Fort Kochi for you…
No, Fort Kochi is not a fort but a beautiful little harbour town on the Malabar Coast of the South Indian State of Kerala. It is actually a neighbourhood of the city of Ernakulam or Cochin as is known to most of the world. Colonized first by the Portuguese, followed by the Dutch and then by the British, this place has retained the vestiges of its colonial past. Whitewashed buildings, neat little cobbled paths, and age-old churches take us back in time casting an old-world charm on this quaint little neighbourhood. Huddled by the Arabian sea on one side, this port town does entice us with its slice of history, culture and of course its natural beauty.
Fort Kochi was actually a gift from the Rajah of Kochi to the Portuguese in 1503 who helped him the fight another king who ruled over Kozhikode in northern Kerala. It gets its name tagged with a ‘Fort’ because of Fort Emannuel – the first Portuguese fort in India built on its coast in the same year – an imposing symbol of alliance between the Rajah and the Portuguese.
Exploring Fort Kochi on Foot
Most places of tourist interests lie in a radius of just 200-250 metres around the centre of Jawahar Park (close to where the famous Chinese fishing nets are placed). Places of religious and historical interest, boutique heritage stays, shopping alleys, spas and popular cafes are all concentrated in this little area along the harbour. One can cover entire Fort Kochi, more or less, on foot and this actually is the best part about the town. It is an enriching experience for any traveler that helps them imbibe the culture and ethos of this lovely town.
Reaching Fort Kochi
From Bangalore, we drove for around 10 hours on wonderfully maintained roads and reached our destination well before the expected time. We started quite early at around 5 in the morning and hence could beat all the infamous Bangalore traffic. NH 44 and NH 544 was mainly used. However, all the National Highways as well as the State Highways are impeccably maintained. You can choose any route of your convenience.
Bangalore –> Hosur –> Salem –> Karur –> Namakkal –> Palakkad –> Fort Kochi
Where we stayed in Fort Kochi?
Ideally, one should be staying in the heart of Fort Kochi to be able to enjoy this place the most. We too stayed at Hotel Arches, a neat little budget hotel right in the centre of Fort Kochi, and we were not disappointed. True to its reviews, the rooms were clean and spacious and had a great vintage feel to it. It is located just 100 metres from the main touristy area of Fort Kochi. Their restaurant, Rasoi, is also the best North Indian restaurant in town.
Things to do and see in Fort Kochi
We had arrived late in the afternoon in Fort Kochi from Bangalore. So, we had a little less than 2 days to cover this lovely little neighbourhood. So, after resting for a while and without wasting any time, we decided to go for a sunset cruise that evening and check out the harbour at night.
Day 1: Sunset Cruise
This cruise on the waters of the Vembanad lake was organized by The Brunton Boatyard of CGH Earth Experience Hotels. It was an hour-long cruise starting from the private jetty of the hotel in the evening. After relishing some local snacks and drinks provided by them, we proceeded for the cruise. Since we were not guests of that hotel, we had to pay around Rs 1500 per head to avail this experience. Yes, this cruise is complimentary for the guests of that hotel. 🙂
The cruise started at 6 pm (timings may vary and it is best to check with the hotel for the same) and took us along the Kochi harbour with a guide showing us around the historical buildings along the cruise: The Cochin shipyard where INS Vikrant is moored, the court house along the lake, the floating fish market, the newly commissioned Vypin water metro – one of its kind in our country, the salty sea breeze and the dolphins at large 😉 whom we never spotted.
The cruise ended with the sun setting below the horizon and casting an orange glow all around us. The chinese fishing nets at one corner of the seascape too basked in the glory of the setting sun before calling it a day. However, the day hadn’t ended for us! We turned around the corner to hop on to Princess Street.
Shopping on Princess Street
The Princess street was delightfully lit up and glittering, true to its name. A few restaurants around the corner were seeing guests lining up for food. A variety of boutique clothes store made up for most of the street. A spa at the other end and a few tourist shops comprises the rest of the street.
There were not many people on the street at that time of the night. The few ones were busy shopping on the street and queuing for dinner. The Kochi harbour is just opposite the street and the place has a lovely vibe and ambience to it. A good place to hang out for a small stroll or dinner.
Day 2: Checking out Fort Kochi’s Art Cafes
Fort Kochi is an artists’ paradise. The town celebrates art by hosting the Kochi – Muziris Art Exhibition which is a much awaited event for art lovers across the world. No wonder the town is home to many beautiful art cafes set in equally great outdoor settings. It would be a crime to not visit one of these cafes while staying in Fort Kochi. These cafes are surely a great way to unwind and refuel after enduring the tropical heat of the town.
Many art galleries, set up in bohemian colonial buildings, double up as refreshing cafes which lend an artistic touch to the entire gastronomic experience. We began our Day 2 with such a visit to David Hall Gallery and Cafe – again within a kilometer of our hotel. The breakfast was droolworthy and we were so hung up on food that we did not bother to click any pictures 😛
How could we leave Kashi Art Cafe behind, especially when we were staying so close to it. We visited this cafe as well on the same day for a late lunch after our morning visit to the nearby Mattancherry palace.
Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace)
Next for the day was a visit to Mattancherry Palace, also popularly known as the Dutch palace. Though there is nothing Dutch about it as it was a gift from the Portuguese to appease the Rajah of Kochi after they plundered a nearby temple. (Hypocrisy at its peak. Plunder and then give a gift! Anyways, it has happened in the past and we need to learn from our mistakes so as to not let history repeat itself.)
The palace is a double-storied structure amalgamating the colonial and Kerala style of architecture and is a masterpiece in itself. It houses some exquisite murals depicting scenes from the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Taking pictures is not allowed inside the palace and I respected that policy.
The Jewish town and Synagogue is nearby this palace and is usually coupled with this visit. We skipped it this time as we had it covered in our last visit here. Instead, we enjoyed an Ayurvedic spa session at Ayur Sana Wellness Centre just opposite Princess Street.
Marine Drive of Kochi
To end the day, we decided to catch the sunset from the Marine drive of Kochi – a popular hangout place for the locals and visitors alike and is at around 14 kms from Fort Kochi. It is a 3 km-long promenade along the back waters of Cochin which offers picturesque views of the backwaters and the Kochi Harbour.
The promenade is a bustling place with numerous food stalls, boat jetties and a mall alongside it. It is a good place to hang out in the evening taking in the view of the setting sun from the Rainbow Hanging Bridge built on it.
Our 2 days in Fort Kochi were spent rather quickly; however, we created many memories to cherish for a long time to come.
If you liked reading this, then do check out my other blogs on exploring the length and breadth of our vast country: