My Solo Trip to Kochi, Kerala (1 night, 2 days)
- 15th February 2019 (Friday)
- The Bus ride
- 16th February 2019 (Saturday)
- Hotel Malabar Illam
- Sailing Club House
- Vypeen Jankar Jetty
- Fort Kochi Beach
- Café Europa
- 17th February 2019 (Sunday)
- Ernakulum Shiva Temple
- The Kochi Muziris Biennale- Aspinwall House and Cabral Yard
- Classic Art Café
- Pardesi Jewish Synagogue
- The Kochi Muziris Biennale – Anand Warehouse including 2 unknown venues
- Saint Cruz Cathedral Basillica
- Fort Kochi Beach – Bob Marley concert
This trip being my first ever solo trip turned out to be an exhilarating one! My visit to Kochi made me realize one thing: Kerala isn’t known as “God’s own Country” for nothing! With its enchanting beaches, blissful backwaters and breathtaking scenery, this South Indian state is indeed a Paradise on Earth. Tourists from all over the world flock this region every year to experience the beauty of Mother Nature and get a taste of the rich tradition, art and culture which Kerala is popularly known for.
15th February 2019 (Friday)
It was a cool, breezy Friday evening at around 10pm on 15th Feb 2019. I was waiting at a dim lit bus stop in Madiwala for my bus “Greenline Travels” to arrive and take me to Kochi, Kerala. I didn’t have much luggage on me, given that it was a weekday and I had come here after a fairly busy day at office. Madiwala is a locality in BTM Layout, Bangalore which is located approximately 1Km (0.7 miles) from Koramangala. Although my office was a 5 minute walk away, I had chosen to take a ride on my friend’s bike and it had taken me around 15 minutes to get here.
The Bus ride
Two hours later, I was sitting cross-legged in the sleeper coach A/C bus munching on the little hearts from the complimentary snack hamper which had been handed over to us by the bus staff. I had a cozy lower berth towards the left. A guy from my college who I barely knew was also on the same bus with me. We were both going to attend my friend’s marriage which was scheduled at 12pm the next day. His berth was adjacent to mine. After a short introduction, I settled down on the mattress of my berth, put in my ear buds and drifted off to sleep. The travel experience was truly amazing and I can recommend Greenline to anybody! The staff was friendly and the bus was neat and clean. Being true to its name, the interiors of the bus including the mattresses and curtains were all a bright green colour, thus giving you the feel of residing in the Amazon rainforest!
16th February 2019 (Saturday)
Hotel Malabar Illam
It was 7am when the bus arrived in Kochi. The morning sun shone bright as my college mate and I took an auto to our hotel “Malabar Illam” which was located just 15 minutes away from the bus stop in Vyttila. We had 2 rooms booked in the same hotel by our friend whose marriage we were to attend that day. It was a budget hotel with rooms provided by OYO and had a pleasant ambience, not too luxurious but at the same time simple and neat.
For all those who wish to know more about OYO Rooms, it stands for “On Your Own” Rooms and is traded by Oravel Stay Private Limited. It has grown into becoming India’s largest hospitality company which offers the best quality rooms for relatively cheaper prices and is suitable for all those travelers and backpackers who are on a shoestring budget. It was founded in the year 2013 by 18 year old Ritesh Agarwal and has been in trend ever since. So, if there’s no Airbnb you can always opt for OYO!
Sailing Club House
After an hour of settling in and freshening up, my college mate and I traveled to the venue by auto. The marriage venue was called “Sailing Club House”, a beautiful club house located in the Panangad district of Kochi. The most notable thing about this location was the stunning view of the Lake Vembanad that it offered. Lake Vembanad is known to be the longest lake in India and the second longest lake in the state of Kerala.
As we entered, we spotted a number of bungalows to the left and an arch to the right with a small chalk board placed at the bottom with the couple’s name written on it. Right next to the chalk board were two tiny bird cages which were empty.
Tiny white pebbles were scattered all along the pathway and as we proceeded further, we noticed that the pathway was lined with trees which were adorned with pink and white veils, thus giving the entire place a heavenly feel. A couple of dream catchers of different sizes and jars filled with colourful pebbles hung from the branches.
There was an open air restaurant to our right and we could get a glimpse of the blue lake in the distance. From this angle, it felt more like a beach rather than a marriage venue.
