04-06 October 2019

Kochi also known as Cochin has been an important spice trading center since the 14th century. The Portuguese founded the first European settlement in India here in 1500. They were followed by the Dutch and then the British.

Interesting too is that St Thomas travelled to Kerala in 52 AD. His evangelistic activity Christianized India before Europe and when the Portuguese arrived there was already an organized Christian church that still exists as “Syrian Christian”, not from Syria but the Syriac language of St Thomas. In Church here, mass is still conducted in Syriac.

Kerela is so different from the north of India you might think you were in a different country. For a start, it’s hot and humid tropical jungle. Kerela was never invaded, only settled by traders and there’s an intriguing mix and blending of cultures and religions that all live in harmony. The traffic is light and the streets way less chaotic so you can easily walk, or cycle around.

We stayed at Francis Residence, a very comfortable modern guest house in Fort Kochi owned by Francis and his wife Rosy.

Rosy is an outstanding cook and we enjoyed a multi-course seafood dinner based on the day’s catch. Rosy is so famous people from other guest houses come to eat here!

Chinese fishing nets – nets 20 meters or more wide are lowered and raised with a stone-weighted cantilever

Bala of Gully Tours took us on a 3 hour bike ride around the Fort Kochi area. A 6.30am departure allowed us to see the town waking up and coming alive.

Map of the bike ride

Our early morning bike ride around Fort Kochi started with a cup of tea
St Francis Church, 1503, the oldest European church in India – Portuguese then Dutch, then English
Residence of the Dutch governor built 1695 by the Dutch East India Company
Still active Paradesi Synagogue constructed in 1568 by Sephardic (Spanish-speaking) Jews
Jews have been in Kerela since the 1st century AD and were the original spice traders
Raising a Chinese fishing net full of fish
Fish caught in the Chinese fishing nets is auctioned every morning
We rode past the butchers
Fruit and vegetables looked good
A quick stop for coconut milk
Door to door seafood seller
A shrine for an African slave is now used by all religions
While we were there this Catholic man came and lit a candle, then a Hindu came and put flowers
The Hindu temple was established in the later half of the 16th century
Part of the Hindu temple that was used for ablutions
Freshest and best chips in Kochi
Masala dosa for lunch – finger licking good
Greenix Village, once a warehouse for a Portuguese tea factory, is now a performing arts complex

Kathakali is a unique blend of dance, drama and music. Elaborate makeup takes at least an hour to apply and is a production in itself. The characters (men) enact stories from the Ramayana using hand gestures and facial expressions. We didn’t want to miss this show; it is only performed in Kerela.

Putting on the makeup for Kathakali takes an hour

Here is a short video of the performance