Part 2 of post, Travel Pick: Fort Cochin, Kerala, here are some ways to pass your time in and around one of my favourite holiday picks in the world, when not lolling by the pool.
WHAT TO DO
Fish markets & Chinese fishing nets
Highlight: Fort Cochin’s fish market where ancient Chinese fishing nets are still in use. Go around 7.30am to witness fishy bartering in full swing.
How: The town is built around the nets and market so you’d be hard pushed to get lost. Head for the sea.
Highlight: Antiques, pashminas, once tried, forever essential oils; jewellery, spice markets and a toe dip into real life India.
How: A 15 minute rickshaw fairground ride from the town centre or Chinese fishing nets.
WHERE TO EAT
Highlight: A banana pancake and masala chai must do for every Fort Kochi visitor.
How: A two minute walk Fort Cochin’s tiny tourist town centre.
Highlight: Demolished food. Because Gujarati’s are the master sweet-makers. And samosa chefs, it would seem.
How: Tell the rickshaw driver to drop you at Shantilal opposite the Guajarati school. My friend Vineetha takes me and I’m yet to spot another westerner or tourist. It’s completely safe, don’t worry!
Kashi Art Café
Highlight: Another uber stylish hot spot serving dishes with a western twist by the Old Harbour Hotel team. Breakfast is a must. My favourites: Try the seafood roti wrap and coconut iced coffee. Kerala means Land of Coconuts, after all.
How: A two minute walk from the town centre or fishing nets. Just about everything is a two minute walk. Ideal for an unwind holiday in my opinion.
Highlight 1 : A down to earth café on the water. Read: respite from often stifling humidity.
Highlight 2: THE BEST Fish Moile and paratha (pancake like bread).
Highlight 3: Gin & Tonic. Raj sized measures (big).
Highlight 4: The Seagull is where just about every well-heeled local eats and gets the thumbs up from my fussy Indian family so not to be missed.
How: Less than a five minute rickshaw ride from Fort Cochin’s town centre.
Old Harbour Hotel
Highlight: Breakfast and lunch chef, Rahim’s cooking. Thanks to him I’ve consumed almost every Indian breakfast ever concocted and now know how to make my favourite dish, Green mango curry.
How: Stroll in, kaftan clad from your room. Or dine by the pool in your bikini. That would be my advice. Take it or leave it.
KERALA & AROUND
Highlight: It would be a sin to visit Kerala without spending time on The Backwaters. One or two nights on a houseboat with skipper, cook + an/other on hand to guide and feed you through sleepy waterside villages could well be the most relaxing and fascinating experience of your life.
The houseboat tick box has become a bit of a factory procession tourist trail. Somehow it still manages to be worth the effort. I guess it’s not hard to see why when you look at the pictures.
How: The boats leave from Alleppey, about 1 ½ hrs away from Fort Cochin by taxi (£15 fare approx.). Book your trip in Fort Cochin with the countless travel agents, or through your hotel. Expect to pay a premium if doing the latter.
Highlight: Tea plantations, cool air, home cooked meals, 1950’s flower gardens and butlers.
How: You can do a day tour, leaving very early from Fort Cochin or spend a night. Unless you’re going hiking, you probably won’t need much more than a day. The town isn’t up to much and once you’ve seen one tea factory, you’ve probably seen them all.
Cherai & Madurai
Highlight: Both have beaches and some very stylish boutique hotels popping up, so my sources tell me. I’m incapable of leaving Old Harbour Hotel, remember?
How: Two – four nights should be good unwind time, depending on the length of your stay. The hotel would be the decider for me.
Parts of Goa are described by The Lonely Planet as India’s answer to Blackpool. I went under duress. Ten minutes inland by scooter, however, and you’ll find an entirely different (non-beer drinking for breakfast) crowd. Exceptional restaurants and yoga; Portuguese colonial architecture; and a multi-cultural night market to inspire London’s finest street traders.
It’s worth noting that Goa was a Portuguese protectorate until 1961 and as such, its cuisine and customs are quite different to the rest of India. Think tangy tamarind and Indian shoulders on display.
How: Domestic flights are excellent and frequent between Cochin and Goa. Book planes and trains through Cleartrip a wonderfully efficient service. You can even cancel and get a refund. Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth) bless India.
Highlight: Stay in Colaba for Raj style hotel luxury with Victoriana. You’ll be spoilt for choice with galleries, street life and Bombay cafes on your doorstep. Try the Mumbai branch of Trishna, London’s Indian fish restaurant with style. You’ll find the original somewhat different in terms of design – old style London tube upholstery features – but the food is outstanding. The Colaba night market is well worth a visit; a drive thru diner for rich Mumbaikers.
How: Most flights stop over in Bollywood capital Bombay or the Middle East. If taking the former, it’s worth spending one or two nights on the way there or back.
This post is part 2 of Travel Pick: Fort Cochin, Kerala Click on the link for more India tips.