The first few days of this trip seemed too easy. Yes, there were the typical problems that happen, mostly associated with my being an awful negotiator, but overall the trip was going pretty well. It was a far cry from our first trip to India six years ago when things just seemed a lot harder. Maybe it was because we weren’t taking public transportation. But that trip was only one train ride and the rest basically the same as this one. Maybe it was because India had chilled out in the past 6 years. Or maybe because I’m a better traveler. Neither of those really seemed likely either.
And then we made the hop from Kochi to Chennai and reality came rushing back in a hurry. The two hours of traffic to travel the 43 kilometers from our hotel to the airport in Kochi was just the beginning. The flight was actually fine and the transfer from the airport to the hotel was lovely. Then we tried to get out of the hotel and do some other things. Maybe a trip to the beach, or just to wander around the neighborhood and over to the mall a kilometer away. Not so fast.
Getting a car was either ridiculously expensive or going to take hours, so that was no good. We did end up making the walk over to the mall which had only 3 stores open. Sure, one of them is selling out all the leftover inventory of tulip-liveried United Airlines models in the toys section, but that’s not really going to get me very far. We did head to the bar at the brand new Hyatt in the same building (quite lovely), but even that portion of the trip had its own collection of fun, like all the beggars that apparently are kept out of Fort Cochin were trucked in here. Or the tuk tuk driver who stalked us for a few blocks, waiting for us to give up and hop in. The roads were chaotic and the crowds much crazier. It was the India I remember, the India I love.
I love that it is a harder experience. I love that the ride back on the tuk tuk took us by some less than elegant neighborhoods and that we saw not just the sanitized version but also the real bits of life on the streets here. Those experiences are what make travel so amazing to me. I can get mediocre quality hotel food anywhere in the world; getting out and seeing what’s actually happening on the streets means a few more risks, a few more challenges and tremendously greater reward.
Kerala is relatively easy travel. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it also just isn’t quite the same. I’m happy to get to experience the challenge again. I’ve got two more days of it and I cannot wait. Game on!
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