• Main Attractions: Kerala backwaters tour, Mattancherry Palace, Paradesi Synagogue & Jew Town, Santa Cruz Basilica, St Francis Church, Kerala Kathakali Centre
  • Best Time to Visit: Late October to early March
  • Local Specialty: Canals & waterways
  • Travelled By: Train, Bus, auto rickshaw
  • Cost: $$
  • Duration of Stay: 4 days
  • Location: Kerala, India

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Apart from the heat and humidity, Kochi is perfect in every other way. We loved the attractions here like no other, and there are so many things to do and see that we could have stayed for a few more days. After travelling through the chaos and frenzy that represents the rest of India, it was wonderful to be able to find a place that seems to have stepped back into time and become an altogether more laid-back place.

Kochi (Cochin): Our Experience


10th December 2013 (Day 1)


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We arrived into beautiful and serene Kochi (Cochin) on an overnight train from Dindigul (Tamil Nadu). It was 4:00 am in Kochi when we landed and to our horror realised that Graham had left my phone on the train. After speaking to the police officer at the train station, they located our phone on the train and kept it with them at the police station in Trishur, located about two hours away. So we had to hire a private car from outside the train station to drive us to Trishur and back so we could get my phone back. We were tired and crabby and the journey to Trishur was painfully long. Luckily for us, Graham was able to get my phone back from the police station after a few words of caution from the chief of police.


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Back in the car, we were driven to Fort Kochi where we were staying at Silverweed Homestay. As the name implies, Silverweed Homestay is a homestay with a Keralan family in their private home. The homestay is run by Krishna while the home belongs to his parents who live and manage the household. Not only did they provide us with a lovely room of our own in their beautiful house, they also cooked traditional breakfast for us every morning. If we wanted to, we could ask them to cook a traditional lunch or dinner for us but we politely declined.


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Krishna’s mother loves her gardening, and as a result, there is greenery all around the house in the form of hanging pots, ferns and flowers. It’s such a beautiful place that it’s worth spending the mornings just lazing on the balcony in front of the rooms.


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After a nice hot shower, we took an auto rickshaw to Mattancherry located on the east side of the island. Here, we chose to have lunch at a restaurant in Kochi – Rahmathulla Cafe as they had good reviews for their Biryani. Since Graham’s first taste of biryani in Hyderabad, he longed to have good Biryani again, so when we heard about the Biryani at Rahmathulla Cafe, we decided we had to get some.


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After lunch, we took a leisurely walk to Mattancherry Palace, also known as the Dutch Palace by some. This is an amazing attraction as it houses not only information on the history of Kerala and the royal families, but it also has some of the best murals representing temple art in Kerala.


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Our next pit stop was the adjacent Jew Town which used to be the first trading port for Kochi. Today, it is a popular tourist destination whose streets are lined with shops selling spices, antiques and souvenirs. As we walked along the streets we tried to spot the Jewish buildings by locating the iconic star of David or Jewish names embellished on top.


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However, the primary reason for us being here was to visit the oldest active synagogue in India – Paradesi Synagogue. The interiors of this synagogue are really beautiful but what we really enjoyed was reading about the history of the Cochin Jews.


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It was late afternoon when we took an auto rickshaw back to Fort Kochin to see the Santa Cruz Basilica, one of the few basilicas in India. Clearly the most beautiful church in Kochi, the interior is decorated with amazing murals; our favourite were the murals of the Stations of the Cross.


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Next door is St Francis Church believed to be the oldest European-built church in India. Built in 1503, it was the resting place of Vasco da Gama’s remains for 14 years before they were taken to Lisbon, Portugal. His tombstone is still present in the church and is the main reason for a visit to this church.


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The Chinese fishing nets are the unofficial emblems of Kerala’s backwaters and a visit to Kochi is incomplete without witnessing these ancient masterpieces. Today, they exist more as a tourist attraction than as a fully functional piece of equipment for fishing due to advancements in technology. Nevertheless, it was wonderful watching the mechanics behind this ancient Chinese art of fishing.