We were then welcomed by the family who offered us some lime juice and signaled us to have a seat. With pleasant Malayalam songs playing in the background, we walked up to the edge of the water to get an eyeful of the mesmerizing view ahead of us. To our left, we caught sight of a lush green lawn with a few kayaks scattered across it. There was a man standing a short distance away and we enquired whether we could Kayak in the lake once the event was done. Unfortunately, the closing time was nearing and the scorching heat made us reconsider our plans and we later decided to head back to our rooms after the wedding.
We also learned from the man that the clubhouse offers sailing lessons throughout the sailing season following which you are allowed to sail away into the horizon of the blissful Lake Vembanad. Unfortunately, since our stay was only for a couple of days, we had to decline the offer. Sailing Club House also offers several other facilities such as Fishing, adventure trips and wind surfing to name a few. It is indeed the perfect place for any daredevil to satisfy his/her endless lust for adventure!
It was one of the most beautiful weddings I had ever been to. The location, music and setting made it look like something which was straight out of a fairy tale! I was delighted to be one of the 4 bridesmaids dressed in beige gowns who accompanied the beautiful bride to her seating area. The wedding was followed by lunch and I did happen to meet two other seniors from my college at the wedding. After a lip smacking meal followed by dessert and ice cream, we proceeded with taking pictures with the couple as well as a few selfies by the lakeside. The Chinese fishing nets to our right sparkled in the bright afternoon sun and I couldn’t resist clicking a pic or two for my Instagram!
Two hours later, we were standing outside the hotel in our beach wear waiting for the Uber to take us to Fort Kochi beach. After the wedding, we had come straight back to our hotel. My college mate (who was now my friend) had a bus to catch later that evening to go back to Bangalore. Hence, we had decided to pay a quick visit to the beach before he left.
Vypeen Jankar jetty
It took us almost half an hour to reach Fort Kochi which was around 18km from Malabar Illam. Fort Kochi is a beautiful seaside area which is located towards the south western region of Mainland Kochi.
It is most popularly known for its Portugese, British and Dutch colonial architecture. As we reached the location, we could see a large number of tourists flocking the area among who most were foreigners. Straight ahead of us, we could see the Vypeen Jankar Jetty, a popular jetty which allowed vessels to easily transport people, vehicles and goods from Ernakulam to Fort Kochi and vice versa.
Fort Kochi Beach
After a 5 minute walk we finally reached Fort Kochi beach. It was around 5pm and the beach was filled with exuberant people of all age groups. While some stood silently on the shoreline watching the evening sun dip into the horizon, there were a few others who sat on the sand gossiping their way to glory. It was peak season and we could see numerous kids frolicking around and getting themselves dirty while their parents yelled out behind them.
We spent almost 30 minutes on the beach, taking in the breathtaking scene in front of us and enjoying the wind in our hair.
Half an hour later, my friend had left and I was on my own. It was 6:30pm and the sky was a deep blue. I was in a narrow alley behind the beach where there were plenty of tattoo shops and small shacks selling hippie clothing and accessories. Fort Kochi has two more beaches adjoining the Fort Kochi Beach which are all part of the same beach which are separated from each other by rocks. I headed over to the rocky area of the beach and settled down for a while. I was lost in tranquility as I watched the waves brush against the rocks making a loud yet soothing “whoosh”. About an hour later, I was knocked out of my dreamland when my stomach started to grumble. I headed over to the alley I had earlier walked through. The entire alley was now lit up and looked absolutely alluring.
I found a beautifully decorated open air restaurant to my right with some catchy techno music blaring out and I instinctively walked in. The interior was dim lit and had two rows of wooden tables placed parallel to each other. It was called “Café Europa” and was located a short distance away from the beach and had a perfect view of the sky. I ordered a paratha and mushroom curry and had a mango lassi for dessert.
The tantalizing aroma tingled my taste buds and I dug into my food as soon as it arrived! The food was extremely tasty and affordable, the music was catchy, the staff was friendly and the service was quick. I would definitely rate this place a 5 star and recommend it to anyone who plans to visit Fort Kochi!
An hour and a half later, I was back at the hotel. After a bit of tidying up, I was lying down in the comfort of my quilt and waiting for my beauty sleep to arrive and take me to fantasy land! The day was over and I had thoroughly enjoyed each and every moment of it! Kudos to an extremely eventful and exciting day!
17th February 2019 (Sunday)
I woke up at 6am the next day, surprisingly before my alarm even rang! After an hour of showering and dressing up, I packed my stuff in my backpack and made my way out. I was starving and craved a delicious, wholesome breakfast.
