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Solo Trip: Trivandrum to Kochi

It was Friday that day and there was a two-day-long weekend holiday for my office where I was interning. I and my colleagues were already planning the trip for the coming weekend. But none of the plans got finalized for some reason. So, I didn’t want to waste those two precious days of mine in Kerala. Hence, I decided to plan myself a solo trip for which I had no experience before. It was around 4 pm, I was sitting in the office thinking about what to do on the weekend when the idea of visiting fort-Kochi hit my mind.

Kerala is one of the main centres for spices trade for a long time. It is also known as the hub of black pepper and Fort Kochi was the main headquarters during that trading period in the past era. In 1503, the king of Kochi gave Kochi to the Portuguese on the grant so that they will facilitate the troops in fighting against the neighbour’s states. They did the same and created a base on the bank of the ocean and named that as Fort Kochi. They ruled Kochi for about 160 years and also built schools, churches, and army rest houses in Fort Kochi in Portuguese style. In 1683, Dutch attacked the Portuguese and attained Kochi completely. Dutch ruled Kochi over 112 years. The Britishers were tempted over high trade expansion of Kochi and because of their greed, they defeated the Dutch. Britishers ruled till 1947. Hence, now it’s evident how Kochi supposedly influences the Dutch, Portuguese, and British architectural style. 

 I discussed the idea with two of my Malayali friends and confirmed with them if it was safe to travel alone to that location. Choosing a safe location initially is very important when you are travelling alone for the first time. After getting the green sign from them I immediately booked the train ticket from Trivandrum to Kochi.

The train was scheduled at 3.30 am. I had to go to the train station on Friday night itself as I was travelling alone and also, later the possibility of getting the cabs from the area where I stayed was very less. So right after returning to my pg, I started to pack my bag, ate dinner, and took a bus to the Thampanoor bus stand which was around 7-8 km from my pg. It is an 8-floor government building on which, one entire floor is provided as a restroom for the woman traveler’s which is completely free of cost. Women can go and stay there for a night if they are having a late-night or early morning train. It is completely air-conditioned, safe, clean, and has CCTV coverage by the government itself. This place is run by a government NGO named “Ente Koodu” in Malayalam which means ”Our nest” in English. The women coming to the city for random needs could stay up to three days here. The shelter provides free and secure accommodation facilities to women and children up to 12 years accompanying them from 5 pm to 7 am. There is a facility for 50 persons to stay at a time. Also, there are enough toilets and space for the kitchen.

Reaching there I found a comfortable place for myself and slept after setting up an alarm. I got up at around 2.45 am, freshen up, and headed towards Trivandrum railway station which is just on the opposite side of the KSRTC bus-stop terminal. I reached the station at around 3.10 am, I had a strong cup of tea while waiting for the train’s arrival on the platform.

The train departed on time. Since the decision was so last moment, I couldn’t plan the trip before. The train usually takes 4-4.5 hrs to reach Ernakulam Junction from Trivandrum Central Station which was good enough for me to plan the trip. So, I utilized my time researching and planning the trip which was the foundational step for my entire trip. It kind of gave me a headache because it was altogether a different place to study and discover. The only things I had done were to pick my bag, book tickets, and catch a train. I had no clue about what will happen next. It was as if I was planning a surprise present for myself.

Planning did require a lot of reading and searching. So first I listed the places which are worth visiting. Then I checked the approximate distances of those from each other. So that the time shouldn’t be wasted and I could visit maximum places. And also, it will be very handy for me when I walk alone later.

Also, most of the places to see there are museums, synagogues, and churches which have a particular opening and closing time. So, I planned and listed the destinations in such a way that distances and the timings should be well synchronized.

After figuring out the list for spots to visit I checked the transport facilities. I discovered that there are so many small islands connected. Then studying those took a while. I learned that the local transport there is by ferries. Which is again a very new concept for me. So, I studied the ferry routes and their timings. Looking at the list I felt that it won’t be possible to cover all the places in a single day and return on the same so stay was a must. No matter what I was prepared. I always carry a lightweight blanket, one extra pair of clothes, and a book with me whenever I travel. 

The last thing remaining for me to plan was a place to stay. Most of the places I had to visit was in Mattancherry island so, I decided to find the stay on that island. I found a good place with maximum ratings and reviews on booking.com at a very affordable price which was also very centrally located. Kochi beach was just 1 km away from the stay. The train somehow got late by 1-1.5 hr from the scheduled arrival, so I rested for a while as I got a bit of strain on my eyes by looking for things and studying all the while. I was all set for my journey.

