It is difficult to believe that all I spent were measly 4 days in Kochi and the backwaters. I had so much fun in those four days, it feels like I was there at least for 10 days! So here are 10 things I thought were a lot of fun to do in Kochi and backwaters. My trip was on invitation from Travspire.
Kashi Cafe, Fort Kochi
10. Visit the Kashi Cafe: Locals like it, everyone recommends it. It is a nice cafe. They have art works installed at the front. I was however pressed for time and straight went for coffee and a pastry. The pastry was huge, way too many calories I say. It was yum too. When I asked if they had wifi they said no. It has a nice ambiance. People were sitting there with books and e-readers. So it is a place to hang out, no one is in a hurry to throw you out.
South Indian Thali
9. Eat at Krishna Restaurant: Guess what was the cost of the South Indian Thali I had at Krishna Restaurant? It was a royal sum of Rs. 35. And it was eat as you much. They also had a dish listed at Rs. 15. I can’t remember when I paid so less for a meal. My auto driver for the day, Sabu Babu took me there. It is a local place. That coffee bill at Kashi was many more times than the food bill.
Paradasi Synagogue and the Shops, Kochi, Kerala
8. Visit the Paradesi Synagogue: I only walked through the Jewish Street and saw the exteriors of this synagogue as I was there on a Friday. The synagogue is closed on Friday and Saturday. I had an interesting experience in the lane full of shops on the way to the synagogue. Everyone invited me to their shop. I told them I was not shopping. They said I could just walk in and have a look. I parried it by saying- on the way back. And on my way back they reminded me I had to visit their shops. It was all done nicely and in good humor. In the end I bought a t-shirt and dresses for my daughter and niece.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica, Fort Kochi
7. Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica and St. Francis Church: Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica is ancient and have gone through a lot of destruction and reconstruction (read more about it here). When I visited it, I was the only person inside the church. St Francis Church is also almost as old as the basilica. It is said that Vasco da Gama was buried here before they moved the body to Lisbon.
A Theyyam Artist, Fort Kochi
6. Watch a Cultural Performance: I am not much of a culture person. And yet I was completely mesmerized by the dance performances put by the artists from the Greenix Village (read the complete article on the Kathakali and other dances). It was right opposite my hotel, The Fort House. You can pay only to watch Kathakali or you can pay to watch the entire show. I strongly recommend that you watch the entire show.
Ancient Shiva Temple, Muzris Heritage Trail
5. Go on the Muzris Trail: Muzris used to an important port during the ancient times. It was part of the famous spice route. It can no longer be physically located. One theory is that it got submerged within the sea. But its approximate location is seeped in history. There are synagogues, temples and mosques nearby, all of them a few centuries old. If you are interested in heritage this is a must do (you can read a detailed account of my experience).
The Local Dhobi Ghat, Fort Kochi
4. Hire an Auto and Let Them be your Guide: That is how I explored Fort Kochi. The deal was for Rs 100 per hour and I can avail the auto services for as many hours I wish. It was a lot of fun. That is how I discovered Krishna Restaurant. At one point I asked Babu to take me someplace where I could buy chips. He took me to a local shop and I was really sad when all the chips got over finally. They were quite good. He also took me to off beat places like CTD Temple and the local Dhobi Ghat. Other off beat places were a ginger processing unit, a candle making factory and a local shop which sold nice soaps and tea. We of course did the regular attractions as well.
Chinese Fishing Nets, Fort Kochi
3. Watch Sunset Over the Chinese Fishing Nets: The Chinese Fishing Nets lend a unique charm to the sea shore at Kochi. Sunset is when the magic happens and it is a beautiful time to take stroll along the shore. The locals do it too. You can eat stuff from road side vendors. I do not eat fish but they can make it for you fresh out of the water! I wish the area was cleaner though (want to read more about them?)
The Hammocks and My Room at Breeze Backwater Homes, Alappuza
2. Stay at a Backwater Homestay: Forget hotels, I would say even forget houseboats. This time choose a homestay. I stayed at Breeze Backwater Home Stay in Alappuza. It is about 2 hour drive from Kochi. My room was literally 5 steps from the lake. They have only four rooms, so pre-booking is recommended. Their food is awesome. There are hammocks in the courtyard. They own a houseboat and a canoe, both of which are rowed with bamboo poles. They were quick to point out that it was much more eco-friendly. It is a great place to unwind. I would say just put up your feet and do nothing here.
Kayaking in Kerala Backwaters
1. Go Kayaking: If you are even mildly adventurous type, kayaking is one activity you cannot miss. A kayak can go to all those canals where a houseboat cannot. You sit this high from the water, almost touching it. There are bridges that you can cross only after ducking or lying flat on the kayak. It is just too much fun. Put it on your list. Go do it and read more about my experience.
OK here is bonus tip. The good folks at the Breeze Backwater can arrange for a cycling trip for you as well. I say do that too!
