Arriving in Cochin, India
We finished up our inland tour of the Taj Mahal back on the coast in Mangalore India. Arriving back at the ship late in the afternoon left no time to tour this stop. We would get our chance to explore another coastal town in India when we did a walking tour of Cochin.
Cochin is actually a series of 24 islands. Five of them are connected by bridge and the rest by ferry. Our tour would let us see some of the land sights before we boarded a ferry for a harbour tour. As our cruise ship headed into port in the mist, the first impression we got was of a dirty harbour. The harbour tour might not the the idyllic water view we had hoped for!
History of Cochin
We boarded our small bus to get to the start of our walking tour of Cochin. The guide gave a running commentary as we moved through the old town. Much as we had found when we toured Mumbai, we were surprised to see so many different churches. We were told that Cochin means “little church”. The town boasted a diverse religious population. The guide pointed to a sign that showed the religions living side-by-side.
Early Portuguese settlers brought Catholicism. The Dutch brought Protestant churches and then the British added Anglican churches. Today about half the population is Catholic. Doubting Thomas established the first Catholic Church in 1st century. This breadth of religious representation was certainly unique in most of India we visited.
We learned that the major exports were seafood and rice. Also, the Arabs had also come to Cochin for the spices. We would see many seafood and spice markets later when we did our walking tour of Cochin.
The small tourist area where we would be walking was congested so the bus dropped us off and would pick us up at the end of our stroll.
World Aids Day
As we left the bus we could hear the sound of a band getting closer. Our guide moved the group all to the sidewalk as a parade turned the corner. It was World Aids Day and this small group was marching in force.
We were surprised to see the big parade. This group was doing a very different walking tour of Cochin! People of all ages and sexes marched with detailed signs that prompted action. It was a stark reminder that major issues were the same around the globe.
Walking Tour of Cochin
We moved slowly through a series of religious sights in Cochin. Our first stop was the Mattenchery Dutch Palace Museum. The original palace was built around 1555 by the Portuguese as a present to the king of Cochin. It was later renovated by the Dutch and became known as the Dutch Palace. Further improvements were made be a series of rajas. Today you can do a walk through tour to see portraits of Cochin Rajas and mythological murals. Cameras were not allowed inside the sight.
Our next stop was at the St Francis Church, the oldest European church in India. This was yet another of the spots that Portuguese explorer Vasco da Game visited. Inside the church you can find the sight of his original tomb. His body was later moved to Lisbon.
The church was undergoing some renovation when we visited. It was fascinating to walk around and see the history of Cochin through the tomb markers along the walls.
The final religious stop on our walking tour of Cochin was a stroll through the area marked as Jew Town. The narrow street was lined with stores. We did a short stop at the Cochin Synagogue to round out our view of the religious tolerance of this small town. As with other stops, no cameras were included inside the building.
Markets in Cochin
On our walking tour of Cochin we found stalls and small stores selling everything. I wished we had enough time for me to try to be fitted for one of the beautiful sarees being sold. The fabric and rugs were beautiful and colourful.
The fish markets drew in the crowds. While some of the locals were buying, tourists like us were interested in the wide array of seafood that was available.
We wandered into a spice wholesaler market. We saw the large packaged product. The smaller shops we entered offered a wide range of different spices for sale to tourists. The smells of the spice markets caused us to stop. The colours of the dies were a visual delight.
The hawkers recognized the tourist group and followed our every step. David was amused when one of the hawkers billed a simple wooden fan as an air conditioner. He rewarded the guy by paying the small cost. Since it was hot and humid, the small fan at least moved some air around.
As we had found in other towns in India, animals roamed freely on the streets.
Chinese Fishing Nets
Our final stop on our walking tour of Cochin was to see the famed Chinese fishing nets. These massive fishing nets are mounted on a series of poles and pulleys. They get lowered into the water and as the fish swim over, a counterweight is applied to raise the nets. It was joked that in high tide they catch fish and in low tide catch tourists.
We settled in to wait for the nets to be raised. We were disappointed when the nets came up mostly empty. This low yield has been reducing the number of Chinese fishing nets along this shore over the years. We would get a different view of what remains of the Chinese fishing nets from the water side on our boat cruise.
A Harbour Tour
We would finish up our walking tour of Cochin with a tour of the harbour before returning to our ship. The mist had not yet cleared and the water remained unappetizing. Packed inside the ship, we would not finish with a great view of Cochin. But we were not the only tour boat in the harbour.
It was a busy harbour. The Chinese fishing nets were not the only fishing options we saw.
It is always interesting to get a different perspective of a town from the water. We could see the smaller homes along the water and the larger resort properties.
We were interested to see a very large DP World container port. DP World was a major fixture in the ports we had seen in Dubai. These ports would add substantially to the shipping reach.
Our Last Port In India
Cochin was our final stop in India. Our walking tour of Cochin gave us a good glimpse into the small coastal towns of India.
We started our India visit in Mumbai. Three days off the ship let us visit Agra. Seeing the Taj Mahal was a major treat. But Agra had other treats to offer. The Agra Fort, called the Red Fort for its vibrant colour, was more extensive than the Taj Mahal. Leaving the ship for 3 days to visit Agra meant we missed the port stops in both Goa and Mangalore. A good itinerary to get a taste test of India.
Our next stop was two days in the Maldives. We wandered the port town and to got our first chance to explore the beautiful crystal blue seas. It was all we could think about as we left the waters of India!