Kochi, aka Cochin in its colonial past when it was the center of the spice trade (successively Portuguese, Dutch and British) or also known as the Queen of Arabian Sea (i like that one most), is a wonderful town to spend some time, and get an introduction to South India. It’s relaxed, by the sea and everything is walking-distance, or within easy reach with a rickshaw. The Trinity House where we stayed is perfect for families because it has only 3 large rooms, one of which can sleep 4 comfortably, with outdoor showers that children will love (think splashing everywhere). It can also be rented as a whole. You take your meals at Malabar House around the corner where the dinner tasting menu is a must, and there is also a tiny swimming pool. Downstairs at Trinity house, there is also the best indian clothing shop in town (lucky me): Cinnamon.
Plenty of elegant Chinese fishing nets still in use on the waterfront, by the Arabian sea. More adventurous travelers choose their fresh fish at the tiny market and get it grilled with sea salt, garlic and lemon at one of the stalls nearby.
The town is divided into 3 parts: the old and atmospheric Fort Kochi where most hotels are located. The area where the Dutch Palace and the old synagogue are, around Jew town, called Mattancherry. And the new city called Ernakulam, where it’s not worth staying, but it’s nice to take a ferry from Fort Kochi to see it briefly. In Kerala, my husband was absorbed by his book The Last Jews of Kerala from Edna Fernandes, re-telling the story of the “black” and “white” jews that co-habited (not without their share of racism) over several centuries in Kochi. There’s only 12 of them left in Fort Kochi, and a tiny bit more in Ernakulam. Today, there are 60% hindus, 20% christians and 20% muslims in Kerala, making it one of the most diverse state religiously-speaking, in India. All of this makes for plenty of interesting topics of discussion with the children.
It’s nice to take a jetty from Kochi to Ernakulam, for only 3.5 rupees per person one way, (ie. about 7 cents, not 7US$!!) if only to take a view of the town from the sea, and share some time with the locals commuting back and forth.
It’s also a good idea to take the children to a kathakali performance in the evening, a traditional form of arts and drama that you only find in Kerala. There are plenty of places to book such performance, on the day. You don’t understand much but it’s fun to watch them get ready with their make ups, and then perform in Malayalam.
An alternative hotel, popular with families and with great charm, is The Old Harbour, a beautiful garden and right by the chinese fishing nets, very centrally located.
For an authentic ayurveda massage, try Cochin Ayurveda Centre on Santa Cruz School Rd (contact them via Hotel Fort House)
For a pause during the heat of the day, stop at the Teapot Cafe on Princess Street, it’s so relaxed. I kept on staring at this lovely French family of four children (8 til 16), all so inspired, writing their postcards.
For quality handicrafts and furniture, visit the incredible 14 warehouses of Heritage Arts on Jew Town road, or also Crafters next door. It’s so wonderful to stop for lunch at Ginger, the restaurant behind Heritage Arts. Seated by the water, you get their garlic and ginger prawns. They’re so good.