The train was late for about 1.5 hrs. I reached Ernakulam junction at around 9.30-9.45 am. I was very hungry as I didn’t have breakfast. Getting down I took an auto to the ferry station which was around 2.5-3 km from the railway station. The auto driver was very cooperative with me. He dropped me at the Ernakulam jetty terminal and gave me directions to proceed with. The terminal was moderately low crowded. There was already a jetty at the station where they sent us. I could observe how the people rushed to occupy the window seats first to experience the water more closely. We had to wait until the full boat occupied. The conductor came to collect the ticket money which was Rs 10 for non-ac and 20 for ac. Just like buses ferries also has their stops. I got down at the second stop which was Mattancherry. It was around 20-25 mins journey. It was already very late so, I decided not to waste time. After getting down I switched on my Google map and marked my destinations in sequence to what I had planned and walked as it guided me. I always prefer to travel walking over auto if the places are not very far from each other. It gives you more time and space to observe and feel the place in detail.

 So, the first destination was the Dutch palace which is situated in the Jew town. I was very hungry until I reached there. I could find a veg hotel which was on the premises of the palace. I had Masala Dosa and tea from there. I didn’t freshen up since getting down from the train, I requested the hotel manager to take care of my stuff until I return. Travelling alone is not very easy as it sounds. After having a good breakfast, I headed towards the Dutch palace. The architecture was so beautiful, traditional and typical Kerala style with a touch of Portuguese. The palace is now converted to a museum and it’s kind of information centre for the history of the kings and their empire. It is famous for its wall paintings depicting stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata, etc. their two rooms where photography is not permitted. The ticket was Rs 5.

After that, I went to see the synagogue which is again 0.5 km from the palace. The way to the synagogue is through the Jew town where there is a crafts market. People could be seen selling decorative pieces, rangolis, Kashmiri clothes, organic and preserved spices, etc. One gets a feeling of entering a foreign country as the majority of people could be seen are the foreigners. Photography was prohibited there. The interiors of the synagogue were intriguing. The colours, the chandeliers, the tiling’s, the furniture, the double heightened decorative ceiling of wood looked prominent. I couldn’t take pictures so, I sat in there and made a few sketches so that it will always remain in my visual memory. The Ticket to the Synagogue was Rs 5.

It was very sunny, and so I took a break to take a cool lemon soda from a nearby place. It was almost 1.30 pm. I was exhausted from walking since morning hence I decided to take a nap at my room. So, looked for an auto but had a bad experience finding one. Auto wallas in that area of Jew Town particularly prefer to approach the foreigners as they make big business through them. I have nothing about that but the first time in my life I felt like an outsider in my own country. I just took that as an experience. I walked towards my room which was again like 1.8 km from there. On the way, I could notice a well-known St. Georgian orthodox church designed by Vinu Danial a famous architect from Kerala itself. I sat in the church for a while as it felt so peaceful just sitting there. Then I headed towards my room which was again 0.5 km from there. It is basically in an apartment. That floor is converted to a guest room that has a hall, dining space, kitchen, two bedrooms reserved for double and triple rooms, and one room for a six-bed dorm. Below there was a Spice shop of the owner itself. I could clearly hear the azan from the mosque which was just opposite to the stay. Since I was travelling alone, I booked a dorm bed. But fortunately, that day there were no other bookings except one that of mine. Also got it at a very reasonable price. It was immaculate with all the amenities and with kitchen, utensils which were all necessary. I decided to take bath and took a nap for a while. I woke up at around 4.30. Locked the room and headed walking to towards the beach-side. In between, there were two churches to visit known for their architecture and grandeur. Many people had gathered as there were some prayers were going on. After a while, I headed towards the naval museum but unfortunately, when I reached there it had just got shut. I took an auto to the beach because walking another 1 km was beyond my capacity.

