Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Wednesday 22nd Feb – Thursday 1st March: Kerala

with 2 comments

Arriving in Trivandrum station after a fairly comfortable 16 hour overnight journey in First Class AC (not as glamorous as it sounds, although we did get the only 2-berth compartment on the train) we were greeted by the sight of the Indian Coffee House building, one of the few things I remember from my last visit there 16 years ago with Tamsin and Charlie.

The other thing I remember is having a low-blood-sugar meltdown and being marched into a restaurant by my dear friends, and in that restaurant (name lost in the mists of time) I discovered one of my favourite dishes, Dal Makhani.

This is the tea shop next to our hotel:

Our hotel was convenient for the train station but otherwise very average, however this amused us:

After a day in Trivandrum mainly using the free wifi, drinking coffee and eating fab cake in the lovely Cherries and Berries it was off to Kovalam for some chilled out beach time:

Despite having stayed there 16 years ago I was completely disorientated – I thought I would have recognised at least some places, but the only familiar sight was the lighthouse:



After a day or so I realised that EVERYTHING that had been there 16 years ago had simply been knocked down in order to expose another few metres of beach…the current promenade and row of hotels and restaurants are not only new (as I expected) but sat on what had previously been the forest and flat ground behind the beach huts/restaurants on the sea front. Sixteen years ago the few buildings and beach hut restaurants with rooms attached were much closer to the sea than anything is now, so the tiny family-run shack restaurant where Charlie and I nearly suffocated ourselves with an ‘eat-all-you-can’ thali sat on what is now beach, complete with sunbeds and umbrellas. Tempus fugit and all that…

In 1996 this was our room, tucked behind a beach hut restaurant right on the sea front. Now this whole area is just clear sandy beach, the trees have been removed and there is a concrete promenade lines with hotels and restaurants some 10-15 metres further back. Weird.

All these trees have gone now, the beach is much wider and flatter, and the buildings (bars/restaurants) on the little headland in the background have all been removed – it’s just a rocky outcrop now, and there is more beach and a concrete walkway between in and where the first line of restaurants starts.

The (in)famous German Bakery still exists though:

The ‘new’ home of the German Bakery (it’s probably been there for 10 years!)

Kovalam is now a fairly straightforward resort for both Indian and western tourists, pretty laid-back though and still great fresh fish, brought round the restaurants in the mornings after the catch, and served up in the evenings.

Some interesting menu items.

Some alarming (spa) menu items.

We spent a relaxed couple of days in the cafes and restaurants, and I swam in the pool of one of the beach front hotels. All very charming.

Pool at the Sea Face hotel.

Sunset over the beach, from the pool.

Next up was a backwater boat trip – one day and then an overnight taking us from Kollam to Allepey. Kollam was not much to shout about, crappy hotel and nowhere decent to eat (although despite some of the menu items we got a decent veg curry and juice here:)

The houseboat backwater trip was great though:

Our houseboat.

On board.

On board (2)

On board (3)

Brightly coloured fishing boats passing by.

We also passed other houseboats doing the same journey or just taking leisurely tours around the lagoons and canals:

10 bedroom houseboat (ours had 2 – one for us and one for the crew!)

We passed through a lock (marking the change from brackish/salt to fresh water, apparently) where while we waited men were fishing, casting and retrieving nets.

Evening on board was quite beautiful.

Scary ‘Knock Out’ beer

Even more scary ‘Fruit Drink’.

On arrival in Allepey we had a bit of a problem…we had a hotel booked in Kochi but as there was a general strike no way to get there. It transpired however that  the railways were not part of the strike, so our lovely houseboat staff managed to track down a working rickshaw driver who would take us to the station (presumably as he couldn’t afford to strike, so we made sure to pay him way over the odds for his trouble), and then we paid the princely sum of 10 rupees each for a train ticket to Ernakalum Junction, the nearest station to Fort Kochi.

Train stretching for ages in one direction…

…and in the other direction too.

Welcome to Indian Railways…

unless you are tall:

in which case you will bang your head each time the train moves!

At the station a few minutes of wandering around near-but-not-at the taxi rank mumbling ‘taxi’ under our breath procured a private vehicle to take us to the hotel (who had been supremely unhelpful in finding one for us) so mission accomplished without too much strikebreaking activity. The vehicle was, unfortunately, a Tata Nano, however the enterprising driver managed to squeeze us and our bags into it with only minor discomfort resulting.

Fort Kochi was bigger than I remember it. Our hotel was Koder House, an old merchant family home converted to a boutique (-ish, in my opinion!) hotel.

The huge bed in our suite; note the handy stool for climbing up onto the bed!

Fort Kochi and the surrounding areas (Mattancherry and Jew Town) are pretty, with narrow streets and brightly coloured, low-rise houses the Portuguese colonial influence is still evident. For the first time in a while we had a choice of where to get a decent cup of coffee, including in the ‘Tea pot cafe’:

Randall in the Teapot cafe.

What time is it?

Some sights that made us smile on the streets of Kochi:

Stylish pink car

Ice cream van auto-rickshaw.

Randall and pink-trousered rickshaw driver.

Rickshaw cosy.

OK this one’s a bit childish.

Happily eating Ginger ice cream at Ginger restaurant.

 On our final day we took the public ferry over to Vypeen island to visit Cherai beach:

View from the ferry out of Kochi.

View in the other direction – the Chinese Fishing Nets seen from the ferry.

On the beautiful Cherai beach, Vypeen Island.

The rest of the photos are here.


2 Responses

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  1. I remember that coffee house and that day you describe. Tamsin and I were almost physically scared of you that afternoon, you were GRUMPY!. However, I do remember that food brought you back to the land of the living. Sad about Kovolam, but not surprising. Beautiful pics of the back waters, they look as magical as ever. Cx


    March 5, 2012 at 2:10 am

  2. And a year on ! Lovely memories Lardy, thank you again. Fatty xx

    Fatty Fielder

    February 23, 2013 at 12:46 pm

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