Kochi with a twist

“This is your time to travel, you may not get this much time again.” Encouraged by the husband to travel, I read up on all that I could possibly do. As luck would have it, there was an art festival happening in a city, I always wanted to go back to.

Sunsets in Kochi and the beautiful sea

The Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018 is in its 4thyear. Having read about it over the years, I thought this would be a great time to visit. The trip was surprisingly easy to plan. I managed to convince a friend, she booked us cheap air tickets and I booked a cheap Bed& Breakfast. We were set. Sometimes taking the easy route is a good decision. You will notice that the way the Biennale is spread out in Fort Kochi, it lets you soak in the culture of the place. The art has Dutch, Portuguese and Keralite venues as the backdrop, not to mention the sea following you throughout. Truly a beautiful setting!

As mentioned the choice of Fort Kochi to host this Biennale is spot on. Some of the reasons to attend:

Beautiful settings to take a break at, Dutch building -David Hall and fresh catch on display, at beautiful Fort Kochi!
  1. The place gets properly intertwined with the show and leaves you feeling as if you have got a proper taste of Kochi
  2. Kochi is one of the safest places I have travelled to in India. I would recommend it for women travelers  
  3. Kochi can be as affordable or expensive as you like and the quality of the south Indian fare will still be good. This is my experience after my second visit.

My travel partner asked me if I think the theme of the Biennale ’Possibilities of a Non Alienated Life’ went with the art that was on display. For me it did make sense. It opened my eyes to the conflict in different parts of the world. We may not be touched by it directly but it is important to be aware. The art was definitely engaging and composed of paintings, installations, movies and experiences.

I put down some artists that were memorable, but I would not want to judge one over the other. I commend the Biennale for the number of topics dealt with from across the world and India that made me a more knowledgeable world citizen. 

So, in no order of importance some of the artwork that stayed with me includes: 

Walid Raad
Waalid Raad’s tongue-n-cheek work

Artist Walid Raad– ‘Comrade leader comrade leader- you’d better be watching the clouds. This artwork made me outright laugh and quite aptly his political commentary is satirical. I loved the idea of middle eastern leaders appearing as flowers, which in reality has been used as a code for their names. And the piece ‘I thought I’d escape my fate but apparently’ are quotes taken directly from the media and represented in the artwork

Shilpa Gupta

Shilpa Gupta’s – ‘However For in your tongue, I Can Not Fit- 100 Jailed Poets’. This installation is beautiful beyond belief. It does not allow you to view it complacently, but you will get pulled into it. It features individuals incarcerated for their politics and poetry. You will hear their voices all at once above the mikes. You find yourself sitting there thinking about the fact that the freedoms you take for granted were what someone else sacrificed their life for. You also find yourself being grateful for being born in a democratic nation, where it is not the rule but rather the exception that the government will snuff out your voice

Shirin Neshat’s -‘Turbulent’. We didn’t sit through all the videos as there were many and we didn’t have enough time. However, this video touched me. The explanation said that in Iranian culture women cannot sing to an audience. Then watching the woman singer, sing her unintelligible song to an empty audience, bought home the point of female oppression so clearly. (No picture available)

Henri Dono

Henri Dono- ‘Smiling Angel from the sky’ and the ‘Trojan Ships’ fascinated us with its light, movement and colour. This installation came alive because of a button on the door and yes, we kept pushing it. No wonder this form of Indonesian puppetry, is considered visual art.

While I love visiting new places, I also love getting deep into oft visited places especially if there is more to explore. So here’s a shout out to the universe to make it happen with Kochi.There were also student & collateral pieces that were housed in different places off the main Biennale venues. We tried to take in as much as possible and I will be doing a pictorial representation of more of the artwork- so stay tuned.

Terima Kasih Bali

Planning a wedding is exhausting. I was looking forward to recuperating on our honeymoon. But the destination was constantly changing. When we finally booked our tickets to Bali, I was happy.

While researching we discovered that there were trips to islands close to Bali, that were both accessible and fun. An hour’s ride away from Bali are the islands of Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Penida and Nusa Cennigan. The first two islands gave us some delightful experiences. We chose to stay at Nusa Lembongan for a night, so that our trip wouldn’t feel too rushed. Some people may do it as a day trip, however you may not get a feel of the place. It is an ideal getaway and has some pristine white beaches with no one around for miles. Not only that Bali is quite touristy, whereas on these islands, we got glimpses of the authentic Balinese way of life.