People had already gathered there to watch the sunset. Slowly the crowd started increasing. I found a comfortable place for myself and sat watching the sunset. It was the best sunset I have seen in my life. I was fortunate enough to have a clear sky that day. The sky and the water seemed to meet on the horizon. As the sun came below the red light was completely reflected into the river body. It was although I was witnessing the marriage of the sky and the water where they become a single entity. It was all blood-red everywhere. It felt miraculous. On the other side, I video called my parents to show them the sunset also it was when I told them where I was. The expressions of them were so mixed. They looked pretty surprised, amazed, kind of worried, and seemed to have so many questions on their face at the same time. Then I narrated the whole story to them, and then they were fine and also proud. Which again built my confidence. Having supportive parents is a blessing. It started getting dark when I got up and walked towards the room. Within a min, it was so dark that I had to turn my mobile torchlight on. It is a must carry a torch when you travel to places like Kerala. There were very fewer streetlights. I realized that I took one wrong turn. Then immediately I found the correct way and reached the room. I was so hungry as I was only on what I ate in the morning.

I checked for delivery options there. Zomato had good deals than Swiggy there. The delivery came very quickly but it wasn’t what I had ordered. I had placed an order for a veg dish, but they sent me non-veg. So, I called the customer service, and they asked me to place the order again and refunded me all the money. Kochi is a city hence there were multiple options to order food, so I preferred north Indian because I missed eating it. So, this time I ordered veg biryani. So now the question was what to do with the previous food. I didn’t want it to get wasted also I had no one to share that within the entire apartment. So, when my next delivery came, I explained to the delivery person about the situation and told him that the food is hot and untouched while requesting him to give it to someone needy on my behalf. He looked very pious and understanding person. Also, the conversation we had was in English his English was fluent. Hats off to south India for its literacy. Without any hesitation, he took the parcel from me and appreciated me for my thought. I smiled back and thanked him for that. 

I felt much relieved, less burdened, and happy. Not doing so would have me regretted later.

After dinner, I fell asleep because of all the tiredness of the day. Both mentally and physically.

The next day I got up early at 6 am. Checked for the return train timings and booked the return ticket. I checked out from the room at around 9.30 am had some tea from a small breakfast place.

I made a conversation with the person there asking about nearby places. He suggested me to visit an Athirapally waterfall where one of the scenes from Bahubali movie was filmed. But it was 2 hr away from there and I decided to plan a separate trip for that. Then I took an auto till Mattancherry jetty terminal. I had to brunch from a nearby restaurant which looked very decent. The interiors looked fresh. The structure seemed to be an old Portuguese structure that was renovated and converted into a restaurant. The windows were evidence of that. I ordered fried rice and coffee along. Keralites know exactly how to make coffee. It’s so perfect. After the brunch I took a ferry back to Ernakulam, I reach there at around 11.30 am. From there I took an auto to a bird Sanctuary which was around 3 km from the Ernakulam jetty terminal. It wasn’t very big, as in the tourist circulation was limited. It had a bird-watching tower for the tourists.

After some time, I took another rickshaw to a nearby coconut museum but found out that it was closed because of a government holiday and so other places were too. So, I requested the driver to drop me to the railway station. I waited there observing people, trains, the movements, the platform details until my train come. There was a café inside the platform which was so good. I had a dish there which they call it “masala bonda” very similar to what “Vadapav” we Maharashtrians eat. So, no doubt I was so happy to eat it. Then came my train, I got into it and started reading the book. I could sense that the lady beside me seemed curious to know about me and probably wanted to start a conversation with me but I had no energy to talk, so I kept reading the book or listened to songs.

All I wanted was to go back to PG and sleep. Around 8.30 pm I reached Trivandrum central. Took another bus to Pongumoodu where my PG was. Reached there by 9 pm. Took parcel of an egg that was freshly fried in coconut oil and parotta from a nearby shop. I had dinner and slept.

This is how my solo trip ended peacefully. Yes, it was a bit hectic to manage everything by me but in the end, it is all worth it. It feels powerful and liberated. Believe my words or experience it yourself. *Winks*

SUMMARY OF THE TOTAL EXPENDITURE.