However, it turns out that the hotel didn’t have much of a food selection, nor did it have an actual restaurant for that matter. The so called restaurant was located on the 2nd floor and consisted of a couple of tables. The only dish they had ready was chapatti and vegetable gravy so I had no choice but to order it. It was cold and tasted bland but I ate it up anyway along with a steaming cup of coffee. On the whole, I would rate the food at Malabar Illam a 4.5/10.
Ernakulum Shiva Temple
Since I was checking out on the same day, I had planned to cover as many tourist spots as possible. My first destination was the Ernakulum Shiva Temple which was located approximately 20 minutes from my hotel.
To provide a highlight about the importance of this temple, the Ernakulum Shiva temple which is often known as the Ernakulathappan Temple is one of the major temples in Kerala and is located near the Durbar Hall ground in downtown Kochi. The deity is often referred to by the locals as “Ernakulathappan” which means “Lord of Ernakulum”.
The history of this temple dates back to 1846 when it was built under the patronage of Diwan Sri Edakunni Sankara Warrier and later went on to become one of the 7 royal temples of the Kochi Maharajas. This temple is also the deemed to be the only pilgrimage in South India where the idol of Lord Shiva is facing towards the west.
After a quick darshan, I sat down on a nearby temple bench and enjoyed my prasadam while admiring the ancient architecture. The temple also had a hall where a spiritual lecture was currently in progress. I decided to step in when I suddenly realized that the discourse was in Malayalam, which I couldn’t understand. After a quick look-back, I stepped out of the temple and proceeded towards Fort Kochi.
The Kochi Muziris Biennale
Fort Kochi was located around 12km from the Ernakulum Mahadeva Temple and while I was traveling in Uber, the driver explained to me that the Kochi Muziris Biennale was underway. The Kochi Muziris Biennale is the biggest contemporary art festival in Asia and the largest art exhibition in India. I later learned that the 2018 edition had begun on 12th December 2018 and was due to end on 29th March 2019. I felt more than lucky to be there at that time!
I proceeded towards the Aspinwall House where we were required to collect our tickets. I bought myself a ticket which cost only Rs100. Additional info: It costs Rs50 for children aged upto 15 years.
The venues were distributed across 10 different locations in Fort Kochi, all of which were heritage properties which were specially preserved and dedicated for this art exhibition.
The 10 venues which were set up for the 2018 edition were:
- Aspinwall House
- Anand Warehouse
- Cabral Yard
- David Hall
- Durbar Hall
- Kashi Art Café
- Kashi Town House
- Map Project Space
- Pepper House
- TKM Warehouse
However, since I was to leave for Bangalore on the same day, I could only manage to visit 3 out of these 10 places namely:
- Aspinwall House
- Anand Warehouse
- Cabral Yard
I did visit two other venues, however I was in too much of a hurry to take note of the names of these places.They were beautiful nonetheless and I have provided relevant information regarding the same.
The Kochi Muziris Biennale is a huge exhibition and most definitely cannot be all covered within the span of a single day! I would definitely recommend my readers to plan for this event way in advance; probably a month or two prior to its start date. I was unfortunately not prepared and wasn’t ready to postpone my stay for another day. However, I did manage to enjoy my time at the exhibition as much as I could! I also did have other places in mind which I wanted to visit during my stay here.
To explain every single thing I saw at the Kochi Muziris Biennale would probably have me writing another 5 or more pages in this blog post. Hence, I have decided to keep it short and sweet. To begin with, my favourite venues at the exhibition happened to be Cabral Yard and Anand Warehouse.
Cabral Yard is basically an outdoor expansion of the Aspinwall House. The property was named after a Portugese navigator “Cabral” and was acquired in the year 1904 by Aspinwall & Company, where they built a hydraulic press for coir yarn.
The 4th edition of the Kochi Muziris Biennale 2018 was curated by Anita Dube who is a challenging Indian contemporary artist whose works have been featured in several major museums and galleries all across India.
Cabral Yard was a large expanse with its walls adorned by paintings depicting crimes against women including sexual abuse.
The theme of this year’s Biennale was “Possibilities of a Non-Alienated Life”, which aimed to imbibe the “spirit of inclusivity” and also covered the #MeToo Movement.
Cabral Yard was huge and also had a seating area and a hut shaped café which served organic tea and other savouries (which were all organic of course!)
Aspinwall House on the other hand was a whitewashed building, a bit worn out with age. It is a large 19th century British heritage building which was built by British businessman John H Aspinwall in the year 1867.
As I stepped into Aspinwall House from the ticket counter, I could see all the 4 walls of the first room embellished with 3D wall sculptures of various patterns, with each pattern having a meaning of its own. I actually spent so much time in this room contemplating the meaning of each and every pattern on the wall without realizing that there was still so much more to see!
