I have just returned from a two week trip to India, seeing many sights across the country and meeting old friends. I enjoyed every moment but I have to say that my favourite few days were in Kochi, Kerala. I have never been to Kerala before, although many people have told me how wonderful it is. Kerala state is the pointy bit at the bottom of India and much of it is made up of jungle and rivers. Trivandrum is the capital but many tourists (like me) go to Kochi instead.
I think there are three reasons why I loved it so much – the beauty, the peace and the history.
It is very very beautiful. I went on a backwaters tour, walked around Kochi a lot, frequented the very cheap ferries between the islands, and used quite a few tuk tuks (auto rickshaws). It seemed as if around every corner I would see a fresh “wow” view.
Saying it is peaceful may seem a little odd. The narrow streets of Fort Kochi are as filled with vehicles blaring horns as every other town in India. But get away from the streets, in the Dutch Palace, or the synagogue, or the Cathedral, or in the backwaters, with our boat pushed along by poles rather than an engine. Suddenly everything seems silent and reflective. I even went to a modern art event called Biennale, set in a series of old spice warehouses, and I felt so relaxed just sitting quietly, looking at the exhibits.
As for the history, Kochi was one of the first Indian areas visited by western countries. The Roman Empire traded at Muziris, a port believed to be a couple of kilometres north of Kochi. The Dutch, the Portuguese and the English all ruled over the town at one time or another, often working jointly with the local maharaja. Just before Indian independence, a new island – Willingdon – was dredged from the sea, making a port that large ships can now visit, for the trade in spices, particularly pepper. I was able to explore many of these sites. I even popped into Kochi Chamber of Commerce which was near my hotel, and one of the gentlemen there gifted me a copy of a history book celebrating a hundred years of the chamber. India is not just about seeing the famous tourist sites. It is also about exploring and talking to people you meet.
I was only in Kerala for three days, but I think I have fallen in love. What a magnificent state. And so much more to explore if I ever return.