TRAIN tickets
1.Trivandrum to Ernakulam Junction: 108 Rs
Type: Second Seating
2.Ernakulam to Trivandrum: 150Rs
Type: Second Seating
3.MS Homestay rent (dormitory): 230 Rs
4.Auto Ernakulam Junction to Ernakullam Jetty Terminal: 40Rs
5.Ernakulam Jetty Terminal to Mattanchery Ferry Port: 10Rs.
6.Breakfast Dosa and Tea: 55Rs
7.Dutch Palace: 5 Rs
8.Synagogue: 5 Rs
9.Auto from Navy Museum to Kochi Beach: 30Rs
10.Dinner Rs: 133 Veg Biryani
Restaurant: Sardarji Ka Dhaba Express
11.Auto MS Homestay to Mattanchery Ferry Station: 30Rs
12.Brunch at Moidus Heritage Hotel : 110Rs
Veg fried Rice And coffee
13.Mattancherry Port to Ernakulam Jetty Terminal: 10 Rs
14.Auto From Ernakulam bus stop to Mangalavanam Bird Sanctuary: 60 Rs
15.Auto from Kachery Chowk near Mangalvanam sanctuary to Ernakulam junction: 50Rs
16.Cafe at Station: 40rs.
17.Extras: 50
18.Egg Parcel: 45

Total: 1200 Rs Approximately. Including Travel, Food, Tickets, Extras.

Thank you and keep reading…And stay TUNED for the next update.

Should my next blog be on the list of places to visit in Kochi? 

Comment it down below.

Kerala Budget Trips.

Everyone has certain point in their life when they realize what they exactly want in their life.  I realized my love for travelling when I first visited Kerala in November, 2017.

Being an architecture student, we need to travel a lot to experience new places, their cultures and traditions, climate, architecture styles and elements etc.  We got to visit Kerala through an architecture workshop organized by NASA (National Association of Students of Architecture) at Laurie Baker Center, Trivandrum.

It was the first time as students we were travelling from Pune to Trivandrum by ourselves without our teachers, parents, guides or any tours and travellers.  Parents were bit worried because 38 hours journey wasn’t less. But me and around 11 of my classmates traveling together was a big sigh of relief for them since we had each other to look after. 

From pune we took first train to Panvel.  There was a halt of 2 hours in between.  We put locks on our luggage and kept those in the clock room.  It was lunch time.  We had lunch at small hotel.  Celebrated one of our friend’s birthday and somehow killed the time till our next train from Panvel to Trivandrum.  Long train journeys are not easy and worse if you don’t get good companions throughout the travel. Fortunately, this train journey we had was one of the best we will ever have in our lives.  Not being under the constraints of our parents or anyone we were free souls who interacted with strangers without any judgement.  That’s the best part of train journeys.  No one will judge you on what you say.  You can just speak up your heart to them as they don’t have anything to do with you and probably you won’t see them again ever!   Luckily, we got company of some Navy guys who are still friends to us till date.  They were extremely humorous and fun-loving people. They were playing Bhojpuri songs, dancing, playing Ludo and sharing their life experiences with us all the time. Also, there was a small 2-year kid who was very cheerful and playful with all the people around him.  Also, most importantly he never bothered to disturb our sleep or peace by being a cry baby.  Hence, we all loved him.  The whole compartment was filled with fun and laughter leaving no room to get bored.

The guys got down at kochi station which is 5 hrs away from Trivandrum.  They were so overwhelmed by the bond we all created within few hours which also made one of them cry. This is how strangers become friends.  We all exchanged our social media accounts and promised each other to be in touch with each other and waived them a good bye.   Suddenly the compartment turned very gloomy.  All the other passengers got down and only me and my classmates were left inside it heading towards Trivandrum. 

It was midnight when we reached Kochuveli station in Trivandrum.  It was all dark when we got down from the train carrying our luggage towards the station exit.  The platform was super clean with excellent waiting facilities, especially women’s waiting seemed safe and sound.  The LBC people had already arranged a bus for us from Kochuveli railway station to Laurie baker centre, Vilappilsala

 which was 20km and 30min away. After reaching there we freshened up, had dinner and slept.

As we had planned our journey by train, we reached Trivandrum 2 days prior to the workshop.  Hence, we had 2 days in our hands to explore some more of Trivandrum.   I won’t describe much about Laurie baker Center now as I am planning to post about it with all the trip budget and expenses details very soon.

On our first day at LBC we decided to visit around and explore few places and beaches nearby.  So, we enquired few locals at LBC and began our day.

The campus is located on a hill so we had to walk down towards the foot of it and at the end of it was a road junction.  At the corner there was a bus stop and a rickshaw stand adjacent to it and also, few shops selling essential items. We could notice so many banana shops with so many varieties of it which is not a usual scenario in Pune. 

