Want a nice and easy spot to help you settle into India? Somewhere that contains some things that are somewhat familiar – Western items on a menu, Western-style toilets, fellow foreign travellers, even a mall with brands you know? If so Kochi (aka Cochin) in Kerala could be a nice starting ground for you. In particular, Fort Kochi has all of those things in spades.
This tourist-friendly area is packed with hotels and homestays, restaurants, and shops. Many theatres abound to allow one to experience traditional Indian music and dance – try Kathikali, a mixture of the two that originated in Kerala.
It’s an easy walking area – though that won’t stop every rickshaw that passes from trying to convince you to take a ride. A stroll around the coast takes in a busy beach and the interesting shapes of faous Chinese Fishing Nets. Continue following it as it turns East and you’ll pass many art galleries (you’ll see so many ancient temples in India, it’s a nice contrast to explore modern Indian art), antique shops, and come across the oldest Synagogue in India. All the while you walk, keep your eyes open as there’s street art everywhere – ranging from artistic to political.
Because Kochi’s on the coast, fish are a specialiaty, so try a Malabari Fish Curry. Make sure you sop it up with a Kerala Style Paratha – it’s like a light croissanty-version of naan. Kerala has recently cracked down on alcohol so it’s tough to find a cold King Fisher beer to help cut the heat (though it is possible, just ask around when there aren’t any police in earshot) so instead seek out a Lemon Mint Nana – a mix between a slushy and a snowcone with the fresh flavours of mint and lemon.
Kochi has an international and domestic airport – which one can easily get to and from Fort Kochi by private bus (these are air conditioned buses that are comfortable, fairly relaiable, and only 70 rupees, which is just over a dollar). Thus, Kochi can be a great starting point or pivot point for your India adventure.