Bringing in the New Year in Kochi

With Christmas and a tiger sighting under our belt, next up was heading to a place to bring in the New Year. Sarah found out that there was a pretty big new year’s eve celebration every year in Fort Kochi, a small island that is part of the southern Indian state of Kerala. To get there in time for the celebration we had to cover a lot of ground. The journey from Jabalpur to Ernakulum (railway station closest to Fort Kochi) included a three hour train ride from Jabalpur to Itarsi (a layover station), an eleven hour layover in Itarsi, a thirty hour train ride to Ernakulum, and finally a thirty minute ferry ride to Fort Kochi.

Beautiful view from the train.

Beautiful view from the train.

We saw these mountains from the train in the southern part of India.

We saw these mountains from the train in the southern part of India.

Paper Masala Dosa

Paper Masala Dosa at our stop in Itarsi

This is not the proper way to eat this.

This is not the proper way to eat this.

Enjoying some sweets during our layover in Itarsi

Enjoying some sweets during our layover in Itarsi

Sarah passing the time on the upper bunk.

Sarah passing the time on the upper bunk.

A few colorful older women sharing our cabin on the train.

A few colorful older women sharing our cabin on the train.

Both legs of the train ride were taken in Sleeper class. This is the class we try to take most of the time because we do a lot of overnight journeys and it’s also the most affordable, behind general seating. When there aren’t tickets available we sometimes take the class above called 3 A/C, which is the same layout as Sleeper but with air conditioning, privacy curtains, and a blanket and pillow included. Sleeper class is definitely the most interesting of the two classes because the less private accommodations affords more opportunities to interact with fellow passengers. The thirty hour leg of the train journey provided us with a few memorable moments.

To start, this was the first time we’d boarded a train late enough in the evening that everyone on the train was already asleep. Up until this point we had never had to contend with someone sitting or sleeping in our reserved seat. Not having any experience with the proper and most polite way to ask a sleeping passenger to get out of your seat, I asked a fellow Indian passenger who had boarded the late night train with us to offer some advice. Instead of offering advice he took our tickets and proceeded to firmly ask the guy in my berth to hand over the seat, claiming it was his seat. Nice. After a little resistance and requests by each party to view the other’s ticket, the seat was handed over. Our new friend did the same for Sarah’s sleeping berth but this time without any dispute at all. The woman that was in her berth quickly jumped up, grabbed her bags, and jumped into her friends berth across the aisle, which they shared for the remainder of the night. Success.

Being such a long ride we had plenty of time the next day to spend with the folks that had borrowed our sleeping berths the night before. I was a little worried that they might be some hard feelings, especially since we had enlisted the help of someone else to give them the boot, but no one acknowledged the event. It turned out that the fellow that was in my seat was from Nigeria and was traveling with a couple of his friends. We spent the remainder of the very long train ride chatting and convincing one of them to play cards with us. Along with him, a couple of Indian guys also joined in and we played a card game called Crazy Eights for what must have been 2 or 3 hours, most of time surrounded by onlookers. The train rides, especially during the day, are a hive of activity. People are constantly moving about and switching seats. The sleeping berths that were once beds become bench seats for at least three people and sometimes more.

The place we found in Fort Kochi was labeled as a homestay but it was really just a normal hotel with what turned out to be a very interesting staff. Shaw (or maybe Shawn?) worked the front desk most of the time and was a fun, talkative guy. In fact, one evening we came back to find him and a few of his friends trying on women’s wigs and clothing. All of us exchanged smiles and then Sarah and I proceeded to our room laughing at what we had just seen. The next day we found out from Shaw that they were preparing for a Carnival type parade taking place the day after new year’s day. Later, Shaw asked to borrow Sarah’s tweezers to give his eyebrows a proper plucking. With all of this we decided we had to attend the parade.

Finally mailing the post cards we got in Varanasi. Each post card cost RS15 to mail, or about $0.28, from India to the U.S. Took about 2 weeks to make the trip.

Finally mailing the post cards we got in Varanasi. Each post card cost RS15 to mail, or about $0.28, from India to the U.S. Took about 2 weeks to make the trip.

Our favorite restaurant in Fort Kochi. Great food and great prices. Our favorites included the Chicken and Pea Curry and Veg Korma with Paratha bread.

Our favorite restaurant in Fort Kochi. Great food and great prices. Our favorites included the Chicken and Pea Masala and Veg Korma with Paratha bread. The big man in the background is also a fan.

One of several Christian churches in Fort Kochi. The Christian population in India is largest in the south.

One of several Christian churches in Fort Kochi. The Christian population in India is largest in the south.