This room then led to another room whose walls were adorned with a string of paintings and photographs.
The staircase led to yet another room which totally blew my mind! The walls had a series of brightly coloured painting which were just profound beyond words. I stood by for a while to read the descriptions, which would obviously save me the time of pondering over the meanings of these wondrous artworks!
However, the most intriguing part of Aspinwall House was the short film theatre which featured a black and white 10 minute short film which was displayed over canvas in a dark room. The black and white figures and random patterns which danced before my eyes were so alluring that I felt as if I was being teleported to a different world! These short films were a major part of the event and were also displayed in the other venues as well, each of them being so raw and deep that they definitely opened the eyes of your soul!
Aspinwall House also had a marvelous sea-facing balcony with a splendid seating area. As I stepped into the balcony, I could see a ship sailing across the pristine waters of Fort Kochi.
The area right below the balcony had a clothesline with several white clothes clipped onto them. However, take note that this was no ordinary clothesline. It artistically depicted the link between Cape Town and Kochi which in turn links our present to our dark past.
The eye opening art that I saw at the Aspinwall House actually made me realize that the Kochi Muziris Biennale was indeed an event where the simplest of things held the deepest of insights!
After stepping out of Aspinwall House, I proceeded towards Bazaar Road, Mattancherry. I had read that certain venues of the art festival such as the Anand Warehouse were dotted along the streets and hoped to visit them too. As I made my way through Bazaar road, I also noticed a large number of antique stores and art cafés which had welcoming country music blaring out of them.
Classic Art Café
One of the cafes I did choose to visit was called “Classic Art Café”. Being heat-struck and dry with thirst, I had to stop along the way for lunch and a drink. The interior was beautiful decorated with artworks and I chose a seat next to the fan.
I noticed a group of chatty young blondes who were enjoying their meal while taking swift drags out of their lit cigarettes. It was an amazing café to chill out at and also had an antique shop at the back which I later discovered! I would rate it a 10/10 for sure!
My one advice to my readers would be to take the bicycles while going through Bazaar Road, especially during the summer months! The bicycles are usually stationed at Pepper House, which is located near the Fort Kochi beach. I was such an imbecile to have not used this facility and later discovered my blunder halfway through my 3.5km walk!
A group of tourists on bikes told me to take a bike rather than walk my way through the scorching afternoon sun. However, it was too late for me anyway and I continued walking!
Pardesi Jewish Synagogue
It was almost 3pm as I made my way towards the Pardesi Jewish Synagogue which was located in Jew Town Mattancherry. It was one of the places on my To-visit list and I quickly took off my shoes and stepped in. The Pardesi (which literally translates to “foreigners”) Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in kochi and was founded in 1568 by Spanish-speaking Jews also referred to as Sephardic Jews. The place is also popularly known as the Cochin Jewish Synagogue or Mattancherry Synagogue.
The interiors were beautiful and were decorated with chandeliers and colourful tiles. The architecture was absolutely eye catching and had an ancient appeal to it!
After a few pictures, I exited from the synagogue. My next destination was the Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica which was a short distance away from the synagogue.
I met a young Kashmiri lad on my way back who insisted that I check out the antique jewels and artifacts which he sold in his small street-side shop. I did have plans of buying some stuff so I stepped into the shop hoping to do a quick round of shopping. The stuff didn’t actually pique my interest, so I refused to buy anything. However, we did make some small talk and settle down for a cup of chai.
While walking to the Cathedral, I came across a narrow street opening up into alleys on either side. I chose the alley to my left and read the sign board above which said “Anand Warehouse” and realized that I had reached one of the venues of the art festival. I was hesitant to go in since I was already running late, but I went in anyway. When I stepped in, I noticed that there were a series of warehouses lined to my right. There were a total of 3 ware houses which looked old and desolate. I also noticed that a few of them had no doors.
I stepped into the first one and found myself in an empty space. There were 2 people sitting in the corner doing who knows what. Further ahead, I noticed an empty fishbowl filled with moss.
I also caught sight of some weird drawings on the wall, which appeared to be drawn with crayon or chalk. I also noticed a small sheet of paper which was stuck to one of the walls which read: “Meet here at 6:30pm”. This was probably some sort of meeting location, I later realized.
The adjoining warehouse consisted of a completely open space. It had no roof and there was a huge tree at the centre. There were colourful strings attached to the trunks as well as dummy heads sticking out of the ground.
As I turned around, I noticed that the wall behind me was covered with illustrations of human body parts which had been drawn in a geometric fashion.
