We saw plenty of begging in Mumbai and were warned when we arrived in Kochi that we would come across it there too.
So many of the beggars we saw here were children with severe physical disabilities . One boy of about 10 years, with a double above-knee amputation, propelled himself around with his bleeding little hands, on a tatty makeshift flat cart. Even this little chap was actually selling knick-knacks rather than straight begging - which I bought from him. But I found it extremely distressing and was left feeling quite helpless.
It is well to be forewarned.
The punctuality of Airlines of India
I arrived at the Cochin International Airport at 1 30, one hour and five minutes before the scheduled departure of my Indian airlines flight to Bangalore. I was informed that the flight is 15 minutes late, which stretched to over 1 hour. While waiting at the nice waiting room, announcement after announcement, informed those of us waiting that flights were delayed. Not a single flight left on time. So be careful, do not try to make tight international connections or appointments or a tight schedules.
Someone named Joseph contacted me through VT, saying he was a student studying in Europe and would be in his Kerala home while I was there and would be glad to show me around. I corresponded with him for a while and met him my first day there. I quickly found out he wanted to sell me a tour which was no big deal since I figured he had an angle. But the price he quoted me for an overnight trip to the backwaters and Munnar was 13,000 Rupees (about $300). The price the hotel's agent asked for the same thing was 3,800 Rupees. He laughed when I told him about Joseph and said he had never heard of a scheme like that asking for more than 5000.
Bottom line: be cautious before handing over money, get more than one price quote, and don't expect the schemes to wait unti you actually arrive. And, in Kochi, beware of Joseph.
Out of all the towns and cities that I have visited in India, we had the worst time with mosquitoes in Kochi. Be sure to have some repellent and wear generously. Odomos is available in most general stores and all medical stores. For your room, you might want to get an electric repellent that plugs into the wall socket. If you're eating outdoors - especially - at night, request a coil to be placed by your feet.
Cochin has become a Garbage Dump
From a blogger (July 2007)
Yes, like all "great" cities, Cochin generates its fair share of garbage.
And no, it doesn’t get disposed off that easily. for you see, the typical life of a piece of garbage is measured not in hours, but in days, weeks, or months depending on location, location of trash removal people and the accessibility of cheap "distractions" near to the location of garbage.
It doesn’t matter that Cochin has started turning into 'the mother of all dumps'.
The garbage can be found everywhere- in the parks, besides trees, in front of homes, in front of commercial establishments, inside schools, hospitals and railway stations-
the list goes on.
It is sad to see this beautiful city, especially the Ernakulum part of this city turning into a huge dump. There is garbage left everywhere, the everyday garbage of people, food items, other rubbish, and putrefying under the tropical torpor and rain. The smell is gives out even outside the so called luxury residences is offensive to say the least and it is a great gift of the Hindu community ( also Moslems and Christians) to the chariot of their favourite god, Ganesha: the rat. It was alarming to read that some people have actually died from Leptospirosis, a disease carried in the urine of rats. You can see how quickly the disease can spread when the rats are allowed free reign. When I mentioned about the rubbish problems, there are letters to the editor daily in newspapers and pictures published of dumps, a friend suggested that just outside the city of cochin there is a sea of garbage, piled garbage uncleared for days or months. This is truly a shame on the administration who is doing very little to clear up the mess.
Here is a link to an article published by questfeatures.org a group of untiring journalists who tried to do investigative journalism, an art non existent in India.
Unhelpful and/or Ignorant Staff at Air Deccan
The staff of Air Deccan at the Cochin Airport could neither give us the reason for delay or wouldnt not, not could assure us of its departure. we passed a couple anxious hours, fearing that we might miss our connection.
Talking to the staff it is obvious that they were not chosen for their brilliance but for following the orders without asking, none of them had any initiative.
This is the last time I will fly Air Deccan
I warn the other travellers about the safety of flying an aircraft serviced by disinterested personnel including very very tired pilots
January 9th to 13th, 2008
If you are planning to travel to India , do not come to Cochin during this period of four days!
