Posted by: getaway2india | February 17, 2010

Kochi – Queen of the Arabian Sea

Kochi – Queen of the Arabian Sea

Kochi (earlier known as Cochin) is a cosmopolitan city in Kerala with a bustling commercial port. Kochi is known as the financial capital of Kerala and it is the biggest urban agglomeration in Kerala.

The city of Kochi is separated into numerous distinct areas particularly close to each other. These include the mainland areas of Ernakulam City (where the train stations to the rest of India leave and arrive), Willingdon Island, Fort Kochi (the primary tourist enclave), Mattancherry, Kumbalangi and outlying islands. These distinct neighborhoods arose as the result of a mixed past.

Kochi Fort Street

Kochi merchants began trading in spices such as black pepper and cardamom with the Arabs, the Dutch, Phoenicians, Portuguese, and Chinese more than 600 years ago.

Marine Drive, Cochin

Kochi has a lot of remnants from the past still clinging on. Although on the first look Kochi seems a small town it has a lot to offer ….its religious diversity could mesmerize you….it has a major centre for some of the biggest religions of the world….from Christianity, to Jews, to Muslims to Hindus, etc. It also has a small Ango-Indian population, along with a small Jewish population; you could also find Marathis and Jains who have settled here from generations together. The town has a higher proportion of Christians.

The soothing Backwaters of Kerala!

The famous landmark of Kochi is a row of Chinese fishing nets at the mouth of the harbor leading to the Arabian Sea in Fort Kochi, the oldest part of the city. These Chinese nets were apparently first erected by traders from Kublai Khan’s China about seven hundred years ago, and have been here ever since. Now the shape of the old fishing nets is used as a symbol for the town. In Ernakulam, the latest in skyscrapers and modern shopping can be found, while the old quarter — the Fort Kochi area and Mattancherry area — maintains a colonial air, has a very quiet and laidback atmosphere and has friendly people . Also around Kochi a lot of very good Home-stays have mushroomed. This makes Kochi one of the best places to travel.

Ernakulam

Kochi is comparatively much cleaner and quieter than many other Indian tourist places. Kochi is one of the largest towns in Kerala, (Kerala means Coconut Land). There are coconut trees everywhere and the people here use every part – the wood is hard and is used to make furniture, the coir of the nuts makes mats etc, the coconut meat is eaten, the milk is widely used in Keralan cuisine (this was a bit of luck for the Jewish community, who aren’t supposed to eat ordinary milk with meat…lol) and the leaves are used as the plates.

The Backwaters of Kerala boasts of hundreds of islands, some even uninhabited. A famous island is that of Bolghatty (local name Mulavukad) where the Dutch built a palace. This palace was later used as house of the British Resident administrator. Right now the Dutch Palace is a tourist hotel, and you are welcome to live there as guest.


Caution:

The whole state of Kerala banned smoking in the street in 2003 since, you can still smoke in bars and restaurants though, which is the complete opposite of the smoking bans in Europe, it’s very odd. If the police catch you, you get an on the spot fine, You can break this ridiculous law …at your own risk J .

Climate

Rainy season is from June to September. Temperature 22-34° C depending on season. Use mosquito repellent cream while traveling during night, and consider a mosquito net for sleeping.

Best SeasonDecember-January- February later on its gets a little hot and humid.

Getting in

By Air

Cochin International Airport is in Nedumbassery 29 km from the city. There are flights to and from Colombo, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Sharjah, Salalah, Jeddah, Muscat, Riyadh, Doha, Dammam, Al Ain, Manama, Kuwait, Thiruvananthapuram, Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Calicut, Coimbatore, Lakshadweep, Mangalore, Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Take a pre-paid taxi to your destination. The state transport corporation (KSRTC)is operating coaches to the city as well.

Trivandrum International Airport is around 220 km from Kochi, and from there you can travel to Kochi by road/rail. It is 5-6 hour journey.

By Rail

You can reach Kochi from other cities Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), Coimbatore, Kozhikode (Calicut), Chennai, Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata by train.

There are two major Rail station in Kochi (Ernakulam Town and Ernakulam Junction, locally known as “North” and “South” railway stations). The Indian Railways serves Kochi with a number of train services connecting it to other parts of the state and the country.

Konkan Railway View

If you are travelling from Mumbai or Goa then one of the best ways to get to Kochi is to take the Konkan Railway train from Mumbai that passes through the Konkan coast. The train ride is renowned for the breathtaking scenery and the natural beauty of the terrain that the train passes through. Also if you are getting out of Kochi to Goa or Mumbai Konkan Railway is the best route. Mumbai to Kochi is about 25 hrs a distance of about 1,400 kms, while Goa to Kochi is about half of that.

Konkan Railway Bridge

By Bus

Kochi is accessible from all parts of the state of Kerala, through the extensive state run Kerala Road Transport Corporation (K.S.R.T.C.) bus service. These buses are generally cheap and reliable, but the drivers are notoriously reckless, although they have excellent control over their vehicles. There buses are classified as Ordinary Passenger, Limited Stop, Fast Passenger, Super Fast Passenger, Lightning Express and Garuda. The last is an air-conditioned service operating on the Thiruvananthapuram-Coimbatore and Thiruvananthapuram-Calicut routes, both passing through Kochi. Garuda buses are modern buses and compare with buses in Europe, with well-maintained interiors and comfortable seats.

Volvo Buses

There are also numerous private buses or ‘route buses’ that connect pretty much every single district in Kerala to Kochi. Both the K.S.R.T.C and the private buses offer very basic comforts and are rarely air conditioned.

There also exists daily services to and from other major cities in South India including Mumbai, Bangalore(12 hrs), Mangalore (12 hrs), Coimbatore (4.5 hrs) and Chennai (14 hrs). These are run by both private operators and by the respective State Transport Authorities. The private buses offer better comfort, are cleaner and more modern, and are more expensive. A ticket on a private operator-run bus, especially an A/C Volvo bus, is costlier than a 3-AC train ticket.

