Bandipur -> Wayanad -> Kozhikode -> Guruvayur -> Cochin -> Periyar
We came out of Cherai beach, saw a sign that said ‘Cochin’, and simply drove in that direction. At some point the road ended abruptly and we were not sure what is happening. It turned out we were near a jetty where we had to take the car in a boat and get to the other shore, which is Fort Kochi.
I came out of the car to inquire at the ticket counter for the boats if this is how we go to Fort Kochi. It turned out I was using the wrong words, but we had an interesting conversation anyway.
Me: Is this how we go to Cochin Fort?
The man at the counter: Where?
Me: Cochin Fort?
Man(Again): Where, where?
Me(Trying to be more clear): Fort, Kochin.. Fort Cochin, Cochin Fort..
He started thinking hard while someone else walked in. Similar conversation was repeated. Finally the second person asked:
Second man: Fort with ‘P’ or ‘F’?
Me: ‘F’, ABCDE.. and ‘F’. (I swear, I pronounced correctly, not my fault!)
They looked at each other with the delight of discovery. The second man, whose English was more fluent took over the job of speaking to me.
Seond man: Yes, yes.. this is how you go to Fort Kochi. Say only ‘Fort Kochi’. Don’t say Kochin Fort or Cochin. There is some hotel by that name. Your boat will come now. Take the ticket here. You have a vehicle…?
And so the conversation started and I was happy to have a friendly man to talk to. I put him some questions about the geography of the locale and managed to understand a bit about Kochi, Ernakulam and backwaters of Kerala by the time the boat arrived. And once the boat arrived, getting the car into it turned out to be a tricky job. Several people shouted instructions to turn lef or right, forward or backwards all together and I was hapless for a few seconds. Eventually we were on our way to Fort Kochi which was a short 10 minute journey.
It took some time for us to understand the geography of the region. When we asked people if Fort Kochi is an island, we got mixed answers and sometime vague responses, as though no one knew for sure. Kochi is separated from the mainland by Vembanad lake. Vembanad lake merges into the see near Fort Kochi. This lake is a large waterbody forming the famous backwaters of Kerala, stretching all the way to Alleppey, around 60km south of Kochi. Between Kochi and Alleppey is a maze of water body interspersed with islands of landmasses, some of them connected by narrow roads bisecting the water. This is the region now famously referred all over as the Kerala Backwaters, exploited splendidly to promote tourism in the state. Resorts, houseboat tours and Ayurvedic massage tourism has spread to all corners of the lake and you will notice some or the other signs inviting tourists, no matter where you go.
Fort Kochi is a tourist destination generally advertised as historically significant place, with some of the early Portugese and other European sailors stepping in here few hundred years ago. There are some historic Churches and Basilicas of interest to a traveler. But what is really attractive about Kochi is its calm and quiet atmosphere. Surrounded by sea from all the sides, you can feel the sea in the air, or in the fish served in the restaurants. Despite being close to a city(or being a city by itself) you don’t see the rush of the early hour, traffic overflowing in the road or people hurrying from place to place. Coconut trees, quaint houses and open areas never make you feel that you are in a city. Add to that is the attraction of the sea, people working with the ingenious Chinese nets and long walks next to the jetty. Besides this, you see so many travelers all around Fort Kochi, it adds a sense of excitement and something to look forward to.
Fort Kochi is more of a tourist town, full of hotels, restaurants and places of interest to visit. Though it is host to many monuments, it is the long lines of Chinese fishing nets that epitomizes Fort Kochi. Food, especially sea food is another thing that pulls in tourists in big numbers. Fort Kochi has many exotic restaurants specializing in seafood and Kerala food, some of them pricey enough that a sumptuous dinner would need three to five days’ expenses of a budget traveler! We did savor the delicacies in one such restaurant and came back impressed.
To be continued..