In Kochi, auto drivers tried something new to me. They didn't simply suggest (OK, insist) that you visit a shop; instead. they told you upfront that they were getting a commission, or a gift if you buy nothing, and won't you support them please? Now it's true that most Indians have trouble making ends meet, but if you really don't want to go to another shop, and your driver insists, just get out of the auto. They'll take the hint.
Unique Suggestions: If you intend to be firm about not taking any 'suggestions' about shops, just remember to be nice about it, no matter how tired you are or how hot it is... there is nothing less appealing than a tourist getting aggressive towards people who could never visit his own country.... Saying no, and smiling, is enough.
Princess street is the main hangout of the backpacker crowd and all the annoyance of Cochin are to be found: post card sellers, annoying autorikshaw drivers, modern romeos, and other nuisances. No such problem if you are away from that street and the area where the backpackers are. At Ballard Bungalow where we stayed on our last two visits, no annoyance at all. No one bothered us as we came and went, but the story was a bit different in front of the Courtyard Hotel and the Heritage Hotel.
Unique Suggestions: Avoid Autorikshaw. Buy postcards if you like. they are only 4 or 5 rupees each. Indian men think you have fallen in love with them if a western woman as much as glances at them! the Jinatero types who make a living off tourists are the same all over the world.. in cochin or zanzibar or cuba
Guys in pony tails working at hotels, be warned. the fish vendors near the beach are the others, at least they give you something in return.
Fun Alternatives: Since the cheap accomodations are around this area, if you can afford it, stay elsewhere. Contrary to popular belief, when you stay at nicer ( thus more expensive places ), more friendships are made that seem to last longer. I have made three trips to Cochin in the last eight months and feel that I have made some good friends. Suresh from TouristLand had us over to his home for dinner and organized a special trip along Backwaters ( eventhough he is a tourist guide, refused money for the trip).
PRINCESS STREET THE TOURIST GHETTO
The word ghetto could truly be applied to Princess Street, a street lined with guest houses, western oriented restaurants, kashmiri peddlers selling rajasthani goods and the invariable Internet Café.
The experience here is un authentic, is similar to the many tourist ghettos of HoChiMinh City, Hanoi, Bangkok and many other cities around the world.
I don’t even like walking through this area. Last night, during the stroll to look at the house of the late Mr Samuel Koder now turned into a Hotel, I passed by at least four restaurants full of Europeans without an Indian being in sight. It was almost being in another era, with the british dining and the Indian servants serving. Aound the Princess street ghetto, a tourist oriented jinatero style culture has developed, where Indians think that all male tourists smell and all female tourists are prostitutes. What a pity.. such a misunderstanding on both sides..
Since I have dark skin, most tourists mistake me for a local ( happens in many countries) and ask me for directions or something similar. I am glad to help if only they learn to say thank you.
Jinateros is the term we use in Cuba for young men, who try to make a living befriending tourists. They know few words of English or French or italian , duping you to believe that you can communicate with them.
Usually they are to be found in and around cheap hotels or guest houses of Fort Cochin or at the casual restaurants of the bayshore near the chinese fishing nets.
if someone approaches and is trying to be too friendly, hello friend, my name is so and so and which country are you from? or j mappelle... , n te oublie pas mon face, or something to that effect.. the proper and innocent phrase directly translated from Malayalam into English, is, which is your native place or you are from with a question mark.
Unique Suggestions: If they are too casual, avoid them. politely refuse their services. Kerala is full of extremely friendly people.
watch out for garish imitation of western dress, or pony tails or any signs of mindless european copy cats.
Last night, hungry for a cup of tea, i sat down at the open air cafe near the Vypeen Ferry, immediately was surrounded by a trio of these jinateros who proceeded to sit down and ask lots of questions and being a bother. didnt want to rebuff them or ask them to sit on the many empty tables, but kept my conversation to a minimum.
As I am staying at Ballards Bungalow, a bit upscale for these people to prey upon, I wont be searched for by them. If i were staying in any of the Princess street cheaper guest houses, you can be sure that they will be pestering you.
Fun Alternatives: Like in Cuba, be polite and refuse the services they offer. There are enough legitimate places in Fort cochin which will provide services you need. Last night a local tour operator was lamenting the fact these jinateros make a telephone call asking for some information for the tourist and then later on come and demand money! saying they brought business to them, a sum usually three times the amount of the profit made by the tour operator.
Stolen may not be the right word, but things the tourists forget in tourist buses or where they go to. in the end it is in the market and the sellers usually dont know the price and would be happy to get a few rupees for it. I was very suspicious of it when an SD card was offered for a small price, when i put the SD card there were many pictures of a lady and possibly her tra el companion in Cochin and also a visit to California some other time. I tried my best to find where the SD card could have come from but it is very difficult except to say that the lady in question, asian, possibly Japanese, lost her camera on 19th march because the photos stop there on the SD card. I returned the SD card but not before copying the photos on to my computer. Just in case I could locate a japanese or asian tourist in her mid to late twenties travelling with an asian companion, who looks more japanese than her. if anyone of you looking thorugh these pictures recognize her or him please ask them to get in touch with me, it would be my pleasure to send the pictures which are theirs.
Unique Suggestions: Make sure that when you leave tourist buses or other conveniences, hotels or restaurants your camera or other accoutrements are with you. it is very difficult to find them once they are gone.
Fun Alternatives: here are the pictures of the possible owner of the SD card..