Our next stop was Fort Cochin in Kerala. A few days earlier we had emailed a homestay we had found online called Beena’s. We later found out how lucky we were to get a room here as this place was a Traveller’s Choice Winner on TripAdvisor the last 3 years. It didn’t take us long to find out why!
The room was immaculate, some of the best Wifi, and the best food yet! Heaven!
We quickly made this place our home. Beena and her husband Sudie took us under their wing and looked after us perfectly. We didn’t want to leave so decided to ask to extend our stay.
Although all the guest rooms were fully booked, Benna offered us her daughters room. Just like the rest of the house this was immaculate- not surprising as Benna is a public health inspector.
Fort Cochin is quite the mix. The main town was built by the Portuguese, destroyed and rebuilt by the Dutch East India Company ( some of the buildings still bear the mark of the VOC), before being “acquired” by the British.
Then you have the Chinese Fishing Nets (located next to the ferry port) from the Court of Kublai Khan and the Jews and their township in Mattancherry situated around the Paradesi Synagogue. Oh and let’s not forget the Indians.
Also Kerala is a lot more Christian than other parts of India so churches and basilicas replace temples down here. Of particular note was the Church of St Francis, built in 1503 and is one of the oldest European churches in India. It was the resting place for explorer Vasco da Gama who died in this part of the world in 1524 – for 14 years before he was interred back to Lisbon. Noteworthy as he was the first European to navigate and chart the sea route from Europe to India.
Days were spent here strolling the streets and beachside ducking into coffee shops such as the awesome Loafers Corner Cafe and museums to avoid the harsh sun. There was also the queue for the bottle shop. India has a varied approach to prohibition. Further north in Goa – Johnny Walker is on tap but down in Kerala – alcohol is tightly controlled and you have to visit a Government Run Collection Office to pay 100% Tax on the 2 bottles of Kingfisher you are allowed purchase in 1 go. We discovered a lot of restaurants offered an Afternoon Tea (with the tea being replaced by beer in the pots) … but keep that to yourself 😉
Evenings were spent attempting to converse in French with our new friends from Canada, Eve and Claire, who gave us great tips and advice. We also met two lovely mutual-grannies, Rhian and Monika, who kept us entertained with their stories including their stay with their adopted Indian family. These girls were adventurous from elephant rides to pilgrims they had done it all.
On the advice of Johnny Docherty we took in some shows at the Kathikalli Center just up the road. 400 year old traditional shows are a must to-do in Kerala. The key is to arrive early to see the actors adorn their face paints.
In the middle of our trip we ventured out of the safe haven of Fort Kochi to Vypeen Island and it’s beach.
First up was the 3 pence Ferry Ride. After our famous incident in Dubai, Karen was more wary and deposited John in the Men Only section before skipping to join the other girls at the front of the boat. Not 5 minutes in her new ‘Friend’ Jessie had got all the background information out of her.
Next up was the local bus to the beach, well 3km from the beach. Rammed is not the word for these buses. Karen foolishly refused the window seat and then spent the next 50 minutes getting battered by a series of handbags.
In mid 30 degree heat we trudged to the beach with John promising that it would be only over the next bridge!
On our way the backwaters jumped out at us!
The beach was quieter than Marcel Marsou. It was obviously a weekend place! Undeterred the dynamic duo walked along the sand and took some photos. The searing heat meant we only lasted an hour and a half before we headed back to the ferry station. Jumping on another local bus John made the mistake of sitting in the front rows of seats which are unofficially reserved for Women. The local schoolboys pointed and laughed while the women tutted. Like Rosa Parks, John sat firmly in place!
Back in a Fort Cochin our chill out spot was again Loafers Corner (on Bastion and Princess Street) where we people watched and caught up on our travel journals while sipping a lime soda.
Next up on our trip is the Munnar Hills but we will be returning to Fort Cochin next week before our flight to Kathmandu. Our Last Supper will be in Beena’s.