The Sapphire Princess with 2,600 passengers is in port with us this morning and the locals are setting up merchandise tents on the pier. Yippee, local shopping. Mel's says I cannot buy anyone scarfs. But they are so beautiful! I ended up with a pair of pants with elephants on them. The Princess group looks mostly Americans and about 15 years younger than us, on average. Must be a shorter cruise. Maybe even a few 40 somethings!!!
Immigration is just a tab bit easier. First you present your landing permit to the guy at the end of the gangplank. Walk 50 yards to the immigration tent and get it scanned by a laptop guy. Walk two steps and have it checked again before you leaving the tent. Walk 50 yards to our bus and show the officer our landing permit before boarding the bus. On the way back, we show our landing permit on the bus before the bus can be let into the port area. From there it is the same as getting off, but we are scanned back on the ship. Same thing to get off the ship to go to the shopping tents.
We are on the standard included tour to the top tourist spots therefore we run into a lot of the Princess tours. Portuguese settled Cochin in 1500, so the first stop is a Catholic church, St Francis. Established in 1503 and still in use today. Austere, in contrast to all the Hindu temples we have seen lately. Even here we had to take our shoes off to protect the tile floor. Mel and I have gotten smarter and brought a pair of socks to put over our socks. That way we can slip the dirty socks off and on and not get the interior of our shoes dirty. We should have done this for Chennai as we had to take of shoes off twice for temples and really didn’t want to put those socks back into our shoes after walking around in the dirt and stuff. Back at the ship, we disinfected our shoes with Gold Bond powder and Absorbine Jr. Today, we also brought along some clothes and a pair of Mel’s shoes to leave at the church charity box. An idea from our fellow passengers to leave more room for purchases.
It is two blocks to the Bay of Bengal for a walk along the seashore. The salespeople are more aggressive here, following you around, putting stuff in your face, even to touching your arm. All kinds of things for sale including an instant pasta maker and spirograph drawings. Glad we had sunglasses on because you don’t want them to think you are at all interested. “Chinese” fishing nets are the big attraction here. These a big nets, cantilever into the water and raised back up by large counterweights. Our quide told us they actually fish with then at night, but operate some of them during the day as a tourist attraction. We saw them raise and lower one of the nets which did have a fish in it. Very elaborate mechanism. It’s the only place outside of China that uses this technic, hence the “Chinese” name. Along the seashore we met two water buffalo, immersed in their own personal pond of BLACK water.
Next stop is the Mattancherry Palace, built by the Portuguese in 1555 for the local maharajah. It’s a mix of Portuguese structure design and Hindu décor inside. Very busy place but our guide takes care to give us the history. He especially explains the beautiful murals which depict the Hindu stories of the deities. The murals are still vivid after 500 years. The Princess Cruise tours fly by us in the museum, not stopping to absorb the place. Next door, on the same grounds is a Jewish synagogue. Our guide keeps emphasizing that all the religions have lived in harmony for centuries. The Jewish community was quite large until the formation of Israel, when most of them moved back there. The Jewish quarter or Jew Town as the sign says, is still a vibrant market and spice area. We did not get to go into the synagogue as it is still Jewish holidays but walking around the area was interesting for the colors and smells (mostly good).
So far, Mel and I have not seen the poverty and filth others have talked about. The worse we saw was the pond the two water buffalo were in and… they seemed content with it.