Chuck Hillig's Travel Blog

Well, I'm going to be doing a lot of traveling over the next 6-7 months so I thought that I'd better re-activate my travel blog. The last time I posted anything here was way back in 2006 when I was traveling through SE Asia. Feel free to read my entries back then about my earlier adventures through India,Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, the Philippines and Hong Kong. This time (at least for the next six weeks), I'll be traveling through Greece and Turkey.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hanging out in Cochin...

Well, for the past few days, I've been hanging out at the offices of my publisher in hot (and humid) Cochin. Mohan and Giriji are still busily working on the final touches of my books and have wisely decided to wait to begin the big tour until they have all four of them printed and ready for distribution. Evidently, the turn-around period is remarkably short over here and, once they are ready, all of the books can be printed up in about a week. Amazingly!
I'm still staying at Mohan's Guest House, and we're all taking our meals together. Two nights ago, I used the A/C instead of the overhead fan in my bedroom and, as a consequence, the mosquitoes decided to feast on my arms and face. Unlike the mosquitoes that I'm familiar with in the states, these little guys over here are more into the stealth-mode and they don't make any buzzing sound when they're flying around.
I took an afternoon off a few days ago and took an auto-bus (sometimes called a tuk-tuk) on a 30-minute ride over to Fort Cochin which was built out on the point on the beach. As expected, I've seen relatively few tourists here from the west. Cochin is not exactly a favorite or familiar stop on the "grand tour of India" so the Europeans and Americans who end up visiting the area are few and far between. Once I got to the Fort Cochin, I felt like a good walk and so I hoofed it along the beach for a while and talked briefly to a few young Indians who wanted to know where I had come from. As soon as I said California, they all smiled and said "Ahhhnold." I finally took an auto-bus to "Jew Town." (Yes, that really is its official name.) Lots of great old Indian and Tibetan stuff to buy, and so, as you might expect, there were some tourists buses parked nearby. After hanging out for a while, (and being more into "looking" than "shopping"), I decided to see if I could find my way back to the bridge that we had crossed on our way over here this morning. I made it a point to smile at everyone and, invariably, they all smiled back. Everyone is very friendly here although you need to smile first. However, most of the folks on the street here don't speak English, so I was glad that I brought the business card of my publishers so that I could tell the driver where I wanted to go.
Although India is very noisy (everyone in a vehicle is on their horn a good percentage of the time...mostly to avoid hitting someone or being hit) and extremely dirty (for some reason, there is very little awareness or social concern about the presence of trash absolutely everywhere), this country still pulsates with a robustness of the life force. The energy here is almost palpable. Interestingly, although relatively few people seem to speak English, many of the billboards and signs along the highways are written in that language.
Reality check: Just to put things in perspective, the average middle-class salary in India begins at about 300 rupees a day. That translates into about US$7.50 a day. Hundreds of millions of people survive here on much less than that.
Change of plans: Because of the delays in getting all of the books finally in print, we've all decided that it would be best for me to do the Cambodia part of my trip first before we begin the official tour in India. So, as it stands now, Mohan, Giriji and I will be driving to Chennei (Madras), Tiru and Pondicherry within the next few days to visit their friend who recently lost his wife. I plan to then fly out of Chennei to Penom Penh (undoubtedly, via Bangkok) and to mellow out for a while at one of the southern beaches. Naturally, I'm also planning to go north to visit Angkor Wat, the largest religious building in the entire world. Mohan will stay in touch with me via email while I'm in Cambodia and will let me know when they are ready to formally launch the tour. As soon as we're ready to go, I'll then fly back to India and hook up with their group. More later...


Blogger cochinblogs said...

Nice notes on Cochin, considering
that I have been staying here
for past 12 yrs.
If you had visited the rural
areas of Kerala, things are
better, at least as far as clean
surroundings are concerned.
I propose to set up a blog on
Budget hotels and good hospitals
in Cochin. Do u think it will have commercial (ad) value?

4:51 AM  
Blogger cochinblogs said...

VEry honest and insightful
blog by
the author.

4:52 AM  

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