One of the things we love about travelling is observing cultural nuances. They’re not always immediately obvious. Thais, we notice love stamps. Steve our good friend, having spent some time working in Bangkok does a fine impression of the ceremonial behaviour. Stamp handle clutched firmly like a baby holds a rattle, then from a great height and with great ferocity it is twice on the ink pad and once on the document. Thump,thump….thump. Thump,thump….thump! The Malays we note love a whistle. On most corners in KL uniformed (that’s another thing they seem to love, especially if covered in braid and shiny buttons) men blow with great authority into their whistles, hands waving accordingly. This of course has little real effect as most drivers ignore them. Sometimes it was difficult to understand why they were even blowing the whistle in the first place. Indians we note love horns. I understand on some highways, deserted back streets and dark lanes it is customary to blow the horn to alert the dozing driver ahead of your intention to overtake. But when it is peak hour and a complete traffic gridlock and an accompanying symphony of horns you have to ask why? Who and how are they going to overtake? But they all keep honking. That set the scene for our first ride into Fort Kochin, or Cochin or Kochin 0r Kochi ( they can’t seem to decide what to call this place.)
Our welcome into this wonderful country was a pleasant surprise. Lets just say we were the only non Indian passengers on Air Asia so the line for foreign passports was very short. Only a few people of Indian descent visiting relatives and us. In the dim light my eye caught a fluttering hand and a big white smile. The immigration officer looked really thrilled to see us and after glancing at our passports gave an approving nod to his support worker who readily noted our passport numbers on a scrap of paper. It was nice. This process was repeated again 10 metres further into the airport. I wonder where the scraps of paper go?
We have been welcomed everywhere we go. The friendliness is genuine and we are greeted by children with the biggest smiles calling “What is your name”?, “Where are you from”?
Fort Kochin is a very peaceful waterfront enclave where strolling, cycling and auto rickshaw are the preferred means of transport. The Portuguese influence is evident in the many building scattered around the community. The food is delicious and dinning on dhal and podimas for lunch in a heritage building is one of the simple delights to be enjoyed.
In the centre of the village is a large Catholic school whose curriculum seems to have a strong emphasis on music studies. The sound of 20 or so children belting out a blues number of trumpets with accompanying unmatched drumming is truly awful and wonderful.
On the textile front I was privileged to have a conversation with the extremely centred and warm saleswomen selling Ayurvedic fabric. Apparently the medicinal properties are injected into the cloth