Of great food, art and even greater enthusiasm. Fort Kochi is all about the “Feels”

I have often read that travelling with your friends can either break it or make it. So when two female friends cum colleagues travel to a new land, what are the odds of the latter happening? 

It was 10:30 at night and we were still waiting for our bus to pick us up from Marathalli. All hell burst when the agent asked us to reach Madiwala by 11. That’s where the bus was supposed to leave from. Thanks to the excellent services of Uber, we were on time and successfully boarded our bus to Kochi. There began a journey which we two ladies will remember for years to come and probably feel as proud while narrating it to others. After all, no matter how small an adventure, the first ones are always special.

Day 1

After an overnight journey, leaving behind all the confusion and mishaps behind we woke up to the daylight in Edapally, which was the last stoppage and where we got our cab for Fort Kochi. Mr.Roy our driver was a really kind human and helped us find our pre-booked budget homestay successfully which wouldn’t have been possible without a local person help. Beautiful smiles and an undeniable inclination to help, this is what maybe pulls thousands of tourists and travellers to the state every year.

Since there wasn’t much to explore in our budget homestay. We without wasting a moment rushed to the washrooms to freshen up. And to our dismay, there was no water. And again Sophie our host kindly fetched us some water from the well in her backyard. We left from our rooms all dressed up totally unknown to what the scorching heat was gonna do to us. But what good is a budget trip without some crazy struggle?

We rented our bicycles from Arafat- Rent a bike on Princess StreetThis is a cozy cafe cum rental store for bikes and scooters. We hired two Lady Birds at Rs 100/- a day

Arafat – Rent a Bike Princess Street


In the hunt for a place that accepts cards, we finally reached Cafe Quissa. I must say the cafe culture in Fort Kochi is the rarest; or should I say the finest?  We had the best Pancakes of our lives and thus Quissa made a made a place in our food-loving hearts forever. But that isn’t all! The ambience itself was drool worthy.

Quissa Cafe, Fort Kochi
How I love the use of sewing machines stands as the base of the tables. I am truly a digger of creativity and Fort Kochi is my muse.
If only we could marry pancakes

We headed straight to Jew Town in Mattancherry where we visited the Jewish synagogue and shopped in the antiques. The place is way too remarkable to be accommodated in a small section of a blog post. You can read about Jew Town in details in my previous post. As the sun began to sink we made our way back towards Fort Kochi, hung around the beach for a while looking at the distant flickering lights of the harbours.

Fort Kochi Beach


Volleyball Tournament at Fort Kochi Beach

The sight around the beaches in Fort Kochi is downright spectacular. Christmas lights everywhere your eyes can see and vendors selling lip-smacking fish fry and Iddiapams. Tiny shacks trying to attract customers in their best efforts. You don’t really feel the humidity and heat amidst all that liveliness and chaos. 

As always services are welcoming and warm
Burger’s Street

After a satisfying meal with the final touch of a refreshing glass of lime soda we called it a day and were back to our den to give our backs some rest.

Day 2

Next day was spent in the backwaters of Aluva. Kerala Tourism Departments hold these day tours to backwaters on daily basis. All the packages are categories into three. Starting from Rs 400 for the most economic to Rs 900 for the full day package. Ours included a visit to the backwaters and the Chinese Fishing nets for Sunsets. It was heavenly to watch the sky being crimson by the setting sun at the mouth of the Arabian Sea. 

You can reach the reception centre of Kerala Tourism Dept. by taking a ferry from Fort Kochi boat jetty. A ticket to Ernakulam wouldn’t cost you more than Rs 8. 


Somewhere near Chittur Village, our stop for evening tea and snacks
As the name suggests Chinese Fishing Nets were introduced to Kochi by a Chinese explorer. This method of fishing is still in practice hundreds of years after their installation. When silhouetted against the setting sun they make a stunning view.

The day ended and we began hunting for Chicken Stew and Appams, our latest food crush. After going around and checking with some eight odd restaurants if they served any, we finally ended up eating at Fusion Bay. 

