Fort Kochi

Arrived in Kochi by a very comfy bus, and as a bonus had about a four hours quicker journey than what we’d been told to expect. We’d had no break on the bus (at least not that we knew of, as we were asleep for most of the journey) so we went into the first restaurant we could find that had a toilet and had a lovely – and surprisingly cheap – thali breakfast. I say surprisingly because it looked a bit posh from the outside, and we were quickly ushered into the nicer air-conditioned section on arrival.

The big breakfast came in handy as we were hell-bent on not taking an auto-rickshaw or taxi and walks the five kilometres plus to the ferry-port with our heavy backpacks. It was baking hot, so we were pretty sweaty when we finally got there. I got so hot after the walk I was completely drenched, and I just couldn’t dry up for absolute ages – I probably looked a right state – very nice…

We had a hunt around for guest houses and home-stays as we arrived at Fort Kochi, but although we were desperate to freshen up with a shower and a change of clothes we shopped around by asking at quite a few places that all seemed a bit pricy, before we finally found the very lovely Union Home Stay. This home-stay is run by Paul, and his mother Anne and they are really lovely friendly people, and Paul had some funny stories from student years and mad trip to Bangalore to share – very entertaining.

For sightseeing in Fort Kochi we did a little walk around with a map of the historical sites that we picked up at the Kerala Tourist Office in Ernakulum by the ferry-jetty. It’s not a very big place Fort Kochi so it wasn’t very far to walk the whole map, but the baking heat makes it a bit more challenging… How can they call this the winter season?

We weren’t sure where to go for dinner our first evening and thought we’d ask around for a good restaurant. We got recommended Talk Of The Town as a good option. We were keen to have some traditional fish and I opted for the Kerala fish curry. One could say this curry really warmed my cockles (must be one of the spiciest curries I’ve ever tried) – as if I weren’t warm enough after walking around in 35 degrees for the whole day – I was again sweating like a beast, and not helped by the fact the power was out so the fans in the restaurant weren’t working. It was really good food though, so can recommend that place, if your taste-buds can take it that is 🙂

When we picked up our map of Fort Kochi from the Kerala Tourist Office we also booked a day boat-trip. They picked us up from our home stay in the morning, which was rather nice – no stress with trying to get somewhere on time – and the bus then took us down to Alleppey, picking up other people on the way. We got to the boat and started our journey through the backwaters. The day was split in two parts – the first one was on a larger boat and we were about 20-odd people on this boat, the second half of the day we went through the canals of one of the many islands that makes up the region of the backwaters. These canals are very narrow so we were travelling in canoes that could seat from four to eight people. With the larger boat we also stopped off on an island for a while and had a walkabout in the village. Here we were offered to buy a little snack in the form of a mussels curry (which was very nice indeed) and a drink called Tody (fermented juice from the flower of the coconut) – both me and Hannah didn’t like the smell of the stuff and gave the drink a miss, and some of our fellow tourists were gagging while forcing themselves to drink it, so we kindly thanked no to any offer of a taste. Also included in the trip was our lunch which we had on the first boat after returning from the first half of the day – again very tasty. Second part of the day was our canoe trip through man-made canals through villages on one of the islands around the backwaters. This was such a tranquil environment that we were all almost lulled to sleep while drifting past houses and people doing their work and dally chores. We stopped off and had a demonstration of how they make twine from coconut husk, a speciality and tradition of the area, and later on a last stop for a cup of chai of course.

We manage to coordinate a little catch up with Diane, a lady we had a quick chat to at Rocky’s Guest House in Hampi. We went to one of the restaurants recommended by the Lonely Planet – and I can warmly recommend this as well – it’s called Dal Roti and it has excellent food and a very friendly and attentive host – the prices are also quite reasonable. We also caught up with Diane a second time on our last evening and ended up at Seagulls for more lovely food (although I prefer Dal Roti).

Also on our last day we had a walk down to Mattancherry and the Jewish Quarter and visited the Pardesi Synagogue, and had a look at the Dutch Palace Museum. The walk there from Fort Kochi is very interesting with the old colonial wharfs and merchant houses lining the street. Unfortunately in good Indian tradition most of these houses/warehouses are not looked after and hence in a very sad state. We can’t help thinking of the immense value these houses would have been worth had they been renovated and located in the UK…

Shame we couldn’t have more time in Kochi – there is a really friendly and relaxing atmosphere here – I suppose it’s one of those destinations one can come back to for a little holiday, and then maybe do a proper boat-trip which our budget didn’t allow for this time.

The next destination should have been Agra for the Taj Mahal, and then Varanasi for the Ganges before Darjeeling. However, we realise we’re running out of time and decides to bypass the two dusty, dirty and tout-riddled cities of Agra and Varanasi and head straight up to Darjeeling. It’s a long old journey by land, so we board a winged tin can and get there the easier and more comfortable way.

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