After travelling around India on my first visit in 2012, I decided this time I wanted to really get to know just one area. Poor India, suffers a lot of negativity around the safety of travellers, in particular, solo female travellers. And I hate to admit it, I didn’t fancy Goa this time or even anywhere that is not Kerala (note – this is not the case now!) Kerala is considered a pretty safe state, tourism is still huge and the well educated local people want to keep it that way. Although Kerala seemed the right option for me on this trip, I think travellers would agree that most places should be safe as long as you are sensible. I appreciate that sometimes no matter how safe you are, bad shit can happen anywhere but we can only do our best to look after ourselves in any given situation. I personally haven’t been going far alone after dark because I’m in a place I don’t know that well (and a big scaredy cat) plus I just feel more vulnerable in the dark. Maybe that’s a bit extreme but I’m realising more and more just how safety conscious I am and that’s okay with me!
I flew into Kochi or Cochin from Colombo and headed straight to Fort Kochi. Fort Kochi and Kochi old town, Mattancherry, are a real hit with your Instagram followers. The old town is dominated by a historic Jewish district that is also known as Jew Town – it’s full of colourful ruins, lovely shops in Jew Passage, antiques for days and the most expensive boutique hotel in town. Fort Kochi just west of the old town is full of colonial heritage buildings, European style streets, art, churches, cafes as well as plenty of restaurants offering tasty local cuisine.
Fort Kochi and The Wilson’s
I ended up staying far longer than I planned. The Homestay I am staying in is so homely (big up Jeen Wilsons Homestay & Cafe), the hosts have really looked after me and so I decided to extend and take my time (again) to really explore Kochi.
There is no denying that Fort Kochi is a touristy spot but I can honestly say that really wasn’t a problem for me. Perhaps it’s because I am visiting a little late in the season but I felt there was so much to explore, I just got stuck in. I also think that (and don’t shoot me for saying this) having some western style cafes with good wifi is particularly handy whilst you are travelling to relax, do some planning and maybe fancy something different to eat – small comforts go a long way!
Special places to see include St Francis Church (the burial place of Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama), Chinese Finishing Nets (a beautiful sight at sun rise), Santa Cruz Basilica (first church built by Portuguese around 1500,) Kerala Kathakali Cultural Centre (Keralan Dance, Music, Yoga & Meditation!) but during my visit I was also lucky enough to see the end of the Biennale Art Exhibition at Aspinwall House which closed at the end of March. I have to say, although I’m not a huge art buff, Biennale was very impressive and presented artists from all over the world.
Mattancherry on Top
I absolutely loved strolling around Mattancherry. What’s not to love about a load of run down old buildings?
I had read about the antique dealers here but had no idea what to expect. Many of the shops are small, selling souvenir type statuettes and some art but Mattancherry is actually home to the biggest Antique exporter in South India owned by Mr Majnu, who I ended up meeting…
From humble tour guide to owner of the biggest antique exporter in South India, the most expensive hotel in Kochi (honeymoon spot sorted) and the only sea front restaurant in Mattancherry, Mr Majnu has had huge business success here.
Mr Majnu, from a typical south-Indian household, graduated (in Botany) and started out in the world of work. His father gave him 300 rupees to set him on his way and back then he had no idea he would end up owning one of Kochi’s most glamorous boutique hotels.
Working as a tour guide, he noticed the keen interest in mainly religious Indian antiques from foreigners and decided to open up his own small shop. Fast forward 30 years and Mr Majnu’s shop now boasts 300 square feet of fascinating antique artefacts and furniture dating as far as back as up to 500 years old. The company have been shipping items all over India and the rest of the world for many years.
Alongside the antique business, he runs a lovely sea front Keralan restaurant and has just opened the Ginger House Museum Hotel. Each room in the boutique hotel has it’s own unique theme filled with stunning, mostly antique, furnishings that are all for sale. So if you decide that after spending a night, you want to take the gold plated sink home with you (would be very tempted myself, had I firstly been able to afford the room), you actually can!
Mr Majnu believes his success is owed to fate. He told me, “Believe whatever you deserve in life, will come to you.”
I tend to agree with you Mr Majnu.
Have faith and do good and the rest will work itself out.
Peace and love…