Kochi has an excellent and cheap local bus service system, operated by private bus operators. The numbering system is rarely used although it appears to exist. The buses are red in color, and though they may vary in appearance, they still can be distinguished as city bus services.

KSRTC AC Bus

Destination boards display signs prominently in Malayalam and in small letters the English version. Using the local bus service is not that difficult as most bus conductors would be able to provide assistance with basic knowledge of English or Hindi or even Tamil. Remember however that peak hours on weekdays can lead to overcrowded buses. That is not the best time to use these buses, like in any busy city.

As with most parts of Kerala, the main language of Kochi is Malayalam … may be the only language in the world which, when spelled in English, spelled the same backwards as forwards. A palindrome! However, most educated people will be able to speak Hindi and English. Knowledge of English would be sufficient to get around as most people you will meet will be able to communicate in English.

Caution

Travelers must remember that a certain number of seats are allocated for ladies in the forward portion of each bus. Unless these seats are empty, gentlemen are not expected to occupy them, and they must be vacated when a lady wishes to sit there. The standard precautions of being wary of pickpockets and other anti-social elements must be maintained.

City Bus

Orange Bus Route

Yellow Bus Route

Ferry Service

Kochi map

Several important points serviced by Kochi’s city bus service include:

  • Fort Kochi, Thoppumpady, Edakochi, Mattancherry, Island (Willingdon Island), Thevara, Kaloor, Palarivattom, Kakkanad, Kalamassery, Edapalli,North Paravur, Alwaye, Tripunithura, and Vytilla Jn.

Many key routes that pass through the city (from Alwaye/Kakkanad etc to Fort Kochi/Thevara Jn etc) will have the following route/stops

  • Kaloor (interchange for Long Distance Private Bus Services for Kottayam, Palai, Changanacheri, Mundakayam, Erumeli, Pathanamthitha etc.& night services towards Calicut, Kannur, Wayanad) Lissie Jn (Some Private Long Distance Luxury Bus Operators)
  • Town Hall (Closest point to Ernakulam Town (North) Station)
  • Kacheripady Jn (KSRTC State Transport Bus Stand – 1 km away & MG Road Start)
  • High Court (KSINC Boat Jetty for Ferry to Vypeen, Mulavukad, Panambukadu, Ochanthurth, Murikkumpadam & Bolghatty, Long Distance Private Bus Services to Guruvayoor, Thrissur, Calicut, Irinjalakuda, Kodungallur, North Paravur )Private ordinary Bus Services to Vypeen, Cherai Beach, Munabam, North Paravur, Kodungallur via Goshree Bridges
  • Marine Drive (GCDA Complex)
  • Main Boat Jetty (Boat Jetty for Ferry to Vypeen, Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Willingdon Island, Vallarpadam, Varapuzha, Perubalam, Karthedom, Mulavukad) Also KSRTC’s ordinary limited stop buses to North Paravur, Kodungallur, Guruvayoor, Thrissur, Calicut starts from here.
  • Shenoys/YMCA (Some services only & services towards Kaloor) – (Closest point to KSRTC State Transport Stand – 0.5 km)
  • Jos Junction – Virtual Centre of Ernakulam (Alighting Point for Ernakulam Jn (South) – 0.5 km, Private Bus Operators to Thekkady/Kumily, Munnar, Muvattupuzha, Kothamangalam, Idukki and Private Long Distance Luxury Bus Operators – To Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Mangalore Coimbatore etc.)
  • Ravipuram – Main Business & Commercial Area. Buses for Thevara, Edakochi, Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, Thoppumpady & W. Island Pass through here.
  • Thevara Jn
  • Island (Old Airport)
  • Thoppumpady
  • Mattancherry
  • Fort Kochi

Buses from/to Tripunithura/Vytilla Jn will deviate after Jos Junction to pass through:

  • Kadavanthara
  • Vytilla Jn.
  • Tripunithura

Buses from/to Alwaye follow the following broad route Kaloor Jn., Edapalli, Kalamassery, Alwaye

Buses from/to North Paravur follow the following broad route Kaloor Jn., Edapalli, Varapuzha, North Paravur

Buses from/to Kakkanad follow the following broad route Kaloor Jn., Palarivattom Jn., Palarivattom Bye Pass, Chembukmukku, Padamugal, and Kakkanad

Some services may operate directly between Alwaye, Edapalli, Kakkanad and Vytilla Jn using the Bypass Road via Palarivattom Bye Pass.

By Private Car

Most taxi and auto-rickshaw drivers will be more than happy to offer you either a daily rate or an hourly rate, and take you around wherever you need to go. Alternately, your hotel or a travel company can arrange a private car.

If you find a good taxi or auto driver, this can be a great way to go for a foreigner. You’ll certainly pay a lot more than if you bought individual rides, but you’ll always have a driver waiting for you, and he can help with recommending local tourist sites, finding a good restaurant to eat at, and otherwise coping with day-to-day life. This can take a lot of the stress out of traveling.

Rates are generally something like Rs. 50 to 100 per hour for an auto-rickshaw, and Rs 150 to 250 per hour for a taxi. Rates for a private car booked via the hotel will probably be more. Like everything else in India, rates are very fluid.

By Taxi

The taxis in Kochi are very convenient and comfortable. Most of the vehicles are Tata Indica cars or Ambassador cars, which are much safer than Auto rickshaws, and the drivers are polite. If you are alone or going to an unknown destination, you are strongly advised to choose this option, even though the rates will be double that of an auto.

Unlike most Western countries, taxis are not usually marked with ‘TAXI’ signs on the top. In fact, you must Phone for a taxi, as it is nearly impossible to hail one unless you are at a major point like the airport. When you call, you should negotiate a fare (or agree on using the meter) and get the taxi’s ‘number’. The taxi will come pick you up, and call you when they are close. When you go out on the street, look at the license plate for the number they gave you — it will be the last four digits of the license plate. Taxis are generally white in color and have yellow license plates with black letters.

Although it can be hard for Westerners to realize at first, this process is very effective. If in doubt, ask a member of your hotel staff to help you, and when your taxi comes be sure to tip the helpful staff member Rs. 10 or 15 for the assistance.

