A Whiff of Incredible ¡ndia— Chennai, Cochin & Goa

September 15, 2018

April 1-6, 2018 [with 3 sea days in the midst]


[I give up. I am a hopeless photo editor. So many shots bring back so many memories, and I am enjoying revisiting all the places I saw on my trip. The first go ’round, I divided the subcontinent into 4 blog posts, one per port. But this first stab has gotten so, shall we say, comprehensive, I’m going to put the first three ports in this post, and do a separate one for Mumbai.]


It is such a huge and populous country, a full week in and around India can give you just a whiff. A ‘whiff’ ? 


Another passenger warned me that the first time he neared India by ship, he could smell it before he could see it.


‘Ewwwww,’ said I.


‘No, no,’ said he. ‘The spices! You can smell the spices!’


Smell the spices... and marvel at the colors...

​... and smile back at the throngs of brown-skinned people... 

... and know that the cows in the streets and on the sidewalks are fed by passersby making offerings to these sacred animals...


Before I left home, friends asked what part of the trip I was most looking forward to. I said, India. Even though I have friends who went and would never go back — too crowded, too dirty — it was India’s unknowability that intrigued me. Its total difference from any place I had ever been. Rumer Godden’s two-volume autobiography probably had something to do with it, not to mention Jewel in the Crown and the like. Of our four ports, I really enjoyed three of them. But not the first.


First stop: Chennai, formerly called Madras. There weren’t many ‘sights’ to see (an old British fort, a couple of churches) but there were wonderful people shots and so much (literal) local color. As I wrote in the original post, ‘So far — after only one of four ports — I think of Incredible !ndia as a place plagued by poverty and garbage, but vibrant with color — and lots ... of billboards!’ My very smart move was not to get off the bus to visit this Hindu temple: ​

The bus circled many blocks in Mylapore, the old Indian district, trying to find, among the street markets and napping cows, a place large enough to park a big bus. My luck! I took dozens of photos along the way:


Have no idea what the words mean, but look at the paint job !


There are scooters and motorcycles everywhere, most with multiple riders. Can you spot Rider #4?


Retying his turban. None of us will ever know this man’s story...


Not a great photo (my dress is reflected in the picture) but I like it anyway. You can’t quite see his eyes — he was smiling at me.

A family waiting outside the San Thome Basilica, where the remains of the apostle Saint Thomas are said to remain. What are they waiting for?


Second stop: Cochin, or Kochi as the locals call it. I’d never heard of it. But its history is fascinating  — what country’s or city’s history isn’t fascinating if you take the time to learn something about it? Kochi was a — some say the — major spice trading center for a thousand years. Especially pepper. In 1503 the Portuguese arrived and made it the first European colony in colonial India. Later it came under Dutch, then British rule.


Our bus guide asked, Does anyone want to stop at an old laundry? Sure, we said, Why not? The Dhobi Khana laundry was established in 1720 to tend to Dutch uniforms.


First you Wash...



Then you Dry...


Then you Press. There is electricity (see wires and wall sockets), but this iron is filled with hot coals. I saw a stack of freshly laundered men’s shirts — they looked perfect.


Moving on... Selling bracelets at the seaside. I don’t remember where, but our guide knew just where she was from, by her clothes. Not from Kochi...

In the Jewish Quarter, where only 5 Jewish residents remain...




Third stop: Goa. Until 1961, it belonged to Portugal, who’d been there for 450 years. As I wrote before: ‘They came to convert the heathens. They stayed to get rich.’ Spices, you know. Because it was under Portuguese rule for so long, there are a vast number of Catholic churches. Not what I had expected to see. This is the Basilica of Bom Jesus, in what’s called Old Goa.



Literally across the road is the Sé Cathedral, called the largest cathedral in Asia.

​A grab shot from the bus. Too bad it’s not in focus. Consider it ‘impressionistic.’

 On to Panaji, Goa’s capital, with its colorful Portuguese style houses.


Back on the bus. Would you have thought this was an ‘Indian’ house? It’s Goan.

Fourth stop: Mumbai. Stay tuned.  #













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December 4, 2018

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