This is my fourth post about my trip to Kerala with Arjun, his family, and friends. Find the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
We slept in after our late arrival from Trivandrum. Arjun’s parents had gotten up early and went to their new house to perform a special pooja for new houses. While the ceremony itself has countless steps with various rituals and ingredients, the most memorable of which is having a pot of milk intentionally boil over in a new pot over a new stove. This milk was later used to make payasam which we all sipped on happily when they returned to the old house.
After their return, we loaded up into a van and headed to Tharavadu for special roadside food and Kerala toddy. Here, we tried varieties of meats and seafood smothered in spicy gravies. Our start of choice was tapioca, much to my delight.
Toddy is unlike what we think of it in the West. It’s a fermented coconut drink that’s cloudy and has a bit of an acquired taste. It reminded me of magkoeli in South Korea, a drink I’d also have with spicy food. We had several servings of oysters, crab, pork, and beef, all mixed with mashed tapioca root.
After we finished, we had cigarettes and ice cream, then headed back to Kochi. I suffered a bit due to my full bladder and bumpy roads, but thankfully I was able to manage.
That evening, a saree stylist came to the house to prepare us for pictures at the new house. Arjun’s mom had chosen this electric blue saree that I fell in love with immediately. She even matched a jewelry set with it. It took less than 10 minutes for the skilled lady to pin everything in it’s proper place. I looked amazing, but was afraid to move!
We went to the house, took photos, explored the neighborhood as well as the brand new rooms and layout. I used my GoPro to get some family portraits, and then we headed back for the evening. As part of the pooja and blessing of the new home, Arjun’s parents stayed behind for the night.
The next day was perhaps the laziest of the trip. Arjun’s parents wanted to treat us, so we took the debit card to Lulu mall, where I bought new shoes and a dress. We then spent the evening with Arjun’s brother and local friends at a rooftop bar, catching up and sipping local beer.
There was a dinosaur at Lulu. Go Figure.
The next morning, Arjun had to go back to Dubai. I woke up early and rode with him to the airport. I still had a couple more days, so I had planned a few small excursions. After making sure he was sorted, the driver took me to Athirapally falls.
The road to the falls area was windy. I ended up laying in the back to keep the nausea at bay. Once I was dropped off, I was told the ticket booth was 500 meters back, not at the actual entrance. After a small walk and a few catcalls from tour buses, I made it back to the entrance with the proper ticket. I made my way into the reserve.
It was still quite early, so I was able to enjoy a lot of peace and pleasant weather. I walked down the path full of trees until I reached a clearing. here I could see pools of water and the river feeding the falls itself. I watched kids playing along the banks, women jumping in the water fully clothed, and friends all dunking one another and playing. I wandered about, taking photos and enjoying the water myself. Then I took the steep path down to the falls viewing area.
It was a good 15 minute walk, with flat shoes and no handrail, but the area itself was very lush and green. The falls were great to view, though we were kept back for safety reasons. The crowds started picking up by then, so snapping pictures proved challenging. I eventually found some great spots for photos and people watching. I then headed back up.
Going back up was much hotter and more difficult. I was proud of how I was able to ask for water at the vendor in my limited Malayalam. I then headed to the gate and the small food stalls near the entrance. Again, i practiced my speaking skills and asked around for food and snacks. I got some plantain chips and chocolate cookies and returned to the road.
The evening was lazy again, mostly sorting photos and resting. Arjun’s brother headed back to Bangalore, leaving me with Arjun’s parents. We shared some drinks and snacks and planned my last day together.
We started with a breakfast buffet at a local bakery called Bread World. We ate continental food, a mix of omelettes and curries and toast and juice. We then went back to the house and arranged a car for me. I headed out to the Hill Palace.
The Hill Palace is the largest museum in Kerala, and was built in 1865. It’s campus is massive, spanning several buildings, walkways, and gardens. I explored many rooms and buildings. It reminded me of the museum in Trivandrum, though the works were more local to Kochi. I particularly enjoyed a room showing the evolution of the Malayalam language.
One big draw I had to visiting the Palace was its use in Malayalam film, particularly Manichitrathazhu, a comedy drama about mistaken identity, personality disorder, and good old family secrets.
Also, I should mention there’s a deer park!
After the Hill Palace, I went back to Fort Kochi to see Kalaripayattu, a martial art long practiced in Kerala. It uses hand to hand combat, as well as weaponry. The most interesting is Urumi, a sword that behaves as a whip. It’s famously seen in Mammootty’s Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha. I sat in a small room and saw four men alternate techniques and sparring weapons. I was highly entertained for the duration of the show; even when the weapon came loose from the fighter’s hand and flew across the room.
Leaving the center, I saw that Fort Kochi was packed with locals and tourists alike. As it was New Year’s Eve, they were among for festivities and the burning of Papa Noel. Yes, in Kochi they burn Santa Claus for the New Year. Unfortunately, I was now alone and in an unfamiliar place, so I played it safe and headed back to the house, where Arjun’s parents and I got ready for a late dinner for New Years.
We then went to a hotel offering a New Year’s buffet. We had steak and prawns and endless wine. I tried everything and anything. Most people left before midnight, so we found the three of us and the staff wishing each other a happy 2018.
I also met my first Malayali actress, but had no idea who she was until Arjun’s mom told me. I would see her again a few weeks later when I would watch 22 Female Kottyam.
We made it out of the lobby and avoided the small firecrackers being set off in the roads and driveway. We arrived around 1am back to the house and I waited up just long enough to wish Arjun a Happy New Year in Dubai before passing out.
My last morning in Kochi was peaceful. I showered, packed, and enjoyed home cooked Kerala food one last time. I made sure all the sweets for Arjun were carefully put away. I got all the gifts managed in my backpack. Lastly, I transferred my photos from the GoPro to my phone and uploaded the last batch. I would soon go to Kochi airport, enjoy my final filter coffee on the subcontinent, and board a direct flight back to the UAE.
I was not ready for work the next day.
Until next time!