Fort Kochi and Mattancherry are heritage zones that are eye-catching pieces of well-preserved history, decidedly charming. History is found in every nook and cranny, from the tea bungalows converted into boutique hotels, to the 400-year-old St. Francis Church and the architecturally wonderful Santa Cruz Basilica that changed hands from the Portuguese to the Dutch to the English. The beach in Fort Kochi has hosted the Mahatma. The Bazaar Road that connects the adjacent area of the former British Cochin to the trade centre makes for a perfect heritage walk, lined by warehouses, many of them which are over 300 years old! The Dutch Palace, the Jewish Synagogue, and Jew Street, lined with spice and handicraft shops, are a treat. The area, which is home to several migrating communities, has evolved its own cultural mix, found in the temples, mosques, art galleries and cosy cafes that dot this quaint landscape.
Shop till you drop
Care to carry Kochi home in a souvenir? Remember it by the smell of rich spices that could stock your larder for months, or by handcrafted elephants, Kathakali dancers and snake boats carved from rosewood. Maybe cosy knick-knacks made from coconut shells are your pick, or painted mats and curtains woven from bamboo. Show Kochi off at your next fancy do by sporting a Kerala kasavu sari, or adorn your walls with expansive murals from the city. Round off your shopping spree with a visit to the city’s many malls. Loosen your purse strings, indulge your material cravings and pamper yourself with a traditional ayurvedic spa treatment and massage.
Art and culture
There’s no better way to explore the city than navigating through its signposts of art and culture. Kochi, a melting pot of diverse cultures offers a lot. From the ancient traditional art forms like Koodiyattam, Kathakali, Chavittunatakam, classical music and dance, to contemporary dance, flamenco, hip-hop, pop, rock or reggae shows and theatre fests, you will find them all here. Cultural organisations, the tourism department and hotels all of them ensure that there’s something happening round the year. For unedited versions of the traditional arts and some of the lesser known ones, for chendamelam, panchavadyam and the procession of caparisoned elephants, look for the temple festivals that are on frequently. Art is a living tradition here, more so after the . the Muziris Biennale. has turned the city into one of the hottest art destinations in the country. While stopping at the numerous Besides the art galleries, don’t forget to visit some of the old temples and churches that have some amazing murals and the public statues. Look for the signposts and enter this vibrant world of art and culture.
The commercial capital of the State gets its name from the Ernakulam Shiva temple. This melting pot of cultures and influences is home to many temples, churches, mosques and synagogues. Apart from the Siva temple, there are the Chottanikkara Devi temple, the Vamanamoorthy temple in Thrikkakara and Tripunithura’s Sree Poornathrayeesa temple. The Jain Temple at Mattancherry built in a style reminiscent of the Dilwara temple in Mount Abu is another temple worth visiting. Among the churches, is the St. George Church at Edappally which is among the oldest in the city, Santa Cruz Basilica and St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi are must sees. Vasco Da Gama’s body was interred at the St. Francis Church before it was later taken to Portugal. and buried there. You can see The tomb remains. The St. Francis Church at Malayatoor, 50 km from the city, is another important centre of pilgrimage. It is around 50 kms from the city. The Synagogue at Jew Town is also a must-visit. The Chembitta Palli near Mattancherry is among the oldest mosques in Kochi.
The Chinese connection
These ancient fish hauling contraptions date back to the years of foreign trade with the Malabar Coast. There are differing opinions about the origin of the nets, While some credit the Chinese for its origins, others say it was the Portuguese. say that trade with China brought them here, others opine that Portuguese brought the know-how from their colony in the Far East. Whatever the story, goes but these vestiges of those times are unique in their mechanism. Some of the nets in the city are more than 80 years old, having been recast several times. over the years. Made of teak, and operated with stone weights, they are lowered in the waters till they entrap fish and are then hauled up. and found on the shores and in the backwaters they operate by being lowered into the waters using stone as weights. They are more than 10m high and the net can stretch up to 20m. Muscled Fisher folk lower the nets; wait for the entrapped fish and then haul the catch. Modern fishing methods have turned the Chinese nets obsolete and many lie in a state of disused. There is a concerted move by conservationists to bring the Chinese fishing nets under a heritage label. While many lie disused, outdated by modern fishing methods, conservationists are trying to bring them under a heritage label.
On the wild side
Animal enthusiasts have plenty to see, from migratory birds to lumbering pachyderms. The Mangalavanam bird sanctuary is a green abode right in the heart of the bustling city and is frequented by migratory birds of all kinds. Bird lovers would be remiss to avoid the Thattekkadu bird sanctuary, named after renowned ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali and located around 60 kilometres from the city. Indigenous birds like the Malabar grey-hornbill and rare ones like the Ceylon frog-moth have been sighted here. For those who prefer something larger, the Kodanad elephant training centre 50 kilometres outside the city is also worth a visit.
Sand and sea
Cherai, Munnumbam, Puthuvype, Kuzhipally, Vypeen, Fort Kochi…are just a few of Kochi’s known beaches. Kochi’s shoreline is a string of beaches, one leading to another. Go for a swim, fly a kite or just watch the sun rise or set. Soak in the peace that comes with looking at the sea and its changing moods. Cherai and Fort Kochi beaches are the more popular beaches. The Periyar river meets the Arabian Sea at Munnambam, besides the sea there are the Chinese fishing nets. Puthuvype beach is also known as the Lighthouse beach, because there is a lighthouse close to the beach. This along with Kuzhipally beach are among the city’s less frequented beaches.
Into the sunset
Being a bustling port city, Kochi offers picturesque views of the water from many locations. But what better way to soak in the sights of the harbour than to take a sunset boat ride around it? After savouring the view from the Marine Drive walkway, board a small vessel that slowly makes a circles around the harbour, offering spectacular views of erstwhile British Kochi, Fort Kochi and Bolgatty Island, along with Willingdon Island and the skyline of the city itself. Take in the views of the golden waters and enjoy the sight of the sun sinking into the ocean.
Kochi’s history is safe in its museums. From Portuguese artifacts to Duth buildings to the Royal ornaments. The complex mix of our colonial cultures have been preserved with due respect. The Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace, in Mattancherry houses ancient murals, and it displays the clothes and jewellery of the Cochin Royal family. The Maritime museum in Fort Kochi has documents Naval history. The Hill Palace museum in Tripunithura, too, preserves Kochi’s royal heritage. The Kerala Folklore Theatre and Museum in Thevara exhibits Kerala’s ancient artisitic, ritualistic and cultural past. The Musueum of Kerala Arts and History at Edapally displays some of the paintings and art works of India’s leading artists. The Indo Portuguese Museum at Bishop’s Palace, Fort Kochi, is a store-house of ancient Indo-Portuguese Christian heritage.
Tickle your palate
If your taste buds were to take you through Kochi, the backwaters beside the city would tell you, you must have the seafood. From chemmeen biriyani and karimeen pollichathu, to koontha peera pattichathu, meen mappas, meen vevichathu or meen moily, no meal is really complete without a little flavour of the seas. For the vegetarian in you, savour the 40-odd dish onasadya. But if an elaborate, seated affair is not your cup of tea, eat on the run at the city’s numerous thattukadas serving piping hot dosas, puttu, idiyappam and parottas. Complement with beef ularthiyathu or egg roast. For the more cosmopolitan tourist, The city also has no dearth of English, American and Chinese joints, with the occasional speciality-cuisine restaurant thrown in