Thursday, 28 July 2011

Old Spice & Extreme Face Painting

Quickly got ourselves a great room in Fort Kochi in a cafe run by two brothers which has just three bedrooms above at slightly different rates - we took the middle one fence sitters! Yah Boo) Nice big room with big bathroom but very hot as a/c is a no goer. Also the hot water we were promised is there but just not in the shower. The deal is if you turn the mains tap under the sink off it allows water to flow from some taps on the all under the shower -which barely dribbles. This water can be heated through a small (kettle sized) tank and provide you with a bucket full of hot luxury. You can then tip said hot stuff over your head and repeat process until water level on floor is pushing the half inch limits of the door step and endangering bedroom's flood defences. Invariably at this point you have stinging soap in your eyes as you slip and slide around fumbling for the cold tap. Its great and we love the daily adventure.

Meanwhile we have been away three weeks in hellish humidity, drainy smelly streets and muddy forest paths as well as the occasional monsoon downpour followed by a dusty bus/ rickshaw ride. Hotwater is rare and laundry services involve your kit being taken to the nearest river or ditch and beaten into submission by a dobhi man or woman and then left to eventually dry towards the end of August when the Monsoon ends. Hence I now need to be airlifted out of my trousers at the end of the day, leaving them standing at the foot of the bed til morning. We've been ignoring the NO LAUNDRY sign in our room to try the "DO-IT YOURSELF DOHBI MAN!" approach with the help of Mr Beckman's Travel Wash and our aforementioned bucket! Drying stuff is nigh on impossible though.

These slight irritations aside we are having a great time in Fort Kochi. The town has an amazng history and is possibly most well known for the arrival of Vasco de Gama back in 1500s. He was buried here but later disinterred some years later and taken back to Portugal where he lived happily ever after....

The Portugese influence and that of later European colonial visitors is apparent in the beautiful old buildings and the area towards Jew Town where the spice traders' warehouses still stand and still do great busy business. Awesome to walk along the road down there, the noise and bustle and great spicey smells (we both had fits of sneezing at several stops) It is medieval with goats, chickens, cows wadering around the streets and men pushing huge hand cart piled with sacks of dried chilli, cardamon, cumin etc Again the colours of women in their dresses, scarves, saris adds to the picturesque view.

As you nearer Jew Town though the traders selling clothes and Indian crafts become a bit wearing as they try and entice you into their shops and it all becomes a bit reminiscent of Vietnam "YOU! LOOK MY SHOP" Though not that aggresive to be fair.

Yesterday our Homestay host said his brother was driving into the city and would we like a lift in? We said "Sure" and had a great journey over two bridges to take us to mainland with said brother. The guys had spent 10 years living in Australia and returned to open their cafe in their home state of Kerala. It was interesting to talk to a young Indian chap about his views on his government, corruption, India, Kerala etc.. I asked him what the deal was with the advertising that all the men had big moustaches and looked like uncles? He laughed and said it was the old folks' idea of sexy in a guy and that his aunties always complain when they see him asking "Where is your moustache and you need to grow a belly; how can we ever marry you off without!" Really nice guy.

Once left in the big city we were at a loss what to do, not having any dire need to buy gold that left us pretty much with the only choice of heading back to Fort K on the ferry. My God!! Debbie if you ever fancy a job as a trouble shooter what with your ferries experience here is the place for you. Men and women queue in different lines for the same rum sozzled dude who only materialises in the booth once the ferry lands and it's inward passengers have disembarked! By the time I got near enough for a hit of rum breath I was soaked as though I'd had a bucket of water thrown at me. So Hot! The tickets x 2 cost 5 rupees ... about 10p (was it worth asking the guy to stagger into work to ensure he gathered in the 10ps? Not like they use the money to maintain or clean the terminal or the boats!)

Last night we went along to the Kerala Cultural Centre to witness the ancient (though turns out not that ancient- about 400 years old!) art of Kathakali dance/acting. It was really great. You arrive early and watch the face painting bit which is an absolute art. One guy looked like Ian Mckellen getting ready to play Widow Twanky (in fact I never saw him without his foundation on so it really could have been Sir Ian) The best guy is the baddy who has intricate red and green face and a white shelf thing attached to his chin. Hard to describe but it took about 45 mins for his mate to apply whilst he lay down on his back chilling out. At the end he got hold of a mirror to check himself out. (I was hoping he'd start crying and kicking saying "But I wanna be spiderman!!" but he didn't!)

The drummers and singer came out then and the thing was explained and an actor came out and demo'd some of the hand signals and the eye acting.. (which made my eys hurt just watching as he rotated his eyes in time with the drumming)

Finally the performance. We had both though "Yeah right!" in our believe nothing way, when the guy said these actors train 6 years to do this. Honestly it was great and funny in a way too. Great photo opp and just really fascinating- we want to get them to appear at Glasto next time now! Seriously need to get Pants in that make up. Pants meanwhile is most impressed that in order to achieve scary red eyes in his green face the lead actor places the seed from a certain flower under his bottom eyelid (what you don't have eyelids on your bottom?... you know what I mean) and this makes his eyes bloodshot. Pants is awestruck with the skiving possibilities associated with home made bloodshot eyes (the fact that he is a professional skiver already is a moot point it seems- so expect a red eyed Pants next time you see us!)

Anyway they've just put the garroted cat CD on again so it may be time to flea (no not a typo, more a freudian slip- scratch scratch)

We're staying until Sunday as we love it and have found some amazing food places. Sunday we take the train back to Varkala to top up the tan hopefully and read all the books I've just bought. Then Alleppey (aka: Allapuzah)about a week later (6th or 7th) for backwaters boat trip and the Neru snake boat festival.

Love to all

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