By Auto Rickshaw

This is the cheapest way of transport between attractions. You can find an auto stand at almost every bus stop. This is the ideal way to cover short distances. Make sure you agree on a fare with the driver before the journey because almost none of the auto rickshaws have working meters. Although most are honest beware of the odd auto rickshaw driver who would charge extra if they know you are tourists. One easy solution is to approach pre-paid auto stands (they are available only in railway station) if you are coming through the Rail.

The auto rickshaw drivers here tend to personalize their autos by naming them after their favorite god or saint. So you can see St Francis Xavier and St Joseph and Ganesh and Shiva driving about. Another popular name for rickshaws here is Ferrari J

Fort Cochin Boat Jetty

By Ferry

There are also good ferry services between islands.

A useful service is the ‘Junkar’ between Fort Kochi and Vypeen. There are regular boat services, every 20-30 minutes, from Ernakulam to Mattancherry, Fort Kochi, Vypeen and Willingdon Island which are much cheaper than the buses. This ferry service is also faster also in many cases because a bus or taxi has to travel longer & through crowded routes. E.g. if you are somewhere near M.G. Road and travelling to Willingdon Island or Mattancherry, it will be cheaper & faster to catch the ferry from Ernakulam Main boat jetty.

By Boat

Kochi can be reached by sea in yachts or by occasional cruise ship from Goa or Bombay.

Get around

Cycle

Its also a good idea to use a bicycle or motorbike to move around in Fort Kochi….but beware of the reckless Bus Drivers. But if one is used to cycle in a City the one would know how to keep out of harms way.

To See

Hill Palace Museum – The erstwhile Kochi Raja’s palace, now converted to a museum along with a small zoo, is 12 Km south-east of Ernakulam at Tripunithura. Has paintings and epigraphy from the collections of the Travancore & Kochi royal families.

Hill Palace

Cochin Royal Crown – The biggest highlight of Hill Palace, is the display of Royal Crown, crafted in pure gold weighting 1.75 kg with 1,200 diamonds and 2,000 other precious stones. It was gifted by Portuguese to Veera Kerala Varma on his coronation day, which was regarded too extravagant for the Kochi Rajas, who were known for their simple lifestyle. This became a famous tradition that no Kochi Maharajas ever wore this crown, only to keep it on his lap as a testimony of their humbleness and simplicity. Nearly ten golden crowns were gifted to the Rajas by various colonial powers like Dutch, English, Chinese, Arabs etc which were never worn by the Maharajas.

Museum of Kerala History – at Edapalli, 10km. north of the city Pareekshith Thampuran Museum contains oil paintings, old coins, sculptures and Mughal paintings, and models of interesting temples and traditional Kerala buildings.

Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi


Fort Kochi

Mattancherry There is a beautiful Jain temple here. It is great to visit at about 12:15hrs when the pigeons are feed by Jain mandir people, which they have been doing for the past 17 years. A huge number of pigeons first take three circles of the temple and listen to mantra before eating.

Bolghatty Palace

Bolghatty – built in 1744 as Dutch Palace; one of the KTDC Hotels with green lawns and Golf Course.

Mattancherry Palace also called the Dutch Palace

Dutch Palace – constructed by the Portuguese in 1568 for Maharaja of Kochi Veera Kerala Varma. Later rebuilt by the Dutch. The rooms on the upper level of the palace can be reached through a flight of stairs located on the south of the entrance. The palace has a central courtyard that is typical of Kerala architectural style. This central courtyard is known as “Nalukettus”. A small temple is located inside the inner court that is dedicated to Goddess Pazhayannur Bhagavati, who is supposed to be the protector of the royal family of Kochi. There are temples dedicated to Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva on either sides of the palace. The interior of the palace is decorated beautifully with royal possessions like ceremonial robes, headgear, weapons, palanquins and royal furniture. There are stunning murals depicting scenes from the Puranas, Ramayana and Mahabharata adorning the walls of the palace.

The royal bedchamber known as “Palliyara” is located at the left of the entrance. It is famous for its low wooden ceiling and the walls that are covered with some 48 paintings depicting the Ramayana. These paintings date back to the 16th century and are preserved with much care till date. There are also paintings depicting “Krishna Lila” 🙂  and other instances from the life of Lord Krishna. One can also see paintings that depict the famous works of literary geniuses like Kalidasa.

Note the Nalu-Kettu Roof that provides natural Airconditioning

Willingdon Island – A large artificial island made out of sand dredged from the backwaters to deepen the Kochi Port.

Vypeen and Gundu Islands – The Island boasts a lighthouse at Ochanthurth, beaches and the early 16th century. At Vypeen there are a lot of fish, crabs, lobsters, shrimps breeding farms.

Pallipuram_fort_plan

Pallipuram Fort – built by the Portuguese in 1503, one of the oldest existing European monuments in India. It is situated in Vypeen Island at Pallipuram.

Pallipuram Fort

Pallipuram Fort

This hexagonal building, Pallipuram Fort,  is the oldest existant European monument in India. It was constructed by the Portuguese in 1503. It is popularly known as Ayakkotta or Alikkotta. In 1663 the Portuguese surrendered it to the Dutch. About 1789, through the strategic diplomacy of Raja Kesava Dasan, the able Devan of the Raja of Travancore, the Fort was purchased by the Travancore from the Dutch. From 1964 it is a protected monument of the Kerala state department of archaeology.

St Francis Church

St. Francis Church, Fort Kochi – constructed by the Portuguese in 1503. Vasco da Gama was buried here [1524] and later his remains were transferred to Lisbon, Portugal. His tombstone can be seen inside the church. Still has fans of previous eras….long planks which are swayed to and fro by a single person…to create breeze.

St. Francis Assisi Church

St. Francis Assisi church popularly known as Naduvileppalli, the most beautiful and old church in Ernakulam city, the blend of Portuguese and Kerala style of architecture. The unique feature churches’ roof is that the entire hyperbolic parabloid shell roof rests only on the centre pillars on the either sides. It has completed 179th year existence….Hundreds of people come here at odd times to sit in the quiteness of the church to commune with god.

