Fort Kochi is a beautiful haven in Cochin, India which is definitely underrated. It is Kerala’s best-kept secret. The reason I’m saying this is because Kerala is famous for its tranquil and tropical backwaters, rainforests, biodiversity, culture, and Ayurveda. But Fort Kochi is a revelation which allows oneself to experience Kerala like never before. It has emerged by the fusion of various cultures which gives it a certain charm and sets it apart from other places in Kerala. This place has stood the test of time and evolved through the years enduring the flames of ambition that drove the Portuguese, British and the Dutch to take possession of this treasure trove.
Through my lens:
I visited this place along with my friends in July 2016. It was a stop-over before we headed back to our hometown and I must say that this was one of the best decisions we made. We took a bus from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi, due to traffic we took longer than expected to reach our destination. We reached late in the evening and we checked into Bastian homestay. It was well kept and homely with traditional wooden furniture which definitely gave us the feeling of being in God’s own country. It was the perfect place which fitted our shoe-string budget. We kept our luggage in our respective rooms and headed out to have some local cuisine. We walked around until we came across a hole in the wall restaurant. By the way, this kind of restaurants often offers the best food. Being in Kerala one must definitely try the beef dishes and fish curries which are mouth-wateringly tasty and flavoursome. Their signature delicacies are dishes which use coconut and curry leaves giving it a distinct aroma and zest. Of course, we Indians know that coconut and curry leaves are two main ingredients which have a long association with Malayali cuisine. We ate till our tummies were full and relished every morsel. It was a satisfying and much-needed walk, back to our homestay. The owner of the Homestay gave us a map and a pamphlet which had a detailed information as to what to do around Fort Kochi. A control freak that I am, I began planning our trip meticulously that night. However, my travel plans were met with few raised eyebrows. My friends’ idea of travelling was going with the flow and “chilling” and my goal was to check things off my travel list. This was going to be interesting, I thought to myself as I prepared myself to sleep.
Exploring Fort Kochi
Kashi art cafe
I woke up next morning, excited to explore this locale. But first things first, we needed to eat and I knew just the place. We walked to Burgher street which was around ten minutes from our stay. It was one of the most delightful morning walks I have had. We passed by the Kerala Kathakali Centre and Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica on our way to Kashi Art Cafe. This cafe has an artistic ambience, its entrance has a gallery followed by a path made of pebbles which direct you to the main sitting area. There are artworks made out of the most unexpected and bizarre items. The first few minutes were spent in utter wonderment and admiration. We ordered for breakfast and enjoyed every bit of it, soaking in everything the place had to offer. These are one of those places where you can sit for hours without the constant need to be entertained. It is peaceful and quaint, just what we need to refocus our thoughts.
Commuting in Fort Kochi and best time to visit
From here we headed out to hire bikes. This is the best mode of transport if you are sight seeing around Fort Kochi. It costs around 300-350 rupees per day. However, our trip was interrupted by the unexpected rainfall, well not exactly unexpected since it was the month of July. But you know, when you wake up to the sound of birds chirping and sunny skies, the possibility of the rains ruining your day is the last thing on your mind. We sat on the veranda watching the rain pour down on our plans. Although when I think about it now, it was not that bad considering we had a good time chatting away to glory. But for those who are planning to take a trip here, the best time to visit is between October and April.
Once the rain stopped, we sat on our bikes and drove to Indo-Portuguese Museum. The museums are not everybody’s cup of tea. If you enjoy art and history, then this is the place for you. This museum is one of its kind since it has a collection of Christian artefacts associated with the history of the catholic church. It was an enriching experience.
SNC Maritime Museum
We then headed to SNC Maritime Museum. This museum helps one to trace India’s maritime history. It displays flags, naval rank badges, naval uniforms, models and paintings of ships, a map of the route through which the westerners reached India, an oil painting of Vasco Da Gama when he sailed to Beypore harbour and many other models which give us a glimpse into the past. Outdoor exhibits include missiles, guns, mines, torpedoes, rocket launchers etc.
Chinese fishing nets
We then went to Vasco Da Gama square where the Chinese fishing nets are located. The best view is along the path which runs along Fort Kochi beach when the Chinese nets are suspended in mid-air. It works on the principle of balance. At least four fishermen are needed to operate this equipment. Give them a small fee and they will explain and show you how the Chinese fishing nets operate. Fishing is usually done in the morning or early evening. So make sure you are there to witness this beauty in action. There are fishermen who sell fish right there and you can buy it from them and give it to one of the restaurants who will cook it as per your order. As lovely all this was, the place was filthy and the water was filled with plastic waste. This place is losing its charm to the garbage mounting up around the place. But nonetheless, this place should be on your list.
It was a day well spent.The roads were good and most of the famous streets run parallel to each other which makes it easier to commute. Travelling around Kerala, asking for directions can be quite a tedious task because of the numerous attempts you make to pronounce the name right.But you don’t face that problem in fort Kochi because they have beautiful names which were obviously a result of the British and Dutch colonisation.The most famous streets are Princess street, Burgher street, Rose-street, Beach road, Tower road, Jew street and Palace road to name a few. Riding these streets is an experience on its own. You get the feeling of being in Goa but without the tourists.
Best of Cochin: Lulu mall and Marine drive
Since most of the places close by 5.30 p.m, we weren’t left with many options. We decided to venture outside Fort Kochi and visit Lulu Mall. We wanted to know what the hype was all about. So went there and it is true what they say about this place. This mall is huge and you can find everything you want here. This mall has a massive parking space and this is something you don’t see often in India. The place is bustling with people and you can easily get drowned among the crowd. We enjoyed some fun rides and tried our hands or should I say “legs” on ice skating. I was embarrassed by the number of falls I had but not embarrassed enough to quit. With few bruises and blood clots, we went to Marine drive which is a must visit. Marine drive is a picturesque marina which never fails to amaze you. You can witness the transition of the skies as they change colours from blue to orange-red. The sun sets with a lilac afterglow which then turns darker only to reveal the twinkling stars above you.There is no better way to end your day.
An alluring journey’s end
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica and Oy’s cafe:
Next morning being Sunday, we went for mass to Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica. It was Breathtakingly beautiful. It has gothic architectural interiors which transport you to a different era. The church is adorned with murals, paintings and beautiful stained glass windows. This is the perfect example of what happens when devotion meets art. After mass, we were very tempted to go Kashi Art Cafe for breakfast, but since we wanted to try out a new place we chose Oy’s Cafe. The decor is very homely and laid-back, it calls you to unwind and drape yourself over the cushion covered bamboo chairs. You can play deal monopoly or a game of chess while waiting for your order. There is a collection of books you can read to pass the time with some really good music in the background. With reluctance, we hit the road since we had a train to board that afternoon. Since Fort Kochi was a stop-over, we did not get a chance to traverse and complete our travel list. But sometimes, it is more than being a tourist. You need to be a traveller to be reared on something. With a heavy heart, we took a ferry to Ernakulam with a hope that, we would come back and explore Fort Kochi which will take us back in time, motoring nostalgia.