I stepped out of this warehouse and entered the next one. Here, I could see a tent to my right inside which was a knife placed inside a glass box.
The walls of the tent were worn out and torn and had scribbled words which read: “Terrorism has no place in Islam” and “We want Peace”. The rest of the writings I failed to decipher since they were in Urdu.
I realized that this was a very realistic depiction of an Israeli concentration camp. This was indeed one of the most interesting things I had seen until now!
Another Interesting feature of this tent was the human skull which was placed ahead of me along with numerous black and white photographs arranged parallel to each other, which must have been the pictures of those who might have died in these camps.
Behind me, I noticed a geometric pattern which resembled a large intertwined cube. It was dusty and had tiny human shaped dolls nailed into it, each positioned at a different angle from the other. They vaguely reminded me of voodoo dolls and I was very careful not to touch them (Just in case!)
Further behind me was a huge eye made of cloth and the statue of a head in the corner with eyes made of crystals.
This warehouse so far had the most interesting pieces of artwork I had ever seen! I stepped out and noticed that there was a small hole in the wall towards my right. I walked into it and found myself next to a small water body, which was quite surprising! This place was honestly quite a bit of an adventure, given that there were very few people who were around at this time!
Other Interesting venues that I visited
It was almost 5pm and I had to hurry up! However, as I made my way out of the warehouse, I was tempted to check out the alley opposite to Anand Warehouse. However, I was in such a hurry that I stepped in without reading the sign board. The place was beautiful and also had a café hidden inside. The café had blue sheets covering the windows which hence reflected blue light into the expanse, making it appear to be a lost café in Atlantis (LOL)!
The café served snacks, which I had no time to check out. However, I did admire the lady who was drawing patterns on the chalkboard. She appeared to be drawing a man meditating below a tree which had eyes. The chalkboard also had the words “Thought is Matter” written on it, which actually seemed to make a lot of sense!
I also saw a lot of interesting artwork as I stepped out, including a marvelous pot arrangement which expanded from the floor all the way to the ceiling. The entire room was swallowed up by pots which were connected to each other with strings with such precision that they actually appeared to be floating around in mid air! I was awestruck as I tried to imagine the amount of time and energy involved in constructing this marvelous piece of art!
I glanced at my watch and realized it was almost 5:10pm! Without any further ado, I stepped out of the alley and proceeded towards my destination.
Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica
It was almost 5:30pm by the time I reached Santa Cruz Cathedral Basilica. Looming before me was huge white building with artistically decorated wooden doors. I stepped into the church and was filled with astonishment as I caught sight of the colourful interiors, especially the lit up ceiling.
There was a statue of Jesus Christ far ahead of me with candles lit alongside it. I took a seat on one of the several wooden benches which were positioned parallel to one another. Murals and paintings of Mother Mary along with other white winged angels adorned the walls of the church.
Within a few minutes, the bells chimed and the Sunday evening prayers began. I spent around half an hour at the church after which I hurriedly headed out.
Fort Kochi Beach – Bob Marley concert
It took me nearly an hour to reach Fort Kochi Beach (by walk of course). I was sure I would’ve lost at least 5 kilos during this trip, given that I had covered a whooping 6.5kms by foot! I made my way to the beach to relax a bit after my exciting but tiring day. There wasn’t much to see since I had spent an entire evening at the beach the previous day. I bought a ring for myself from one of the beachside sellers and started heading back when I heard some music blaring from speakers a short distance away.
The curious person that I was, I followed the sound and found myself at a beachside concert which was titled: “Bob Marley”. I regretted the fact that I was running out of time and it was almost 6:30pm. However, I didn’t want to miss a single thing while I was here and decided to spend 15mins at the concert. The crowd cheered and grooved to the classic Bob Marley Reggae and Rocksteady songs which blared from the speakers. A bearded man danced along to the beats as a few others slowly started joining him.
I had a bus to catch and made a move about 20mins later. I reached my hotel, packed and rushed to the bus stop. Thankfully, I was right on time and managed to board the bus soon after. It was clearly an extremely eventful and exhilarating trip and I was looking forward to many more similar ones in future! I drifted off to sleep as soon as I hit the bed. My journey had finally come to an end!
The Kochi Muziris Biennale also had many more eye-catching features such as the Water Temple which I haven’t mentioned in my blog post. I will be creating a gallery for all the interesting pictures/videos which I may have missed out! So stay tuned for more!
—————– I hope you enjoyed the Blog! Thanks for reading and have a wonderful day! —————-