Cochin: Crafters, Filled to the Rafters

While construction is in final stages in the Chennai apartment, we escaped to find beautiful things. We set aside three days to shop for furnishings and accessories in Cochin. We decided to focus on the Crafters stores and not try to comparison shop everywhere. For ease and consolidation of purchases and shipping. Because we’ve become tired pretty quickly this trip. We now seek paths of least resistance.

We toured all the Crafters stores and warehouses. They’ve grown a lot since we visited a decade ago. Here are some sights seen there …

These are colorful and fantastical. Imagine if this place was like the movie Night at the Museum and these things came to life:

What if we kept foods today in containers such as these below. Jars in the first photo were used to hold pickles in India. Wouldn’t they mix well with containers from Greece, Tuscany or Provence.

Some of these are enormous. They’re all heavy. Why can’t practical objects also be sculptural and beautiful.

These are often repurposed with glass tops for coffee tables, or filled with upholstered cushions for low seating or ottomans:

Crafters has countless styles of old columns:

They have thousands of intricate old and new carved wood pieces, like this old window already outfitted with a mirror behind the shutters:

Hindu deities, Shiva and Parvathi:


A bride’s dowry chest from Punjab. If this is just the chest, can you imagine the treasures within!?

Rusted door locks and chippy paint can be beautiful:

In the next post, I will show the items we considered and purchased for the India pied-a-terre.

(By the way, all these photos were taken with the iPhone 4S with only minor edits in Photoshop. The camera is decent enough when you want the convenience of pulling out a small device to shoot pics.)

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On the Way: Reading “Tales of a Female Nomad”

My reading of choice on long flights are travelogues. I find they prepare me for the trip and how I do and don’t want to be. On this flight I’m reading:

It gets polarized reviews on Amazon, but that’s actually what intrigued me. What will I like and not like about the book? Where will I see myself? Where will it inspire thoughts about how to be a better traveler in other countries and cultures? 

Here’s the book’s description:

“I move throughout the world without a plan, guided by instinct, connecting through trust, and constantly watching for serendipitous opportunities.” —From the Preface

Tales of a Female Nomad is the story of Rita Golden Gelman, an ordinary woman who is living an extraordinary existence. At the age of forty-eight, on the verge of a divorce, Rita left an elegant life in L.A. to follow her dream of connecting with people in cultures all over the world. In 1986 she sold her possessions and became a nomad, living in a Zapotec village in Mexico, sleeping with sea lions on the Galapagos Islands, and residing everywhere from thatched huts to regal palaces. She has observed orangutans in the rain forest of Borneo, visited trance healers and dens of black magic, and cooked with women on fires all over the world. Rita’s example encourages us all to dust off our dreams and rediscover the joy, the exuberance, and the hidden spirit that so many of us bury when we become adults.

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Glimpses of Sikkim

Today I share with you photos from a previous trip to India. To Sikkim, which is a former independent kingdom that’s now part of India. It’s a sliver of land in the far north of India, tucked into the Himalayan slopes and valleys between Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan. There is a strong Buddhist influence there. And military influence too! Lots of military. But I didn’t photograph much of that, that wasn’t as photogenic as the temples, although maybe more geopolitical stories there. For example as Americans, we could not go to the border crossing between Sikkim and Tibet at that time, although we would have liked to.

We arrived in Sikkim at night. I couldn’t sleep and sat up most of the night writing in a travel journal. This was the first glimpse of Gangtok, and the valleys and mountainsides of Sikkim beyond, as the sun rose:

The Morning Light and First Glimpse of Sikkim in Gangtok - India pied-a-terre blog

Gardeners may appreciate that Gangtok’s area of Sikkim spans both temperate and tropical growing zones. Orchids and fir trees grow side by side. The place where we stayed took advantage of this diversity. Just walking to the dining room for meals was a gorgeous experience:

Garden Path at our Guest House in Gangtok, Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

Orchids at our Guest House in Gangtok, Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

The town of Gangtok has a walking-only boulevard where we spent much time visiting shops, people watching and eating. Every night people emerged to walk around. It didn’t seem like they were in purposeful hurry. They were enjoying the stroll:

A Pedestrian-Only Boulevard in Gangtok, Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

Visit the Buddhist temples and you see prayer wheels:

Prayer Wheels in Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

Monks and Prayer Wheels in Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

Painting on Buddhist Monastery Wall in Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

Painting on Buddhist Monastery Wall in Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

Buddhist Temple in Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

Buddhist Temple in Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

Everything is so fantastically decorated. By now you can see the favored color scheme. For travelers some people are calling Sikkim the “poor man’s Bhutan” because of the high cost of travel into Bhutan. We did want to go to Bhutan, and we will get there some day, but Sikkim is absolutely worth the time and trouble to get to this little corner of the world.

You also see prayer flags everywhere:

Prayer Flags in Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

This was a gorgeous temple and we found a courtyard where the sounds of drums from inside wafted out and filled the courtyard and shook your belly, they were so loud. It was very meditative to sit and listen. I always find Buddhist temples to be very calming. Unfortunately at this one, my camera batteries ran out so there aren’t many photos of its beauty:

Buddhist Temple in Sikkim - India pied-a-terre blog

I hope this inspires to bring more color into life!

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Glimpses of the Taj Mahal

Until five days from now, I’m traveling down memory lane. Yesterday I shared some glimpses of Darjeeling. Today, the Taj Mahal. We were lucky when we visited the Taj because it was a voting day and crowds were few. We started at the crack of dawn and were among the first through the gate.

As for so many before us, this was our first real life glimpse. This is where our guide explained the symmetry of the Taj Mahal including all that is around it:

See how few people! We had the whole place to ourselves. What luck.

You don’t see the Gateway in photos as much, but it’s also beautiful:

Sparkling like diamonds in the rising rays of sun:

It is surprising what you see up close — how much color is actually embedded into the Taj Mahal:

And how much contrasting pattern:

It makes you want to look from great distances but also explore every surface real close. How many buildings have that quality?

When exploring up close, you discover things like … replacement parts:

The mosque must be getting a little adjustment here and there:

Until next time …

All photos by me. Or our guide. I couldn’t bear to mar these with watermarks!

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