Explore Kochi through the eyes of a foreigner

Or, the day we became foreigners in our own country

There are many domestic flights that fly into Kochi.
Kochi is in Kerala – and we had fallen in love with Kerala after our short maiden visit.
We had never travelled to Kochi before.

“Alleppey

These reasons were enough for us to book our tickets to New Zealand via Kochi because, in the flurry of activities, we mistakenly thought we were getting a good deal. But that’s a story for another post!

First impressions: Kochi airport and solar panels

An early morning flight into Kochi meant that we had an entire day for exploration. The Cochin International Airport is a perfect case of a non-metro airport. With wooden chairs and sofas in the waiting areas and limited eating options, it wasn’t exactly teeming with people. It did lack the swanky look that the T2s and T3s of Mumbai and Delhi.

“Cochin

But what it DID have are solar panels. In fact, there were huge fields of solar panels just outside the airport. The Cochin International Airport has the honour of being the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar energy!

“Solar

We had booked a place in the Fort Kochi area of Cochin as that is where all the “things to see in Kochi” are – which is something we are just not used to do! But this stay in Kochi was essentially a “transit” stop. We decided to be a tourist and stay close to the action!

Our homestay in Fort Kochi

There were some superb homestay options in Fort Kochi. This was our little scope for local interaction in the midst of all the tourist activities.

Fort Kochi is around 40 km from the Cochin airport and daytime commute would easily be around 2 hours. Luckily, there was a good air-conditioned bus service from the airport to Fort Kochi. The combination of the rising heat, traffic and our early start worked perfectly for us to catch up on some sleep.

Henry, in whose homestay we had booked a room, had given us perfect directions to get to his place. We got off the bus, walked for a couple of minutes through a lane of coconut trees. Even in the afternoon heat, it was cool inside the house, thanks to the ample of trees around.

Henry himself had lived an adventurous life. He used to work in Kuwait as a driver for the US army trucks. Carrying supplies from Kuwait to the US army bases in Iraq. He had seen his friend being killed when a shell hit the windscreen of a truck he was driving.

Which is when he decided that the risk was not worth the money. He came back to India and worked at the port in Cochin. During which he expanded his house to start a homestay. His sincerity and dedication were visible in the way he operated the homestay. Anything his guests needed, he would try his best to provide.

Chinese fishing nets at the beach in Fort Kochi

The evening started with a visit to the beach which was just a few minutes through the leafy lanes of Fort Kochi. A brilliant show of colours, a cruise liner entering the Cochin port and of course this cool phenomenon of Chinese fishing nets.

“Sunset

Seeing these Chinese fishing nets is a must-do on the list of every tourist who comes to Kochi. They are an elaborate mechanism towering over the wooden board covered with massive nets. Why would someone come up with this complex system for fishing? Why are they called Chinese, how did they come to India, why is this style of fishing still practised? Is it financially viable today?

“Chinese

All these questions fill your mind as you see the nets being lowered into the water. You can pay the fishermen a tip, and they’ll let you photograph all you want. You can even arrange to be with them when they actually set their nets down for the catch.

If you have access to a kitchen/someone to cook it for you, you can buy some of the fresh catch for a seafood meal. In any case, there is no dearth of options to have some delicious fish and coconut dominated curries with the luscious appams.

“Seafood

A Kathakali performance at a cultural center in Fort Kochi

We had seen this cultural centre on the way to the beach. We were still undecided whether we wanted to see a Kathakali performance. The heavily painted faces of the Kathakali dancers were a childhood scare and the memory lingered. But when a guy from the centre caught us on the street, handed us a pamphlet saying if we went early, we could see the dancers applying makeup and getting ready for the Kathakali performance, it wasn’t something we wanted to miss.

“Kathakali

“Artist

The evening started with the performers explaining the concept of a Kathakali dance, what the various mudras and the colours of their make up meant and how these were used to convey the emotion.

“Artist

This helped us understand the story being told in the dance performance – the victory of good over evil. The music and the expressions of the Kathakali performers came together beautifully to keep us at the edge of our seats through the fast-paced performance.

Hiring an auto rickshaw to explore the churches, temples – and shops

The areas to be explored in Fort Kochi are a good walking distance, but the day was hot and humid. And we had a long flight to catch early the next morning. We took Henry’s advice of hiring a local auto rickshaw to see around.

“Inside

He started off well by taking us to the Cathedral and a Syrian Christian church. He asked us where we were from, was amused that we were here on our way to New Zealand. In further chats, we learnt he had two little school going boys.

