From day one, I was keen to go and explore the local area on foot. I decided to keep it easy and follow the main curvature north of the Island. I checked my map, and the Indo-Portuguese museum was just around the corner, so I thought I’d see if there was anything of interest.
On my search, I strolled down a small back-alley heading towards what looked like a few interesting shops. There was a music store selling all kinds of instruments. I told the guy I wasn’t going to be buying anything but he said “OK come in, its free to look”. It was a small place that reminded me of the shop in New Delhi where The Beatles visited, and bought their sitars in the 1966.
This place wasn’t nearly as grand, but it was an interesting little music market. The guy really wanted me to buy something, and continued to showcase me lots of instruments/toys, as I was trying to head for the door. To be honest, I was tempted to buy one of them. It was a one string instrument called an Ektara, but I already had my Ukulele with me, and I’d hardly played that since I left the UK. He also showed me a Tumbi which was pretty cool.
Further on, in my quest for some culture, I saw a small clothes store that seemed to sell predominately female clothing. I asked the ladies outside if they “only sell garments for woman?” They said no, and beckoned me inside. I spoke to a young guy and told him I was looking for something similar to what I was wearing, which was a typical white Middle Eastern shirt.
I found a suitable blue top but it was long sleeve. He told me that it was “No problem, we can fix it in 10 minutes”. After a rudimentary measure of my existing top, I said OK. I’d been looking for a comfortable pair of trousers, but I don’t like the hippy-look that a lot of travellers adopt – on their journey to find themselves – such as ‘Castaway‘ beards etc. But they did look comfy, so I asked if he’d do me a discount for the pair – he only knocked off 50p but I didn’t mind, and paid £9 for both items.
When it comes to haggling in India or Thailand, I really don’t bother too much on clothing, when it only costs £4-5, but I do try and get a discount for multiple items. When I’m looking to buy clothing that is £20 or more, then I’ll try and haggle a little, and try to get at least 30% off. Someone recently told me that if in doubt; always start by halving the initial price offered, especially for taxis and Tuk Tuks, which is not a bad way to go.
I discovered a little book shop and had a quick browse. I bought a couple of books on India and Fort Cochin. A woman came in and spoke to the lady behind the counter. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but from her reaction, and how I read the situation (no pun intended), she cracked a joke and said something like, “Still ripping off the tourists I see, Geeta?” I could see some of the books were second-hand, but she was selling them for the price they had on the back, though they may just have been dirty – but then everything is dusty in India.
Feeling hungry, I wandered over to a large hotel and restaurant. I suppose they cater for a more Western pallet in hotels, but I always found the food to be much better quality and taste much nicer. I ordered one of my favourites, a Half Tandoori Chicken, two Naan breads and a bowl of Cucumber Raita. It was absolutely fantastic, and washed down with a couple of decent cups of black coffee – I was absolutely stuffed, which made a nice change from my usual small curry and a chapatti.
My expedition took me down a road less travelled, and soon, I stopped being harassed by Tuk Tuk drivers and other tourism vendors, which lead me to believe I was leaving the tourist zone. I carried on for a while looking around when I found a 300 year old Mosque. I saw a garden area with what looked like graves. I asked a man that was standing next to me what the place was, and it was indeed a cemetery. I asked him if he knew somebody buried there and he replied yes. Not wishing to pry further, I didn’t ask him for anymore details. As we stood by the side of the road, it was a rather solemn 2 minutes, staring at the final resting place of a hundred or so lives that have since past.
I reached a bridge, and then a main road to the right. I figured this was my best bet at finding my way back, but I decided to carry on into the abyss. I walked for another 25 minutes, talking to people in shops and taking photos. I was harassed by a couple of school kids, asking for money, but nothing too untoward.
I finally found another right turn and figured it was time to change direction. I had pretty good bearings and a tourist map in my pocket, so I was fairly confident I was heading the right way. Sure enough, after 20 minutes or so, I found a restaurant that I recognised and knew my way from there.
I had been out exploring the town for about 5 hours, and it was the first time I got the chance to do what I normally do, when travelling alone, which is to explore the local area, single handed and without compromise – going wherever the wind took me.