First, we took part in the New Year’s Eve celebration. For the celebration we joined up with a fellow traveler (David) we’d met at our hotel. The three of us walked from the hotel to the beach where the celebration was to take place. Sarah and I had done minimal research and didn’t know what to expect. During the walk David shared with us that as part of the celebration a giant Santa Claus is set on fire. We had noticed people in Santa Claus costumes driving around town but didn’t think much of it because it was so close to Christmas. Without hearing any sort of countdown, and before we knew what was going on, Santa Claus was ablaze and the massive crowd of people (mostly Indian men) erupted with yelling and arms in the air. The celebration ended as soon as the blazing Santa went out.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

Enjoying the New Year's Eve celebration with a fellow traveler (David).

Enjoying the New Year’s Eve celebration with a fellow traveler (David).

Big crowd watching santa burn.

Big crowd watching santa burn.

What's left of Santa.

What’s left of Santa.

Celebrating the New Year by partaking in another type of Kingfisher beer.

Celebrating the New Year by partaking in another type of Kingfisher beer.

I really dig the Kingfisher logo. The actual bird is beautiful as well.

I really dig the Kingfisher logo. The actual bird is beautiful as well.

The remainder of our time in Fort Kochi involved watching the Carnival parade, taking a back waters boat tour of the surrounding lakes and canals, and finally doing a proper walking tour of the city. The characters in the parade included a lot of men dressed as women, an elephant, and some of the figures from the Hindu religion.

This little girl was loving the parade. It was fun watching her face as she saw each of the characters in the parade.

This little girl was loving the parade. It was fun watching her face as she saw each of the characters in the parade.

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Local fisherman paddling to deeper waters.

Local fisherman paddling to deeper waters.

A fisherman pulling in his net.

A fisherman pulling in his net.

A coconut processing "plant". The use nearly every part of the coconut for some purpose. In the rainy season they use the building to dry out the coconut flesh. In the dry season they dry it in the sun.

A coconut processing “plant”. The use nearly every part of the coconut for some purpose. In the rainy season they use the building to dry out the coconut flesh. In the dry season they dry it in the sun.

One of several house boats we saw on the ride.

One of several house boats we saw on the ride.

Fresh peppercorns.

Fresh peppercorns.

Making rope out of coconut fibers.

Making rope out of coconut fibers.

Traditional south Indian meal on a banana leaf.

Traditional south Indian meal on a banana leaf.

Using a canoe to transport goods through the canals.

Using a canoe to transport goods through the canals.

One of the more narrow canals we traveled through. Some of the canals were only a few feet wider than the boat.

One of the more narrow canals we traveled through. Some of the canals were only a few feet wider than the boat.

The boat is propelled and steered by a guy on the front and the rear using a long bamboo shaft to push off of the bottom of the waterway.

The boat is propelled and steered by a guy on the front and the rear using a long bamboo shaft to push off of the bottom of the waterway.

During our walk of the city we saw a bit more of the beach area and the giant Chinese fishing nets that Fort Kochi is known for. The nets are large contraptions, probably around 30 ft. tall when fully removed from the water. The net itself is around 25 ft. square. For sale on the boardwalk nearby were some of the catches of the day.

The "Chinese Fishing Nets" are very large and take a couple of guys to operate.

The “Chinese Fishing Nets” are very large and take a couple of guys to operate.

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Catch of the day.

Catch of the day.

Colorful painted tree near the beach.

Colorful painted tree near the beach.

Counterweights used to lift the net out of the water.

Counterweights used to lift the net out of the water.

Close up the counterweights.

Close up the counterweights.

Sadly, there was a lot of trash in the water. Plastic is really difficult to manage.

Sadly, there was a lot of trash in the water. Plastic is really difficult to manage.

the fishing nets lined the beach.

the fishing nets lined the beach.

Fort Kochi was a fine place to bring in the new year. As usual, we met great people and saw some fascinating things. India continues to be full of surprises.

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Categories: Cities, India, Traveling | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Bringing in the New Year in Kochi

  1. Amanda

    Those pictures from the boat are so beautiful!! And I kinda love the burning Santa– a definitive end to the endless Christmas season, hahah. Also, I want a postcard!! Did you send us one?? If not, can you with your next batch pleasssee! Miss you so much!

    • I’m sorry we sent the postcards to our family. But, we promise to include you in the next batch! We’re bad friends…

      Miss you too!

  2. Lauren

    Happy New Year Sarah and Dave! Your travels look amazing!!! Those are some pretty mountains and ridiculous body paint! You must have gone slightly insane on the 30-hr train ride, but it looks worth it. Miss you!

    • Happy New year to you too! It’s a lot harder here to just hike up mountains like it is back home. But we’ve been able to enjoy them in the hill station towns. And we’ll be able to enjoy lots in Nepal next month!

  3. Janis

    Happy New Year to you! Sarah, you look wonderful in these photos! Your photos are amazing…Stay well and stay safe! I look forward to your next travel updates! xox

  4. What a gorgeous pictures and a very interesting post! I was in Cochin and the backwaters about two months ago and I loved it as well. That tree trunk was so cool, the way they painted it!

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