R and R in Cochin (Kochi)

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August 9th 2017
Published: August 10th 2017
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The northern leg of our tour complete, we headed south on a four-hour flight to Cochin. The flight was straightforward, but it took us another two hours to drive to our hotel in Cochin (now renamed Kochi) due to heavy traffic. It was immediately noticeable that we were in the South, as there were palm trees everywhere, the roads were in much better condition and the signage was in the curly script of the local language - Malayalam.

We finally arrived at The Old Harbour Hotel, a few minutes from the waterfront, in Fort Cochin. It was our most luxurious accommodation on the tour so far. We were delighted to find that our rooms had been upgraded, and Nigel and I had a cottage room that had an outdoor shower and French doors that opened on to the garden. The building felt very European - Cochin had been settled in turn by Portuguese, Dutch and British traders. It was listed as a spa hotel and we were invited to a morning yoga class, which we declined in favour of a lie in. There was an outdoor swimming pool in the middle of a picturesque garden and it was great to relax in the pool after a long journey, even if we did have to swim in the monsoon rain.

I went for a walk along the seafront and saw fishermen using traditional Chinese nets which were huge constructions of four poles. There were many fish stalls along the promenade, where you could buy fresh fish and the promenade cafes would cook it for you.

We spent the evening having some much needed down-time, including splashing in the pool in the rain. We ate in the hotel restaurant, which served some mouth-watering fish dishes heavily laced with coconut and pineapple.

The following morning, we started the day with an early morning swim in the pool followed by traditional south Indian breakfast of rice hoppers and vegetable curry in a mild coconut sauce. It was very tasty and very filling. We then set off for a tour of the synagogue in the Jewish Quarter (known locally as Jew Town) which captures the history of the Jews who settled in Cochin under the protection of the Maharajah in the sixteenth century. The synagogue was small, but charming. The floor was covered with individually hand-painted tiles from Canton, and the ceilings were adorned with huge numbers of different coloured glass chandeliers. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.

We also stopped off at the Dutch palace which marked the centre of the Dutch community. Again, photography was not allowed, which was a shame because the walls were painted with amazing frescoes capturing the stories of the Hindu Gods.

We stopped off at the Ginger House for a very tasty lime soda and a moment of relaxation in the seafront garden. The café was part of an antiques museum and the garden was packed with all sorts of interesting antique statues.

We had a quick look in the Portuguese church, which houses the grave of Vasco De Gama before saddling up once again on a long journey to Peryiar in the hills. The journey took five and a half hours and we slept for most of it, recovering from our packed itinery. On route, we stopped to admire the waterfalls tumbling high from the mountain top and swollen after the monsoon rain. It was amusing to watch some local lads showing off by paddling underneath the torrential flow despite the obvious danger and the clear signage prohibiting this.

We arrived in Periyar early evening at the Wildernest, which was a basic B&B with rooms arranged around a central courtyard of mature trees. We reached our room by climbing a high spiral staircase. We had a tree-top view from which we could spy on the local birds and monkeys, which we were warned not to feed. After a simple meal in a local restaurant, we turned in early as we had to be up at six in the morning to start a three-hour hike in a local nature reserve the next day.

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