Jewish Synagog

Jew Street and Synagogue – at Mattancherry, the synagogue was constructed in 1568 and rebuilt in 1662.

Santa Cruze Basilica

Santacruz Cathedral, Fort Kochi – The biggest Church in Fort Kochi

Marine Drive Cochin

Marine Drive Cochin

Art Complex – Madhavan Nayar Foundation – Gallery of Paintings and Sculptures at Edappally, 10 km. north of city. (There is the Kerala History Museum, history students take note!)

Vallarpadam Church

Vallarpadam Church

The Basilica of Our Lady of Vallarpadam adds another landmark to its growing reputation with the completion of 20 stations that will depict the 20 mysteries of the rosary. The 20 stations will features the mysteries that are celebrated by Catholics all over the world. These include the Joyous Glorious, Sorrowful Mysteries and the Mysteries of Light that were added to the original by Pope John Paul II. The Vallarpadam Church, which was already a national pilgrim centre, was raised to the status of a Basilica on the basis of a request submitted by Archbishop Daniel Acharuparampil of Varappuzha in December 2003.The Vallarpadam church was bestowed a special status by Pope Leo XIII in 1888. In 1951, it was declared a pilgrim centre.

Thrikkakara Temple

Thrikkakara Temple, Thrikkakara is a temple devoted to the Hindu deity Vamana. Thrikkakara temple is a major centre for celebration of the festival Onam that is celebrated in great pomp and colour throughout Kerala. Get here during Onam time and you can catch the famous 10-day festival at the temple, peppered with performances of Kerala’s traditional arts and ending with an Onam feast on the last day.

Tirumala Devaswom Temple - the 2ndlargest brass bell in Asia!

Thirumala Devaswom Temple, at Mattancherry. A temple built by the Gowda Sarawatha Brahmins, Lord Venkateswara the main deity, famous for second-largest brass bell in Asia. The North Gopuram is fully roofed with copper. Gosripuram Cochin Tirumala Devaswom is the biggest and most important socio-religious institution of Gowda Saraswat Brahmins of Kerala. The temple is situated at Cherlai in the heart of Mattancherry town in Cochin area which is one of the earliest settlements of GSBs in Kerala. The temple was established in the later half of 16th century.

Ernakulam Siva Temple – situated at the centre of the town, near the Durbar Hall Ground.

Durbar Hall Ground – venue of many fairs during festivals

Mangalavanam-” The green lung of Kochi city”

The ecologically sensitive Magalavanam is safely tucked away behind the Ernakulam High Court. This evergreen forest land in the heart of Kochi is a green oasis for many migratory birds as a nesting ground. Visitors to Mangalavanam are captivated by the sheer variety of migratory birds that have nested atop the huge trees.

Get a little closer and the birds fly away, leaving behind the eggs and newborns at the mercy of crows and kites. These birds are sensitive to the presence of human beings.

Mangalavanam is the only existing green lung in Kochi city, offering a nesting ground for a vast variety of migratory birds and supporting many varieties of mangroves. As a source of oxygen, the rare eco-system in the heart of Kochi city, Mangalavanam has been keeping pollution under check. Thus, it supports to become rich resource for eco-tourism.

Kalady

Kalady

Birth place of Sri Shankaracharya (Adi Shankara) [786-820], great Indian philosopher and founder of the Advaita philosophy. Shrines of Shankaracharya here are open to all pilgrims, irrespective of religion or caste. It is situated 48km north of the city. The temple also encloses the samadhi of Sankaracharya’s mother Aryamba. The location on the bank of the river where the young Sankara was held by a crocodile can be seen nearby. The Ramakrishna Advaita ashrama adjoining the Sri Krishna temple nearby has a beautiful shrine modelled on the Sri Ramakrihna temple at Belur Math. The 8-storey Adi Sankara Keerthi Sthambam is a monument that tells Sankaracharya’s story in paintings on the wall as one ascends the structure along a spiral staiway. The view from the top is breathtaking.

Kanjiramattom Mosque

Kanjiramattam Mosque – Muslim pilgrim center, venue of Kudikkuthu Festival, 30km east of the city

Chendamangalam – Historically the seat of Paliath Achan, the Prime Minister of Kochi Kingdom, old Oriental Jewish synagogue and colony. Now a centre for handloom weaving and coir manufacturing, view of annual fair “Mattachanda” (Barter Systems). It is 42km north-west of city near North Paravur.

Aluva – (called “Alwaye” till a few years ago), is a town on the way from the international airport to Kochi, has some places of interest – Sree Narayana Guru’s Advaita Ashram and the erstwhile Travancore King’s Palace,

Travancore King's Palace

Location: Adjacent to Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple at East Fort in Thiruvananthapuram.Visiting hours: (Open 0830 – 1300 hrs, 1500 – 1730 hrs. Closed on Mondays)The palace was built by Maharaja Swathi Thirunal Balarama Varma – the King of Travancore, who was a great poet, musician, social reformer and statesman. This rare specimen of workmanship in the traditional Travancore style of architecture has exquisite wood carvings. The palace museum displays paintings and various priceless collections of the royal family and is located near the Padmanabha Swamy Temple.

Entrance fee: Adults: Rs. 10 Children: Rs. 3 Foreigners: Rs. 20 Camera permit (outside): Rs. 15 Video: Rs. 500. Ph: 2473952

Aluva Manalpuram – is famous for the Shivarathri festival on the sandy banks of the Periyar river. A Siva temple is located along the banks too.

 

Malayattoor Church

Malayattoor Mount – A Christian pilgrimage centre, supposed to be a place visited by St. Thomas. (St. Thomas visited Kerala in AD 52. Would it be surprising to learn that Christianity reached India much before it reached Europe? The good old church erected at the top of the mount is believed to have attacked by the Wild elephants as shows the marks on the walls. Today this old church is called Anakutthiyapalli ( Church attacked by elephants).

