Kerala and its capital, Kochi

Kochi or Cochin or Ernakulam

I am down in Kochi now. Sometimes written Cochin. I asked why. Apparently the town is really Cochin but Fort Kochi gave its name to the town so it’s called both. It is part of the district of Ernakulam in the state of Kerala. This means the town is often called Ernakulam too. Confused?

Kochi in Kerala
Kochi in Kerala
Kochi is situated on a vast network of (not quite lagoons and) waterways. The definition of a lagoon is:

an area of sea water separated from the sea by a reef, a line of rocks and sand.

In fact Kochi is a port with a vast inland area of sea water and small islands separated from the Laccadive Sea by a narrow entrance. You can see it on the map detail.

Cochin used to be known as “Queen of the Arabian Sea”. It was an important spice trading centre from the 14th century onward, and maintained a trade network with Arab merchants from the pre-Islamic era. Originally colonised by the Portuguese who then shifted their base of operations to Goa in 1503 CE. If you want to read more about Kochi visit this link.

Kerala, arrival in Kochi and the North Centre Hostel

So I arrived in Cochin at the Ernakulam Town station having spent about 10 hours on a sleeper train from Mangalore Junction. I’d booked the North Centre Hostel online. Without knowing it, the hostel ended up being about 200 yards from the station. Couldn’t be better. North Centre Hostel turned out to be a hotel in which they have converted a few rooms into backpackers hostel bunk rooms. It’s super clean and quiet, the staff are friendly and the street outside – well you’re spoilt for choice for good food. It’s pretty close to Fort Kochi and a lot of the things that tourists want to see. It’s easy to get an auto-rickshaw at the station. The only drawback it that, as it’s a hotel, there is no communal area for backpackers to meet up and chat. That said, I’d recommend it none the less.

Marine Drive in Kochi
Marine Drive in Kochi
My friend PK took me to the Marine Drive area where I took a few photos that you can see below. This area is the mouth of the port. The main body of inland water stretches from here to Alappuzha (Aleppy) in the south to beyond Vypin in the north. We hung around for a while and waited for PK’s girlfriend. What do you call a group of girls hanging out together? I think the answer is a “a giggle of girls”. Yes – she giggles a lot.

A bit later, back at the hostel…

…we set out to get some work done. I’m not really here on holiday. I’m here to open 2 businesses with PK. Together we want to open a hostel and also a specialist decorating business which is what I trained to do. PK is a good painter and all I’ll have to do is bring him up to speed painting BIG instead of on canvass. Pricing and quoting for jobs, organising and estimating paint quantities. There will also be a bit of a learning curve while he gets his head around some of the techniques that the specialist decorator uses. The Indian people love colour so what better place to go painting?

Beginning our property hunt

We need to find a couple of things quickly.

  1. We need some rooms, as a base of operations.
  2. We need to start searching for a property to rent to change into a hostel.

PK got on the phone and started with the rooms. It seems logical to find that first. Somewhere where we can unpack and dump our stuff and leave the cameras and computer securely. The prices for unostentatious rooms seem to go for about 5,000/- to 10,000/- per month (about £50 – £100 including bills). I can live with that. We also got on the internet and started looking up estate agents (realtors in the USA) to search out properties to rent.

The train to Aleppy

Aleppy house boat
Aleppy, in Keralal is famous for its house boats
We then took an exploratory visit to Aleppy. It’s about 50km south of here. The train tickets cost the princely sum of 75/- for both of us (say 80p). Aleppy is gorgeous but it’s also a known tourist area with all its houseboats and water attractions. It’s jungle territory on the sea. I could imagine a Tarzan movie being filmed here. (Yes I know Tarzan was in Africa but Edgar Rice Burroughs wasn’t to hot on geography so…) I saw more westerners there than I’ve seen to date. So it looks like that would be a good area to investigate. The main problem is that the town’s folk are hip to the tourist industry and the prices are inflated accordingly.

Together we’ve decided that it’s probably best to site ourselves half way between Cochin and Aleppy. That way any backpackers we do get can enjoy the countryside while being on the main rail and bus routes to Cochin or Aleppy. We took the normal train down there, it took about an hour. On the way back we took the Superfast Train that goes to Chennai in Tamil Nadu. It took half an hour longer. Go figure.

Estate Agents in Kerala and Indian websites

Our estate agent search, while being frustrating, has actually yielded results quite quickly. Indian websites tend to be a directory of services and it’s hard to find a real estate agent with an actual website. Mostly they want you to put your email and or phone and they’ll get back to you. I find that absurd as I’d like to SEE what’s on offer before being inundated with calls at inconvenient times for properties that simply don’t suit. Never the less, we contacted 8 likely property owners and the first interview is tomorrow (10 Feb) down in Aleppy. The house we both like is in a place called Cherthala (H is silent after the T). Cherthala is pretty much half way between Cochin and Aleppy. At the time of writing this we are waiting for the owner to contact us. It is Sunday so I’m hoping that he’ll be in touch early in the week.

There is such a thing as a free lunch

I also visited Fort Kochi. I took the ferry there. No one told me that there are two stops, so I got off with the crowd only to find I was on the wrong island. It wasn’t too bad though. I got a few photos and ended up walking about 5km towards the island on which Fort Kochi is situated. It was midday and hot. A nice local man stopped and picked me up on his scooter which was lovely for the last 2km. A bit of a breezes to cool down.

I then walked over the bridge to the other island and was about to start to look for an auto-rickshaw to take me to the area called Fort Kochi, when a gentleman in his mid fifties (I’d guess) asked me where I was going. His name is Stanley and he’s a travel advisor helping with the big cruise ship passengers. I was taken under his wing. He was absolutely lovely and wouldn’t let me pay for anything, including lunch, much to my embarrassment.

The temperature here is about 33ºC (USA you do the maths – you use an antiquated, illogical system) and to be honest I was getting tired. I bought a 1·5 litre bottle of water and sunk most of it in one go. I wandered around taking photos of the Chinese fishing nets (which you can see in the photos below) and a few other subjects but to be honest the spirit was willing but the legs were getting weak. So I decided to cut my losses and head back to the hostel where I drank another litre of water and lay down with my feet up to let the blood run back to my head.

This evening we go check out some rooms to rent. We can’t stay in the hostel much longer.

Cochin photos

Aleppy photos

Fort Kochi photos

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