The 5-hour bus ride from Cochin to Munnar was one of the most terrifying rides of my life. The first hour was city driving, but then we hit the mountains and for the next four hours I was just waiting to die. We were on a narrow two-lane road with skull-and-crossbone signs around every corner warning drivers to go slow. But I was on a bus with the world’s most aggressively maniacal driver who was making it his mission to piss off everyone on the road and scare the shit out of his passengers. Imagine, if you will, every single bad driving habit that exists (speeding, tailgating, illegally passing, driving in the wrong lane, slamming breaks, cutting people off, belligerent honking, yelling out the window, talking on a cell phone, etc). Now, most Indians do most of these things most of the time. But, this guy was doing all of them… all the time. He even yelled out the window at a traffic cop who was scolding him for driving in the oncoming traffic lane, which he did so that he could pass, like, three cars.
Fort Kochi (also Fort Cochin) is the first city I visited in the state of Kerala. It’s really only known for the Chinese fishing nets that local fishermen use to catch a wide array of fish from the Indian Ocean, which they then sell whole to locals and tourists. After purchasing the fish, you can walk it a short distance and have it cooked at a nearby restaurant. Because these large, manually-operated nets are the #1 attraction in Lonely Planet, they have been turned into a bit of a tourist trap. If you walk near them, several fishermen will approach you and show you how the net works and allow you to operate it for a few minutes, and then turn around and ask you for a tip. Unfortunately, although Fort Kochi is a peninsula and therefore surrounded on three sides by water, there are no swimmable beaches in the city because they are all littered with either fishing nets or trash.
One evening in Fort Kochi (Cochin, Kerala) I decided to check out this cultural center that was advertising traditional Indian performances, specifically something called Kathakali.