Fishing boats at Kerala
Paraiso: Fort Kochi, India
After braving the surprisingly comfortable thirteen-hour coach journey from Bangalore to Kerala, I arrived at Fort Kochi in a rickshaw decked with flashing lights. It seems the auto-rickshaw drivers in this state use their vehicles as a form of personal expression, so keep your eyes open for the wacky and unusual decorations of their "Ferrari's". Fort Kochi was ruled by the Portuguese for 160 years from 1516, and has a very strong Mediterranean feel. The charming, colonial architecture is incredible, and any avid photographer will be spoilt for choice with the unique, aging houses and hotel. The pace of life in Kochi is incredibly relaxed and the residents were charismatic and friendly.
Costa Gama is a delightful homestay/hotel with very reasonable rates for the superb location. From here guests are a maximum of 30 Indian Rupees from all the major attractions that Kochi has to offer. I was greeted warmly by the charming Mr Benson and shown to my clean and spacious room. Immediately I received a map and advice on rickshaw prices which was extremely helpful.
A short rickshaw drive towards the coast later I turned the corner and the main fort came into view. Blue ocean rolled back against the skyline, broken by the towering Chinese fishing nets slicing across the horizon. The atmosphere was fascinating with numerous fish stalls and gifts for sale along the market. Find your way up one of the concrete piers and have a seat above the rocks to cool down.
Further along the shore I discovered the delightful Princess Street, perfect for those wanting to do the tourist bit of trawling through trinket shops and postcard browsing. Further in-shore is St Francis' Church which is an incredibly peaceful retreat from the bustle of the town . Wander further down and take a peak through the gates of the Dutch Cemetery. These tomb stones are the most authentic archive of the hundreds of Europeans who left their home on an expedition to broaden colonial territory and altered the history of this town. Jew Town is also heaving with beautiful handmade crafts, spices and silks.
A trip to Kerala would not be complete without a houseboat tour through the backwaters. The first few hours were spent in a small canoe weaving through the lush greenery. We then had a tour of the jungle and were shown all of the natural foods and spices and the rope weaving process. After a delicious, traditional Kerala lunch the rest of the afternoon was spent curled up in large wicker chairs floating peacefully along the main shore.
The Divine Lounge at Malabar House is one of the few places in Fort Kochi with a license to serve alcohol with food. The tapas was exquisite- the king prawn platter is a definite must!
- Costa Gama Homestay were incredibly hospitable.
- I opted for the seven hour Backwater Cruise on a houseboat and country canoe with traditional Kerala lunch, but there are many different tours to choose from. For rates and bookings, visit touristdesk.in
- The Divine Lounge is at Malabar House.
- For flights and bookings, visit www.cheapflights.co.uk/Cochin/London