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Visit Kochi, the Venice of India

Kochi, the Venice of India

Chinese Fishing Nets are a signature of the Kochi coastline

From the aroma of raw mango pickles to the jingling of gold bangles the narrow by lanes of Kochi or Cochin always remind me of my childhood. I have been living away from Kerala for a long time, but visited once again in 2011….. This is how I wrote about my trip later in my diary…. Wanted to share it here, with all of you wonderful people.

It’s India’s answer to Venice…. The island city of Cochin, in Kerala, has everything you could want in a Venetian town. A loose agglomeration of townships connected by waterways. Indian buildings share space with remnants of three colonial occupations, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.

Also referred to as the queen of the Arabian Sea, Cochin has something to offer to everyone. The marks left by centuries of intrepid visitors, the exquisite beauty of her harbor, the vibrancy of her people, and the tantalizing cuisine are some of the endearing virtues of Kochi.

The area around Kochi is reminiscent of an era that you can find only in old school geography books. Colorful fishing villages and ancient temples dot the coast, rice paddies; cashew, coconut, banana and rubber and tea plantations fill every valley and stretch across the hills. The scenes are exotic, green and tropical.

Kochi is a natural harbor and a variety of fishing craft ply the busy harbor waters – some only small canoes with rag cloth sails. Ships wait their turn to load spices such as ginger, pepper and turmeric from brightly painted waterside warehouses or godowns. Passenger boats from canoes to modern ferries as well as some quaint tourist boats transport people between the islands. Public passenger ferries or private tourist boats take you to the doors of Bolghatty Palace on palm studded Bolghatty Island. The palace was built by the Dutch and later used as the British Residency. Today the palace is a hotel and though it has seen better days, still has a strong sense of history and nobility as well as one of the best vantage points on Kochi harbor. It also has a golf course.

Across the bay is the Mattancherry Peninsula, perhaps the most interesting part of Kochi. You could spend an afternoon riding around Fort Cochin, Jew town and the spice markets on a hired bicycle there is plenty to see. There is the Mattancherry Palace with its brilliant murals depicting scenes from the Ramayana.

However, the biggest attractions in Kochi are the giant cantilevered Chinese fishing nets that line the point of Fort Cochin. Introduced to the locals by the court traders of Kublai Khan and are used till date throughout the backwaters. These huge nets are lowered and raised into the water with the help of a pulley, manually by the fishermen. You could also take your pick from the catch and get them cooked as per your liking.

Close to the Chinese fishing nets is the fading facade of St. Francis Church, founded by Portuguese Franciscan friars in 1503. Vasco da Gama was buried here and although his remains were later returned to Portugal, his headstone is still in the church. The oldest church in India, it is still used for Sunday services, during which pankha-wallas manually pull ropes attached to woven rattan pankhas (fans) to provide “air conditioning”.

Roam around the cobbled streets of Jew town, site of the oldest synagogue in Asia. The once thriving Jewish population of Kochi has dwindled from about four thousand in the nineteenth century to just a few families today.

The essence of Kochi however, is her spices, which has inspired many writers. Inside the godowns, the strong, exotic smells pervading the street are concentrated to lung-piercing agony and it’s impossible to stay more than a couple of minutes before returning to the street, gasping for mouthfuls of air

However, if you get bored with the old world charm of the Kochi then just take a bus and reach the much modern town of Ernakulam, it’s twin city.

Take a walk at Marine Drive or browse through the numerous Gold shops at MG Road. A visit to the nearby Cherai Beach is also a must.

(This post was submitted by sherlyzz)

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