One of the most wonderful things about India is its diversity when it comes to it’s towns and cities. Some are bustling cosmopolitan delights and some are not and have a long way to go. What I enjoyed most on my travels was discovering the quaint smaller towns mixed with history and an infusion of European-Indo culture. Fort Cochin and its surrounding areas was one of these. Mixed with Portuguese houses, ancient Chinese fishing nets and an old Jewish Town there was plenty to observe as you strolled through the village streets. I spent three nights staying in Mattancherry staying at Sui House a boutique B&B and one night in Fort Cochin at Bernard Bungalow.
Sui House is a tranquil retreat located away from the crowds, but easily accessible to explore the surrounding areas on foot or by tuk tuk. Owners Kumar and Pauline make you feel welcome in their home which is filled with antiques and religious relics from their prior antique business. They also own an additional property and restaurant Caza Maria in the Jewish Town. With their flair for style and having lived in the area for many years they provide guests with a convenient map of the area and their top recommendations of where to eat, drink and shop.
Following their map I spent my first day wandering the streets, firstly in Mattancherry and the Jewish Town. I was mesmerised by the abundance of wonderful street art surrounding me as I took to the quiet streets. There was a government strike on across Kerala which meant most shops were closed for the day and I missed seeing the famous spice shops in the Jewish Town in full action, but it was actually pleasant to stroll and meander with hardly anyone around, which is a very rare occasion in India.
Walking the loop around from the Jewish Town to Mattencherry you’ll reach the ancient Chinese Fishing nets. You can purchase fresh fish from the fish mongers behind the fishing nets and have one of the local surrounding restaurants cook them for you. From here keep walking into Fort Cochin where there are many more shops, restaurants and bars to discover.
I loved that you could literally eat your way around the towns. My picks were Dal Roti with their scrumptious kati rolls that leave you wanting to go back and again and again. Brunton Boatyard Bar, a great place for a wine, Malabar House and Old Harbour Hotel for seafood and local Keralan delicacies.
Sui House recommendations to eat and drink in Fort Cochin are; Fusion Bay, Santa Cruz Basilica, Oceanos, Opposite Britto School, Dal Roti, Lily Street, Tibetan Chef, Santa Cruz Basilica, Fort House, Kalvathy, Brunton Boatyard Bar, Old Harbour Hotel for wine and beer, Malabar House, Parade Ground, Upstairs, Italian restaurant, David Hall, Parade Ground, Dosas & Pancakes.
In Mattancherry; Caza Maria, Jew Town, Hotel Abad, Chullickal, Kai’s Biriyani, New Road, Krishna Cafe (veg), Palace Road, Vijaya Lakshmi (veg), Palace Road, Ayyappas (veg), Anavathil, Shami Restaurant, Kappalandimukku, Hotel Fort Queen (bar), Mantra Road, Ginger, Jew Town Taj Malabar and on Willington Island, Hotel Casino and Hotel Trident on Willington Island
And there are great boutiques scattered around. My favourites were Fabindia and Anokhi for their fabrics and affordability. Other boutiques recommended by Sui House are; Cinnammon, Parade Ground, Tribes, Inside Post Office, Joe Ikareth, Bazar Road, Ritu Kumar, Jew Town
For my last couple of days I visited the Dutch Palace which was completed in 1561 by the Portuguese. The palace has amazingly preserved Hindu murals which are well worth a visit. I was also fortunate enough to be in Fort Cochin when the Kochi-Muziris Biennale was on and I spent these last couple of days visiting the exhibitions scattered around the area.
If you’re planning a trip to Kerala don’t miss Fort Cochin as a destination. It’s easily accessible by air, train, bus or taxi and is a gateway to the back waters. And if you can plan your trip when the next Biennale is on even better.
Images taken on FujifilmXT100