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Kerala For Keeps: Exploring Kochi
You never run out of things to do in Kerala. It’s a beautiful state with an immersive culture that you take with you, if you’re lucky enough to experience it. Kerala, in particular, held wonders that are quite unique in this region of the world. Our days were packed with sights to see, food to eat, and adventures to have.
We began our trip with a filling meal at the East Indies Restaurant—the in-house restaurant of our official residence in Kochi, Eight Bastion Hotel. It was the perfect start to a long day ahead as we were well energized and well rested.
Our first stop was Bolgatty Palace on Bolghatty Island. This is where we were set to meet the tourism leaders of Kerala. As we waited, we were able to take a tour of the place. It used to be a palace built for the Dutch of India but has now been turned into a heritage hotel resort.
View near Kochi’s shipyard
We were told that it was one of the oldest Dutch palaces that still existed—outside of Holland, that is! Right now, it features a 9-hole golf course, a swimming pool, an ayurvedic centre, and even daily Kathakali performances. It’s a popular holiday destination for tourists, local or foreign.
One of the things that impressed me was the palace itself. The caretakers of Bolgatty were able to maintain the beautiful building and turn it into an elegant hotel. Truth be told, I wish the Philippine government will one day be able to turn our heritage buildings into well-maintained tourist attractions that will last for generations to come.
Come to Kerala Participants with Mr. A.P. Anil Kumar
After our short tour, we were finally given the chance to meet the people behind our trip—tourism movers in Kerala headed by Mr. A.P. Anil Kumar. He is Kerala’s Minister for Tourism. He gave us Aranmula Mirrors as a token of appreciation during this short meeting. We were thrilled to have received it from Kerala’s Department of Tourism!
Brunton Boatyard’s History Restaurant
Before we realized it, it was now time for dinner! From Bolgatty Palace, we went to Brunton Boatyard’s History Restaurant in Fort Kochi. It’s conveniently just a few blocks away from our hotel. Like plenty of things in this wonderful state, the restaurant is placed inside a beautiful hotel that was once a heritage building.
Tea Dusted Tiger Prawns
It’s an interesting place. We were told that it was resurrected from the remains of a Victorian shipbuilding yard. The hotel is unique in itself as it gives us the opportunity to dwell among shadow plays of the 19th century.
For starters, we were served Tea Dusted Tiger Prawns. You can tell the prawns were fresh and freshly cooked—they were still chewy, tender, and juicy! The main entrée was a Roasted Shallot Fish with Saffron Sauce. It was a mildy-roasted fish with potato, served with a mild curry sauce. To be honest, it was one of the best dinners I had in Kerala! The next time I find myself in Kochi, I will definitely return to this restaurant!
DAY 02: Fort Kochi Beach Walk Way
Another day, another adventure! After breakfast, we went for a walking tour around Fort Kochi. We headed to the Fort Kochi Beach Walk Way from our hotel. From there, we could see the public beach. There were also other interesting sights along the walkway: centuries-old houses, old walls, Chinese fish nets, souvenir peddlers, fresh fish for sale, and lots of street food!
Local Fishermens using Chinese Fish Nets
It’s amazing how walking along the beach gave me a historical and cultural tour!
St. Francis CSI Church
Next up was the St. Francis CSI Church. It was a structure built centuries ago—in 1503. In fact, it was considered the oldest European Church in India.
An interesting fact about this church is that it was the original resting place of famous Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama. He was buried in this place for 14 years before his remains were transferred to Lisbon.
Souvenirs from India
As it was our last day in Kerala, it meant shopping! From St. Francis Church, we went straight to Jew Town. This town used to be a place for trading spices. There are still spices sold around some stores in the area, but most of these stores have switched to the souvenir industry. You don’t just find Kerala keepsakes here. You can also buy souvenir items from all over India.
Spice Shop in Jew Town
Jew Town really is the best place for souvenir shopping. You can get unique items you can only buy in this place. From traditional garbs to home decorations and other knick-knacks you may want to share to friends and family back home.
Inside a bookshop in Jew Town
If you’re a shopper and you’re in Kerala, Jew Town is where it’s at! The best part? Prices aren’t fixed! If you’ve got great haggling skills, you’ll surely be able to score a few sweet bargains or more. Just haggle as you would in any flea market, plenty of vendors will surely give you a great deal.
Cochin Cultural Center
We finally arrive at our last destination. The last thing in our itinerary is to experience the unique culture of Kerala. What better way than to watch a Kathakali performance, right?
Kathakali Performers putting on their makeup
Kathakali is a classical Indian dance-drama stylized and made unique because of the attractive make-up the characters wear. They feature elaborate costumes, detailed gestures, and highly-defined body movements—all while moving in tune to the anchor playback music and the complementary percussion.
A few things you may want to know about a Kathakali performance is that it originated in the present day state of Kerala during the 17th century. It has changed over the years, but only for the better! The looks have been improved, gestures refined, and themes added other than precise drumming and ornate singing.
Kathakali Performers in Cochi Cultural Center
After this eye-opening cultural show, we went back to our hotel for dinner. As we enjoyed the food, we were also secretly writing a short note on a plain white t-shirt for our highly effective tour guide, Manoj, as a souvenir and a token of our appreciation.
Mary and Kaori presenting our token to Manoj – our tour guide
Two days was certainly not enough to explore this little haven of Indian culture. There were so many things to do and so many sights to see, not to mention all the good food we wished we were able to try! In fact, I already have a list of things I would love to do and places I’d like to see for when I return to Kochi.
Kerala, see you soon!