Cherai Beach – near North Paravur is a new-generation tourist hot-spot with golden beaches (with big sand grains, like those of river sand used in construction, probably deposited by the Periyar river at some point in time), coconut palm corridors, backwaters, and historical monuments. You can reach Cherai Beach by bus, auto rickshaw, etc., from Ernakulam town though bus is a lot cheaper. Frequent buses are available from High Court that go through Goshree bridges and Vypeen Island.

Things to Do

  • Ayurveda Massage/Treatment….it’s a must….Fort Ayurveda, 2/6A Calvathy Road (next to Coast Guard). Experience rejuvenating Ayurvedic treatments at Fort Ayurveda, an undertaking of Fort House Hotel in association with Nagarjuna Ayurvedic Group. Authentic, clean and in a fine setting.  The massages are done Girl on Girl and Guy on Guy. If not insist on it. Do the massage, bath and sleep under the sun to get a good tan J!
  • Ride the Backwaters

The “backwaters” of Kerala are interconnected lakes and rivers and canals which run mostly parallel to the Arabian sea along the Keralan coastline. Go boating on the Kochi backwaters, (at Marine Drive). It is very soothing and relaxing. Get a feel of the backwaters at Kochi .Be sure to check the Safety Measures In the boat.

  • Stay on a House Boat in Alleppey
  • Watch the Chinese Fishing Nets in action:

It’s a lovely sight to see a team of 3 to 10 people coordinating to lift and lower the giant crane-like nets manually….each guy with rippling shoulder muscles ….it’s even more excellent to see when they get a huge catch.

  • Buy and Cook Fish:

Along the harbour there are the Chinese fishing nets, (which were brought here long back by the court of Kublai Khan),  in which one could buy some of the days catch and they would cook it for you, that’s what you call “freshest” fish. 1kg (about 20) tiger prawns costs Rs 200 (Yr 2009). Wait for when the Nets are operational. That’s the time you get them the freshest…J!!

  • Watch Kathakali  Dance –  6PM to 8PM Daily.

Kalathil Parambil House Kathakali Parambil Crossroad Second Left from Govt. Girls High School on Chitoor-Valanjambalam road Ernakulam South Kochi 682016, Ph: 0484-2376471/72 or 9846140691. Located in heart of Kochi city, this theatre now functions from the 160 year old Vakke Bungalow of Kathakali Parambil House situated in Kalathil Parambil Crossroad which is very near South Railway Station (Ernakulam Junction).

Holds regular evening performances starting from 06:00PM, guests can watch the elaborate Make up performance with explanation followed by a detailed demonstration and narration of Kathakali styles, history etc.

This is followed by an hour long presentation of Kathakali dance ending at 8:00PM with a brief open house for an intellectual discussion on Kathakali matters. Special shows with more dancers and non-traditional stories in other timings can be arranged in the theatre. Likewise special outdoor shows are also performed for various events, corporate get-togethers, and social functions as well as on shows on request for quite reasonable charges. Their contact email id is seeindiakathakali@yahoo.com.

  • Chill out at “Kamala Kadavu”…the Fort Kochi Beach…..or near the Fort Kochi Boat Jetty watching the Junkar transporting people and vehicles…while the sea waves lap the Jetty…..it’s a very tranquilizing experience.

Things to Buy:

Jew-town – Indeed there is a place called Jew Town.

Jews have lived here for well over 2,000 thousand years and they had a large thriving population here but, since the creation of the state of Israel, nearly all of the Keralan Jews have migrated there. Only fourteen Jews now live in Kochi. One of them is Mrs. Cohen who lives and has a shop on Jew Street, Jew Town. Well it looks like the Rabbi had had a fall and hurt his head and was very ill and that the chap who blew the shofar had said that he will be leaving soon. The community appears to be doomed.

It’s very sad because it certainly was a long lived community. Opinions about when Jews first came to Kerala vary. Some say it was after the death of King Solomon when his kingdom was divided. Some say even earlier, at the time of the Babylonian captivity. Some say later, maybe as late as the 600s AD. No one doubts that its over two thousand years ago.…the old people have got used to the place and love it……you too would love it and hate leaving…Kochi grows on you….

There are numerous antique and craft stores there. Bargains are available but be warned that many ‘antiques’ were probably made in the owners backyard! Shop with care and bargain hard.

Antique Shop in Jew Town Kochi

I would love some Jewish guy who had lived in Kochi and now back in Israel to comment on this blog, about his views about Kochi … his Cochin!!!

The Jew Town is about a mile or so from Fort Kochi. The Jews here came as refugees from further south of Kerala. Their kingdom there, known as Shingly, had been destroyed by Moslems and they asked the King of Kochi for refuge. He welcomed them and gave them an area to live in and build a synagogue next to his own palace. The synagogue in Jew-town and the King’s Palace (now called the Dutch Palace because the Dutch rebuilt it) are right next to each other. The area in which the synagogue and the palace stand is known as Mattancherry. There is a theory that this name derives from the Hebrew “mattanah” which means gift. As “cherry” can mean town (as in Pondicherry etc) this would make it Gift Town….slowly “Mattanahcherry” became Mattancherry! Obviously the Jews had good business sense…..the place became a wholesale trading and warehousing hub. The below image is typically Mattancherry-ish.

Typically Mattancherry-ish

The synagogue is small but beautiful, prettified by over 1,000 Chinese tiles each of which is said to be different. When HM the Queen came to visit about forty years ago,  she took her shoes off when she saw the beautiful Chinese tiles and said that they were too lovely to be walked upon by shoes. And it was after that, that tourists have been banned from wearing shoes. Worshippers may wear shoes!

There is also a tale that goes like this….during the same visit there was a dinner for the Queen and Sammy Uncle was due to give the speech of welcome (he’s obviously been community head for quite some time). He had forgotten his glasses and couldn’t find the place in his speech and he called to his wife for his glasses. His wife was called Queenie.

There is a theory that Jew Street, the street leading to the Shul was modeled on a typical Brahmin street which would have a temple at one end and the most important houses nearest to the temple (or in this case, synagogue).

Another interesting thing is the reading of the Torah …it was not done from the usual place – the Bimah in the middle of the Shul – but from a gallery at the back of the upper storey of the Shul in front of the women’s gallery. Apparently from the place where the Law is read you can see right out of a window into the Rajah’s old palace.

