali is a dance/drama performance that uses intricate hand movements and sometimes pantomime to act a story. They always involve gods and fantastical story lines and the performances are most known for the intricate and complex makeup designs the performers wear. You even arrive an hour prior to the performance just to watch the makeup being applied. 

Here's a video of clips we took of the performance:

Pulling up the net
One day after lunch we walked along the water on the tip of the peninsula where the Chinese fishing nets dangle over the water, constantly being lowered and raised, catching a few fish at a time. Tourists and local Indians wander the boardwalk eating ice cream and being sold knick knacks. The only thing that makes this different from any other charming tourist destination is the unfortunate piles of trash lining the beaches and the dogs picking through them. It definitely takes away from the beauty of a place that could be really beautiful (more on the trash later). 

Chinese Fishing Nets in Fort Cochin
Check out this video we took of the fishing nets being pulled up.

The highlight of our trip to Fort Cochin happened while we were headed towards the Jain Temple. Jainism's main tenet is Ahimsa, or nonviolence in thought and deed toward any living thing. In the religion, you avoid harming all creatures. Strict Jains do not eat root vegetables because when they are extracted from the ground, which could possible harm insects, and some Jains wear face masks and even sweep in front of their feet as they walk to avoid inhaling small bugs. On the way to visit this temple, we saw a group of young Indian boys playing cricket. People play cricket all the time here - in the street, on hay fields, on the beach - wherever they can get a group of boys together and a small area. As we passed they invited us, in broken English, to come play with them. I bowled a few times and then took my turn at bat. All the boys thought my cricket moves were hilarious and even laughed at my profuse sweating from this small amount of activity (it was ridiculously hot that day). 

Video of my cricket skills:

One of my favorite pics of the trip, so far
Playing with the boys delayed us quite a bit and, by the time we got to the Jain temple, it was closing and we only had a few minutes inside the temple. But playing cricket with these boys was the highlight of our time in Fort Cochin for me, and this is the exact kind of experience that we want to have by saying "yes" more often…and really, as interesting as Jainism is, I think playing cricket with the local boys (with Steph laughing in the background) was more fun. A few days later, we even ran into the boys again as they prepared for a match against another team and they shouted out to us. Feeling like a local in a foreign town is a great feeling. 

Check out all of our pics from Fort Cochin here. Some more of our favorites are below.

Steph, playing tourist

Boys, playing in mud outside of our guest house

Poetry in graffiti

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