Activities and Experiences The-streets-of-Mattanchery

Cochin referred to as the Queen of the Arabian Sea is a cluster of islands right in the middle of the coastal strip of Kerala. A Charming old port town, once the hub of colonial powers and still a prominent point of spice and hill produce trade. So here are – 10 things to do in Cochin, try doing all of them!

1. The city tour of Cochin

This is a very common sightseeing tour around Fort Cochin, it usually includes, the Kochi Raja’s palace, the Paradeshi Synagogue, St Francis church – the first European church in India, the Santa Cruz Basilica, and the interesting Chinese fishing nets. It is more a kind of a monument visit with stories to tell. It depends on your appetite for history, culture, heritage, religion and also how good a guide you have with you!

2. The Harbour cruise

Cochin was once the famous harbor of maritime trade. When you look in the map, there is a sea mouth connecting the backwaters. The two hour cruise in a motor boat takes you through the port area, the islands and the mangrove forests. Maybe you could disembark at the Bolgatty Island, have a tea break and cruise back to Fort Cochin. This is a chance to see the old warehouses and business centers, the port, ships and much more.

Pulling the chinese fishing nets -

3. Pulling up the Chinese fishing nets

Chinese fishing nets are a primitive style of fishing which was introduced by the Chinese traders, way back in the fourteenth century when there was a strong trade relation between Cochin and the South Chinese provinces. Today the tradition is carried forward by fishermen families and is still practiced in most backwater areas of Ernakulam. You could just walk in and ask the fishermen, that you would like to pull the nets, they would be happy to get the nets down into the waters for you, but make sure that you have some tips for them. It is worth a try!

Tuk tuk tide in Cochin

4. Go around the town in a tuk tuk

Like in most of the states in India, tuk tuks are very common in Kerala; it is the common means of basic transport. These three wheelers are not very common around the world. They are small and can take 3 people in the rear, 2 adults comfortably. People call it Auto Rickshaw or an Auto locally. Its tuk tuk tuk tuk!!…..don’t go for the sake of it, take a trip to Mattanchery spice market and back. Make sure that you ask for the fare before you start.

The retail spice markets of Cochin

5. Buy some of the best spices

Kerala has always been known for its quality spices and Cochin was the port town where everything was brought for export. At Mattancherry you could still see old trade shops and merchants with piles of gunny bags of spices stocked. You will find the touristic boxes with spices at most of the places in Cochin; this is more a kind of show piece. But what you will find in Mattanchery would be the retail spice shops with an open display of spice which gives the freshening aroma of spices to your olfactory. You can buy it to your requirement.

The govt boat schuttle service in Cochin -

6. Go on a Govt boat to Ernakulum

In olden days before the bridges connected the islands in Cochin, the transportation was all by boats. There are Govt. boats to commute people from islands to Islands making it faster to reach than getting stuck in the road traffic. The boat route is through the port area, where the cargo ships are docked. You need to take less than a 5 rupee ticket and board the boat from Mattancherry customs Jetty and disembark at the Ernakulam Jetty. It would be a very interesting experience traveling with locals.

The red painted buses in Cochin

7. Board a red painted bus to Fort Cochin

The fully red painted buses are owned and operated by private owners with permits from the government. You can see these buses plying all the time through the streets of Fort Cochin. Board the bus from Thopumpady to Fort Cochin. These buses are found everywhere in Ernakulam, but for an experience, it would always rgood to start from Thoppumpady where you see all the historic buildings, streets, shops and people.

8. Visit the folklore museum

The folklore museum is traditional styled architectural museum which houses a twenty year old collection of a single individual. It took 7.5 years for the completion of the museum which is based on three architectural schools of Kerala namely the Malabar, Cochin and Travancore. The collection includes, Masks, Manuscripts, Wooden and stone sculptures, old musical instruments, performing and ritual art costumes, oil lamps, string puppets, wood and metal utensils, Jewellery and many more. I would personally recommend this if you are in Cochin, provided you have some basic interest for history, art, design and architecture. The museum also holds a Theater with some of the best ambiences in Kerala. The museum is in downtown of Ernakulam at Thevara, not very far from Fort Cochin.

9. The Kathakali dance performance

There are a few theaters showcasing the Kathakali dance as a premier show in the evening, mostly at 5 pm. The show is of 2 hours, of which the first one takes you through the elaborate process of Kathakali makeup and preparing the artisan for the show, and the second hour marks the actual performance. This is a miniature version of the original traditional play, and there would be a synopsis explaining the story of the play. Don’t expect the real one which takes hours and hours of play explaining the story. You will have to take entry tickets for the show. It is worth a watch and may be take a photograph at the end of the show with the Kathakali artisan.

10. Walk along the pathway close to the estuary during sunset!

There is a long walkway on the shores of the backwaters towards the estuary along the sides of the Chinese fishing nets. A walk during the evening witnessing the sunset is worth a watch, where you see a lot of fishing boats and trawlers pass by in the backwaters. At times you could see ships entering the Cochin port through the sea mouth. At the estuary there is a small place where there are chairs to sit and enjoy the sunset. It is some of the best places for some of the best sunset photographs.

11. Its sea food for dinner!

The availability of fresh sea food has given way to some of the best sea food restaurants in Cochin. Go have a sea food dinner under the candle light. There are a few street shacks at the tower road in Fort Cochin, and a few other sea view restaurants towards Mattanchery via the customs boat jetty. Some of the suggested restaurants would be
• The Fort Cochin at the Casino hotel, Wellington Island.
• The terrace Grill at the Brunton boatyard.
• 1788, the seafood specialty restaurant at the old harbor hotel.
• The Malabar Junction at Malabar House.
• The Rice Boat at Vivanta by Taj Malabar.
• Menorah at the Koder House.

written by Benjamin John

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