An all India convention of Doctors, almost all of them sponsored by Pharmaceutical companies is descending upon Cochin, bringing with them 7000 doctors from all over India and many hangers on. Most of the hotels in Ernakulam are already booked out, Ft Cochin has booked many hundred doctor visitors, eventhough some guest houses where only european budget travellers stay will be shunned by these drug companies for their clientele. I strongly advise you to avoid Cochin at this time, since all the services will be strained to the limit. The best time would be to come after the pharmaceutical circus has departed.
Be an Eco Friendly Tourist
The fast-growing city, with 700,000 people plus a floating population of 100,000, generates around 380 tonnes of municipal solid waste each day; 150 tonnes is biodegradable and 100 tonnes is plastic. But the city had never had effective garbage treatment facilities.
so each tourist dumping one or two used plastic bottles per day minimum into this rubbish does amount to some ecological damage.
There are lots of glass bottled drinks available. Do not buy plastic or boxed drinks. eat fruits.
eat in restaurants and get boiled water or jheera.
read more about the environemnt of kerala at
Be Safe, Stay Healthy
It is as important to be aware of the possible dangers and scams as it is to be culturally aware and sensitive. I've put together a comprehensive list that should cover most of the situations you encounter.
The tips are separated as such:
Travel Within India
Health & Eating
Respect & Common Courtesies
Traveling with Infants/Toddlers
Click here for complete details.
- Family Travel
- Women's Travel
sad state of infrastructure in Cochin as elsewhere
One of the more irritating things one has to put up in India is the constant bragging about how well the country is doing. A nation bereft of a cadre of analytical thinkers, blindly follow the clichés fed to them by newspapers (the journalists themselves are not very adventurous or probing) or the politicians.
Generalizations of grandness are heard everywhere.
I was told that you go to any hospital in America; half the doctors would be Indian
I told them, that the hospital where I trained we did not have any Indian doctors at all, none of the teachers were from India. In Miami. They couldn’t believe it.
It is true that the country’s economy had opened up after forty years of complete shut down of the outside and the surge is visible.
New buildings growing up everywhere, but the sidewalks are full of rubbish.
Not a single road is repaired. So the potholes are there for months on end, without repair.
Within the airport the buses that transport the passengers are new, but the roads they have to traverse are not new and have not been upgraded. The aircrafts are fairly new but the people have not been educated about civilized form of air travel.
Indians are good at copying; the west, but the results are not the same.
Both George Fernandes of Malaysia and Capt Gopinath of Bangalore copied the South West Airlines model, but Air Asia is a decent airline with a modicum of customer service, but Air Deccan is a no frills airlines and that no frills include no customer service as well.
Cochin is overflowing is garbage, at each street, under the tree, there is a pile of garbage, the household rubbish of every day food and the like, the stench is immense, and you have to walk past it, the sensibility of it all, but Indians are good at ignoring what they don’t wish to see, like the people who sleep on the footpaths, it is as if the vision does not extend that low.
82nd strike this year.. today is 20 august 2008
I was not aware of it, neither were most of the tourists, but suddenly a General Strike was upon us and i was told that this is the 82nd strike in Kerala just this year in eight months of 2008, making it some kind of a record. It was called by the communist unions and believe it or not, if you are to arrive in Cochin today without transportation of your own, there is no public transportation of any sort including Taxi (except from the airport to town). all the shops are closed and in the tourist part of fort cochin, some of the cafes are open.
i had to cancel all my appointments today as people with cars are afraid to drive today because of the possibility of violence and blocking of the roads and not letting them pass.
violence in the form of throwing stones and breaking the glass in the window..
this is in the land of Gandhi's non violence and their proud democracy!
Living as I do in a communist island, i am well aware of the rights of the workers and I support the rights of the workers but Kerala can ill afford where the paltry living of the majority of the people, such as the person who has a cubicle selling betel leaves and nuts, is robbed. one more day of Poverty..
while we are ready to pay 50 inr for a cup of coffee at Kashi Cafe, remember there are millions of people in India who live for that kind of money for an entire day...
