Asia | India | Kerala | Kollam (Quilon) – Losing it in Kerala
Left Goa reluctantly, headed down to Kerala on the sleeper and arrived in Ernakulum where I ended up at some hole thanks to the inexplicable tastes of Lonely Planet writers who said this place was popular and clean, and which in reality turned out to be the biggest dump I’d stayed in, and believe me on my travels I’d stayed in a few.
To start off with I was the only guest and when I saw the rooms I was not surprised. there was a close resemblance to a prison cell, with 10inch gaps between floor and door, so anyone who wanted to could crawl under, then the wall finished about a meter below the roof. Hmm… This was looking good, and thats without the 5km trek through the hotel and reception to get to the bathroom with its 1000 flying residents. Ugh!!!! I was too knackered and dirty to care initially, but after a shower I set off on a boat across the river to Fort cochin to find more salubrious surroundings.
Now this was more like it. Fort Cochin had charm whereas Ernakulum had seediness.
Took the bus back and disaster struck. Now I’d conceived the brilliant idea of pulling out relevant pages from LP instead of lugging it around e/where with me, so as I sat on the bus planning where to eat, out of the window flew the pages relating to Kochi as I looked on with horror. By the time I managed to get hold of the conductor to get him to stop the bus the pages were long gone, and I was lost with no map and without the name of my hotel. Great!!! So I spent the next 2 hours tramping around Ernakulum which doesn’t look all that safe even in the day and by now it was well into the night. After being approached by yet another creepy looking man I finally found a familiar landmark and stumbled upon my hotel. Yes!!!!!!
Next morning I was out of there, that is after I managed to find the proprietor who had wandered off, and they happen to padlock you in the hotel at night, so I spent 20 minutes running around calling for him. Bus ride later and I was happily settling into my new abode in Fort Cochin and the owner was trying to sell me backwater cruises and native dance performances, not realizing that my current wish was to do nothing more strenuous than walk to the internet cafe. finally to put him out of his misery after a day I agreed to the backwater trip, but as I was the only one on it it got cancelled.
There was this fantastic local restaurant, no menu and no English, but by agreeing to everything the waiter suggested I had on of the best meals. Chicken fry, parotha and gravy is now on my top ten list.
Managed to exert myself enough to walk around a bit, but soon scotched that plan as everywhere I went people stared. Yes, they did it in other parts of the country, but here it was more disconcerting and seemingly invasive. Especially when people would ride past staring, then turn back and stare some more. the 5th time this happened I totally lost it and yelled at the guy asking him what he wanted. he scuttled off and I slunk down the street with everyone really staring now, and felt like a totally irrational, shrewish westerner.
Took the bus to Allepey a couple of days later and booked myself on the backwater cruise to Kollam, I was the only passenger, and since that, they decided not to stop for lunch, but they didn’t tell me this till after we had set out and I had no food with me, but they let me share theirs. so I spent 8 hours drinking fanta, watching the water and the villages pass by, feeling like I was in “Gentle Ben” and reading. Read “Are You experienced” which everyone I met recommended as a must read as well as the usual suspects of Rushdie and Roy. I laughed so hard I nearly fell off the boat. There was on chapter which asked what backpackers did all day, and I had to wonder that myself. I mean there are only so many temples, museums, etc. you can see before your brain goes numb.
Kollam turned out to be a pretty nice little waterside town with less hassle than other places. After a night there I headed for Madurai and the temple.