Forte Kochi Experience
Archana and I have been traveling for over 10 years now and made multiple trips to Kerala as well! But the surprising thing was that we had never really visited the backwaters or the coast apart from Kannur! So, for our 2nd wedding anniversary, I decided to surprise Archana with a road trip to Kochi (Forte Kochi) and then Kumarakom! July is generally humid with plenty of rains and I was hoping that we get some clear weather on the day of the trip.
The drive from Bangalore to Kochi is pretty long and it takes about 11 hours to get there! But we had time on our hands and the drive is really beautiful as we get to drive through some of the best highways in India and then cut across Kerala’s gorgeous landscapes to get to the beach!
It took us just short of 9 hours to get there and soon we were navigating through the streets of Kochi city. We reach just after lunch so the city was bustling and traffic was a little crazy. The maps took us through the main highway before we entered narrow by lanes towards our destination, Forte Kochi. Soon we were driving along the magnificent backwaters of Kerala and crossed many small bridges to get to our destination.
As we turned towards Forte Kochi, we noticed that the traffic had disappeared and the influence of the Dutch settlement was visible in the surrounding architecture. The streets were still narrow but this looked like a totally different part of town! Forte Kochi stands out from the rest of the buildings due to its peppy bright yellow and you immediately are drawn into this historic building.
Fort Kochi is a cute little town that has maintained its contemporary look and yet transformed into the café destination in Kochi. A charming seaside area, Fort Kochi is known for its Dutch, Portuguese, and British colonial architecture, and elaborate bamboo fishing nets at Fort Kochi Beach. You will see influences of the Dutch and Portuguese rule all over the town and this small area can easily be covered in a matter of a few hours on foot! Luckily, we had our own car so we didn’t have to worry about transportation.
About the hotel
Hotel Forte Kochi is aptly located on Princess Street because the street itself looks like royalty due to the heritage buildings and clean tarmac. Believed to be built by the Dutch, in the 1860s, the structure of Forte Kochi was once a part of the palatial home of an eminent Jewish family of Kochi. The architecture and the heritage aesthetics are a seamless blend of Portuguese, Dutch and British influences. Now restored to its past glory, the hotel enchants visitors with glimpses of life once known and lived, centuries ago.
On entering the hotel, the friendly staff welcomed us and to beat the heat we were served fresh tender coconut water while the check-in formalities were completed.
As you get in the yellow shades disappear and in the reception area, you see traditional Kerala interiors and beautiful woodwork everywhere. But as you step out into the courtyard where the swimming pool is the buildings are again donned in their signature yellow adding exuberance to the hotel! The blue pool creates a lovely contrast to the yellow and this is where we took most of our pictures.
Hotel Forte Kochi has 27 beautifully done rooms and each one has its own identity and old-world charm. In the common areas, the cushioned wicker sofas, a medley of colored tiles interspersed with wooden floors and the vivid dish of Portuguese summer colors take your breath away and transport you to colonial India.
Walking up a flight of stairs, we were taken to our room, cooled in advance as it was hot that day. The room interiors are typical of a heritage property with the massive colonial four-poster beds, beautifully crafted wooden side drawers and elegant furniture to decorate the suite. The white walls of the room are accentuated with colors all around – from the colorful bed covers, gorgeous lamps, orange curtains and the wooden roof on top! All rooms have high ceilings, checkered floors and the bathrooms have the most modern fittings to ensure comfort in the midst of luxury and heritage.
The bell rings and we are summoned downstairs for lunch. We had decided to order simple yet traditional Kerala cuisine. The chef had prepared Kerala Parottas, Appams and Nadan chicken curry. This chicken curry, also sometimes called the Red Chicken Curry, is a delicious dish full of local flavors, spices and goes well with parottas or rice. It’s fairly easy to make and a safe bet for those looking to try this cuisine for the first time! The whole ensemble wasn’t spicy at all and fairly light on the stomach.
The Jetty restaurant at Forte Kochi serves cuisines reflecting the various cultures that have influenced Kochi. Authentic local Kerala flavors, pan-Indian, pan-European, British favorites, and a signature lineup of seafood delicacies, are some of the many choices on the menu. But we recommend that you try the Kerala cuisine!
That day for dinner we were recommended that we start off with a strawberry daiquiri! Vidur didn’t want to drink so he ordered the ginger fresh lime. Now I am not a daiquiri person but the minute it was brought to me, I feel in love with it! The sweetness of the strawberry complemented by the strong essence of the alcohol created a perfect mix and I thoroughly enjoyed having this drink! Vidur, on the other hand, loved the fresh lime but after sipping the daiquiri wished he had ordered it too!
Since I love eating fish, my dinner consisted of only the fish platter and Vidur chose the Beef Thanga Roast and Kerala Parottas. I think he has some kind of parotta fetish! Everything was scrumptious and I felt guilty ordering the fish platter as the portions were huge! I think the great experience we had with the lunch, made us a little greedy and we ended up indulging in over-eating that night! But that’s just a bigger compliment to the chef at Forte Kochi.
It was our wedding anniversary the next day and both of us woke up all smiling, after a good night’s sleep! After the heavy dinner, both of us watched TV for a while. And slowly we snuggled inside the cozy comforters and dozed off to sleep! Today was a new day, a special day and our plan was to travel to Kumarakom Lake Resort as we were booked there for the next two days!
With bags packed we moved downstairs to the breakfast buffet and were surprised to see the staff waiting with roses and a cake!! Now how do I show how big a smile Archana had coz I didn’t get a chance to click pics then!
