Sunday, January 31, 2010

And Finally, a little Keralan Makeover...

Pakdokter have not had a hair-cut for at least the last 3 months. Pakdokter's hair was becoming a bit difficult to manage and the sweltering heat of Kerala did not help. So pakdokter decided to experience a Keralan haircut and went about looking for a barber.
It was not that easy to find one in Fort Kochi actually. Pakdokter had asked the Manager at the David Hall House while having coffee there after viewing the art collection on display and he directed to one that looked quite way out of town. So pakdokter walked back to the Malabar House nearby and asked for help from the reception and was directed to the same place. So pakdokter decided to walk to it despite the distance.....
And the hair-cut plus a shave of whatever little stubbles left on pakdokter's chin only cost 80 rupees ( less than RM5). That included the usual neck and shoulder massage minus the neck twist which pakdokter declined!.....




pakdokter before the hair-cut...
the long hair hidden under the cap..
the puttu on the forehead
was a welcome gesture on arrival at the Spice Village


the Keralan haircut....

A Little bit of Culture....

Some short videos showing a sample of cultural experiences pakdokter encountered during the Kerala Escapades....




video

an Indian Classical Dance performed during dinner

at the Spice village in Thekkady..


video

a Kalari Payatu demonstration..

an ancient Indian martial arts form...



video

a facial expression of an 'emotion' in a Kathakali dance....



video

an excerpt from the Ramayana epic..





Eating Out in Kerala..

For Malaysians, eating out in Kerala would not be a problem. The sizable number of Muslim population made it easy to find kosher/halal restuarants. And their cuisines are not too strange for our palate. In fact pakdokter feel that they are less spicy than many of the curries at Pelita Nasi Kandar or Lotus Restaurants in Kuala Lumpur. But pakdokter must admit that maybe we should demolish Bernas monopoly of rice imports to Malaysia. The Kerala basmathi rice was so light and sweet that you will only realise what you are missing out in Malaysia once you have been here!
The group had more than we should of idlis, dhosas, rotis, parathas( like roti chanai), biriyanis, masalas, curries, sambars, dhals, chutneys etc etc. The damage......well pakdokter came home with 4 kg of excess baggage at the tummy......(luckily Airasia never weigh the passenger before boarding and checking what weight we came in with)!
Now to go back to gym and the golf course for weight management.......!

halal restaurants....not difficult to find...




street food, anybody....?


typical breakfast of idlis, paratha ( roti chanai), dhosa ( thosai)
putu mayam (forgot the Keralan word for it)





dinner at Ramada...masalas, vindaloos and curries....


masala thosai for a light lunch at the
Spice Village....Thekkady.







wine tasting at the Divine Lounge of the Malabar House
some tapas can be selected to go with the tasting..



Kerala seafood thali for lunch at the Malalbar House...
the Malabar House also has a 'degustation' menu at dinner
which was quite a good deal actually



a light masala marinated fried calamari rings
at the Brunton Boatyard....

Shopping Kerala..

What shopping can be done in Kerala? Well, for the ladies, jewellery, apparels, pashminas. For the men?.....well, pakdokter's friends went out to the mall and came home with lovely good quality cotton shirts at bargain prices compared to what we would pay for the same in Kuala Lumpur! And of course Indian arts and crafts and decorative ornaments are widely available, as well as good quality Kashmiri silk carpets....
For the foodies and the chefs at heart, Kerala is where you get a wide selection of spices and herbs for the kitchen. At the spices store where the group saw the cultural show, the spices were a tad expensive probably because it was a tourist spot. While walking the streets of Fort Kochi, pakdokter came across a women's co-operative spice shop owned by 7 enterprising ladies. For comparison, the highest quality Kashimiri 'saffron' cost pakdokter only 300 rupees per 100 gm compared to the asking price of 850 rupees at the cultural centre.( The saffron from Spain cost 200 rupees per 100 gms and the lower grade Indian saffron cost about 170 rupees per 100 gm). And many other spices, herbal soaps and vanilla sticks were sold at easily less than half of the price at the tourist shops. Pakdokter's friend, Ravee, was cleverer. He went to the spice warehouse in the Jewish Quarter on Saturday morning and bought spices by the kilograms at great bargains!...
Well, now to see what pakdokter ( and Ravee) can come out with, with the spices and herbs that we brought home.
A visit to the bookstore is also encouraged. India has produced many prize-winning authors at the international level and pakdokter found that books are easily RM5 to RM10 cheaper here than in our own MPH or Kinokuniya bookstores. And pakdokter could not help but bought back enough books for the next 6 months!....


sarees in a little street of Munnar..

?gold necklaces.....


jewellery at the culture centre...Fort Kochi



trying out necklaces at the Ramada Resort..




the Museum Company..
a large store selling Kashmiri carpets and art and crafts
and apparels
the store is next to the Malabar House in Fort Kochi ..



fancy some local cookies..

the spices here were quite pricey...

but these ladies from the women's co-operative
sold pakdokter spices at bargain prices and
even presented pakdokter a packet of incense sticks
as a parting gift.....

and maybe a lottery ticket for luck.....!

Mattencherry and the Jewish Quarter....

The Jewish Quarter was a 10-minute drive away from Fort Kochi - in a suburb called Mattencherry. There used to be a sizable population of Jews in Cochin but currently only 11 of them remained living there. The rest have returned to their motherland, Israel. The Jewish Synagoge is a regular tourist stop of the city. The streets where the Jewish community used to live are now lined by mostly tourist shops.

