My plan was to visit Aleppey when the world-famous boat race took place. That would have been the 2nd Saturday of August. It is really funny that an unintended error one commits changes the entire plan and one ends up doing some thing other than what one originally wished. But all is well that ends well.
Special Fare Air Tickets
In this case, I ended up skipping Aleppey but visiting Kochi and Aluva. I was to take advantage of the special monsoon air fares of Air India and Jet Airways. When I was booking the ticket online, I typed the departure date as 7th July instead of 7th August. It was a small mistake but it changed my entire tour plan . There was no change of date possible since it was a special-fare ticket. Also, one was not allowed to cancel and the entire money for the ticket would have been lost upon cancellation. Well, that was the string in small print attached to the special monsoon fare. There was no sense in losing so much money just because one wanted to see the boat race at Aleppey. So, I decided to visit Kerala on the wrong date but then there was no need to go to Aleppey any more since there would be no boat race in July. And there was nothing else to see in Aleppey . So I deleted Aleppey happily from the plan but kept Kochi and Aluva as planned. In hindsight, not a bad move.
The new airport at Kochi is actually not close to Kochi. It is at Kalamassery and is closer to Aluva. It is the first private sector-built/ private sector -managed Airport in India. Plenty of space ( as on date) and very clean ( very Kerala, I should say). The lady at the pre-paid taxi counter was polite enough to explain to me that though the hotel I was to check in was quite close , I had to pay the minimum taxi fare (Rs.235.-) which would have given me several more Kms of travel if only I had the need.
Stay & Food
I preferred to stay at Aluva rather than at Kochi. It is far cheaper. Since Kochi is not very far, one could travel to Kochi during the day and be back to spend the night at the hotel at Aluva. While the room was comfortable and clean, there was one problem. There was no kitchen in the hotel. The room attendant has to go out and fetch your food at some nearby restaurant. It was a disappointment that in spite of trying different restaurants on different dates, food was uniformly bad. I must hasten to add that I am a vegetarian and so the comment on the quality of food should be taken with a pinch of salt. Who knows, non-vegetarian food might be good at these restaurants. But when I went to Ernakulam ( Kochi-Ernakulam are twin-cities), I compensated for the bad dinners I have been having by eating my lunch at an Udipi restaurant and I thoroughly enjoyed the food.
Aluva is a tourist place. There is plenty to see. Well-maintained temples. Elephant farm. Cherai beach. Kaladi Shankaracharya Ashram. It was a pleasant experience to watch all the paintings and read all the Puranic stories on the walls, as one climbed the steps of the Ashram tower.
Kochi is the older of the twin-cities and Ernakulam is the more modern one. Kochi palace was under repairs when I visited. I had to be satisfied with taking a walk in the spacious palace grounds. Since it was raining, the cup of hot tea available from the small shop in the vicinity was very welcome.
The Jewish town was a bit of a let-down. I was expecting a lot of Jews moving around. Instead, I found a lot of Muslims (some looking like Arabs) roaming around. I am told that there are very few Jewish families left in that town. Most of the Jews have migrated to Israel over the decades. The Synagogue is still there.
Kochi Marine Drive is an excellent place to spend an evening. One could take a boat ride. The place is ideal for taking long walks.
The Dutch museum is one of the places a tourist is told to visit. One could learn the complete history of the Kochi monarchy. I still remember the excellent Dutch museum in Colombo which I visited five years ago. If I had not remembered it, I would have been more appreciative of this one at Kochi.
I bought plenty of Banana chips, some of them sweetened. I found them least oily and most tasty. After I boarded the flight back to Chennai, I thought that I should have bought some Jack Fruit chips too. It is OK; there is always a next time. I hope that next time I am more careful in typing the correct departure date in the online Air-ticket booking procedure. Oh oh, I almost forgot. I must mention the give-away too, not just the take-away. I had carried an old umbrella with me to Kerala. While returning, I brought a new umbrella. The old umbrella was stolen by a small-time thief when I had kept it on a table in a restaurant for less than two minutes and gone to the wash room. In Kerala, every one is smart. How could the thieves be otherwise ?