1/2/11 - Arrival in Kerala

Flight from Jaipur to Kochi

In the morning we flew from Jaipur to Kochi, via Mumbai.  Kochi is one of the main cities in the state of Kerala.  The trip was easy and painless.

First Impressions of Kerala: Less Poverty, More Coconut Trees

Driving from the airport to our hotel, we could immediately see big differences between the states of Kerala and Rajasthan (where Jaipur is located).  For one thing, there was much less trash on the roads in Kochi.  And we did not see the extreme poverty that was so evident in Jaipur.  These differences have a fascinating background:  in 1957, Kerala became the first place in the world to democratically elect a Communist government.  The Communist party has been a major force in the state’s politics ever since.  It has given Kerala a high literacy rate, less poverty, better health care, and other social services.  In all of these areas, Kerala significantly outperforms other states in India.  Ironically, I saw more billboards in Kochi than anywhere else; capitalism also seemed to be especially well developed in Kerala.

In terms of geography, Kerala lies along the west coat of southern India.  So it is tropical and beachy, with lush greenery and lots of palm trees, especially coconuts.  Visually, it reminded me of southern California, Florida, and similar places.

Boat Ride at Sunset

In the evening, we were given a boat ride on the bay to watch the sunset.  I was happy because I love being on the ocean.  We had a whole boat to ourselves – albeit hardly a fancy one.  We motored around looking at various islands and boats, and then focused on the picturesque Chinese fishing nets at sunset. These are large nets that are raised and lowered by a series of pulleys. The technique is said to have been introduced by traders from the court of Kublai Khan.

After the boat ride, we spent some time wandering around the adjacent Fort Kochi neighborhood, which appeared to have a lively night life. We walked down lanes lined with little stores and restaurants, looking festive with Christmas lights.  We also saw a park along the water’s edge, packed with folks who were talking and laughing, hanging out on a Sunday evening.