A few months ago, while making the booking, I had apparently mentioned to them that it was our anniversary – they remembered and made it even more special for us! Didn’t expect this and were taken by surprise. But I did get brownie points for arranging this – even if I didn’t mean to!
Best Time to Visit Kochi
The best time to visit Kochi will truly rely upon what you like and what you are searching for. Between October and March, you will get the most wonderful temperatures, somewhere in the range of 17 and 30 degrees Celsius and little downpour, which for the vast majority is the perfect climate.
Kochi has optimum temperatures throughout the year, however, the best time to visit Kochi is said to be from the months of October to March which comprises of the winter season for the city. Summers and monsoon, although a tad difficult due to the extremes, are equally attractive in Kochi, especially for budget travelers.
How to reach Kochi
By Air: Kochi has its own airport, called the Cochin International Airport, situated 20 km away at Nedumbassery. The international and domestic flights available here connect you to different parts of the globe. From the airport, the best way to get into the city is by cabs that you will find right outside the terminal
By Rail: The main railway station is Kochi railway junction, while the other station is at Kochi Harbor Terminus. Through train, Kochi is linked with important cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Chennai.
By Road: An excellent network of roads connects Kochi to all major towns and cities in South India as well as across the country.
Things to see in Kochi
This quaint town is situated on the Fort Kochi/Mattancherry peninsula, is the historical part of the city and home to many tourist attractions, such as the cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, the Mattancherry Palace and the Santa Cruz Basilica. The famous Kochi-Muziris Biennale which is an international exhibition of contemporary art is held in and around here.
Chinese Fishing Nets
The Chinese Fishing Nets are the most famous sight here, so if you are only doing a one-day trip in Kochi, this should be on the top of your list for things to do in Fort Kochi. According to legend, the nets were brought from the court of Chinese emperor Kublai Khan and were introduced to local fishermen by Chinese explorer Zheng He in the 14th or 15th century.
Local fishermen show how to use them in return for a small fee, and you can purchase the morning catch prepared by the locals too. The best place to watch them in action is from the Vasco da Gama Square, a narrow promenade that runs along Fort Kochi beach.
Mattancherry Palace (Dutch Palace)
The Mattancherry Palace was built and presented as a token of appreciation by the Portuguese to the Raja of Kochi, Verra Kerala Varma, in 1555. It now houses a great collection of portraits of Maharajas, some of the best mythological murals in India, as well as old Dutch maps, royal palanquins, and period furniture. The double storeyed palace has the architectural style of the Portuguese but it follows the design patterns of Kerala temple architecture, which can be seen in the wooden balconies and the sloping roof.
There are two more temples on either side of the Palace, one dedicated to Lord Krishna and the other to Lord Shiva. Certain elements of architecture, as for example the nature of its arches and the proportion of its chambers are indicative of European influence in basic N?luketttu style.
This the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations,located in Kochi in South India. It was built in 1568 by the Malabar Yehudanpeople or Cochin Jewish community in the Kingdom of Cochin. It is also referred to as the Cochin Jewish Synagogue or the Mattancherry Synagogue.
The synagogue is located in the quarter of Old Cochin known as Jew Town and is the only one of the seven synagogues in the area still in use. The complex has four buildings. It was built adjacent to the Mattancherry Palace temple on the land given to the Malabari Yehuden community by the Raja of Kochi, Rama Varma. The Mattancherry Palace temple and the Mattancherry synagogue share a common wall.
This is a beautiful promenade, was built facing the backwaters, and is a popular hangout for the locals. With several shopping malls, it is as an important center of shopping activity in Kochi. The walkway has two contemporarily constructed bridges, the Rainbow Bridge and the Chinese Fishing Net Bridge. The view of the setting and rising sun over the sea mouth, and the gentle breeze from the Vembanad Lake has made Marine Drive an important tourist destination in Kochi. Hundreds of people, both natives and tourists, throng the walkway during the evenings.
One of the best beaches in Kerala, it is quite popular with international tourists. Located just 30kms from Kochi, this 15-kilometer-long golden beach is shallow, and attracts swimming and sunbathing. Cheraivillage is a part of Vypin Island.
These waterfalls are in the neighboring Thrissurdistrict and it will take a 90-minute drive to reach there. At Athirappilly Falls, the water surges around big rocks and cascades down in three separate plumes. Below the falls, the river remains turbulent for about 1 kilometer until it reaches Kannamkuzhi. Then it calms and flows smoothly until reaching the dam at Imburmuzhi.
Doing a sunset cruise in Kochi is an absolute must-do. It’s a great way to see the Chinese Fishing Nets from the water and to enjoy the Kochi backwaters at a leisurely pace. It is also the perfect opportunity to spot dolphins! The sunset cruises only operate outside of the monsoon season, and they generally last about 2 hours.
Kochi has lots of tour operators that conduct these tours and you can get in touch with your hotel to put in touch with them. Some hotels also conduct their own tours and you should check with your hotel too!
And of course, The Lulu Mall
Kochi is home to some of the largest shopping malls in India and one of them is the Lulu Mall. For a shopping experience in Kochi, there are lots of markets but a visit to Lulu Mall is a treat with air conditioning and 300+ food outlets, stores and restaurants. There are both international brands as well as local specialties to see in this modern complex and there is also a premium five-star, 20-storey, 300 room hotel managed by JW Marriott Hotels is located adjacent to it, within the mall compound.
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