There is also something about the clock tower that people will not easily notice. The side facing Jew Street has the numerals in Roman numbers, the side facing the Rajah’s palace has the numbers in Malayalam (including an archaic form of the number Ten), the side facing the Shul has the numbers in Hebrew lettering and the remaining side is blank.

Isidore Art Palace, Jew-town, Kochi 662002 (Next to the Synagogue), (isidore@vsnl.com). Will reliably ship stuff outside India. Bargain hard!  But this guy is not very professional.

Galleria Synagogue Art Gallery, Jew-town, Kochi 6820002 (Walk down from the synagogue), Ph: 484 – 2222544. Showcases art work from many different local artists. Prices are reasonable, and they very often have exhibitions showing some amazing art work from the region.

There are many clothing and jewelry shops along MG road and Marine Drive. Prices are reasonable for western budgets. Shopping Malls are a new concept for Kochi and the new Bay Pride Mall on Marine drive and Oberon Mall at Edapalli offers air conditioned comfort with a small food court and a nice coffee shop. One of the latest additions to the city’s lifestyle shopping needs is “My Kingdom” on MG Road, a one of its kind store spread across 4 levels catering to different generations of the family.

  • Veegaland Amusement Park in Kakkanad, this is second largest theme park in South India. Spread over 50 acres of land with more than 50 Rides and various shows, it has well maintained gardens and five restaurants as well as small cafes. Open 9:30AM-7PM.
  • Silverstorm Water Park. A good family theme park with 29 water and dry rides, a very large park and a Chinese village. Near Athirampally Waterfalls area, this park is located 50 km from Kochi City, 18 km from the airport.
  • Scary Horror House, 3rd floor, Oberon Mall. Part of a national chain, this is a good place which will test your nerve. A 15 minute experience, through a dark scary house filled with ghosts, hidden spirits, sounds and skeletons.
  • Mirror Maze, 3rd floor, Oberon Mall. A maze of mirrors and it may take 10-20 minutes to finally find your way out.

These may be found on MG Road, Marine Drive, or the strip that connects them called Broadway, which is a street shopper’s paradise.

  • Kalyan Silks
  • Seematti(costly)
  • Jayalakshmi Silks
  • The Chennai Silks
  • Dew Drops
  • Lady Bug (closed for Renovation)
  • Graffitti – cheap summer clothing
  • There are stores of all major brands including Nike, Reebok, Adidas, Levis, Wrangler etc
  • Apple store At Kadavantra

Malls in Kochi :

(list the malls)

  • Bay Pride Mall, Marine Drive
  • Oberon Mall [9], Edapalli Bypass

Tour Operator:

Wilson Tours, Princess Street, Ph: 04842217405.

A long-running and reliable travel agent on Princess Street. Stanley Wilson arranges a very affordable trip to Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary with a driver. He also can arrange backwaters tours on environmentally friendly house boats in quiet areas.

To Eat

Do not leave Kerala without trying the following:

Traditional rice based breakfast snacks like:

  • Idli –Sambar
  • Dosa (Rice Crepe) – Sada Dosa, Masala Dosa
  • Puttu and Kadala,
  • Appam and Stew.
  • Try the “thattu-kadas” Road Side Vendors….where you get hot, fresh-cooked, foods, where they don’t have refrigerators to preserve the balance food.
  • Prawns Fry (usually spicy)
  • Fish fry,
  • Fish curry (usually spicy)
  • Fish Molly (less spicy), and
  • Fish peera are the favorites, usually taken with rice or steamed tapioca (cassava).

Plenty of great, fresh seafood is available all over Fort Kochi. Visit Fort Kochi beach where you can buy fresh fish near the Chinese fishing nets and get it cooked in the nearby food stalls for a small fee. Fish mongers will sell you a kilo of tiger prawns for around $6USD and a kilo of squid for around $5USD. For a fillet of fish you may have to do a little bargaining. Try and find out what the locals are paying and work for that. The food stalls will charge you between 40 and 50 Rupee per person to cook your fish (grilled, curry, whatever…) and provide you with a serve of chips and salad! It is done reasonably hygienic so you shouldn’t worry to much about the salad.

Famous Restaurants:

  • Chic King, M.G Road, Palarivattom. It looks smells and tastes pretty much like KFC.
  • Fort House Restaurant and Hotel, 2/6A Calvathy Road (next to Coast Guard), Ph: 0484 2217103. Located at the water front and offers good Kerala food with great views
  • Mango Tree Restaurant
  • Hotel Aaryas, (Near Varkeys, Manorama Junction). Vegetarian restaurant run by Tamilians.
  • Hotel Thali, (Opp Little Flower Church, Near Kadavanthara). Very good Kerala style cuisine. Try their Dum Biryani.
  • Just Biryani, 40/9534 Opp State bank of Hyderabad, Pulleppady, near Padma Jn MG Road, Ernakulam, Ph: 4022334. 12-3PM only. The finest original Dum Biryani store, made using authentic cooking methods. 55.
  • Kadaloram, Abad Plaza. Good buffet at about Rs 150 per head.
  • K.R Bakes. Cheap hygienic food. Both the bakery and restaurant offer pretty good food. Can be found at several places, including Palarivattom junction.
  • Shala, 1/605 Peter Celli Street, Fort Kochi 682001, Ph: (0)484 2216036. A delicious Kerala-ian restaurant which serves a small menu which changes daily in lovely surroundings.

To Drink

Those who love their drink ….have no fear….this is your own backyard….cause Keralites are famous for their drinking habits. Although Kerala has heavy Tax on its Liquor it has not deterred the people to drink…J…in fact they are contributing heavily to the Indian Economy…..Kerala is the largest consumer of alcohol among the Indian states. So it shouldn’t be a problem finding Bars and Pubs in Cochin. There are a few bars near Thoppumpady &  Ernakulam.

But also the sale of alcohol is very limited due to strict laws, so some restaurants get around this by selling beer in teapots and mugs. The whole restaurant appears to be drinking chai, but really everyone is drinking Kingfisher beer out of mugs, very funny sight. When you want more beer you ask for another pot of chai!

