Fort Kochi, Kerala
Fort Kochi is surely a paradise for writers, painters, and photographers. The great flood in the huge Periyar River not only closed the port in Kodungallur (Cranganore) and opened up a harbor in Fort Kochi in 1341, but this fishing village turned commercial capital of Kerala launched the struggle of the European powers in India more than 500 years ago. It seems the traders and merchants almost went to Calicut where there was already a thriving port. However, a scout spotted the harbor that was created in Fort Kochi by the flood, and ran back to inform others about it. Good for him, he began a whole new industry.
“Walk 40 km down South and we are back in business”, he said to the dejected merchants.
City for Story Lovers
This city does inspire stories. It was two years ago that I thought of traveling to this city, and it happened this November. After visiting some of the book stores I came to know that there are many thrillers, historical fiction set in Kochi, not to mention many history books written about it. A fascinating blend of cultures, people from all over the world live and work here.
I like the names of the roads there, and also the look of it. Princess Street, Burger Street, Tower Road to name a few. Small but showcases culture, crafts and the arts. The Jew Town is not only inhabited by the Jews but also people from other communities. The buildings are unique too. You could walk past 200 – 500 year old buildings. They are the only living proof that the Europeans were here. Otherwise most of Kochi like the rest of India has become fiercely Indian after the Independence.
Jews were once one of the prominent traders here but most have gone to Israel, and very few Europeans remain here. The local people are awesome. I made a list of places to go to and buildings to see, but it is the people here that guided me to those places. Besides they are passionate about their city, its history, its culture. Yes, they would do anything to preserve it all.
My bus ride to Fort Kochi from the airport
The best way to getting around Fort Kochi is to walk. Oh! this is a walkers’ paradise. Bicycles are available for rent. Those long distances can be done using one for rent. Bicycle renting places rent you their bicycles for Rs.100 a day. There are motor bikes on rent too. Another way to get around is by auto rickshaws and taxis. Pay some money to the drivers and they will take you on a guided tour around Fort Kochi, Mattancherry, and Ernakulam. There buses that go around town, just know which one to take.
Fort Kochi jail next to the tourist police station
Inside a jail cell
They were playing only Bob Marley’s songs when I was there
David Hall. A Dutch bungalow, which is today dedicated to showing some works of art, minimal furniture, and is charming. This hall is also one of the venues for Kochi Muziris Biennale, 2014.
They had paintings made by students that showed global warming and its effects. It has a cafe at the back. The cafe has a pizza oven. The pizza base is made in front of you with your choice of toppings.
Loafers Corner, Fort Kochi
Aspinwall House, a former British trade company building. It is also a venue for the Kochi Biennale, 2014
Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi
This hotel is located right next to the Fort Kochi jetty. There was a boat yard here before. The building was demolished and the hotel is remodeled to look like the boat yard the receptionist told me.
Chinese Fishing Nets
I guess this is the most recognizable image of Fort Kochi. ‘Cheena vala’ or the Chinese fishing nets.
Each structure is about 10 meters high, large stones are suspended from ropes as counter weighing while the fishermen lower the nets set up on bamboo poles. Six to seven fishermen work in each net. There were many such nets but only 20 remain today, 11 of them in Fort Kochi and 9 of them are in the neighboring Vypin Island, near the Cherai beach. It seems the farmers are incurring a huge maintenance cost and these days there are better form of fishing. In a few years this may not exist, except for in books, photographs, and in paintings.
The fishing nets, the container port at the background
There are many articles and books about how the Chinese nets came into being at Fort Kochi. Do read up. In Fort Kochi they are at the Vasco Da Gama Square. I also saw a park for children there. Fort Kochi is definitely children friendly. There are many ‘catch your fish, and cook your meal’ restaurants too.
Mahatma Gandhi Beach, Fort Kochi
Getting to Fort Kochi is easy. Do I really have to do this. Well anyway,
By Air: Kochi has a good connection to major airports in India, South Asia, and the Gulf. There are many buses to Fort Kochi from the airport.
By Train: There are two railway stations near Fort Kochi. Ernakulam Junction and Ernakulam Town, and both are half bus ride from Fort Kochi. Most trains that travel through Kerala, stop at either one of the stations.
By Road: There is good road network in Kerala. Kerala state operates good number of buses. The neighboring states operate many buses that stop here. There is a bridge that connects Fort Kochi with Ernakulam.
By Water: Oh!, there’s plenty of water, and so there are plenty of ships. There’s a wharf at the Willingdon Island that operate cruise ships to and from Goa, Lakshadweep, and Colombo. There are also ferry services from Ernakulam too.