“A

“A

And then, the onslaught began. Shop after shop after shop had to be visited – sari shops, artefacts stores (surprisingly, all run by Kashmiris), spice vendors – everything that was sold on the streets of Fort Kochi. “You don’t have to buy anything, just go for 5 minutes.” Bringing customers got him a coupon which he could exchange for a T-shirt for his sons for Easter was the emotional blackmail forwarded each time.

“Sunset

This is how “tourist sightseeing” operates at most popular tourist destinations. But this is when things got interesting – we couldn’t be Indians. Because Indian tourists didn’t fetch him any coupons, only foreigners did! We were aghast and appalled.

But two little boys were waiting for some T-Shirts to be gifted by daddy. They couldn’t be disappointed when all it took was some pretence. We had already joined the bandwagon of tourists, why not up the ante and be foreign tourists!

Top tips for a visit to Kochi

  • We stayed at Kevin’s Placid homestay, located at a very convenient location in Fort Kochi.
  • Kochi is well connected with other cities in Kerala like Trivandrum and Alleppey, famous for the backwaters of Kerala. It is just a short, beautiful train ride away.

  • Jet Airways flies to Kochi from most metros in India.
  • Kochi is a good option to take your low-cost flights to destinations in Southeast Asia.

More ideas to plan your travel to Kerala

Kerala backwaters beyond houseboat tours

Day in Trivandrum and Kovalam beach, Kerala

Do you have plans to visit Kerala? Did you ever have to pretend to be a foreigner in your travels? Let us know in the Comments.

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Sandeepa and Chetan. Married. Indians. Exploring Travel as Lifestyle. Featured by National Geographic, Yahoo. We hope that through our travel stories we inspire others to make their dream into a reality.

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20 thoughts on “Explore Kochi through the eyes of a foreigner

  1. Vicente llorens Llorca

    Lovely experience you are enjoying and very well explained, like it. India is a lovely country full of excitement all around in fact I have been there three time, my last trip was in 2008 and now am planning a trip for next christmas with my son and my wife from Madrás to Pondicherry passing to Kancheepuram and Mahabalipuram. Only have 12 days so short distances are ok. Hope we all three have fun !!! Am excited … I love photography and yours and great ! By the way any recommendations in the cities mentioned above ? Already booked a hotel in Madrás. Thanks very much.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hello Vincente, you have chosen a good time to visit Chennai (Madras!) and around. The weather should be as pleasant as it can get in Chennai 🙂 We haven’t been to Kancheepuram or Mahabalipuram, so don’t have any specific recommendations. Though, since you are fond of photography, try to be at the temples for the golden period – around sunset or sunrise. Those massive temples bathed in the golden light should be magnificent to look and photograph. We have written a post about monument photography (it focusses on Taj Mahal, but the tips can be applied to all).
      In Pondicherry, do walk around the leafy lanes and colourful buildings of the French quarters. We had enjoyed our dinner at Hotel Le Dupleix.

  2. Swapna Raghu Sanand

    Glad that I discovered your blog via IndiBlogger. Enjoyed reading and sharing your post about the city I come from. Some of the places you have mentioned are my favourite places too!

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      It’s always special when someone from the city likes the post 🙂 We will definitely be coming back to explore Kochi at leisure. This was just a stopover trip.

  3. Crimson April

    Heck to know about the blackmail and surprised to know that the stored were majorly run by Kashmiris!! Being a mallu, I never have been to Kochi. But I loved how you guys have portrayed your experience. Sound photography too!

  4. corneliaweberphotography

    You both just took me on a wonderful trip through your amazing images and great text, Kerala is on my list for my second trip to India, after I have done Rajasthan and surroundings over a year ago. Thank you ever for sharing

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Kerala is well worth a dedicated visit. We haven’t explored it much as yet, but the visit to the Kerala backwaters and the beaches have given us enough reasons to want to travel far and wide across the state. And the mountains are as inviting as the coast. And north Kerala – that’s a whole new undiscovered ball game!

  5. Prashant

    Nice picture and waiting for more detail story about your future travel. Want to see more picture from this trip.

    1. Sandeepa Chetan Post author

      Hey Johann, we will definitely be going back to Kochi to explore it with more…dedication. This visit to Kochi was just a transit stop on the way to a longer travel to New Zealand. Have a feeling we haven’t done justice to Kochi. But yes, whatever little time we spent there, we loved the vibe. It probably was also a lot to do with our homestay host Henry. Nothing makes the experience of a new place special, like conversations with someone from that place.

      1. Johann Kuruvilla

        Do let me know and maybe I could give you a walk around the corner and tell some more tales. ☺ So happy you had a good time and to meet a local like Henry is even better.