If you are not into alcohol try some of these:

  • Karikku / ilaneer (Tender coconut juice). Don’t drink Mineral water/Pepsi or soft drink ….for your entire stay in Kerala …drink this….!!! This obviously cannot be unadulterated…and costs the same as mineral water or soft drink!!! It’s also good to drink this first thing in the morning if you have a bad hangover.
  • Sambhaaram (buttermilk with some kind of masala), great thirst-quencher ….especially on hot summer days or even normal days!!!
  • Milkshakes, get them cold, like a Sharjah Shake for example – a good cool down option
  • Fresh toddy from the coconut tree, especially around the Kumarakom area. Take caution as adulteration of the brew is very common. Best would be to get it from a local who has given over his coconut trees for extraction.  But here also the guy who extracts coconut juice or toddy tries to trick you ….as he usually fills his pot with water a day before…so what you get is already diluted drink. The guy who owns the farm doesn’t know this. The trick is to ask him to 1st bring down his vessel kept on the tree top….then give him an empty vessel for tomorrow…..and guard the tree like a dog ..till when its ready….(don’t let the guy climb the tree on some pretext). You might already get an idea how beautiful this drink is…..and how much it is desired… J.

Some of the well known Bars are

  • XL bar, Fort Cochin.
  • Velocity, Banerjee road
  • Oberoi Bar, MG Road.

There are many Coffee shops as well in and around the city

  • Cafe Coffee Day – Shenoy’s Cinema, Oberon Mall and Ravipuram junction- your standard coffee hangout
  • Barista – Bay Pride Mall, Marine Drive – the place to cool down with coffee after a walk at Marine Drive
  • Coffee Beanz – Marine Drive road – another place to get your cold coffee and snacks
  • Teapot – Fort Cochin serves the best chocolate cake (“death by chocolate”).
  • Kashi art Cafe – Fort Cochin
  • Cocoa Tree – MG Road

Discos

Pub Rules & Etiquettes

All discotheques, pubs have some strict rules and etiquettes.

  • A restricted admission policy – allows only guests above 21 with age proof, no pets and certain days reserved for ladies, couples and families
  • A strict dress code – only formals for both genders. Western styled fashion, that exposes body is allowed for ladies (no nudity), however not for gents. Gents have to be in full covered western formals or can be in denims with compulsory shoes. No kind of ethnic Indian clothing is allowed for men, but allowed for ladies like sarees etc.
  • Smoking is strictly not allowed inside any pubs or dance floors

Pubs/Discos

  • Tandav Discos, Le Meridien premises, Maradu. The most happening discotheque famous for its weekend all night parties and grand balls.
  • Glow&Corktales, Ph:-+91-484-409-0000, Atlantis Junction-MG Road. The most dance floor in the city, with a large lounge bar. It has night parties from Thursday to Sunday with various themes and age groups.
  • Opium the Club, Ph:- +91-9388256882, Palarivattom Jn. A new posh upscale dance floor and large discotheque, it has various events from Tuesday to Sunday, each in various themes.
  • Loungevity, Hotel Avenue Regent, MG Rd. House an inhouse DJ and the latest in electronic dance music. One of the coolest places for families.
  • Couchyn, The Grand Hotel, Woodlands Junction, MG Rd. A traditional English styled lounge bar with great music and a wide variety of cocktails.
  • ÁVA lounge, Dreams Hotel, SA Rd. A lounge cum disco bar, ideal for families. Good music, a large dance floor and wide range of cocktails.
  • Champs Sports Lounge, Gokulam Park, Kaloor. Has a good sports gallery, cricket-themed interiors, 2 gigantic screens for regular broadcast of cricket or football matches, signature cocktails and snacks.

Place to Stay:

Definitely stay at Fort Kochi as it is quieter and more scenic than the rest of the city. There are quite a lot of tourists so prices are relatively high, but that’s still very cheap by western standards. Some of the heritage hotels are located here. Home stays are very common too. Your stay at a Home-Stay could be a fantastic experience as you could get to live with a proper Indian family also the families are really hospitable and kind, defiantly better than a hotel or guest house. At the home stays you tend to run into similar fellow traveler like you and chat in a relaxed atmosphere. Home-stays are encouraged by the Indian Tourism board.  Some Home stays even have cooking lessons on Indian recipes! They also provide traditional breakfast. With them you get to experience the culture and customs first hand. They also provide better and latest guidance about the tourist points, route, day to day news, bargains etc. Homestays cost around Rs 800 to Rs 1,500 per Day (Yr 2010).

 

Green House Homestay Kunnumpuram Road -Njaliparambu, Fort Kochi

 

  • Green House Home Stay, Kunnumpuram Road, Njaliparambu, Fort Kochi, Ph: 0091-9895262296 (greenhousehomestay@yahoo.com). Very nice and friendly home stay in a good location close to Princess Street (where Kumar has a shop, so try to track him down there if you can’t reach him otherwise), which also offers a TV and a fridge in the common room/living room In high season doubles are around Rs500 (or more if you want A/C), Rs250 during the low season (May 2008).
  • Leelu Home, Fort Kochi, Cheerans Ebenezer, Behind Fort Kochi Post Office, Quirose Street, ”’Fort Kochi”’ 682 001. (Hardly a 2 minute walk from the famous Santa Cruz Basilica), Ph: 0091-484-2215377. A recently renovated Victorian building in the heart of Fort Kochi. http://leeluhomestay.com/

Cooking classes are conducted at the kitchen every day from 11a.m. – 1p.m. and from 6p.m. – 8p.m.

  • Casa Mia Homestay – with Anthony and Usha.