We decided to visit the nearest beach which was Kovalam Beach. We enquired the rickshaw wallas how much will they take and they were not coming below 400rs. Since we were on very tight budget we decided to go by bus. We were on the outskirts of the Trivandrum City, so the bus frequency was very low. The climate was very humid and we were all wet with sweat. Since the bus nameplates were in Malayalam and also there was no numbering system to it, every time we had to ask people around us to help us and inform if the bus come. After a long wait of one hour came our bus.

The bus scene was very epic and comedy.  The buses in kerala are different than those in Pune. They do not have sliding windows instead they have rolling metal shutters.  One really feels claustrophobic in those and also it difficult to know if your stop has been arrived if you are not familiar to the local language there which is Malayalam. So, we climbed the bus and noticed that all the men were standing in the front and women at the back end which is not the same in pune.  we took the ticket and were surprised with the very less cost of 17rs per head. We were thankful of not going by rickshaw and on saving so many bucks.

We were three girls and one boy.  So, the conductor asked him to stand in the front but he didn’t understand the language and stood there itself. After 5 minutes a woman told me in sign language to better stand behind and let him stand at the front otherwise, they will beat us.  And I got very scared and very first impression about kerala of mine became very negative.  We were standing at the back and all the ladies surrounding us were looking top to bottom at us as if we were some aliens.  We somehow tried asking them to just inform us when the stop arrives. Putting down at ease one lady asked me not to worry and she will inform us when to get down.

It was around 12 in the afternoon when we got down at Palayam junction.  We visited nearby Napier Museum which has a collection of archaeological and historical artifacts.  At 1.30 we headed towards Palayam bus stop to catch another bus to east fort bus stop from where we were supposed to get the bus to Kovalam.  We all were so hungry we decided to eat first and had lunch in Aruna vegetarian restaurant right in front of the Connemara market at Palayam bakery junction. On the junction there are two ‘pallis’ located.  One a mosque and another a Syrian church.  Term ‘palli’ in Malayalam is used to address the places of worship in general.  And also, there is a big Chandra Shekhar Nair football stadium opposite to church and adjacent to the mosque which added to the grandeur of the junction. After lunch we took a bus to east fort which was 3km away from Palayam and the ticket was 7rs. Right opposite to east fort bus stop locates the world’s richest Shree Padmanabhaswamy temple whose significance we were not aware about at that time and also, we had very less time left with us as we had to return back by 7 pm because it gets real dark thereafter.

So, we just went and had a quick glance of the temple from the front and then took a bus to Kovalam which cost us 17 Rs.  We went to the beach and enjoyed the beauty of it.  The beach was clean too.  We had coconut flavoured ice-cream and coconut water, etc.  Then there was return bus to east fort again and from there to LBC, Vilappilsala.  Again, had to face the same problem of communication and we were very tensed if were heading towards the right direction.  The bus took serious long time to reach since it was raining and it also took another long route. By god’s grace again there was someone to help us out. Reaching back, we got down at the same stop from where we took the bus initially in the morning.  It was just 7pm and it was dark like it was the middle of the night.  It was raining very heavily, one few street lights, water reached till our knees.  Somehow, we managed to find a rickshaw till LBC who charged us heavily like 50rs for less than a km or so.  Reaching there was like ending up into a deep dark forest,  no electricity there due to bad weather,  the centre is located in the forest so the path was difficult to find in darkness,  we were all wet, holding each other’s hands, umbrellas,  scared of snakes,  managing the mobile flash lights but somehow adventurously we managed to reach our cottage. We changed clothes and made ourselves comfortable again. And that’s how our first day went by.

The real challenge was not just to roam around and visiting places but to face the unknown place and situations without knowing the local language which made us feel more confident as well as responsible. Also taught that even SMALL THINGS, INSPIRE A LOT

BUDGET EXPENDITURE SUMMARY FOR THE DAY PER HEAD.

250/- for the stay for one night + 50/- Dinner.

Bus fare from Vilappilsala to Palayam: 17/-

Lunch 83/-

Bus fare from Palayam Bakery junction to East fort: 7/-

Bus fare from East fort to Kovalam: 17/-

Bus fare from Kovalam to East Fort: 17/-

Bus fare from East Fort to Vilappilsala: 18/-

Rickshaw fare till LBC: 12.5Rs per head contribution

Extras around 60/-

Total: Approximate expenditure was around Rs 540/- per head including Stay, Food, Transport and extras.

Thanks for reading. Stay Tuned for next Update...

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