Wednesday, February 18, 2009


It might come naturally to you to pass Kochi (or Cochin), as the Kerala Capital. No wonder, for this gorgeous beach-town is not just the most beautiful Kerala-cosmopolitan, but with its brimming coastline, enamoring backwaters, ayurvedic health centers, churches and synagogues rightfully positioned amongst National Geographic’s 50 top tourist destinations. Watch Kathakali performance, savor its seafood, dig at the antiques, try fishing with the Chinese fishing nets or attend a traditional marriage ceremony. Kochi is one place you will instantly fall in ‘like’ with!

Tale of the City

Kochi was the favorite seaside entry into India from the Arabian Sea for the Arabs, Chinese, European sea merchants and finally the Portuguese under Vasco da Gama in 1500, and the Franciscan friars. And what had been a quaint fishing hamlet became India's first European settlement. In 1663, Cochin fell to the Dutch, and then to the British in 1795. Each of these foreign influences left their impressions, resulting in a distinctly Indo-European culture, most evident in the architecture and lifestyle of Kochinites.


Fort Cochin : A quiet landmark to this port-city, the Fort Cochin, comprising Mattancherry and Jew Town (that hosts a 1st century AD Jewish community), is a slice of sepia-tinted world, where they still speak 14 different languages and tumbled-down mansions line narrow lanes. Near the water's edge, old warehouses (or godowns) are filled with the state's treasured cash crops -- pepper, tea, Ayurvedic herbs, whole ginger, and betel nuts -- being dried, sorted, and prepared for direct sale or auction. Walk around at leisure and chances are you will discover something (curio/ architecture) belonging to a world you never thought existed.

Cherai Beach & Vypeen : Bordering one another, this is where the city-chafed locals arrive for a replenishing weekend. The beaches are beautiful; there is an old lighthouse and a 16th century fort. Get there by ferry from Fort Kochi. A typical Kerala village with paddy fields and coconut groves nearby add to the scenic beauty.

St. Francis Church : The oldest European church in India, it went through a myriad associations beginning from the Franciscan friars, Dutch Protestants, to Anglicans, and now this church finally belongs to the Church of South India. Something to keep in mind is, like Hindu temples and mosques, here too you are required to take off your shoes. (Open: Mon-Sat 9:30am-5pm; Sun 9:30am-noon)

Bolghatty Palace : Situated at the Bolghatty island and accessed by a ferry, is this once British mansion has a postcard golf-course and beautiful honeymoon cottages. Good news is KTDC has taken it up and made it into a heritage hotel.

Mattancherry Palace : Adorned with fine murals from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and some of the Puranic Hindu legends, this double-story palace is an architectural wonder. The Dutch maps of old Kochi along with palanquins and coronation robes of the former maharajas of Kochi are attractions you have to hunt out in here.

Jewish Synagogue : Here is the oldest (17th century) synagogue in the Commonwealth with some amazing hand-painted willow pattern floor tiles brought all the way from China. The Clock Tower, Hebrew inscriptions on stone slabs and ancient scripts on copper plates, along with other ancient artefacts are of tourist interest over there. (Open daily: 10am-12 pm & 3pm-5pm; Sat closed). The area surrounding is an antique-lovers paradise with a myriad curio shops, spices, furniture, artifacts, rare glass and beads, all centuries old.

Parishath Thampuran Museum : This hosts the genesis of Kerala in the form of oil paintings, murals, sculptures in stone and plaster of Paris, manuscripts and coins belonging to the Kochi royal family - all preserved in its complex of 49 buildings, in itself a fine example of Kerala architecture. The area encompassing it has a Deer Park and facilities for horse riding. (Open daily: 9 am-12:30 pm & 2 pm-4:30 pm; Monday closed)

Santhanagopala-Krishnaswamy Temple : About 8 km away from Ernakulam, this museum temple showcases history from the Neolithic Age to the modern era through intriguing life-size figures. One can also catch the sound and light shows, which have commentaries in English and Malayalam.

Find sometime to explore : Pazhassiraja Museum and Art Gallery, Willingdon Island, Kaladi, Vasco da Gama Square, Pierce Leslie Bungalow, Old Harbour House, Koder House, Delta Study, Loafer's Corner, Princess Street, Vasco House, VOC Gate, United Club, Bishop's House, ruins of Fort Immanuel, the Portuguese settlement.