Nearby are some fishmongers who sell all kinds of seafood at really good prices. You can then take your purchases to the food stalls nearby who will cook it for a reasonable price.

Next to the food shacks is the Tourist Desk where we booked ourselves on the Water Valley Tour for the following day. The Water Valley Tour is the KTDC government-run Kerala backwaters tour.


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It was nearly 5:00 pm in the evening so we made our way to the Kerala Kathakali Centre to watch a performance of Kathakali, a cultural dance of Kerala. The Kerala Kathakali Centre is one of the premier theatres in South India and perhaps the best place to view a performance of Kathakali. Even though the performance doesn’t start until 6:00 pm, we arrived at 5:00 pm to watch the actor apply their make-up which is half the fun of the program and our favourite part of the evening.


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We had taken a recommendation from Krishna to dine at Oceanos Restaurant which is famous for their seafood dishes and known by the locals to be one of the best restaurants in town. We were not disappointed and our dinner here was one of the highlights of our stay in Kochi.



11th December 2013 (Day 2)


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Our day started off with a traditional Keralan breakfast made by Krishna’s mother at Silverweed Homestay. Even though we had tasted Masala Dosa several times before, a home made Masala Dosa is simply delicious. Freshly prepared and accompanied with coconut chutney, the Masala Dosa was wholesome and provided a great start to the day. A glass of freshly made watermelon juice rounded off our breakfast here.


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Before we had finished our breakfast we heard the sound of a horn and realised that the driver had arrived to pick us up for our Kerala backwaters tour. A visit to Kerala is incomplete without a tour of the labyrinthine canals and waterways fringed with coconut groves. If you don’t plan on visiting Kollam or Alleppey, Kochi is the next best place to take this tour. We didn’t think we would say this but the full-day Water Valley Tour with government-run KTDC was amazing and given the price it was great value too. Our favourite part of the day was the ride in a country boat through the narrow canals of the backwaters. It was a perfect day!


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In the evening, we took a ferry from Fort Kochi across the waters to Ernakulum to dine at Frys Village Restaurant. Not as fancy as Oceanos Restaurant, Frys make some delicious seafood dishes like prawn roast and, when in season, crab roast as well. Dinner was splendid here and great value too.



12th December 2013 (Day 3)


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Our last day in Kochi had arrived too quickly and we made our way down for our final breakfast at Silverweed Homestay. This time Krishna’s mother had prepared a Keralan breakfast of rolled white coconut rice with chick peas curry. A glass of freshly squeezed pineapple juice stood on the side. Breakfast was delicious as usual and we ate to our heart’s content under the watchful eye of Krishna’s mother.


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We made our way to the main bus stand in Kochi which is located near the ferry terminal. From here we caught a bus to the Kerala Folklore Museum. The bus didn’t go all the way so we had to get off and take an auto rickshaw the rest of the way.

Although a bit out of the way, the Kerala Folklore Museum is a well-kept secret in Kochi. For whatever reason, it is not popularly advertised so not many tourists know about this place. However, it is a treasure trove that showcases the rich heritage of Kerala through its numerous art and dance forms. While there are over 5000 artifacts housed in a beautiful private museum created from ancient temples and old Keralan houses, the dance theatre on the second floor is the star attraction.

While we were there we were lucky to witness several South Indian dances and martial arts. Performances like this usually take place in the evening however a group of tourists had arranged to have a private viewing during the day so we had the advantage of watching a part of the performance for free.


We caught a bus back to our homestay to collect our bags and say farewell to Krishna’s parents. At 2:00 pm we had a bus to catch to Munnar, the queen of hill stations in South India and home to tea plantations of companies like Tata Tea. After the heat and humidity of Kochi, we were looking forward to disembarking in the cold climate of Munnar.

Apart from the heat and humidity, Kochi is perfect in every other way. We loved the attractions here like no other, and there are so many things to do and see that we could have stayed for a few more days. The next best thing are the people that live here and the laid-back atmosphere they have created. After travelling through the chaos and frenzy that represents the rest of India, it was wonderful to be able to find a place that seems to have stepped back into time and become an altogether more laid-back place.