Heavenly Homestay - Walton Hall, Princess Street, Kochi

 

  • Heavenly Home Stay

http://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotos-g297633-d1423238-Heavenly_Home_Stay-Kochi_Kerala.html#19726545

Lots of Homestay in Kochi:

Beena Homestay - XI-359.B, K. B. Jacob Road

 

 

Kovil Homestay, Near Amman Kovil Temple - Amaravathy- Fort Kochi

 

Orion Homestay, Fort Kochi

Riverside Home-Stay, Kaniampuzha backwaters- Vyttila-Kochi

Saj Homestay, Kunnumpuram, Kochin

Costa Gama Homestay - Thamaraparambu Road, Opp L G Pai Library Fortcochin, Kochi

 

  • The Gateway Hotel, Marine Drive, City. Formerly Taj Residency near the harbour with good views over the sea from some rooms.
  • Madaparambil Tourist Home, Chittoor Road (near S.R.V. L.P.School, Ernakulum), Ph: 682 011 Ph: 0484-2367533.
  • Maple Regency Hotel, Cannon Shed Road, Ernakulam, Ph: +91-484-2371711 (mapleregency@airtelmail.in). Near the main boat jetty is well located, friendly place with a good restaurant Rooms are from USD 6.50 to 10.00.
  • The Royal Kerala Boats, 304 – Lalan Towers, Marine Drive Kochi Kerala 682022India, Ph: +91 9 847153764, [15]. Good One night stay on a House Boat. The boats are built on traditional transport boats and have now been modified into luxury house boats with all modern amenities.
  • Taj Malabar, Willingdon Island. On the tip of Willingdon Island is has to be one of the best located properties in Kochi. In its heritage wing, built in 1935, is full of Victorian interiors, while it’s tower wing is more modern.
  • Dream Catcher Home Stay, Vasavan Lane Road (Near Thamaraparambu Schoo), Ph: 0484 2217550 / 9746017881 (dreamcatcheronita@vsnl.net). Good home-cooked food, clean rooms. Will pick up from Bus/Railway station free of charge Rs. 600-1200.

Caution:

Kochi is infamous for mosquitoes. Stay safe from the mosquitoes by buying mosquito pesticides. And make sure any room you book has mosquito repellants or at least a mosquito net.

Internet

  • Cyber Cafes are available but its better avoiding them if possible due to password hacks.
  • Most big Coffee shops like Coffee Café Day have Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Wireless internet through Tata Indicom is available at the Avenue Regent (approximately 110 RS/2Hr) on MG road. Internet Cafes are available throughout the city.
  • There are also High Speed (Mb/sec speed) USB Data cards of TATA Indicom/ Reliance/BSNL/MTNL (Both CDMA & GSM) that can be plugged into Laptops. Buy the one with 1 MB+ speed anything less is just as good as a dial up. The one of Reliance is good but costs around Rs 3500. Tata Indicom’s  “1X” is a dial-up speed USB data card.
  • Internet through GPRS facility is offered by all operators….but there is some waiting period until the SIM card is registered (2-3 days or so). So this can be used as last option for Laptop/Desktop or for GPS navigation searches.

Nearby Attractions:

In Ernakulam District

  • Kallil Temple – an old Jain temple but now a Hindu temple is 13 Km from Perumbavoor.
  • Kodanadu – Elephant training centre…they have the Elephant Kraal… where wild elephants are taught discipline….and tamed. The zoo there also has mobile snatching monkeys…they snatch the mobiles when you go to take a close up photo…they are quite fast…so careful with your mobiles there J . The place is a must visit.
  • Kaprikad….little further from Kodanadu.
  • Kuttanpuzha
  • Bhoothathankettu – A Dam, 8 Kms north east of Kothamangalam.
  • Thattekkad – Bird sanctuary near Bhoothathankettu.
  • Paniyeli Poru – The sight of river Periyar through the forests and rocks is an amazing sight. 60 Km from Kochi and 15 km from Perumbavoor. It’s a stunning scenic spot. Must visit.
  • Iringol Kavu – a kavu – protected small vegetation area near a temple – of around 50 acres! 15 km from Perumbavoor

Idukki District is a hilly region with lots of hill resorts. Some attractions on the way to Idukki are:

  • Cherai is some 25 kms away from Kochi city, near North Paravur and its beautiful with a nice beach and local cuisine.
  • Alwaye is about 40 mins away from Ernakulam. See the Aluva Palace, Shivarathri Manalpuram.
  • Thommankutthu waterfalls in Idukki District via Muvattupuzha.
  • Athirappilly waterfalls near Chalakudi, Thrissur.
  • Munnar a hill resort in Idukki District is 130 km east.
  • Thekkady and other places in Idukki
  • Alappuzha is famous for House Boats, is 70 km away. Must visit.
  • Kumarakom in Kottayam.
  • Kodungallur, Guruvayoor and Thrissur.
  • Ooty, Kodaikanal, Yercaud in Tamil Nadu. Most beautiful set of hill stations in India.
  • Lakshadweep is 5 day (seasonal) cruise from the Kochi port.

When it’s time to leave you sure are going to miss Kochi a lot!!! Kochi will definitely be your favorite place in Kerala. If it wasn’t your favorite place in Kerala then please mention it here in the comments column….J!

More info:

http://www.ernakulam.com/

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Responses

  1. Hi,
    I am a writer/artist in Toronto (born in Kerala) and I was in Cochin in February meeting with members of the Jewish community….

    This is the first time I have heard about the Queen and the rule about footwear and about Sammy Uncle calling for Queenie (hilarious!)

    Will you give me permission to quote these lines from your blog in a booklet that I am writing about Cochin history…?

    Thanks
    Bala Menon, Toronto
    menonb@gmail.com

    • Go ahead…use it at your own risk…dont know how much of it is true…lol

  2. Very good blog all posts are good

  3. Hi,

    Your description about the King of Cochin not wearing his crown due to simplicity is not accurate. It’s because one of the kings lost a town in a battle and vowed never to wear the crown until the place was recovered. I dont remember the name of the place but what happened was the king died and no subsequent wars took place. As a mark of respect , the later kings of Kochi never wear the crown, but rather keep it on the lap.

  4. Dear Kumar,

    I am trying to book a room for my wife and myself at your (Green House Homestay) homestay but do not have your contact information. Would you kindly let me know where/how I can do it? Thanks very much

    Robert
    rlavigne@bankofcanada.ca


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