Day 3

The Final day had come and we would have to bid goodbye to this whole new world of colours cultures and throbbing exuberance. So we decided to end it at The Teapot Cafe followed by a visit to the Biennale 2017. And we’re glad we did so. The teapot is a tiny cafe on Princess Street. Step into the world of teapots. I mean literally! Remember me talking about the cafe culture some time back? This place has teapots in all shapes and sizes in the display. Never seen a place living up to their name to such an extent. 

The Teapot Cafe

They say travelling places liberates your soul and then there are some who believe travelling is the game of the escapists. Regardless I feel, it a way to feed your soul. And when it’s your first independent travel it has to be life changing. Doesn’t it? So was this trip to Fort Kochi.

Kochi gave us tanned faces and gallons of cheery memories that we both can equally share and cherish years after we have lost touch with each other. The memories of our rondom encounters with people will be ours even when we’re old stuck in the routines of our respective lives ahead. I believe that’s what travelling does to people. It binds you to your counterparts at a level that’s impossible to separate. 

I am obsessing over the Jew Town in Mattancherry. Here’s why you will too

My indomitable love for antiques landed me in the narrow lanes of Mattancherry in Kochin, what is popular among the locals as the Jew Town. Jew town is adjacent to the port and is a narrow lane adjoining the Dutch palace and the Jewish Synagogue. The place owes its name to the Jews who landed in this port of Kochi in search of refuge under the protection of the Hindu Raja of Kochi. The Raja with a great liberty granted them a site by the side of his palace and thus was built the Jew Town of Kochi. The age old buildings and a beautiful medley of cultures speak volumes of its fascinating history .

 We began walking through the lane that led to the Synagogue. The road is a boulevard of shops that overwhelm you with their antiquity. The most interesting  was the one which featured the giant cooking vessel of 14 ft. Known as uruli in local language this vessel weighs over 3000 kilos and is a major tourist attraction. The craftsmanship and the detailing is sure to take you by awe. 

Johny and Sunny Malayl of Cochin made the biggest Uruppu, weighing over 3000kgs

I am a sucker of ancientness and walking thorough the streets of Jew town made me feel like home. Starting from post cards, croceries with Portuguese art to homedecor, this place has every thing lined to treat your eyes and teleport you to the era bygone. Visit this place at your own risk if you aren’t carrying enough cash. I wouldn’t say things here are expensive but you would be tempted to forego your budget and buy everything that comes on your way. 

Meet our friend from Mattancherry, Rafeeq Bhaiya

Stationeries made from elephant poo

The Jewish Synagogue was first built in the year 1568 an year after the Jew town was established. But after the invasion of the Portuguese in 1600 the Synagogue was partially destroyed only to be rebuilt in 1664. The beautiful structure flaunts an aesthetic architecture with beautiful Portuguese tiles and glass chandeliers. 

The Synagogue was partially destroyed after the Portuguese invasion in 1600. However, it was rebuilt a few years later

Mattancherry is also a house to a variety of spices. A ride towards Fort Kochi will take you through a shabby lane of wholesale market for spices, and the entire lane smells just heavenly.

Wholesale spice market of Mattencherry

When you are tired shopping you can grab a sip of Ginger lime soda at the Ginger House. Sit by the sea and sip on your chiller. Sounds heavenly? It indeed is. And guess what they also give you a free Ginger with your bill.  

Amidst all the chaos of the city life of Ernakulam, Fort Kochi still preserves this jwel that narrates the story of the true spirit of Kerala and it’s glorious history. If you have landed in God’s own country then this spot is a must see because you don’t really see this place you live it. 




How to leave the tourist in you behind and become a traveller instead 

Over the years how we perceived travelling has evolved dramatically. Read how you can make your trips more worth the while and explore the traveller way

Places in Bangalore that stay with you beyond Instagram

 

1. Mekkah Cafe: Start your day the Suleiman style with a flavoursome cup of Sulemani Chai teamed up with a coconut puff at Mecca Cafe in Johnson’s Market. Sheltered in a shabby archtop building on Hosur Road right before Audugodi, Mecca Cafe is s little hard to trace. However, once you find the place parking isn’t going to be an issue.

 

2. Disney Bakery: For the Chai diggers out there … There is another one in line. Disney Bakery is a Mecca for all the tea addicts dwelling in BTM. Ginger tea and samosas here are to die for. The place is flooded with people eagerly waiting for their glass of aromatic tea ranging from elichi, masala to lemon. Team your tea with a bun samosa or bun butter and you are done for the quarter of the day.

