The day started with a breakfast that was as lukewarm as the shower water. Toast for Mr L was white bread folded into a triangle and then only toasted on the outside surface making it stodgy and essentially uneatable. My plate of pineapple and watermelon was the better choice.
Today was our Indian wedding guest outfit shopping day. We needed to take the ferry to Ernakulam, the mainland urbanised area of Cochin to find the appropriate shop. Segregation is still rife here in Kerala. Two queues, one for men and one for women, wit’s one man in the ticket office to buy the 4IR (5p) ferry ticket. Two sections for waiting for the ferry, men in first and their own side of the boat, men off first once on the other side.
Ernakulam was incredibly noisy, busy and chaotic. Roads too narrow for 2-way traffic of vans, tuk-tuks, scooters and the hapless pedestrians. Nevertheless it was a fascinating experience and insight into India and her culture. Mr L found our way to MG Road (MG = Mahatma Gandhi) and Jayalakshmi Silks ‘The Bridal Destination’. Jayalakshmi was located on the opposite side of a 4-6 lane 2-way road, reminded us of the main road through Bangkok – equally busy, chaotic, no rules apply to driving and where pedestrians are an unnecessary hindrance! Taking our lives in our hands we made it across to the other side. Once in the shop we were whisked up and taken off in separate directions by a bevy of assistants – later described by someone we met over coffee as a ‘Pretty Woman’ shopping experience!
Sari silks aplenty were spread before me – all very confusing and too much choice but finally found one I really liked. I was then taken to the billing counter were I tried to explain that I couldn’t just buy a silk as I needed to know what to do with it, what else I needed etc. Language was a bit of a barrier, so much so that security were called to sort the issues of this anomalous white woman in a very Indian shop. Very shortly, I was handed over to another lady and transferred from the 4th floor to the ground floor and passed onto another assistant. Several assistants were fascinated by me shopping for Indian wear and also by my sun hat which was felt, handled and passed from girl to girl who were all smiling happily. Bizarre! Anyway, underskirt sorted and then to another counter to find the bodice bit. It took a bit of trial and error but success. Then off to the billing counter manned by a bevy of girls. Bill obtained and paid but items taken from me…….then to the delivery counter, again manned by a bevy of girls, where items were kept for the customer, checked all correct and bagged up. Mine bagged into the equivalent of a red sports bag – had I really spent that much money?!! Mr L meanwhile had been having his own unique shopping experience. He is now the proud owner of a dark blue Sherwani with accompanying pyjama bottoms.
Desmond, Mr L’s personal shopper, was delightful and helpful. He suggested a venue for lunch in a hotel over the road. Again risking life and limb, we crossed MG Road, and found the recommended venue whose lunch menu was a Keralan buffet. Never keen on buffets as dodgy health risks with lukewarm food and flies etc, we decided to go for it as little other immediate options. Fears were sustained, the food was cold-warm, but at least no flies. Lunch cost less than £9 in total and Mr L liked his pudding, so that’s good.
Getting back to the relative calm of Fort Cochin was a relief. A drinks stop at the wonderful Pepper House cafe was much needed and we shared a table with a young French woman who had spent the last year working and travelling in India and is off to Japan in 2 days and her Indian partner who had perfect English with an American accent. He regaled us with lots of interesting facts about Fort Cochin and told us about the art festival, and the market near the Dutch Palace. We walked the 2.5km to Mattancherry past ancient decrepit buildings in desperate need of restoration but still home to local businesses – spices, rice etc. We would never have explored this part of Kerala without the meeting with our Indian acquaintance. I was a media sensation in the market area where Indian women requested selfies with me. Again bizarre – not sure if it was the fact I am white or whether it was my sun hat!! Finally a tuk-tuk home for a lukewarm shower before evening adventures.
Dinner was at the Fort House restaurant overlooking the Fort Cochin harbour. The food, at last, was excellent and we had a lovely evening.
Stopping off at 21.55 on the way home at the Oy! cafe we were disappointed to be told they were closing. Minimal night life on a Saturday night in Fort Cochin, so home to bed.