How do you justify exploring a city with splendid history of more than 8 centuries in just a day? You can’t. Any amount of time spent is less to immerse in the past of Kochi spoken out loud by its rustic settlements. A walk through its narrow by-lanes, open courtyards, broken harbors, moss patched walls, spice markets and Jewish lanes gives glimpses of timelines in the history of Kochi, when the British, Dutch and Portuguese battled to win over this blue veined beauty. Present comes to a stand-still and you can feel India’s colonial past roll over like a film in front of your eyes.
With this feel in our head and heart, we set out on our mission of; I would say just getting acquainted with Kochi in a day! And these 24 hours have given us enough reasons to keep coming back. Here are our tips to help you explore Kochi in a day –
1. Make an autowallah your guide
It was a lazy Sunday early morning with clear skies. Kochi Fort was still getting ready to host the swirls of tourists. We decided to ride an auto/tuk-tuk and take a quick 2 hour city tour. Our unusual guide for the day! We were busy blabbering about all the places we had listed down but he had his own plan (a good one though). He took us to places off our guide book. It was simply enthralling.
PS: Autos in Kochi are reasonable and safe. He did take us to 2-3 showrooms to get his coupons but that was our mutual settlement with him.
2. Give temple elephant a scrub
This was definitely not on our “Explore Kochi” plan! Our auto stopped and the driver pointed towards a shed with a temple elephant. All we could see was rows of several houses. Seeing our confused looks, he zapped across the narrow lanes and parked his auto outside the shed. The following half an hour was a childhood wish come true.
PS: We were lucky that it was Sunday and the elephant had bath time on his schedule.
3. Befriend temple pigeons
A lot has been mentioned about pigeons of Jain Temple in Kochi but pigeons of Thirumala Devaswom temple are also not a shy lot. They don’t mind you giving them a closer look. Like any other temple complex in Kerala, this temple too is huge, yet calm. A good detour from usual tourist places in Kochi.
PS: Our autowallah told us that only Hindus were allowed in this temple.
4. Tick off all the listed sites in Kochi
After all the interesting non-human interactive sessions, we decided to go by the guide book –
Stop 1| St. Francis Church
It is one of the first European churches in India. This church has seen it all. Vasco Da Gama, a Portuguese, opening new routes to India; an Indian king opening his land’s hearts and riches for them; the Dutch taking over the Portuguese later to be defeated by their own European counterpart, the British. You can still see the gravestone of Vasco Da Gama though his remains had been moved long back.
Stop 2| Santa Cruz Basilica
Like many other old churches, it also has beautiful stain glass work, wooden carvings, large murals and floral patterned pillars. If short on time, this one can be skipped.
Stop 3| Jew Town- Paradesi Synagogue-Jewish Cemetry
Zooming through the bazaar road which was mostly closed as it was a Sunday. Our Autowallah dropped us at the start of Jew Town. The clock tower of the Paradesi synagogue has stood tall against time for more than 400 years. It now safeguards the towns’ only remaining 5 Jews. One of whom is Sarah Cohen, 93; known for her embroidery. She quietly sits in a corner, gazing through David’s stars in her window grill. Her calm gaze is often met by several curious peeps of the tourists.
Following the security check before Independence Day, Paradesi Synagogue was closed. We walked our way through the shops towards the Jewish Cemetery which has all the secrets and stories of Cochin Jews buried deep inside its heart.
Stop 4|Mattancherry Palace
In the same neighborhood another place which has seen history made and now preserves it, is the Mattancherry Palace or popularly known as the Dutch Palace, now converted to a museum. The palace walls adorn full size murals. It is also a good place to know all about the Kochi history. It is extremely well kept.
Stop 5| Chinese Fishing Nets
We took a ferry from Mattancherry and came back to Fort Kochi to witness Eastern Asia also making its mark on Kochi. One of the most popular tourist attractions- the Chinese fishing nets. Though these nets can also be seen in other parts of Kerala but they are most popular at Fort Kochi. The shore where these nets stand is thronged by people and is relatively unclean.
5. Walk -Walk -Walk
Kochi will compel you to walk as you would not like to miss the beautiful amalgamation of buildings, nature, people and history. We walked through possibly each and every lane of Fort Kochi and Jew Town. Each place has a unique character and will let you immerse in itself with each of your step.
6. Cafe Hopping
Walks do give way to hunger pangs and Fort Kochi is brewing with cafes. Cafes tucked in, hosting relaxed getaways. Hence we kept our budget aside for once and decided to do café hopping! It was an altogether different experience. Cafes range from a courtyard setting with big heritage waterfront to a tiny; quaint place occupying just a corner, all mostly occupied by tourists.
7. Skip the roads and take the waterways
A ferry ride will navigate you through the ports which made this city what it is. We got a ferry from Fort Kochi for Ernakulem, the urban 21st century face of the city. One can see the city skyline dazzling with electric bulbs from the ferry. You get a feeling of time travel across centuries. A ride for Rs.5 also saves you almost 45 minutes of travel by road and a couple of hundreds! South Ernakulem Station is just 1.5 kms from Ernakulem ferry point. So yes, don’t miss on this one.