The Trip To Kochi
An account of my first trip to Kochi for my dear friend Aparna’s wedding and all that was food there…….
It was June 2015 and it was the first rain in Kerala when I had just landed in Kochi.My first ever trip to the south and as always I was damn excited to the adventures and fun times that lay ahead and my dear friend Aparna’s wedding, most importantly to relish all the authentic south Indian dishes that my heart was beating for!!
It was greenery all around and I could see red roofs and tall coconut trees as my jet airways flight landed at the Kochi airport. I was eager to move out and was so excited when I stepped out of the plane and headed to the airport counters, the moist floor giving me a reflection of my super happy face, the cool breeze pushing away my hair strands and the raindrops falling on my face as I looked towards the sky every time.
As I boarded the taxi to go to my hotel I had a lovely time clicking several pictures not to forget whatsapping my sister throughout and talking to the driver who was constantly giving me information about all the places to visit.
I stepped into my hotel sometime in afternoon and just started gazing out the window to see all that Kochi had to offer me. As soon as my roommate and Aparna’s friend Trinetta joined me in the hotel a few hours later, we both decided to go explore MG road market, vibrant with evening lights and buzzing with hundreds of cafes, restaurants and eating outlets of every kind and every type of cuisine.
We headed straightaway to a nice outdoor cafe kind of a place for a good glass of cold coffee loaded with dollops of chocolate before heading out to meet Aparna at her ancestral home who was soaked in all the pre-wedding festivities and eager to meet us. After the numerous huggings, girly chat and selfies at her place we headed out again to MG market so excited to find a place where we could have traditional authentic Andhra cuisine, and to our luck just a few blocks away from our hotel we found it..it was Chillies!
A nice enough hotel which wasn’t exactly top-end but it was comfortable. All I saw was some south Indian faces around.The food was spicy, yes it had to be, that’s Andhra cuisine folks!!! But it was yummy to the core! We had ordered an Andhra thali @Rs. 150 and it had everything to satisfy our taste bud.I wouldn’t say it was just wow in terms of taste but it was satisfying at the price we paid, adding, of course, the smokes which were coming out of our ears and led us to order one portion of the most awaited payasam which was perfect to the core and gave us tremendous relief after the super spicy tongue the food had left us with. The payasam, needless to say, was superbly cooked and you could feel the flavor of real jaggery in each and every spoon of it. Our tummies were already bloated by this time and we rushed to have ourselves cozied on our beds after this heavy and delicious meal. Believe me, life smiles when you hit your hotel room after such delightful evenings.
The next day it was the much awaited day – Aparna’s wedding.Pristine, divine, beautiful and touching every chord of your heart is how I would describe it as. There was no show-off and it was a simple beautiful ceremony followed by a lavish lunch in the central cafeteria.How we were all looking for the lunch to start and unlike NorthIndian weddings, this meant every guest going to the cafeteria and being seated in the space and fed the lavish spread on banana leaves.
Oops for a moment something held me back as I sat down, it meant I will have to eat with my hands!!!( Something I have never felt comfortable doing and I personally never endorsed having food in restaurants where people around me were eating with their hands, I just found it eerie and unhygienic, and not stopping myself by doing otherwise I asked the waiter if I could have a spoon. The girl serving me gave a slight laugh for a moment but gave into my request right away.
And inside I hoped they wouldn’t take it as me being utterly arrogant and a girl with a bad attitude but just that I wasn’t comfortable doing it, and I think they realised what was going inside me and gladly brought me a spoon and I went on taking spoonfuls of everything I had on my banana leaf and enjoying my hearty meal among peals of laughter with Aparna’s, and now my friends.
There was everything – avail, sambhar, mota rice, rasam, chana coconut vegetable, cabbage, papad, pickle and a bit of salad. For once this food was totally divine.It was simple, different, tastefully made, nothing less, nothing more and just perfectly cooked even though made in mass.
The papad was crispy, avail perfectly giving a taste of each and every vegetable, rasam spicy and tangy, sambhar filled with perfectly cut drumsticks and full of mustard seeds, curry leaves, and spices, cabbage was perfectly cooked with coconut and chana vegetable a perfect blend of coconut, mustard seeds, mixed masala and giving every bit of coconut oil was made in.We were all filled with happiness and contentment and happy giggles inside us meant that we all now awaited tons of glassfuls of the 3 different varieties of payasam that they were serving. The sweet tooth that I have just couldn’t control to try as many shots of each payasam. (much to the amusement fo all the people around)
A dark brown, a light brown and a pale yellow colored payasam all from the same family but varied with little differences between all of them. I loved the thickness of all of them, they just signified how rich they were and how attention was given to every detail. The jaggery added just the right sweetness to the payasam and the tiny soft pieces of dal and rice added to the flavor of the payasam so well. The dark brown dal payasam is what I just loved most and ordered 3 glassfuls of it along with one each of the other two. Now my tummy gave way and I was beaming with a pink glowing touch on my face, yes I was so damn happy and content being in this cafeteria even as my dear Aparna prepared to say her goodbyes to everyone as she got ready for her bidaai amidst soft tears on her face.
