I have been visiting Cochin for some years now and it remains one of my favourite cities in India. There are many reasons for this. First of all, I love how Kochi a.k.a Cochin despite being a mega city has a jungle feel to it. Either by design or by an unwritten law, only a handful of buildings in the city are higher than the surrounding trees thus creating an urban jungle illusion. I love how thick the banana trees grow alongside the network of rivers and the way fishing boats float idyllically in the middle of the city.
Kolams and fresh flowers in hair
Cochin has a grounded, earthy charm that is undeniable and the sloping, tiled roofs of traditional buildings simply make me want to stay there forever. Add to that the intricate kolams or rice powder designs that decorate the front of the residential buildings and the fresh flowers that adorn the women’s hair, Cochin becomes absolutely irresistible. The locals are friendlier than most of their counterparts, the residential streets are quiet, and I love how the different parts of the city known as islands are accessible by ferries. During Christmas and Onam, Kochi is a delight to be in and the port city deserves a few days before making a mad dash for the palm-fringed backwaters.
The foreign influences on Cochin
Kochi or the Queen of the Arabian Sea has been drawing travelers, explorers, fortune hunters, and traders since time immemorial. Straddling a cluster of backwaters, the city sits astride the northern end of a peninsula, several islands, and a portion of the mainland. Foreign influences on Cochin are numerous and these come distinctly marked with giant Chinese fishing nets, a 450-year-old synagogue, ancient mosques, Portuguese- and Dutch-era houses, and the crumbling remains of the British Raj. While the mainland Ernakulam remains the hectic transport and cosmopolitan hub, the historical towns of Fort Cochin and Mattancherry are wonderfully atmospheric.
The exotic mishmash
Tourism booms here and arty, hipster cafes jostle for space with grand colonial-style hotels, expensive boutiques, and candy coloured heritage houses with gabled roofs. Stunning street art splash the walls, traffic remains controlled here and old gnarly trees create massive shades under which morning fish markets are held. The Arabian Sea is never too far and the smell of Cochin is one of sea breeze, drying fish, wet nets, and jasmine. Spice is sold here from the photogenic hole in the wall shops and old co-operative outlets sell quality cotton products at unbelievable prices. Women in rainbow coloured saris and flowers in their hair peddle coconuts and fluffy, steamed idlis as their husbands drive tuk-tuks, boats, or taxis. English is widely spoken here and hardly any traveler ever feels unsafe or unwelcomed.
It is one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities
With such an intriguing mix, it is quite understandable why Kochi or Cochin was featured in Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2020. I can go on endless but let’s get started with the Kochi travel guide that’s coming up in the next post.
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