After the crazyness of the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City the ultra modern air conditioned airport came as a shock and I was surprised to find myself cold. It was a strange sensation after spending so much time in the heat.
The journey to Singapore was uneventful and I had a five hour wait in Singapore for my flight to Cochin in southern India. I did have a moment of panic in Singapore when I realised that I had forgotten to pick my bag up, but thankfully it was still there when I returned for it.
It was late at night when I arrived in India and I had a taxi picking me up from the airport. A Russian guy who was on the same plane started chatting to me and we ended up sharing the taxi together into the center of town and we stayed in the same place. It turned out that we had been on the same slow boat through Laos together, which was highly random! Unfortunately though when we arrived at the guesthouse the owners screwed him over on the price of a room and so he left in the morning.
I went for a wander into town on waking up (in the very late morning) and was just searching for somewhere to have breakfast when a guy on a motorbike stopped me and asked me if I wanted to be in a TV commercial as an extra! Naturally I said yes and so was brought to a nearby coffee shop where I met an English couple who had also signed up and the producer. We all sat around chatting for a while and the producer bought us all coffee, Eventually a guy with a camera turned up and took everyones photo to try and get the "roles" sorted out. That was it for the day apparently and we would meet up in a few days time for the actual filming.
I headed off with the English couple, who I found out were called James and Jessica and tried to find somewhere that sold beer, but had to settle for a soft drink instead. After chatting some more about our travels we went our separate ways and I headed for the sea front, where there were loads of local fishermen, random merchants and some big fishing nets, which operated by having some rocks tied to a large piece of wood to counterbalance the weight of the supports for the nets that were out over the water. Occasionally one of the nets would be raised and the few fish at the bottom collected. It was quite interesting to watch and thankfully no-one was hassling me trying to sell me anything either.
I spent the rest of the day wandering round Cochin and in the evening headed out to try and see what the nightlife was like. It became rapidly apparent that it was almost non existant. Apparently the state of Kerala is strongly Catholic and for some reason the authorities have a big problem with alcohol being sold near to churches, schools and many public builings and in fact at all! Many restaurants dont sell alcohol of any description in Kerala and sometimes when they do you are asked to hide the bottle under the table or you are served the beer in a clouded glass to hide the contents.
I did not realise this when I was wandering around the city and after becoming quite frustrated eventfully found somewhere that said "bar", but on entering there were only a couple of people in there. Dispirited I headed to an internet cafe and aimlessly surfed the net for a while. There was a Dutch girl sitting beside me in the cafe and I started talking to her and it turned out that she was trying to find somewhere to have a beer as well, so we headed back to the empty bar and had a few drinks and chatted about our travels.
We were kicked out of the bar at 11pm and were just walking to find a rickshaw (tuk tuks are called rickshaws in India for some reason), when we bumped into the motorbike guy from earlier who had asked me if I wanted to be an extra. Anyway we explained our predicament that we had run out of places to drink so he said that he would take us somewhere. On the way we met two random older German guys who were also after a beer and so they joined our group.
Five minutes later we were back at the same place that we had just left and after knocking on the door we were allowed round the back into a private but grubby courtyard. We ordered a couple of beers and someone found some garden furniture for us to sit on. After a while it started raining so we had to head indoors to a filthy storage room. The local guy, who had led us there, told us how he rides his bike all round India in big loops, picking up random people for parts of the journey (always women apparently). He was quite a characater.
I left with the Dutch girl at about 1am and we had just walked up the street when we were stopped by two policemen who started asking us where we had been. We knew that the lock-in where we had been was illegal and not wanting to tell on the others we just said, rather unconvincingly, that we had been "wandering around". Considering that literally everything closes at 11pm this did not sound very likely and the policemen were looking at us very suspiciously. Then they warned us not to hang around with the motorbike guy as apparently he was "a bad man" and that if we were seen drinking with him we would all be arrested! Thankfully they then let us go but I then had a massive problem finding a rickshaw to take me back to the hostel as the entire town was asleep.
I woke up in the morning with a slight headache, which was very unusual after drinking for me. Apparently the beer in India contains a certain preservative that causes headaches. Great! Certainly it is possibly the most chemically beer I have drunk - rather like some English beers. Anyway with my mild headache I met up with the Dutch girl again (Loosa) for brekky and we then bumped into the producer of the tv commercial. He took us for coffee, talked about the commercial, announced that there was no room for Loosa, took some measurements for clothes that they were thinking of making (but in reality didnt) and tried to ask Loosa out on a date.
After a while me and Loosa headed out and rented bikes to ride a few km to see the only real sights in Cochin. There was an old palace which was very unimpressive on the outside but contained some murals in the inside that were interesting. Most were of a Hindu religious nature and beautifully coloured. A particularly memorable pannel shows Vishnu (?) touching up eight happy milkmaids simultaneously!
Loosa had not gone into the palace and had said that she would be in the grounds somewhere. Eventually after waiting around for 20 minutes I saw her in a nearby shop and she announced that she wanted to do some more shopping so I found somewhere with a fan and chilled out for another 30 minutes, getting slightly impatient in the process. Afterwards there was some excellent food at a local restaurant and we briefly saw the synagogue but it was closed as it was a Saturday. Me and Loosa then parted ways she she wanted to cycle round some more and do yet more shopping, but I had to head back as I was going to the theater and had to wash my trousers, which I needed for the filming the following day; as I had managed to get curry stains on them during lunch. (naturally)
After an hour of washing my trousers with a bar of soap in the tiny guesthouse bathroom I headed out to the theater, bumping into the tv producer yet again in the process. It was to be quite possibly the most bizarre show I have ever seen. Two key players, one dressed as a man and one as a woman acted using a series of strange hand movements and at one point acted for 20 minutes only using their eyes and face! They could move their eyes in time to the music at incredible speeds. It was extremely bizarre. At one point as well there was 20 minutes of constant drumming. I left the theater feeling uncertain if I enjoyed the performance or not. It did not help that the theater was in a large, unsealed hut and so I got eaten by mossies during the time I was there.
I met the other extras at a crossroads in central Cochin at 7am the following morning and after some faffing around because some people were really late, we were off. It turned out that we would be filming in a IT business park and advertising the same park and the tax breaks that you get there. The add was pretending that we were in an airport though and I was given an ill fitting business suit and a laptop that I was meant to be showing another extra/businessman (James) something on.
There were some amusing inconsistencies with the filming. In one scene I had a laptop and another where I am walking the laptop is gone. Then there was the luggage that people had with them while waiting to board the place. Most of it was too big to be hand luggage and it all had luggage tags on them, however you would not have luggage with the tags on with you while waiting to board the plane - they always tag the bag and then send it off to the hold when you check in. Hmmm...
It was a really long day in the end with everyone becomming noticably irritated by the end of the day. Everything was re-shot about 20 times and we eventfully finished at 9pm. Then the producer took us out for a meal at a restaurant (which again sold no beer) and we had some excellent Indian food.
The following morning I left Kerala for the south. Kerala was completely different to what I had been expecting, partly because I had heard so many horror stories about traveling in India from fellow travelers. I think though that travelling in northern India is harder then the south, but even so I have been hassled less here then in SE Asia and everything was really nice. It was a pleasant surprise.