May 4, 2023
Before I write about Cochin, I remembered a story we heard from our guide in Mumbai. Hindus believe in reincarnation and also in the prophesies that they are given when they have their “fortunes” told. It can be good news or bad news and in her example, if a woman is told that she will have two marriages, no one wants to marry her because they know it will end in separation or death for them because there will be a second husband. So, what they do is they perform a marriage to a dog or to a monkey, and then she is free to take a “second” husband!
We have been to Cochin 3 times before (again, search it on the blog site if you want to read previous posts). Some of what we did today was a repeat but always something new to learn.
Here are some shots of our sail in.
Our guide was Gopah and we were on a tour arranged by Erin and Mui. Today it was just the 4 of us in a very comfortable and thankfully air conditioned van. As I mentioned it is getting close to monsoon season here and it is very hot and humid. Gopah said there is only one more cruise ship that will come here before the 6 month monsoon season when no ships come.
We drove to Fort Kochi (Kochi was the official name until 1996) and many still refer to it that way. It is in the state of Karala. There is not a fort here anymore but the entire area is still known as Fort Kochi. Literacy here is almost 100% and most people speak English but there are many local languages as well. Children learn English in school. Gopah told us that there is a labor shortage here and that people come from other parts of India to work and that wages are higher here. People from here don’t want to do the hard labor jobs and move to where they can do other work.
36 million people live in the state of Kerala. Although India is 80% Hindu, here there are 50% Hindu, 30% Muslim and 20% Christian. There is religious harmony.
Kochi was called the “Queen of the Arabian Sea” and was an important spice trading center on the west coast of India from the 14th century onward and it maintained a trade network with Arab merchants. Spices are still a very important product. Later the Portuguese, Dutch and British had a large influence here and the architecture shows those styles.
As we drove over the bridge, we saw a huge amount of traffic heading the other way. This was the best picture of the bedlam that I could get.
When we arrived in Fort Kochi, we started a walking tour and headed to St. Francis Church, where we had visited before. The previous tomb of Vasco da Gama is here. His body was moved to Lisbon but they preserve the former site here, where he died. The church was the first European church in India.
As we walked through the area, we saw some beautiful flowering trees, including the interesting cannonball tree that we saw in Soans Farm.
We visited the area of the Chinese fishing nets. Tourists are often invited to pull the nets, but we have done that in the past and declined this time. It is quite an operation and goes on all day. These stones are used as counterweights to lift the nets.
Many people sell the fish and other seafood here.
Here are some of the other sights we saw in our walk through this area.
We thought we would not be able to visit the Basilica but it was going to open at 10:30 so we waited the 10 minutes and went in for a visit.
All kinds of homeopathic and regular medicines are easily available here.
We walked to the Dhobi Khana, the local laundry which the Dutch brought to the area to wash the army’s uniforms. Each family has its own area. This woman is 87 and has been ironing here for 70 years.
They work very hard in the laundry.
Our next stop was at the Mattancherry Dutch Palace. Despite the name, it was built by the Portuguese Empire as a gift to the Kingdom of Kochi. There are beautiful handpainted murals but we were not allowed to take pictures. The ceilings are made of teak wood and we could take photos of those.
We visited the Paradesi Synagogue. The area where the synagogue is located is called “Jew Town” but only two Jewish people live there now. We visited this area before and in 2019 we were told there were 6 Jewish people. One that we saw who was 97 at the time, was Sarah Cohen, who owned and operated an embroidery store. She has sinse passed away. Thanks to our friend Tom for this photo from our tour in 2019.
We were tired and hot and Gopah gave us a choice of a restaurant outside by the river or one with air conditioning. Guess which we chose? It was still by the river but inside.
There was a special exhibit of elephants in the lobby. Each was so interesting!
On the way back to the port we stopped to see the brightly painted and themed trucks. You can tell the owner’s religion of interests from the decorations.
An interesting day and it let us see how much things had changed – or not- from our previous visits. Tomorrow we head to Sri Lanka for two days.
We to have been to Cochin on our previous visits, and it is still refreshing to read your blog; nothing too much seem to have changed over time. Our ATW trip next year will take us to Cochin again in May. Thanks for your posts Pat.