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Heart of India 2015

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Post-trip: The South of India: Kerala & Cochin

Some 1,300 miles south of Delhi lies a paradise of sandalwood-scented beaches ... stunning southern Indian architecture ... legendary cuisine ... and multicultural European ports. Add to that an enviable reputation as India's most advanced, peaceful, literate, and ecologically-minded state. Discover the best of it by land, and by cruising its idyllic backwaters aboard a traditional houseboat.

It's Included:
Airfare from Delhi to Cochin and from Cochin to Mumbai
Accommodations for 2 nights aboard our houseboat, 2 nights in Cochin, and 1 night in Mumbai
15 meals—6 breakfasts, 4 lunches, and 5 dinners
6 small group activities
Services of our own resident OAT Trip Leader, who speaks English and the native language
NEW for 2015: Gratuities for local guides, ship crew, drivers, and luggage porters
All transfers
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    • Meals included:
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    Enjoy an early breakfast this morning before your flight from Delhi to Cochin (also called Kochi). Upon arrival at Cochin we'll transfer to the jetty to board our comfortable small, private houseboat. After checking in to your rooms here, your Trip Leader will give you a brief orientation with afternoon tea or coffee.

    Our two- or three-cabin boat has teak and cane paneling, antique furnishings, local accents, and a dining lounge with panoramic views. You'll sail along placid, mirror-like lagoons, fringed by palms and resplendent with birds and wildlife, and watch local fishermen cast their nets or women wade in the clear waters, fishing in their bare feet. This afternoon, we'll find a suitable place to anchor, enjoying this unique scenery while we eat lunch.

    Later, we'll enjoy a special Welcome Dinner onboard.

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    • Meals included:
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    We cruise on our houseboat all day today. Relax on board and observe the everyday lives of the villagers along the river and canals. At various stops along the way, we’ll go ashore to meet local people—and maybe partake in a cup of famous Southern Indian “Meter High Tea.” You can also try your hand at fishing as we cruise along.

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    We have breakfast onboard, and then disembark for the drive to Cochin. Cochin is a storied South Indian city layered with Jewish, Portuguese, Chinese, and British influences. After having lunch in the old fort area, we tour Cochin’s intriguing sights, including St. Francis Xavier’s Church, the original burial site of Vasco de Gama (who is now interred in his native Portugal). We’ll explore Cochin’s multicultural influences further at the harbor, where we view the distinctive fishing nets that are strongly purported to be Chinese in origin.

    Late this afternoon, you might join us for an optional Kathakali dance event. Kathakali is the theatrical dance of Kerala, known for elaborate performances and formerly staged only for the rulers of Kerala. Women participate in modern performances, breaking the tradition of an all-male cast, as they enact an episode from the Ramayana and Mahabharata epics. Complex costumes and elaborate facial paint (heroes have green faces; villains have red or black; and holy men and women have yellow) enhance the moods, emotions, and inner sensibilities that are shown by expression, gesture and action. Drama is added with the narrative verse, sung with an accompaniment of drums, cymbals and other instruments.

    Dinner tonight is included at a local restaurant in Cochin.

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    After breakfast this morning, we’ll explore Cochin city proper. We’ll see remnants of the melting pot culture that emerged here as a result of the spice trade in the blend of Dutch and English architecture and in the elegant cheena vala (Chinese fishing nets) for which Cochin is known. We’ll stroll the intensely aromatic streets of the old Jewish quarter, once the center of the spice trade and today home to spice shops that sell cardamom, ginger, turmeric, cloves, and cumin. As the scents mingle together, you may find it challenging to distinguish one from another, but the spices' magnificent colors are nonetheless a feast for the eyes.

    We’ll visit the Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace for its tiled roof and whitewashed walls. But the colorful murals we’ll find here—some of the best examples of Hindu temple art in India—are the main attraction.

    This part of town is also home to one of the world’s oldest Jewish populations. At the Pardesi Synagogue, which was founded in 1568, be sure to have a look at the ornate, hand-painted Cantonese tiles decorating the floor, and see if you can decipher the love story depicted in the images. Please note: If this day falls on a Saturday, the Synagogue tour will be unavailable, since the building will be closed.

    After lunch on your own, we'll enjoy a cruise of the harbor and a better look at the famous fishing nets. This evening, we'll gather for an included dinner at a local restaurant.

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    Fly to bustling Mumbai this morning, India’s largest and most dynamic city. Surrounded on three sides by the Arabian Sea, Mumbai sits upon what used to be a tropical archipelago made up of seven distinct islands. Archaeologists surmise that these islands have been populated since at least the Stone Age. Today, the “City of Gold” is the hub of India’s finance, fashion and entertainment industries. More than half of India’s maritime cargo ships out upon Mumbai’s glittering harbor, and more films are produced annually here than in any other city in the world—hence the moniker “Bollywood.”

    After we arrive and check in to our hotel, we'll depart for a city tour that includes Dhobi Ghat, “the world’s largest outdoor laundry,” where locals gather daily, and colorful hanging fabrics create a rainbow effect. We’ll move along to Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, now known as Victoria Terminus in honor of Queen Victoria, or “Bombay VT” to the locals. This historic railway station and home base of Mumbai’s Central Railway boasts stunning Victorian Gothic architecture and beautifully ornamental fixtures, some of which were painstakingly crafted by students at the Bombay School of Art. Dinner this evening is at a local restaurant.

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    • Meals included:

    Continue your discoveries of Mumbai today. We'll spend some time exploring the Gandhi Museum and Library housed within the mansion known as Mani Bhavan. Then we'll enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.

    This evening, transfer to the airport for your overnight flight to the U.S.