23-24 January, Cochin, Kerala

We were reluctant to leave our little beach-side hut, especially since our early morning flight required a 2.30am wake-up call. We didn’t know too much about our next destination except its location as the gateway to the Keralan backwaters and the beginning of our boat trip.

Spices for sale
Spices for sale

Cochin is a fascinating little city settled on both the mainland and islands connected to one another by bridges. There’s a huge maritime influence over the city and our hotel room looks over a massive ship construction yard – not a conventional view – but interesting all the same.

One of the main attractions of Cochin seems to be the Fort area, which has a lot of commercial activity and history packed into a pretty small space. Although on the morning of our arrival we were armed with our map, an auto-rickshaw driver convinced us to let him show us all the sights. At 150 rupees ($3.30) for two hours we could hardly resist. He took us to see the various religious and cultural sights – a couple of Hindu temples, the Santa Cruz Basilica, St Francis Church, the Dutch cemetery, some British colonial buildings and a museum explaining the history of Portugese, Dutch and British eras of influence. The various eras are evident in the mixed architectural fabric that makes you feel like you could be anywhere in the world.

Kochi Street Market
Kochi Street Market

The waterfront is scattered with market stalls selling anything from Coca Cola to camel bone jewellery. The ever present postcard and drum sellers roam the streets trying their luck but happily moving on after showing a genuine interest in where you’re from and discussing the cricket scores. At the water’s edge, fishermen use gigantic nets anchored to the shore by a lever system. The fish are sold on the street and taken by customers to the stands across the road where you can watch them being cooked. It doesn’t get much fresher than that.

This afternoon we wanted to come back and get some photos of the fishing nets in action, but to our surprise the area was deserted. One of the men at the stalls informed us that a fisherman had gone missing out on the water overnight and all the other local fishermen were out in their boats searching for him. We didn’t find out if he was found or what happened to him but we could see how it affected everyone in the tight-knit community. Although people carried on with their business the mood was pretty solemn in an area usually buzzing with activity.

© Richard Munckton