I got the impression that Cochin was an underrated destination in the south of India since it’s a little different to what people go to the South to see – and by South I mean Kerala. I sit in this boat of people because I wanted to go to Kerala to see its natural green beauty of lakes, tea plantations, and wildlife, and experience a way of life that is much more relaxed and intertwined with nature. And so, I didn’t have any expectation of Cochin, or planned to do anything in Cochin, since it was just where I was flying into in order to venture south. But Cochin is actually a pretty interesting town to explore with a number of activities to entertain. I spent a good 3 days here and discovered a very artsy vibe, Tibetan community, Jewish history, Chinese presence, and beachy-Indian feel, all brought together by the hippy-yoga atmosphere from the travellers that stay in Cochin. I had fun exploring Cochin by bike and loved that there were some boutique and modern cafes about with awesome food to try! From my experience I would say the below activities represent the best of what Cochin has to offer.
BEACH & MARKETS
Fort Kochi Beach is small and it isn’t the most sightly beach if you’re like me and live where the best beaches in the world are (Sydney!!). There’s a little bit of a shore with remnants of seaweed and tree branches, and sadly scattered litter that’s been washed up. There is a pathway along the beach though and it’s best to stroll down during sunset/evening when there’s a cheery family vibe and little ice cream carts around.
Market stalls also line the beach selling jewellery, handicrafts, clothing, snacks and souvenir items. They sell during the day but it seems there are more market stalls at night time when there’s a bigger crowd.
HANDICRAFT & JEWELERY STORES
Fort Kochi has a large number of boutique stores in and around streets and it’s fun to check some of them out even if you’re not interested in buying anything. You can see the types of art and handicrafts they sell, and just get to know the town better by talking to the store owners 🙂
Coincidentally the Student Biennale art festival was running when i was in Kochi so there were plenty of art galleries running artist exhibitions as well as films and experiences to check out. I found out the day after I stumble across a photojournalists gallery and LOVED his work! It was the last day he was exhibiting his work and I told him he should definitely showcase his work in Sydney and Melbourne. When I went to discover the art festival properly it was a Monday so it was actually free – score!
Even there is no art festival when you’re in Kochi though, there are various museums and galleries in Kochi to capture your interest for a few days. One of the main ones advertised is the Folklore museum.
KATHAKALI CULTURAL DANCE SHOW
From research this is one of the ‘must see/do’ items in Kochi. Kathakali is a traditional form of art and likens to a theatrical performance using gestures and facial expressions to convey a story. The dance show is held every night from 6-7.30 pm at the Kathakali Cultural centre for 350Rs per person. You need to book these tickets if you want seats closer to the front , but it’s an intimate performance hall so you’ll still have a good viewing if you purchase tickets the day of. You can also watch the performers apply makeup between 5-6 pm – interesting to just watch the intricate work and effort put into their performance!
The Kathakali Cultural centre also runs daily yoga classes from 6.30-8am and they also have a schedule of other performances and shows like martial arts and violinists during other times of the day.
YOGA AND AYURVEDIC HEALING
With India being the birthplace of Yoga you’re bound to find a yoga class anywhere. There isn’t HEAPS in Kochi but if you ask a local I’m sure they’d be able to point you to one. Yoga classes I think range between 400-600 Rs (I enquired a couple of places that was 400 Rs and 500 Rs) and some places require you to reserve your spot.
Similarly, Ayurveda is ubiquitous in India and there are centres everywhere offering healing medicines, consultations, massages, and other treatments to help balance your ‘doshas’. If you’ve got time in Cochin, why not treat yourself to an Ayurvedic treatment?
MATANCHERRY Dutch Palace & Jewish Synagogue)
Matancherry is a suburb within Kochi and it’s better known as ‘Jew town’. There’s some history to discover about these suburb and the street architecture offers something a little different to the rest of Kochi. You can visit the Dutch Palace museum for 5 Rs, as well as the Jewish Synagogue for 5 Rs. Matancherry also has a main strip of shops, galleries and cafes aimed at tourists.
CHINESE FISHING NETS
You’ll find these amongst your exploration of Kochi beach and the markets, they’ll be easy to spot! To see them in action, go during the morning or evening. Fish, prawns and other seafood are caught and sold freshly at bay. One of the tourist things to do is to purchase some seafood and bring it to one of the nearby restaurants that will happily cook it any way you want. I’m a little cautious of eating fish from the waters in and around India so I didn’t try this.
BOUTIQUE CAFES & MULTICUISINE RESTAURANTS
Fort Kochi is pretty hipster in that it has the authentic Indian streets, yet has a range of upscale places more to the modern traveller’s taste. A walk through Kochi’s streets will reveal a number of clean boutique cafes catered to the western appetite.
I was recommended ‘Celestial cafe’ by an insta friend and loved it! This cafe sells healthy organic foods, shakes and coffees and is run by a middle-aged British man and his lovely staff. I was soooo tempted to try the orange and coconut cake, but my fish salad was so filling!
I love that there was also a few tibetan restaurants around. This is when I started to develop a thing for momos!! It’s THE BEST pan fried!!