Varanasi was the last stop on our OAT tour. From there we flew to Delhi and on to Trivandrum, the English spelling of Thiruvananthapuram (try saying that three times or once), its name in the local language, Malayalam. Trivandrum is the capital city of the Indian southern state of Kerala. It’s almost on the southernmost tip of India, on the portion of the Indian Ocean called the Arabian Sea in India.

On this leg it was just us and our friends, Grace and Francis (Pete) Peters, who live in Morgan Hill, CA, about 70 south of us. We met Grace and Pete on our African safari trip in 2011 and became fast friends. Believe it or not, they travel more than we do. Grace and Pete are why we came to India now—the reason for the whole trip.  

Last winter they told us that their niece, Kelly Peters, was engaged to marry Sharat Nair (they live in Los Angeles) in India on January 2, 2013, and they planned to attend. Would we like to tour India and also attend the wedding? There would be no other guests from “Kelly’s side” other than her parents (Pete’s brother, Dennis, and his wife, Nadine, from Kansas) and aunt and uncle (Grace and Pete). More American guests could heighten the bride’s position in the Indian family. Previously, both Eli and Pete had sworn India was very, very low on their potential travel lists, had told Grace and me to go together and have a good time while they’d go somewhere else. But a wedding in the Peters family changed that. For good measure they invited us to their house when Kelly and Sharat came to visit last spring, so at least we’d meet the couple before attending their wedding.

Kerala differs from northern India in climate and topography, as well as culture and cuisine. It was really hot there—at least 90 and humid during the days—but this was somewhat welcome after the chill of  Varanasi. Also, other than the wedding, this leg provided some pleasant relaxation—no early wake-up calls (except the day of the wedding—more later on that), sunshine, time to swim and generally recharge after our hectic itineraries in Bhutan and northern India. But the four of us did take a long weekend side trip with Kelly and her parents to Kochi (formerly Cochin) up the sea coast and Munnar in a mountainous inland area.   

Hoisters of the Chinese nets in Kochi

Kochin/Cochin looks somewhat like an old Key West with palm tree lined streets and architecture influenced by the Portuguese and Dutch settlers who lived there. We visited both vintage Catholic and Protestant churches founded by each group, as well as a renown old synagogue.

Outside Cochin synagogue

No photos inside—and no Jews anymore in Cochin either. Following Indian, rather than Jewish, custom we removed our shoes to visit this temple. The fishing industry remains prominent in Cochin, as it was from the city’s origins. They still use the so-called Chinese nets, which a team of men demonstrate hoisting (pulling ropes) while tourists stand on a wooden platform.                                     

You can buy the catch of the day and have it cooked to order. (We didn’t.)


Chinese net open

Munnar is a center for tea plantations. Higher than Kochi, it was pleasantly cooler and very green. This is one hill station area where the British and wealthy Indians traditionally retreated from the cities during hot weather. We met a couple who live in Milwaukee but hail originally from India (he’s retired from Johnson Controls) who told us ownership of the tea plantation land has reverted from private to corporate (Tata, whch seems to own all of India), but the plantations themselves are employee-owned and operated.     

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