July 28 to August 3
After Lovely Leh, Kochi and Munnar rank as our favorite places in India. The farther south we get in India the nicer it is to be a tourist. We were told things got easier in the south but it was hard to believe after the constant scamming we endured in the north. When we arrived in Kochi we were surprised to find the city relatively clean with almost no signs of cow poo or the accompanying odor, there was very little garbage, the traffic was light, and hardly anyone pestered us to buy something from them. In so many ways it reminded me of Lovely Leh.
One of the reasons we decided to come to Kochi was because it was close to Munnar which is where you'll find tea fields (after China, India is the world's largest exporter of tea). We took an overnight tour up to Munnar which included a great driver in a fancy SUV for the 5 hour drive, meals and a home stay. We made lots of stops along the way to see elephants, waterfalls, spice plantations, museums and more. We were very happy we decided to go with the tour instead of taking the public bus which was our original plan. Munnar sits at 1500m and even in the cloudy midsts and rain it was a beautiful little place with tea plants covering the mountain sides. It would have been easy to spend several days up in Munnar sitting on the terrace looking across the tea fields in the mountains. Next time.
Fog hiding the misty mountains of Munnar
Waiting at a nearby coffee shop for our train to Kochi. We had a long time to kill and we ate three veggie burgers. Veggie burgers in India are actually pretty yummy. Be warned if you order a chicken burger you'll get a veggie burger with a couple morsels of chicken mixed in. Don't expect to find beef burgers
Waiting in the VIP lounge for the train to Kochi (a lot of train stations have an air conditioned lounge for passengers with a ticket to an air conditioned train). While we were in here we saw in the shadow through that door the security guard beating the hell out of someone with his stick. It was pretty scary. Without question India is much more violent than Southeast Asia
There's a sea wall that goes around Kochi and on the weekend when we arrived it was full of people out for a stroll
The beach at Kochi... it's not known for its beaches
I looked at Trip Advisor and Dosas & Pancakes was the #1 recommended restaurant in Kochi. Johnny and I shared some dosas (crepe type thing filled with a potato curry in this instance) and a club sandwich. Both were fantastic. Aussie Aussie Aussie
The brownie and ice cream was also fantastic!
Hanging out at a coffee shop in Jew Town. Once upon a time many Jewish families lived here; according to a documentary I saw while in Trichy only one Jewish family remains. Anyway, this street is lined with shops all with signs saying Hassle Free. Yeah right. This is one of the two places in Kochi where people were trying their hardest to sell us something
I'm just guessing but I'm going to say that the supplier of Snickers in India is based in Kochi. They are advertised on almost every store front billboard. No complaints here. I love Snickers
Spices are grown around the area.
There aren't many big animals roaming the streets of Kochi but we saw there two goats snuggling while on the way to dinner. There are a lot of cats though. More cats are in Kochi than anywhere else we've been to since Malaysia
Back at Dosas and Pancakes. This time the owner sat down and chatted with us most of the dinner. When I saw that the restaurant was rated #1 restaurant in Kochi I said it's likely because they make you write a review before you're allowed to leave the restaurant. I wasn't entirely wrong. The owner said all his advice was free (he did give us good tips on Kochi and India) but that he would like us to rate his restaurant on Trip Advisor. We went to the restaurant four times and it got progressively worst each time though it still wasn't bad. Consistency is just not something that midrange restaurants in India thrive at even when you order exactly the same thing.
On our way to Munnar. What a difference a good driver makes
These elephants are getting a bath
Not a baby elephant like we were told but still very impressive
One of the many waterfalls on the way to Munnar
Where's all this water come from. There were waterfalls all over the place
BBQ corn with lime and chilly powder. Break time
The last couple days I'd been wondering where cinnamon comes from (internet hardly exists in India) and then lucky me we went on a tour of a plantation where they grow many types of spices. The leaves on this plant are used for something that I can't remember but its bark is turned into cinnamon. Now I just need to find out how the bark turns into cinnamon
The view from our balcony at our home stay in Munnar. The fog moved in so quick but it'd disappear just as fast
Walking around the tea fields
It started to rain when we left but being monsoon season we don't go anywhere without our umbrellas so we were prepared
Walking around the tea fields you couldn't help but feel overwhelmed at how much tea there was. It's endless. Can you imagine having to pick it!?!
Great views up in the mountains
The home stay made us a great dinner. We were on the tour with a woman from Mexico who works in Amsterdam for Green Peace. Another couple was also staying here
Clearer skies the next morning
Ruth, the woman from mexico, says the tea fields look like brain. I can see that
A tea picker. We went to a tea museum where there was a documentary by Tata (the owners of the tea fields and pretty much all of India) on the history of the tea fields in Munnar. By the end of it the audience had to be convinced that being a tea picker for Tata is the best job in the world! If you ask me I wouldn't say they looked like they liked their job too much.
These kids started running after us rolling the tire up the hill as we drove away
On a tour of the factory where tea leaves are turned into tea. Did you know that no other tree in the world lives longer than a tea plant. I wonder if that's true
Ahhh! A crocodile at the tea factory got Johnny
We went to a dam and there was a lady there selling carrots
Driving to a lake we saw these elephants roaming around in a field
We did get to see a baby elephant!
What was behind me when I took the last photo of Echo Lake. There were so many tourists here all yelling and shops all selling cheap plastic toys. This place is very popular because when you yell you'll hear an echo, hence the name.
Back in Kochi we went to the mall. Go to McDonald's in India and your box of fries will be half empty. Johnny ordered fries at a restaurant in the food court and this is what he got. India is a place where you have no choice but to laugh at these things
After lunch we were thirsty so we went to get a drink. This is what we got instead.
No where else in India did we see men wearing colorful short robes. Half the men in Kochi wore these
Kochi is a fishing town. The beach is lined with these giant nets that are dropped into the sea
Waiting for our last train ride in India. The train didn't leave until after 10PM so we spent a lot of time in this coffee shop