This is Part 2 of 20 Things to Do in Kochi– check out Part 1.
11. Explore Kochi’s Jewish History at Paradesi Synagogue
The Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest active synagogue in not only India, but all of the Commonwealth of Nations. Located in Jew Town, the synagogue was constructed in 1568 on land given to the local Jewish community by the Raja of Kochi. Paradesi, meaning foreigner, Synagogue has been used an active place of worship since it was built, and still holds services today. No photography is allowed inside, but the Belgian chandeliers, hand-painted Chinese porcelain tiles lining the floor, and copper plates dating back to the 10th century will be hard to erase from your memories. (Visiting Info: Jew Town Road, Sun – Thu, 10am – noon & 3 – 5pm, 2 rupees (around 30 cents). Must be modestly dressed for admission.)
12. Buy a Tailored Sari on Princess Street
Princess Street is one of the oldest streets in Fort Kochi, and you can still enjoy the colonial style buildings that line the way. There are many small shops selling souvenirs and handicrafts, as well as saris that can be tailored within 24 hours to take back home. (Check out my post on traditional Keralan clothing.) Princess Street is a great stop for lunch after visiting the Chinese fishing nets, or to simply practice your bargaining skills while taking in the architecture. (Visiting Info: Princess Street)
13. Get Your Tourist On at Vasco da Gama Square
Kochi was the last port of famed explorer Vasco da Gama before his death in the city in 1524. (His gravestone can still be visited at St. Francis Church, the oldest European church in India.) The square in Kochi of his namesake is the place to go for all things touristy. Cast a Chinese fishing net, buy fish straight from local fisherman, indulge in street food, or load up on cheap jewelry to take back home. While you won’t get a fully immersive cultural experience at the square, you may run into a few goats and interesting people watching opportunities. (Visiting Info: Vasco da Gama Square)
14. Escape the Rain by Tuk-Tuk
Ah. Monsoon season. If you find yourself in Kochi between the end of May and end of September you can expect torrential downpour multiple times a day. Weirdly enough, it is actually amazing to experience and you typically have a small minute or so window to take shelter before getting soaked. (You can literally see the rain coming toward you.) As soon as those winds pick up and you see that giant curtain of rain in the distance, it is time to run. There are usually tuk-tuks, auto rickshaws, just about everywhere so you shouldn’t have a problem hailing one to safety. I don’t know why, and perhaps it isn’t what everyone would consider a great time, but riding around in a tuk-tuk during the monsoon is one of my favorite memories of India.
15. Experience Colonial Luxury at Brunton Boatyard
I finished my stay in India at the luxurious Brunton Boatyard, which felt extra luxurious after a week sleeping in tents and other more basic accommodations throughout Kerala. Located on the historic section of Kochi’s harbour, the property was recreated to reflect the city’s colonial past on the location of a Victorian era shipyard. The rooms have gorgeous views over the waterfront, staff tend to your every whim, and the property offers free activities such as daily sunset cruises and cooking classes. If I find myself in Kochi again, I will 100% stay at Brunton Boatyard.
16. Re-hydrate with Road-Side Coconuts
If you are on a budget, or just looking for a refreshing snack, you will find these coconut vendors all over the city. For less than a buck, they will make a hole in a fresh coconut for you to suck out the coconut water and then cut it up for you to indulge in the flesh. Tasty, cheap, and fun to watch.
17. Go for a Sunset Cruise
The sunsets in Kochi are extraordinary, and even more so from the water. Brunton Boatyard offers free sunset cruises for all guests, but there are several other companies who provide the service as well. I enjoyed watching the local fishermen pass by as I took in the rainbow of colors on the waters as the sun went down. Many opt for the traditional backwater cruise, but I would recommend taking it at sunset for an extra special experience.
18. Experience Keralan Hospitality at Bastion Homestay
My first night in India I stayed at Bastion Homestay, an inexpensive bed and breakfast type place in the home of a local family. A room will only cost you around $10 a night, and the family is absolutely wonderful. Accommodation is basic, but clean and homey. I would have no problems staying at Bastion Homestay for a long period of time, and the helpful advice you receive from the owners gives very good value for money. (Visiting Info: Website, Chirattapalam Road)
19. Relax with an Ayurvedic Massage
Okay, I didn’t have an Ayurvedic massage during my time in Kochi. I am extremely ticklish, and after many embarrassing massage experiences I have given up on ever enjoying a good massage. That being said, Kerala is world-renown for their Ayurvedic massages and therapies. There are practices across the city that claim to help with everything from tense muscles to obesity. From those with less sensitive bodies than I, I’ve heard nothing but amazing testimonials, so I still recommend doing it. When in Kerala, and all that.
Kochi is such an amazing city to wander. The architecture and people change from one block to the next, and it is such a joy to visit so many different cultures in such a small space. Kerala is a safe area of India, just use common sense. Ladies, don’t wander too much alone at night and wear modest clothing so you don’t stick out anymore than you already will. Locals are so friendly, so don’t be afraid to stop for a chat and be inquisitive. Not everyone speaks English of course, but I find you can get pretty far with a smile and good hand signals.