The best parts of Kerala are the beach and jungle, but I always end up finding myself immersed in the city life of India. I am so NOT a city person unless I’m with friends/guides, which is maybe why I didn’t love my introduction to Kerala in Kochi. I thought I’d be your friend today and make you a Fort Kochi guide to help you out.
Probably the main attraction of Kochi, the capital, is Fort Cochin (Kochi). Although not an actual fort, it did used to be a fortified city. Famously housing the Mattencherry Palace, just at the tip of Fort Cochin is the well-known fishing pier. Drive to the shore and park. Save yourself the embarrassment of asking five different people, “but where is the fort…?” because they will for sure keep on replying- “You are here now!” I admit, I did see one canon. But I think it was fake. Give yourself the whole afternoon to walk around here.
Mattencherry Palace photo credit flickr
This is where the remnant of traditional cantilevered Chinese Fishing happens. Chinese fishing might have been brought over by a Chinese man named Zhang or arguable from the Portuguese, if so- some say it was wrongly named. An interesting way to catch fish on shore, it takes about 5 men to pull in the net using a pulley system made of rope, rocks, teak, and bamboo.
fishing in a lungi is obviously better than fishing in pants.
It’s a dying breed and much of the big catches you see in the market at Fort Cochin are really brought in from the boats. While there once were 30 nets in Cochin there are now only 20 (11 of which are at Fort Cochin), there The other type of shore fishing, you’ll see in Palolem, Goa and other Indian beaches, is where they use no contraptions. They simply take the nets out by boat and pull it in from land.
It was explained that “There are just no more fish!” on shore, therefore a few of the nets are for show, or so tourists can pull the net in themselves. Along with the lack of fish, the Chinese fishing nets, or “Cheena vala” as the locals call them, have very expensive upkeep. Touts will ask for donations because they aren’t catching enough fish. A local explained that these aren’t even the fishermen, just beggars pretending.
Unlike Goa, where any big catch of the day will be bought up quickly by a restaurant at a high price, in Kochi the fish are cheap, bountiful, and available for the locals from swordfish to shark and kingfish, prawns, crabs, squid, lobster, snapper, and pomfrit. Large boats bring in most of this from further out in sea.
some of the smaller catches… love red snapper!
The pier is little bit of a tourist attraction with camels on the beach, cafes, fish stalls, and mini-markets. You can buy anything from clothing to pasta makers and flashlights. It’s fairly crowded and I was there while the kids were getting out of school. I love taking photos of little kids so that was actually perfect for me.
anyone want to buy a pasta maker?
You can stroll the paved sidewalk for hours if you want, and I prefer to go places like this at sunset. The water wasn’t clean and only a few were swimming. The beach was actually filthy while I was there, but the vibe is still enjoyable.
That is an unusual ice cream truck (rickshaw)!
Next up on my Fort Kochi guide, you’ll find the Dutch Cemetery and St. Francis Church just near the pier; you can easily follow signs. At this church, explorer Vasco da Gama was buried for 14 years before being dug up and taken back to Lisbon. It’s also the oldest European church in India. The buildings within Fort Kochi are of European design, some Dutch and some Portuguese. It reminds me very much of my neighborhood in Goa.
Walking distance from the pier is the Jewish Quarter. Here is the best place for some antique shopping! You’ll see some of the “same same but different” that Indian shops have on offer- but look for the Jewish shop names and take a peek for the treasures inside! These narrow lanes were where spice trading used to take place while the Dutch had Kochi.
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