Just around the corner, the Kochi Museum is another spot worth visiting. Housed in an old Dutch mansion, the musuem had exhibits on the Rajas of Cochin until the independence of India.


the Jewish Synagouge..



















streets scenes in the Jewish Quarter..



the Cochin Museum..



Walking around Fort Kochi......

Friday, 22nd January 2010

Within walking distance of the Malabar House is an important tourist spot, the St Francis Church. This is where the famous Portuguese explorer was buried when he died of malaria after conquering these parts of the world. His remain was later dug out and returned to Lisbon in Portugal.


The southern part of Fort Kochi waterfront was lined by huge Chinese Fishing Nets with local fishermen at work. This is one of the tourist must-see of Fort Kochi. The nets were called so in recognition of this type of fishing nets as well as the fishing technique which originated from China.




The Old Dutch Fort is also located a stretch away from where the rows of the fishing nets were but the remains of the fort is too small for a posting here. There is a little cannon left, signifying the strategic location of the site for the Dutch in its defense of the city against invading ships.




What attracted pakdokter were some of the posters hung along the streets and on some of the walls.




One of the posters advertised for what looked like upmarket private schools. Kerala has a very high literacy rate - some figures quote a 100% literacy rate - thanks to ?free education courtesy of a communist party government. The other poster was an announcement of an International Islamic Thought Conference - from the topics and the speakers listed - it looks like it is a very high-powered conference! Muslims made up about 25% of the population and Christians another 25%. Hindus totalled about 40% ( these estimates given by pakdokter's guide). The groups of different faiths appear to be able to live together peacefully.



The inscriptions on two rocks near the Dutch Fort caught pakdokter's attention. One discussed Quran and Dowry in Muslim marriage and the other had quotations from various religions on their take of the Prophet Mohamad (pbuh). It was interesting as these references were attributed from the Hindu, Jew, Christian and Budhhist books.



the St Francis Church, the oldest church in India
this church was within walking distance from the Malabar House..


and the plot where Vasco da Gama was first buried inside the church
until his remains was taken back to Lisbon, Portugal 14 years later..











the Chinese Fishing Nets..




where learning goes beyond chalk and talk..


a nice tagline..





Quran and Dowry.....


learning on the street...






sorry...too small for your reading...


but the writings discussed the fact that all the different religions


recognise the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)


in their own books and context...









Brunton Boatyard Hotel.......

Friday, 22nd January 2010

Walking the streets of Fort Kochi, pakdokter came across the Brunton Boatyard Hotel, the alternative hotel we had considered should we fail to secure rooms at the Malabar House. Having walked the streets of Fort Kochi the whole morning, and feeling somewhat tired, thirsty and a little hungry, pakdokter decided to visit the hotel and check out its restaurant.
Located on the seafront, by the ferry terminal to an island across the port, the hotel has 27 rooms ( or maybe 47 rooms if pakdokter remembers right). Another old establishement it has the feel of our own E&O Hotel in Penang, albeit on a smaller scale.
The reception directed pakdokter to the sea-front garden restaurant for lunch and to reach it pakdokter had to go through its Taj Bar, a lovely bar reminiscent of the many bars of Edinburgh.
It was nice to have a bottle of ice-cold Kingfisher to soothe the fried, spicy, curried fresh and tender calamari rings, under the breeze of the sea witnessing the ferry transporting cars and passengers come and go every 15 minutes or so from the island to the mainland and vice versa. Most of the other ( all of whom were Mat Sallehs) people at lunch look like the type who came out of cruise liners. Many were senior citizens, couples with stiff upper lip British ascents.
In past lives, pakdokter must have been a 'spoilt' prince of the local 'Raj', returning to witness what has become of the Empire.......!





the Brunton Boatyard Hotel, viewed from the tourist pier...
the ferry was just docking in....




the front and entrance to the hotel...






the inner courtyard of the hotel...




the verandah with the central reception counter...
local history on the wall....


the seafront garden....



view of the ferry jetty from pakdokter's lunch table..



a ferry checking-in...



great local 'tapas' and ice-cold Kingfisher....

The Streets of Fort Kochi...

Friday, 22nd January 2010

The group had arranged a shopping tour of Kerala on Friday morning, to be followed by a lunch hosted by the local tour company who went out of its way to give us the best of Keralan hospitality!
Shopping is not pakdokter's forte, so pakdokter gave it a miss and decided to do a walking tour of Fort Kochi. Fort Kochi is small enough a town and with a walking tour-guide-pamphlet produced by the Malabar House, pakdokter set out to explore the town and immortalise some of the scenes with pakdokter's little compact Canon Ixus.

a stern-side view of the Malabar House...
the upper level housed the Ayurvedic Spa and the Divine Wine Lounge..


a lovely modern bungalow...



a seafood restaurant...




St Johns de Britto's High School...


the Fort Kochi Post Office.....

Vasco da Gama's house..
it is now a guest-house....




the main shopping street of Fort Kochi...


jewellery, kurta, pashminas....??




many of the old shophouses have been refurbished
and turned into homestays....



another pretty homestay guesthouse...




slightly modern..


this homestay is next to the Malabar House...



many Syrian Christian churches....


St Mary's Girls School..
the 3-wheeler bajaj is a common school taxi..



a quaint tea-house..
it was full-house when pakdokter wanted to stop for tea....