Balinese Hindu burial ground
Balinese Hindu burial ground

For ex; While travelling in Nusa Lembognan we were suddenly assailed with the sight of open umbrellas standing tall on the ground. That’s when we realized that some Balinese Hindu’s bury their dead. We were told they did this, as earlier, it was too expensive to cremate the bodies. Umbrellas are then put over gravestones, because their ancestors can take care of themselves against the sun and the rain in the afterlife.

Hi there T. Rex!

A short boat ride away from Lembognan island is Nusa Penida Island. On our visit, it reminded me of the south of Europe, in specific the Algarve coastline, with its   rock formations in the sea. Nusa Penida is most famous for the ‘T Rex’ beach (Kelingking beach) that has a rock formation that looks like a giant Tyrannosaurus Rex. To get to the beach you have to walk up and down steep steps, at some places they are at a complete 90-degree angle. Clearly not for the faint-hearted. Rest assured no matter where you are at Kelingking, you are bound to enjoy the view of the spectacular coastline. We also visited Broken beach and Angels Billabong which is again a series of picturesque rock formations in the sea.

These islands, off Bali, given their lovely beaches are a hive of water activities, diving and snorkeling being most popular. Since we did not have much time we opted for snorkeling. Once you get the hang of it, it’s fun. If you are a swimmer, you will know that being on the surface of the water makes the activity safe as well. The coral and the multicolour fish were a memorable sight. However, the waters in Bali are not calm and my husband who has snorkeled before was not too happy with the experience. The crashing waves and the extra tumbling, doesn’t allow you to easily enjoy the views that the sea bed has to offer. But for a first timer like me I enjoyed the uniqueness of seeing the ocean from such a close angle.

Striking a pose at Broken beach

So, my advice would be get off the main island for some offbeat and relaxing fun. As for me I look forward to flopping on a beach doing nothing for my next visit to Bali!

Getting spiritual with a visit to the ‘Pyramids of Chi’

When you visit Bali you realize that it is a juxtaposition of beaches and big malls, of latest American brands and ancient spiritualism. Thus, old and new go together and this is especially true on the main island. The population in Bali is 80% Hindu. But along with this ancient religion there are many different spiritual practices and alternative therapies that are prevalent here.

This is a recount of our tryst with one of them. While the husband wanted to explore wildlife, I was definitely pulled in the spiritual direction. Because we had already visited the Macaque monkeys at the Sacred Monkey forest, the spiritual experience won. So, we travelled to the Ubud rice fields, where two Americans have set up pyramids, called the ‘Pyramids of Chi’. Appearing as a vision to the owners, while they were meditating, they were then compelled to build these structures here.

Soaking up the Ubud Rice fields

The Pyramids are built to be conducive to sound and are 1/6th the scale of the Pyramids at Giza. The center is known for their sound healing and relaxation therapy. The Pyramids are in the middle of a rice field and the atmosphere is very calm with green fields as far as the eye can see. You get only vegan food in their café and there is also a small shop from where we bought crystals with different properties, while we waited for our session to start. Phone connectivity is not available as you step on to the campus.

The Pyramids of Chi in all their Glory

We decided to experience a sound therapy session, which they conduct in both groups as well as one on one. The session started with Kevin the course conductor (or gong master) telling us a bit about the therapy, expected impact and how to handle any powerful feelings that may arise. At first, I thought this is something I have not experienced before; however, I was reminded of the Tibetan bowls that are so common in India. Infact I had gone for a meditative session where they used these bowls and that is the simplest form of sound therapy. So, while I had some familiarity with what we were to experience I was still a bit apprehensive.

Our group was then taken into the Pyramids and made to wear eye pillows that would cut out the light. We were made to sleep around the center which is filled with different gongs, digeridoo and drums that were to be played during the session. For 90 minutes, we experienced a whole world of sounds, if not to heal us of our negativities, atleast put us in a state of heightened relaxation. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I especially remember one of the instruments that sounded like a herd of elephants. I kept feeling sensations that would get heightened and then lessen. While I felt really light, my husband went to sleep during the session.

I have had my fair share of spiritual experiences over the years, still I would recommend this one. The beautiful way everything is done, from the lovely place where the pyramids are housed, to the relaxed vibe of the staff, calmness and prettiness permeates everything. Hence it should be experienced if you are visiting Bali.