A Kaleidoscopic Cultural Experience
Text & Pictures: Lt Col D Purushothaman Pillay (Retd)
Additional Photography: Nandini Valsan
The majestic borough of Fort Kochi serves as a subtle cusp between history and modernity; an intersection where tradition blends with the trendy; and a popular east meets west crossroad; where foreigners relish the Indian experience. With street names like Burgher, Princess, Petercelli, Quiros, Ridsdale, Rose, and Bastian; an old world charm still blows subtly in this town, where colonialism set some of its earliest roots in India.
The distinctive cobblestone pavements that weave through the town, play host to a variety of restaurants. The food on offer panders primarily to the Western taste of tourists with pizzas, crepes, sandwiches and pastas being the most popular. However, interspersed amongst those offerings are also many local delicacies, that show up in fusion avatars.
Most popular are the ‘You buy the fish- We will cook’ roadside eateries, where competent local cooks have learnt to calibrate the spice levels to the taste of the customers. They bring in the fish straight from the fishmongers nearby, who have set shop along the Chinese fish net walkway. The fish is caught in the Chinese fishing nets and then sold to the fishmongers following a frenetic beach-side auction. Hence, ensuring that the seafood is really the freshest possible.
The pavements are also abuzz with mercantile activity and you have hawkers that sell a wide variety of bric-a-brac, including handicrafts, sea-shells, garments, umbrellas, hats, plastic toys, pickled fruits, magnets, and tender coconuts, among many other such exotic merchandise.
There are quite a few praiseworthy hotels and quaint homestays that dot the pristine back lanes of Fort Kochi that are worth visiting. It is indeed a pleasure to just hop from one place to another, as each one is a different experience with its own uniqueness. The great thing is that both, the discerning luxury traveler and the parsimonious budget backpacker, have memorable and unique experiences waiting to be discovered here
Malabar House, Brunton Boatyard, Old Harbour Hotel, Neemrana’s Tower House, Fort House and Koder House are some of the better known and well appointed boutique hotels one can stay in. But if you really want a dose of the true Fort Kochi spirit, check into one of the many homestays that are on every street. Most of them are erstwhile Dutch and British houses, which have now been tastefully transformed into cosy abodes for travelers to unwind.
The quaint tea-house on Princess Street, Teapot, is a great place to unwind with a steaming cup of Darjeeling tea. Pepper House, Xandari Harbour, Fusion Bay, and Oceanos are great options for dining in Fort Kochi. All of them have come up with exquisite dishes that blend together the flavours of the different colonial powers that have ruled over this tiny precinct.
Over time, Fort Kochi has evolved into an enchanting waterfront destination that is disarmingly charming with its captivating and delightful bustle. This growth can be attributed to the word-of-mouth publicity and glowing tributes that abound in all manner of travel guides, that describe the firsthand accounts of happy travelers who relished their stays in Fort Kochi. There are countless satisfied holiday-makers who have returned many times and swear by their surprise at the way this small geographic entity with its homegrown ambassadors of hospitality have rediscovered the place. They carry back memories of a different experience every time they return, thereby inspiring them to come back for more.
One must be there to feel it; and mind you once you feel it, you will just love it. And when you love it; you just go back for more and more. Tourists love to aimlessly amble along these winding, lazy, dusty by-lanes that are abuzz with an abundance of multi-ethnic vacationers, all merrily imbibing the heady uplifting energy that permeates the musty atmosphere of this backwater paradise.
A casual stroll around this picturesque quarter, will make anyone fall in love with it. Millions of travelers in the past have been smitten by this unique kaleidoscopic allure of Fort Kochi!!