It was my millionth time to Kochi last month. It is a thriving port city of Kerala, one of the less exploited yet very tourist-ey state of India. The beauty of this place lies in the fact that it has a perfect blend of city and countryside. The people here makes it even easier. With the huge number of travellers visiting the place every year, the people are always welcoming. From the local auto-rickshaw drivers to the local people around: they are always ready to help a stranger. I was there to conduct a TEFL/TESOL batch. It is a 3-weeks teacher training program. I checked-in my company sponsored accommodation near the Kaloor neighbourhood. It was not near to the institute. That meant I had to travel local. I availed the metro train and oh my my! The metro trains that I have availed in other major cities vs. what I experienced here seemed way different. On the good side of course! It is faster, cleaner and efficient as compared to the metro system of other cities. The ride was wonderful everyday. When the locals could understand that I am not one of them, they would have this inquisitive stare which was quite natural. when the stares used to get too obvious to ignore, it was quite charming to see how a smile from the either ends will always cover for the awkwardness. The universal language always comes handy it seems!
The classes were during the weekdays. So I had a chance to explore the place over the weekends. This time I thought I would explore Fort Kochi. It is a water-bound region towards the south of Kochi. Now if you want to be a tourist you can always hire an Uber. But if you wanna be a traveller and stay local, you have to take the ferry from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi. The ticket is sweet cheap and it is 4 rupees only. There is another stop in between, Vypeen. The smell of the ocean water, witnessing big vessels anchored or sailing along with your ferry makes the ride worthwhile.
I went with 2 of my trainees, Nivedhana from Tamil Nadu and Konika from Arunachal Pradesh. Once we got down at the Fort Kochi ferry point, it was time to hang around and explore. We cracked quite a cheap deal with an auto-rickshaw driver. He agreed to show us around just for 200 rupees for 2 hours. We went almost at lunch hours. So we added a waiting time for him with an extra 50 rupees. We started off by visiting 2 churches back to back- Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica and Saint Francis Church. It was quite interesting to see how the churches operated were so strikingly different. The first one had this commercial touch to make it a mainstream tourist spot while reserving the religious terms. With its elaborate structure and huge open area it is a great spot for social media freaks to get their double taps and followers soaring! Since photography was allowed we did take our fair share of advantage of clicking the structure for our group photo background.
Saint Francis, on the other hand, had a very orthodox outlook. Photography sadly was not allowed. The architecture was very gothic and it had a strong vibes of stringent religious atmosphere. The draconian structure also has its historical significance. The famous Portuguese traveller, Vasco da Gama was buried here before his body was claimed by his son and took permission from the church to take it to the homeland.
It was almost lunchtime when we went to our next stop; Fort Kochi beach. We thought of taking a break and grabbed lunch meanwhile. The food prices are quite high, if you intend to eat lunch there compared to transport which is relatively way too less. However, the quantity, taste and the atmosphere are beyond expectations. The shacks mostly serve freshly cooked items. However, this comes with long waiting time before they serve your food.
After we had our quite a royal seafood meal, we planned to visit the couple of other places before we end our sightseeing trip. While we went to the next point, Mattancherry Palace Museum, we checked out the streets where they mostly sold souvenirs. There were spice shops, essesntial oils and perfume shops. The mixture of exotic fragrances and flavours captivated the entire stretch of souk. They sold chestnuts for 50 rupees which you can dip into any oil and massage on your body. Well, it did relieve me from the 80 year old body pain trapped in a late 20’s body.
After buying a few souvenirs, we headed to the Mattancherry Palace. The entrance had steep stairs that took us to the ticket booth. Photography was not allowed here as well. So we were left with any option to take home all the memories with us. We just had to sink into the momentary experience. The palace is turned into a museum now where we learnt about the royal family of Kerala, the water route for early trades and international allies. They also had the real-time palanquins and royal household items and costumes preserved for the visitors to see. It was quite surprising to see that how awesomely rich the economy and culture used to be in early days; however, we were never educated about any of this.
Finally, we asked the auto-rickshaw driver to drop us at the beach where we thought to enjoy the sunset before we left Fort Kochi. And let me tell you, I have lived most of my life by coastlines, very less places defined sunset. Fort Kochi beach is one of those rare shore to boast of a perfect romantic sunset. It was way picturesque. Funnily, we got so carried away and this time when we had a chance to click pictures, it went out of our minds. Guess, that’s what beautiful things around does that to all of us. You forget to freeze time and become a part of it!