Fort Kochi is Kerela’s pint size maritime haven. It draws the wealthier traveller in with its grand heritage homestays and entices the budget traveller with the promise of it’s laid back coastal vibe. We arrived very sweaty (as always) by ferry. If you travel to Kochi by bus you will be dropped off in the main city which is called Ernakulam. So don’t be alarmed if you check your bus ticket and it looks like you’re going to end up somewhere near Ladak, you are heading to the right place.
A rickshaw from here to the ferry port will set you back around 40 rupees for two people or 300 all the way to Fort Kochi. I would recommend the ferry as the better route as it is 4 rupees for a journey and you can begin your maritime adventure straight away.
Talking of Maritime we were lucky enough to stay in another one of the hostel crowd’s fine selection of establishments. If you travel around India you will be sure to hear their name, in fact I have already mentioned their ‘Old Quarter hostel’ in my Panaji blog. The young pioneering group have five places all geared towards the comfort, safety and enjoyment of their guests. All but the Maritime in Fort Kochi are found in idyllic spots spread around Goa. The travelling community can keep their fingers crossed that the crowd will spread their wings and open more around India.
Maritime hostel is a 5 minute walk from the ferry drop off and a short walk from the main sites in Jew Town and Fort Kochi. Like all the other Hostel Crowd places they offer a free breakfast every morning of either traditional Indian or continental. The rooms and dorms are squeaky clean and have a choice of A/C or non A/C depending on your budget, although as both are reasonably priced you can afford to treat yourself to a night without sweating.
Fort Kochi is pretty small and the pleasure here is definitely drawn from taking long strolls through the beautiful tree lined streets and browsing the plethora of art shops. Saying that there are a few things that one would be missing a trick if they didn’t see, so here are a few must do’s.
1. Discover Kathakali
Kathakali is an ancient Keralan art form that emerged at around the same time as Shakespeare was dazzling and offending in London. They are dramatisations of Hindu stories that explore themes drawn from great epics such as the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Just going to watch one of the performances can be confusing for tourists so head to the Kerela Kathakali Centre were you will be given a handy explanation sheet of the play which is available in over 5 languages. Preparations by the actors occur on stage so arrive at 5 to watch the actors undergo the lengthy make up application and pre performance meditation. Even as an avid theatre goer I have never seen anything like Kathakali before and strongly recommend giving it a go even if the bright lights of theatre isn’t your usual bag.
Pre performances start at 5pm daily usually running to 7.30pm (the theatre is very well air conditioned) and a ticket costs 300 rupees.
2. It’s tea time
If you are an avid fan of tea like me the aptly named Teapot is not to be missed. The family ran café is decorated with over 50 different antique teapots, with a choice of over 16 different types of tea and some fabulous Keralan coffee it is just lovely! The décor echoes colonial times and it’s location on the quaint Petercelli Street only adds to its allure.
3. For the foodie in you
As I have mentioned in blogs past you would be hard pushed to find a bad meal anywhere in India, however Dal Roti needs a special mention. Dining in their North Indian food emporium is nothing short of a joy. With a wide range of veg and non veg food and their not to be missed kati rolls it is a long standing favourite with tourists and locals alike.
I also want to quickly mention the Solar Café. It serves purely organic tea, coffee and food at reasonable prices and with its book lined walls and free wifi it is a perfect place to escape the sun.
4. Take a dip
Even though Fort Kochi is in relative terms a small place walking all day can be a hot, humid and tiring task. Luckily many of the higher end home stays and hostels have swimming pools which is a rarity in India. You can pay to spend a day lounging by the side of the cool water with anything from 250-500 rupees.
5. Gone Fishing
The ascetic highlight of Fort Kochi has to be it’s chinese fishing nets that tower over the coastal path. The are still very much a way of life here and at sporadic points throughout the day groups of up to 10 men can be seen pulling in the days catch. The are best enjoyed at sunset when the sky turns burnt orange and the jagged silhouettes puncture the sky.
One thing final thing to note about Fort Kochi is that it is Kerala's unoffical capital of art. Art shops are in abundance here and all offer beautifully made crafts, interesting workshops and most do very good Keralan coffee. Fort Kochi is a perfect introduction to Keralan culture and will educate your mind and senses in things you didn’t know you didn’t know.