At 1:00 a.m. on October 17th, a great passenger train slowed into Udupi station. In the dead of night, I would have imagined the locomotive to appear daunting, but it actually brought a welcome change to the relative silence of the station. As the train halted, I hoisted my bags onto my back and travel week began.
Sleeping on the train was much easier that I thought it would be. Perhaps it was due to my exhaustion, or perhaps to the comforting lull of clinking wheels on a track, but when my head hit the pillow, I did not wake until arriving in Kochi.
Kochi is a beautiful coastal town known for its European influence, fish curries, and local spices. On the afternoon of arrival, we checked into Bernard Bungalow, a two-story homestay located in the heart of town. For lunch, we ate at Oceanos, and it was one of the best meals I have had in India, and maybe in my entire life. In Kerala, the state in which Kochi is located, the oil used for cooking is coconut, and so every dish was delicious. My personal favorite was the coconut fish curry with lemon rice. I wish I had gotten a picture, but we were all too hungry to think about photographs at the time!
That evening, we took our taxi to the main shopping area in order to admire the sights and sounds. A majority of the outdoor shops offered an array of scarves, brass statues, and elaborate pillow cases. Other stands sold spices, such as curry powder, turmeric, and cinnamon. After a quiet dinner and relaxing walk back to the bungalow, I went to bed early because the next day was going to be busy! Pictures below.
View of the local football field from atop Bernard Bungalow.
Jars upon jars upon jars
Nataraja, or Dancing Shiva!
My artsy attempts?
Laundry services that have been practiced for generations...
A sitar, an Indian instrument used in classical Hindustani music.
Bamboo-rice tubes: A traditional rice breakfast dish made in Kerala and served with chickpeas
The language of Kerala is Malayalam, a different language than Kannada, which is spoken by the local population in Manipal (Manipal is situated in the state of Karnataka, which is just north of Kerala). Kerala has a high population of Arabs, Christians, and also has the best literacy and health indicators of any state in the country. Kochi is also home to one of India's main naval bases.
Vasco de Gama landed somewhere near Kochi in 1498 at the beginning of the European Age of Exploration. In the years following, many other European powers found interest in the region as well. As such, there is Portuguese, as well as Dutch British, and Jewish influence.
To explore the great cultural salad that is Kochi, we hired a guide to take us to the best places. Mr. Jerald, a local, fluent in Malayalam, Hindi, and English, showed us around. First, we went to the Jewish Synagogue, Paradesi Synagogue, and learned that only 7 Jewish people remain in Kochi; however, there was a large population of Jewish people here at one time, namely during the colonial era and the Holocaust. The Synagogue did not allow pictures, but was elaborately decorated with glass chandeliers, hand-painted tiles, and Hebrew inscriptions. Afterwards, we walked to the Dutch palace where we saw a beautiful, painted rendition of the Ramayana. The Ramayana is an Indian epic that features Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu, and the rescue of Sita, a princess, from Ravana, a demon. This palace-turned-museum also featured a history on the ruling families of Kochi, intricate palanquins, and an assortment of weapons, jewelry, and clothing. Pictures below.
Outside the Paradesi Synagogue.
Pictures were also not allowed in the Dutch Palace, but paintings similar to this one were in there.
Group pic outside the Dutch Palace!
After this, we saw the famous Chinese nets of Kochi, once a lucrative business for many families. However, due to modernization, pollution, and a changing economy, this specific trade just barely supports 50 families today. Nonetheless, it was a treat to see such an ancient tool still being used with such expertise. Pictures below.
Ready for catching!
A huge freighter chugged in the near distance.
As a final stop before lunch, we visited the St. Francis Church. Vasco de Gama was buried here for a time, and his grave remains inside the church still. However much there is a momento to this explorer, there is also much negativity surrounding his landing and ideals. European imperialists brought to India railroads, a postal system, and various agricultural assets, but they exploited much more. Forced conversion to Christianity, unfair and racist pay grades, and broad economic exploitation are just some of the hardships that were faced. (See "Impacts of Imperialism" in 'Useful Links'). Pictures below.
St. Francis Church, the oldest of its kind in India!
Vasco de Gama's tomb.
The inside of the church...it was undergoing renovation when we were there, but was still very nice to visit!
On a lighter note, lunch was delicious, and I saw some beautiful wall art on the walk there. If you're ever in Kochi, be sure to check out the hip, quaint Kashi Art Cafe and be sure to order the chocolate cream pie! After lunch, we visited the Kerala Folklore Museum, an impressive display of Indian artifacts, jewelry, and carvings, all collected by one man over the span of 30 years. That night, we ate at Fusion Bay, where I ordered a very yummy Jewish Fish Curry with green mango rice. Pictures below.
Some very cool wall art around Kochi!
More wall art.
Lunch selfie with Smriti!
Kashi Art Cafe with these two <3
Owned by one person, this museum displayed an impressive collection of artifacts, jewelries, and costumes.
Decorative art in the museum
Jewish fish curry with green mango rice! Yum!
In summary, Kochi was an amazing place to start out travel week. Seeing Kerala, a different state than the one I have been in the whole time, showed me yet again how linguistically, religiously, geographically, and politically diverse India really is.
Tomorrow or the day after, I will post from Allepey and Kerala Backwaters (Travel Week, Day 3) and continue with this pattern until I am finished detailing travel week!
As always, thank you for reading and do not hesitate to comment or email with any regards or questions!