We bid her goodbyes with quiet faces and filled tummies and went to our hotel, it was around 3 pm by now. We talked and talked, lying lazily on our beds, still unable to believe how our dear Appu was now married and perhaps looking forward to the next day where we all were to leave for Palakkad for her reception hosted by her new family. We just chilled, went to Fort Kochi in evening (as was highly suggested by everyone )by a half an hour boat ride. The place is an island and looks exactly like Pondicherry, actually, it’s a mini Pondicherry. We loved the place and knew it had some very cute and affordable home stays to offer. After spending an hour there we came to marine drive in the evening(it’s not exact;y how you have in Mumbai), sat there, returned back, just had some noodles and lemon soda at our hotel room in the evening, watched a movie and went to sleep.
It was 7 am as I got up and woke Trinetta as well. We dodged down to the ground floor to enjoy the breakfast buffet which had a good blend of fresh fruits, some idlis and other light snacks, toast and not to miss the famous south Indian filter coffee. Half an hour there and we rushed back to our room, got ready and headed off to Aparna’s house where uncle and Aunty and all their relatives were getting ready to leave for Palakkad. Su and Swaraj joined us as well and we couldn’t wait to hop on the super luxurious bus which has huge glass windows so enjoy the view outside. Palakkad meant an awesome journey of about 4 hours amidst a lot of greenery, rice fields, mountains, tapered red roof houses and serenity all around us.
We had a simple meal on the all-glass bus, some dal, vegetable in red curry, rice, chapatti, and sweets and soon we were at the Palakkad hotel where we waited anxiously for Aparna to see her face on her first day of marriage and how she had transformed from a tomboyish girl to a beautiful responsible bride and daughter in law.In the bus, uncle and Aunty showed us her first pictures after marriage as she had had her first meal in her new house with her in-laws and hubby. The atmosphere was filled with such excitement as we all enjoyed the journey talking about her.
Aparna deemed as the new bride complete with the glow on her face and surrounded by her extended family and relatives, she must have have been nervous but she just didn’t show it. We knew it was our last meeting with her till we all left for our respective places back home hoping to bump into her again sometime soon. Dinner at the reception was early and had a surprise touch of north Indian food as well – chhole, jeera rice, dry aloo, dal makhani, cauliflower masala, ice cream and gulab jamun.
We filled our tummies and left early as it was a 4 hour drive back to Kochi. Aparna’s tearful eyes still running in our eyes as now she was all set to start her new life, perhaps we didn’t know when we would meet her, perhaps months down the line. On our way back we made our minds. Trinetta was leaving next day for Mumbai, I still had my tickets 3 days later, Su and her boyfriend Swaraj were there until next five days. We had to checkout from the hotel the next day so we (Su, Swaraj and me ) decided we would now be spending the remaining days in FORT KOCHI, an island like place we had only visited and we knew it was the best decision we were taking for ourselves.
We checked out the next day, meeting uncle and Aunty thanking them for such wonderful hospitality, bid byes to Trinetta as she took her train journey back to Goa and Su, myself and Swaraj headed off to Fort Kochi where one of Su’s friend was also flying down from Gangtok. We knew our adventure was just about to begin!
Fort Kochi as it sounds is not a fort.But a beautiful tiny island kind of place a little away from main Kochi. The way to go is by taking a ferry ride costing only Rs. 3 per person. We took our tickets, lifting our luggage and headed off to the boat waiting for the half an hour ride to get over so that we could put our foot down finally on this place.As we were just reaching midway, the dark clouds pondered over and everybody gazed up to see the thunderbolts in the sky, it grew darker and darker and phew!!!! It started raining. The excited me took out my mobile and started clicking pictures and started whatsapping my sis(that’s just one of the best ways to tease your folks).We finally reached and waited under a shade to get a rick, it was raining cats and dogs and we could hardly see anything, what spared me was my rainproof jackets that I had taken, but poor Su and Swaraj only had the shade to spare them. We waited until someone saw us and offered to give a ride, we hopped in and the guy was helpful enough taking us to all the home stays that came on the way, waiting for us to inquire and explore all of them till we finally found our ideal place to stay at Fort Kochi.
A beautiful house and an old uncle welcomed us with open arms. Barely at Rs. 500 per person per day we got 2 spacious rooms with baths, a nice open wide balcony, a veranda where could lazily lounge in watch TV if we wanted to, a guitar to hum, and of course several books in the house that we could read anytime (not a concern for me, as I am not an avid reader) and of course food at our call anytime, not to mention a nice big hearty breakfast that we could enjoy in the other cozy balcony welcoming the sun rise and the beautiful view everyday. We almost had all of the bungalow to ourselves and no interference from anyone.
The breakfast at only Rs.100 comprised of bread toasts, a plate of fruits, cornflakes, milk, juice, coffee, and eggs or omelets if you wished for it. Not to forget, if you wished to have an added dose of chocolate sauce, hot chocolate, bournvita milk or even cocoa powder in your coffee it all came handy.We did laze around and enjoy our breakfast every day on the balcony for about an hour enjoying our conversations and the view we got. I give a total thumbs up to this meal!! I used to be the first to get up and hurry towards the balcony to enjoy the breakfast as Fort Kochi prepared to start its usual duties for the day.