 

3. Airlines Hotel:Brunching under a giant banyan tree; pretty euphoric ain’t it? But that isn’t all Airlines Hotel is all about. One of the most iconic places in Bangalore Airline’s hotel serves mouth smacking dosas and the best Bourvita in the city.  Airlines Hotel was started in the year 1968. Back then a drive-in restaurant was a very alien concept in the city.

4. Koshy’s,  St Marks Road:  If you can get yourself out of bed early in the Sunday morning, head to Koshys in St Marks Road. It’s one of the iconic places in Bangalore and gives you the vintage feel with all the waiters (everyone past 40 years of age) dressed on bright shiny white uniforms and the place itself speaking volumes of its ancient establishment.

On Sunday mornings Koshy’s servers typical Kerala style Appams and mutton stews which are to die for. And on other days you can select anything from their menu and be assured of not going home disappointed. My personal favourites would be Tandoori Chicken, Chicken liver on toast and obviously the Tea.

Starting from the food to the crowd everything about this place is a total 10 on 10.


5. Blossoms Book Store: If you are among those who get a high from the smell of old worn out books. Then you have fond a place where you would want your grave to be. Blossoms is a three storied bookstore that shelves thousands of books new and old. If avenue road falls too far for you Blossoms is your go-to place for all your book cravings.

Blossoms Book House

6. Russel MarketKnown for being the hub of best perishables in the city Russell Market is the oldest market complex inaugurated in Bangalore dating back to 1927.  The wide variety of fruits and vegetables speak volumes of this yet underrated market.Street food lovers will dig this place for there is a plethora of budget-friendly options to choose from and not enough space in the tummy. The aromas of the Kababs and Biryani are enough to get any foodie weak at their knees. What got me hooked on the place was the caramel custard that I had in one of the shops. The idea is to not fill yourself up in a single shop and regret seeing another which for some undecipherable reason appears more tempting to your eyes than the previous one.

 

7. Potters Village: Potters Village is wholly occupied by a bunch of people who have still stuck to the ancient yet underrated art of pottery for their living. If not poverty this village manages in a dire state of austerity. These families have been taking over the legacy of  art manship over decades and been surviving with utmost conformity. Entire lane is a boulevard of pottery items of all shapes and sizes kept for drying. Some glazing with the moisture freshly out of the wheel and some totally ready to go into the furnaces. The shopkeepers if not welcoming, we’re not hostile either. Probably there is a constant influx of photography enthusiasts into the village owning up to their indifference.

Homestays in Kochi : A Major Dreamy Affair

A quick read trough Google about Kochin suggest that the port harks back to 1341 and Fort Kochi bears the testimony to it. Nothing explains what happens when multiple cultures blend together like this costal town of Kerala does. An unplanned arrival at this city in December surprised me in the most euphoric ways and I can’t wait to share my stories.

The window period between the New Years and Christmas is when Fort Kochi is at its most vibrant self. There is no single street spared from the zealous preparation that the inhabitants are indulged in. And trust me my little knowledge with camera wasn’t enough to capture the joy that I experienced while paddling my way through the streets.

Hugely decorated streets of Fort Kochi during Christmas

Deciding where to stay in Fort Kochi could be cumbersome, not because there aren’t enough places to stay but because you would be overwhelmed with the array of options available. Zoom into Google maps on Fort Kochi and you will know that every house here is converted into a homestays. Doesn’t that say enough about how welcoming this place is?

I began my hunt from the Sea Hut which is a beautiful ancestral house converted into a homestay.  Still retaining its vintage charm, the sea hut is right on the shores and gives you the freedom to watch the sun sink down the sea at the horizon while you swing in the hammock in the backyard. Around 4kms away from the chaos of Fort Kochi, this place should be darling muse  for any traveller in search of the most tranquility. Then came Reds Residency which is again a blend of a british interiors nested in an ancestral kerala house. The beautiful patio was the catch 😉 

Reeds Residency, Fort Kochin

However, we finally decided upon Chiramel Residency which was just a short walk away from the beach and local market.

