After a 3-hour flight we have a taxi transfer arranged to Kaleeveedu Lodge on the east side of Kochi. I had a picture of Kochi being a sleeping fishing town. But we whizz past new shopping malls, restaurants and car salesrooms and later I learn that Kochi has an urban population of over 2 million. Its hotter and more humid here… we are in the tropical monsoon region of Kerala.
Kochi has a strong Portuguese influence and was also occupied by the Dutch as well as the British. There is a large Christian population in this region (around 20%) and our guide for the day, Peter, introduces us to several small Catholic and Anglican churches, before visiting the palace, which is a much smaller affair in comparison to those we saw in Rajasthan. In addition to the climate there are subtle differences in the local dress. For the women, there are no headscarves, more jingling anklets and toe rings and the men wear their patterned dhoti’s long or tucked up rather than wrapped between the legs.
We spend the evening visiting a local Katakali show. The actors, musicians and face painters are all men and train for up to 6 years. The plot seems to be based around what the Hindu gods are up to, but to be honest it lacks a bit of substance! No words are uttered, and the story is expressed through facial (particularly the eyes) expression and body and hand gestures. There’s a lot of chanting and drumming going on… we’ve been advised to bring ear plugs which have been appreciated! It’s all a bit strange but the experience has been fascinating. Hello South India… we are looking forward with anticipation to the next 2 weeks.