On one of my previous trips, I woke up on the day of departure to find that there was a strike on, since there are no signs posted in English or public announcements or newspaper reports.
fortunately i got a ride on a police car to the airport when the captain realized that I was a professor from Cuba!
Avoid Groups of College Students
Today at lunch i witnessed something that should put shame into the hearts of parents of college age students. a group of kerala college students, all trying to dress fashionably but failing miserably at it, entered one of the nicest restaurants in fort cochin. sat down and ordered their food. then they took their own soft drinks and began consuming it. to add insult to the injury to the sophisticated owner of the restaurant, two ill mannered boys got into an autorikshaw and went and bought further cocal cola and other drinks and brought them into the restaurant. this was enough to irritate the owner who ordered them all out of his restaurant. The young men and women had no manners, very low social class and had no idea how to behave in public. if this is the future of Kerala and India, the pancheon of their Gods help them and their fellow country men..
Tourism and its effect on Cochin
TOURISM ALTERING THE FACE OF FORT COCHIN
Even in the short period of absence from Fort Cochin, I have noticed the deterioration. More and more signs proclaiming Pizza and Spaghetti, more restaurants catering exclusively for the tourist with a watered down version of good food, the quality of food deteriorating to please the western palate, overt friendliness artificial of the locals involved in the tourist trade: hey man, I have seen you before, where are you from? Then come I will come with you to eat at such and such a place. The place is becoming full of Jinateros like in a city and country I know and love. Cant walk a few paces in peace before someone tries to sell you something or other. Kashmiri shopkeeper trying to sell you items incongruous to this place. Nothing has become an eyesore yet, but the virus that has spread to goa and kovalam will soon arrive in fort cochin, depriving the place of its natural heritage, the quiet charm is on its way out.
Alors! I know, every one says, the places they love are changing and I suppose it is inevitable, but how come the behavior of the tourist touts all over the world are so similar in appearance and poor quality… can we forget the influence of the sweet native behavior by ourselves, coming and invading their space little by little, and forcing my our choice of buying and eating, what is to become popular and what is to be offered. It makes good business sense, but the cost is the loss of the charm and innocence.
I saw it happening in Baracoa and now I see in Cochin.
POWER CUTS IN THE LAND OF PLENTY
India truly has not paid attention to the infrastructure of the country: roads, water system, the sewerage system, electricity. I will not go into the extremely poor standards of health care for the general population while providing the up do date technology for the well to do. Unlike in richer countries, in India it is the rich ones that afflicted with maladies rather than the poor ( in the western world, it is the poor who bear the brunt of the illnesses)
Educational system is also a complete mess with students paying enormous amounts of bribe money to get into an university.
Tonight the power went off around 8 30 and in the typical malayalee way of minimizing difficulties, they said it would be back in a few minutes. It was more than one hour before it came back and then again after a few minutes, it was cut again.
So pack a nice torchlight or penlight with you when you travel to Cochin. This is true of most of Kerala I was told.
Hello Bonjour and very little else in languages
BEWARE COCHIN HAS BECOME MONOLINGUAL
The sudden expansion of tourism activities meant recruitment of many many young people to attend to the needs of the tourists. Qualified people have other options, and able bodied ones go off to Dubai and such, so the pick is slim for tourist industry and it shows
Communicating has become a problem, apart from where is such and such or how to get there. the new cadre are incredibly ignorant of the culture of Cochin and it is a shame when a visitor knows more about the place than the local people working in the tourism trade.
The people at the managerial level communicate well in English but everyday transactions are incredibly difficult. Intellectual and spiritual life exists in such small pockets that you are really have to hunt it down. Rituals abound in all religions and cultures here but you would be hard put to find an intellectual in Cochin, at least in the everyday transactions of a life here.
You could ask, why don’t you learn Malayalam, and that is a legitimate question but it is not practicable, for every one to learn so many languages of India.
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