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Published: December 17th 2006
Fishing By Night
The water flows quickly as these fishermen dip their Chinese fishing nets into the water.
The first thing that I noticed when I arrived in Fort Cochin was the European influence on the buildings and architecture. The Dutch, Portuguese and the British have all ruled here over the centuries. Grand buildings and large churches give the island a home like feel.
There are many home-stays in Cochin and along with 3 other friends we found a particularly nice one not far from the town center. It's similar to staying in a guest house or hotel except ours was more like an apartment with our own lounge and we received warm friendly hospitality from our hosts living downstairs. Some will even invite you to have your meals with them.
The Chinese fishing nets are the hallmark of Fort Cochin. They sit neatly in rows on the banks of a fast flowing estuary fed by the enormous expanse of what is known as the backwaters. The nets are quite large and supported by a cantilever system of wooden structures what dip into the water close to the bank, settle for a few minutes and then rise again in the hope of catching something! I saw one of the nets in operation in the early evening but
Chinese Fishing Nets
These nets look impressive lined up along the banks of Fort Cochin.
it was only catching a handful of fish and is probably intended more for the tourist's benefit than the hungry locals. Fishing around this area is big business and at sunset all the boats come back with their catches. I found two fish markets in full swing and it was really interesting to see how quickly and efficiently fish are brought ashore and auctioned off to punters with shouting, jostling and bidding going on in what seems to be a frenzy of activity but actually is quite systematic.
There are several islands nearby and they are all linked by a fast and efficient ferry service making access to transport connections and shopping in the main city of Ernakulam on the main land a piece of cake. I managed to track down a shop selling professional art materials which is no small feat. Whether or not I can use them is something else entirely.
The star attraction in the state of Kerala has to be the backwaters. These low lying flats are flooded with water fed from rivers coming down the hills inland and eventually flow out into the sea. Masses of green kelp grow in the backwaters and
Santa Cruz Basilica
This beautiful church recently celebrated being 500 years old.
slowly drift out towards the sea eventually killed as it mixes with sea water. Hundreds of small long boats scoot around just about anywhere using simple Venice style wooden poles for propulsion. The water ways are a way of life here and you can see boats fishing, ferrying food or materials around, work boats with guys diving down and digging up the river beds, ferries carting locals around the millions of small backwater villages and fancy house boats cruising about for the benefit of tourists not to mention the birds and wildlife such as kingfishers and water snakes.
Unfortunately an increasing number of these boats have noisy polluting outboard engines awkwardly stuck on the side that spoil the tranquil and peaceful atmosphere that can be had floating around large expanses of perfectly flat water banked by dense forests of colourful palm trees. The tint that is giving many of these trees a wonderful graded spectrum of greens and yellows is apparently a virus that is attacking and killing many of them which is a shame because it actually adds to the spender of the whole place.
If you intend to visit the backwaters of Kerala I can recommend taking
Cochin School Children
Fort Cochin has some large schools full of seemingly very well behaved children in many colourful uniforms.
a leap of faith and simply jumping on a local ferry without really knowing where it is going. I visited Alleppey which is a typically hectic, busy, noisy and dusty town. But what I love is when I find myself floating down a busy town canal not knowing where it's going or what to except and it has in store this wonderful surprise as it suddenly opens up into this spacious, peaceful and amazingly pretty place.
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