1. “Queen of the Arabian Sea”city
Situated in the southwest part of the state of Kerala, Cochin (or Kochi) has been a spice trading market since the pre–Islamic area.
Later occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, the port of Cochin was transformed and mixed up by all this foreign influence.
Start your journey in Cochin by learning something about its history.
Best place to do that: Fort Kochi – the port area where you can still admire old European style buildings, like the Dutch Palace, the little house where Vasco da Gama lived or St Francis Church (where Vasco Da Gama was initially buried).
If you go early morning you can enjoy the view of the port in the sunrise with all the ferries coming back to life and the image of the Chinese fishing nets being thrown in the ocean (that you see on most of the postcards made in Cochin).
2. The concept of time in India
Let me put it this way, if you ask your Indian friend to come and pick you up by 5, then you should start getting ready by 6, because by 7 he will be there for sure!
This applies to almost every scenario, if the taxi driver tells you it’s going to be a 2 hours drive approx. to reach your destination, I would say you are up for a 3-4 hours drive (tip: take extra time into consideration if you have a meeting or urgent matter).
3. Washing the elephants
This has been by far my favourite activity in Cochin. If you love elephants (who doesn’t, right ?) Kodanad Elephant Training Center is the best place to interact with this beautiful creatures.You can participate in the elephants feeding, bathing in the river or riding.
Remember, the elephant is considered a sacred animal in India so one should show great respect around it (in Hinduism, wisdom is represented by the deity Ganesh, which is a god with the head of an elephant).
4. Veg or non-veg
This is actually funny because you’ll be hearing it a lot in India. Since you board the plane to reach your destination, from the hotel or the restaurant you choose to dine in, this is the question that will pop up. Are you a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian ?
Shortly said, veg or non-veg? It’s an entire culture build around this concept to the extreme that passing by you can notice how the name of the small hotels include the “veg/non-veg”abbreviation, like for example “non-veg breakfast and bed hotel”☺.
5. Stay healthy
I know this comes up all the time: don’t drink tap water, don’t eat raw vegetables or meat, avoid street food. But this time I would even go further and say, try to eat in the popular places, avoid by all means cheap restaurants. You can easily get food poisoning as your stomach it’s not used to digest certain things.
A trick is to have some probiotics and vitamins before and during your trip just to boost the immune system. Also, try to have only cooked meals while you are in India (I got food poisoning from eating a salad).
6. Be prepared for noise, traffic and limited personal space
Cochin is a place full of colour, noise and movement. Traffic has increased in the last couple of years from what the locals are saying, but comparing to Delhi, Kolkata or Mumbai it felt a little bit less to me.
Still, the cars will keep the minimum space possible between them, giving you that nausea feeling that you might hit one at any moment.
To cross the street you must be confident, once you started, DO NOT hesitate as this will only confuse the drivers (raise up a hand before you proceed and trust your instinct).
7. Shopping – bargaining
There is a great place for shopping in Cochin and that is called, the Jew Street. Here you’ll find shops that are selling antique items, wood carvings, paintings, fabrics, you name it. Down the road you’ll even find an old synagogue (named Paradesi) opened for sightseeing.
Bargaining is a commun practice so be prepared and loaded with patience in order to get the “real” price of the goods that you are interested in.
There are many natural places with waterfalls around the city of Cochin, but the ones I would recommend are Athirappilly Falls (the largest in Kerala) and Vazhachal Falls (5 km away from the first one). Both of them are located at about 2 hours drive from Cochin, in the middle of beautiful wildness.
Athirappilly is also named “The Niagara of India” and it’s simply breathtaking.
My tip for this trip is to bring comfortable/ hiking shoes and to get ready for physical exercise as there are many stairs to climb.
Best thing to eat in Cochin is fish/seafood.
Best drink I had: coffee.
Even if India is famous for the tea culture, in Cochin you should definitely try the exotic fine tasting coffee.
Fruits: mango, pineapple, jackfruit, papaya.
10. Dress decent
You should dress decent in India for at least 2 reasons:
- you don’t want to draw (unwanted) attention towards you
- you’ll not be allowed to enter any temple otherwise
Don’t forget to try/purchase a sari (traditional female garment) before you leave, they are truly exquisite.