One of my trips with Travspire was the heritage tour of Muziris. When I met Lijo Jose my guide for the Muziris Heritage Tour, he pulled out a map of the Spice Route in ancient times to show how the port of Muziris was an important part of it. And if we thought of cities and ports as more or less permanent, well the port of Muziris completely vanished from the map of the world. One theory is that it got submerged into the sea. Whatever be the reason it is not to be seen anywhere now. Once again reaffirms my faith into human beings as a speck of dust but this extends it to even places being not so permanent.
However many structures survive and my visit included a visit to the St. Thomas Mathoma Church, Paravour Synagogue, Chendhamangalam Synagogue, a visit to a hand-loom factory, Kizhthali Siva Temple and Kodungalloor Bhagavathi Temple along with the excavation site. All these places are close to Kochi and we did it as a little more than a half day tour.
When Lijo came to my hotel it was raining and I did not have an umbrella. We took the local ferry to cross the lake and take a car from the other side of Kochi. There were a few shops on where we disembarked and I got my umbrella. I was a little surprised that women boarded one corner of the ferry and men another but then why to get surprised, after all it is the same at Delhi Metro too!
Our first stop was the St. Thomas Church in Kodungalloor. It is from 52 AD. Can you imagine that kind of time? Something standing since then? My mind surely boggles at the mere thought.
St. Thomas Church, Kodungalloor, Kerala
The church has two parts. The old area is no longer used for prayers and yet is a beauty in its own right. Lijo knew everyone around! The old structure looks royal from inside.
St. Thomas Church, The Old Structure, Kerala
While we were there a betrothal was going on in the main church. People follow the temple tradition of not carrying footwear inside the premises. I was quite surprised because in any other church that I have entered I have always gone inside with my footwear.
Our next stop was the Paravur Synagogue. It was my first visit to a synagogue. In Kochi I could not visit the Paradesi Synagogue as it was closed on a Friday. Synagogues are also closed on Saturdays but as Lijo knew everyone, they showed me around.
Paravur Jewish Synagogue
I am told that all the synagogues have similar structure. The section from where women pray is separate from men. Lijo and I had a very interesting conversation about it. I told him when people say they wish they were born in an earlier era, I never agree because the life of women was even more restricted in those days. I love my freedom and I will not like to be born in any other time but the present one.
Our next stop was a hand-loom factory which was mostly run by women. After that we moved to the Chennamangalam Jewish Synagogue.
Chennamangalam Jewish Synagogue, Kerala
This synagogue is said to have been built in 17th century. It is also said to have the oldest Jewish inscription in India. The structure in the sense of arrange of the rooms etc is very similar to the Paravur Synagogue. Here the designs of the roof have Hindu influences. This is one area where there is a mosque, a church and a synagogue all within a few kilometers of each-other.
We then moved to the bank of the lake and went to stand on a bridge waiting for the ferry to come, or so I thought. Our car also fitted on the bridge. I was wondering why was it a plank of iron wedged into two boats. When it started moving I realized it was the ferry itself! It was a lot of fun to cross the lake like this.
Crossing the Lake on a Float, Kerala
This crossing is quite close to the excavations going on for the remains of a fort. Unfortunately because of the monsoons the excavations had been halted and everything was under wraps. However, there was no other tourist in the area apart from me! But Lijo thought the area would become popular after the Muziris Heritage Project was complete. Our next stop was the old Shiva Temple called Kizhthali Shiva Temple.
Kizhthali Siva Temple, Muziris Heritage Trail, Kerala
The temple is supposed to be from B.C 113-AD 343 but destroyed by the Dutch, Portuguese and then Tipu Sultan. Now only this main structure remains. A cow was tied within the premises and it protested loudly when I went in. There was a lady around and I asked if I could go in to which she said no. And because I was visiting a few temples there was a dress code and I was wearing a salwar kurta. I do wear it for work but hardly ever while traveling. So this was a first of sorts.
The Concept of Giving, Kodungalloor Bhagavathi Temple, Kerala
After the Shiva Temple we headed for an excellent South Indian lunch. Lunch done, our last stop for the day was the Kodungalloor Bhagavathi Temple where I came across this interesting concept of giving. You are apparently supposed to give rice, oil, gold or whatever you wish to donate equal to your own body weight. And I saw these weighing instruments in all the temples where worship still happens!
Soon we were headed back to Kochi where I took the ferry once again to reach my hotel. I have to say heritage is not my first choice (and very few brownie points for guessing what it is) but it was so quiet and secluded here that I was glad I did the tour before it becomes part of the touristy trail.
I started my India travel blog, Travel Tales from India in 2005. In 2016 I realized Travel Tales from India and Abroad better reflected my writings. I love to walk and ride in metros around the world. I have not been everywhere, I am not even close, but it is on my list. I also quit my job as a professor in 2015, it was a happening year! I did a Ph.D. from IIT Kanpur ages ago!
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