Chiramel Residency, Fort Kochi

Resting right next to the Bernards Bungalow on Parade Road ,  Chiramel lies more on the humble side when it comes to exhibiting grandeur in architecture. It is a cute Portugal ancestral house with an open quadrangle in the centre of the house and furnitures from the ancient times.

Breakfasting the English way

Comfy rooms, warm welcome, great breakfast, heavy tasting coffee and beautiful smiles Chiramel has all of these in abundance with a topping of love and care that would make you want you to come back again.

Talking of homestays it would be a crime not mentioning the ancient (literally) Bernards Bungalow.

Bernards Bungalow, Fort Kochi

Discovering the age of this excusite heritage home, came to me as a shocker. Bernards Bungalow has been gracefully standing tall for over 350 years.

Ready to give you the colonial feel and spoil you with its aura, this homestays flaunts an exorbitantly dreamy interior with tall windows, antique furniture, lace curtains and a high rise roof with wooden ceiling. Every thing here simply takes you back to the 17th century.

World inside Bernard’s Bungalow is nothing like the usual

Kochi has indeed made a place in my heart forever and these homestays which happen to be the finest in the country are hugely responsible for that. There is no way I could not think of making a dedicated post for them.

Living Like a Local in Wayanad

 

A three-day stay at  Jincy’s in Wayanad has taught me a lot not just about this place but also the people and how close they embrace their rich culture. But what strum the chords of my mind the strongest is the ‘larger than life’ way of living. They do not exaggerate when they so proudly call Kerala “Gods Own Country” because there’s a little piece of God in everyone’s heart I met there. Say for instance this gentleman who was in the middle of his daily chore of fetching coconuts from the tree when he, with a welcoming smile, paused for my  picture.

Our drive from Bangalore began around 4:30 in the morning. Although most of the journey we were  fast asleep however the morning glory of the sun brought us some beautiful surprises along out way . As we drove trough the Nagarhole Tiger Reserve, we chanced upon some beautiful deer and also a peacock.

As soon as we crossed the state borders, Pratish, Jinny’s husband introduced us to a tiny bridge that literally was built by the Britishers overnight. Thanks to Pratish that he let the bizarre facts coming in till we finally discovered a spectacular stream that flew by the road.  Not being able to withstand the rush of adrenaline we jumped into the water that very moment and caught quite a few glimpses of kids fishing and playing in the water. Although none of our mates was camera friendly.

A gang of village boys was trying to swim with a log of wood

After a pleasant drive alternating through the dense forests and infinity stretching paddy fields we finally reached Jincy’s. We had just begun to let the beauty of the house sink in when Aunty got us some freshly prepared  kashayam using krapooravalli (carom) leaves just plucked from her backyard. Let me tell you! They work magic on your sore throats in no time at all.

Jincy took me for a short walk through her garden and the plantations in her backyard. Boy! I was taken aback. There was no single spice they have missed on. Starting from pepper, cardamom, cinnamon to even vanilla and cocoa they have it all and right in their backyard. I even had a chance to taste some mulberry from the tree before the silkworms could.

The traditional built of houses in Kerala are quite a catch. The peculiar wooden hedge and the tiled roofs with a triangular arch are enough to make a Keralan house stand out distinctly.

We spent one evening rowing through the Kabini river on a snake boat. And this authentically absolute Kerala experience was topped with some drizzles only to add to the awesomeness quotient of that moment.  If your eyes are aching for something that they have never seen before, Wayanad is the place. Get over the tea estates I witnessed acres of the ginger farm. And trust me they were spectacular!

Kabini

We also had visited the Kalaphuza Reservoir which happens to be one of the largest earth dams in India. Surrounded by lush green patches of land around this place was a sheer delight and watching the sun go down behind the feral weeds that surrounded the reservoir was divine.

 

Talking about the food! Wayanad is the food heaven for every foodie especially the nonvegetarians. We began our day with chicken cooked on chulaah and ended it with lip-smacking fish curry every single day.

Such a bliss to watch your food being cooked in the traditional Indian style Chulaah

What more could one have asked for from a weekend get away? Living like a local is every traveller’s dream and I had it come true in the most scenic of the places in the country. I don’t know how to thank Jincy and Pratish enough for introducing us to this bucolic bliss. Kerala has definitely won over me but the countryside living is what has got me weak on my knees.