Your Kochi shopping spree must-have's are camel bone and wood carvings, various metal-ware, coconut shell decorations, cane crafts, embroidered pine mats and so on. Buy one piece each of the indigeneous handicrafts, that is. M.G. Road is where the shopaholics crowd at its various shops, emporiums and private showrooms. There's the huge GCDA shopping complex on Marine Drive, which should be explored at leisure. Antique shopping is another Kochi specialty and items to hunt for are rosewood artifacts, coir floor coverings and tablemats, old dowry boxes from Travancore, gold jewelery exclusive to the South, cotton saris, traditional khadi attire and antiques from Jewtown.


Kochi restaurants cater to both local and international tongues with cuisines ranging from Kerala cuisine to Chinese selections, American hamburgers, Italian spaghetti and so on. A permanent flavor you should expect in all traditional cuisine is that of coconut oil. The best food-joint are flaked around the at Fort Cochin and Willingdon area. Fresh seafood is an obvious favorite. And Kochi’s favorite palate will have rice, fish and coconut (in some form). Some restaurants you can trust for its quality of food and delight are Pandhal at M G Road (South Indian food), Bimbi’s at Jose Junction (low-priced Indian & Continental cuisine), Fry’s Village Restaurant at Chitoor Road, North End (spicy south Indian specialities like patthri, a Calicut-Muslim delicacy).


Black Gold: In Kerala, pepper is referred to as karuthu ponnu, or "black gold," and represents the state’s international spice trade backbone. Consider a visit to the ginger, black pepper, betel nut, and Ayurvedic medicine warehouses, so very reminiscent of Salman Rushdie's The Moor's Last Sigh; or head for the Kochi International Pepper Exchange (Jew Town Rd., Mattancherry) to see Kerala's black gold being furiously sold off to the highest bidder.

Some Original names & Changed ones of Kerala’s cities:

Trivandrum -Thiruvananathapuram
Quilon - Kollam
Alleppey -Alappuzha
Trichur - Thrissur
Palghat - Palakkad
Cannanore - Kanoor
Calicut - Kozhikode
Cochin - Kochi


Alwaye(21 Km):Banking the river Periyar, is this famous Shalvaite pilgrim center and a summer resort.

Malayatoor (47 km): Go there for the St Thomas Catholic Church on the 609 m high Malayatoor hill, specially if your trip coincides the annual Malayatoor Perunnal Festival (March-April).

Alleppey/Alappuzha (64 Km): This is the core tourist center for backwater cruises in Kerala and has often been referred to as the Venice of the East. If you are here in August, do not miss the Nehru Trophy boat race held here on the second Saturday.

Thrissur (80 Km): Former capital of Cochin, Thrissur is famous for the Vadakkumnatha Temple and is the venue of the annual Pooram Festival held in April/May. Buy some of its wood carvings and temple-arts are souvenirs.

Kumarakom (80 Km): Famed for its backwaters and the quaint village surrounded by paddy fields and the Vembanand lake.

Cheruthuruthi (100 Km): Go there if you are an art connoisseur to witness Kerala’s training center for art forms such as Kathakali, Mohinlattam, etc. The center is called Kalamandam.

Wynad: Located on the foothill borders of the state adjacent to both Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, is Wynad, famous for its temples, the Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary and its Lakkdi area known for its scenic beauty.

Lakshadweep Islands (300 km away in Arabian Sea): An archipelago of 12 atolls, 3 reefs, 5 submerged banks and 36 islands in the Arabian Sea forms a favorite getaway from Kerala. Only six of the 36 islands are inhabited and open for tourists - Androt, Amini, Bitra, Chetlat, Kadamat, Kalpeni, Kavaratti and Minicoy. They are the only coral reef island in India and rich in flora and fauna. Just the place for adventure enthusiasts who love snorkeling and other Watersports, Fishing etc.

Location :
On Arabian Sea coast, in Kerala

Go there for :
Backwaters, Antiques, Ayurveda

Climate :
Upto 35°C (Sum); Around 25ÂșC (Win)

When to Go:
December to May

Local Tongue:
Malayalam, English

Literacy :

STD Code :
+91 - 484

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