As we stayed there, we realized how beautifully charming this place was.I was the one sitting on the bed every morning, excitement running all over me and suggesting everyone where all we should be going and what all we should be doing, always finding a way to do something adventurous at the end of the day, I was glad my new found friends were way too sweet and they all listened to me with open ears and we would decide our plans mutually all the days.
Fort Kochi has cobbled streets, narrow lanes full of beautiful cozy cheap home stays, (in some you could also find a dog for company), hostel stays complete with all facilities including internet an starting at as cheap as Rs. 200 per day, colorful houses with flowers beaming at each window, people roaming around on cycles and scooties which you get on rent, clean fresh air, a lot of foreigners to give you company, small quaint libraries, cozy cafes, churches, cemeteries, an old jail (to explore). Museums and of course the beach which is as clean as your own house and locals selling everything from fishes to coconut water and even cooking the fishes as per your taste as you enjoy walking on the beach.
There is also the Neemrana hotel there if you are looking at staying in a heritage property and a luxurious stay.There are numerous shops, selling artifacts and stuff from Kashmir, of course, you will find a lot of Kashmiris who have found their homes there. It is best to explore the place walking or on your cycles or scooties which you can hire at Rs. 100 per day after submitting your id card, if you take the cycles you need to return them at 7 pm every day.This is what I did as was told to me.
Close to Fort Kochi, is also Mattancherry, just a bridge divides them. You can take your cycles or scooties and explore Mattancherry just as we did. The map we got at our stay by uncle came handy giving info about everything.
It drizzled and rained at almost all the days we were there and we thoroughly enjoyed everything we did. We would enjoy the beach, explore the entire area on our cycles, visit the churches, museums, cemeteries, explore new joints every day, sit in our balcony late in the nights and enjoy our long conversations about everything in life.
Sometimes Swaraj would just pick up the guitar and start humming and we would go in a trance, at times we would just go up on the terrace secretly and on the 2nd floor (which had the same kind of a layout as had to ourselves on the first floor) and explore it without informing uncle (we didn’t have any restrictions and uncle was always too welcoming) we knew he didn’t say anything even if he found out. All 3 of my friends could easily enjoy their cigarettes and drinks without caring a damn and I was happy even though being a teetotaler knowing that at least they could do what they wanted to do.
So one day in the afternoon, I had a sweet craving and we decided to go to this place called – Waffles! The menu is awesome, different, has variety and everything you want to have when you want to explore and delighted to find something different.
This small eating joint with wooden flooring and benches, interesting decor and paintings and quotes on the walls, the youngsters chilling there and young good looking boys manning the place and serving you gladly just added to the ambiance and gave a homely feeling away from home.
We had the waffles with ice cream and sauce (actually I was the sole one who had it and enjoyed it immensely.The weather was pleasant outside with little rain and everybody was enjoying their spaces. I had a gala time, the sauce dropped on each and every ice cream scoop, the waffles were crisp and just so fresh freshly made in their kitchen, chocolate chips just adequate which didn’t hamper your taste and caramel sauce just enough to give you a separate taste of itself. The pricing was decent and service was good too. Just an apt place for enjoying your evenings in a cozy manner amongst like-minded people.
For dinner that particular day we decided to go to Oceanos and Buzz Deli Cafe for dinner! Confused???? Do we sound like hippos who decided to go to two places for dinner? Well the reason was Cceanos has some great seafood which my friends wanted to have and I just decided to have something from the adjacent cafe which is Buuzz Deli and they are both almost just 10 steps away from each other with the same boundary wall. This cafe looked good as I wanted to have some nice and appetizing vegetarian dish for myself.
So I ordered the lemonade and white sauce pasta.It was creamy and cheesy and the portion was just ok for one person, though it didn’t have the taste that I would remember forever. We had a great time sitting in the quaint place which was superbly comfortable enjoying the soft rain outside and being away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The next day again we kept cycling and cycling and cycling and went around for sightseeing. It was fun chasing each other, occasionally bumping into each other and sometimes other people, it was real fun enjoying the cool weather and breeze among soft beams of sunshine and exploring the rest of Fort Kochi.
For lunch the next afternoon we headed to – a hotel, with beautiful wooden carvings, ethnicity, trees and antique work. Though the only glitch was there were a lot of mosquitoes but we still made ourselves comfortable and ordered what we wished to have.In evenings this place would have looked wonderful I thought because the food was served in the central courtyard of the hotel which was filled with huge trees, beautiful chandeliers, and red tile flooring.The service though wasn’t that great, it just lacked that warm touch.We ordered fish, chicken, soups etc. And for myself I ordered some noodles, we also ordered fried Bhindi and some naans, the fried Bhindis were the best here. it wasn’t a great portion and I think it was a bit costly according to that. I would actually say that it was just 5 out of 10 on a scale rating.
This was my last day there and I was already feeling sad that I just had one night to stay in Kochi but I was trying to make up in every way for the short time I had. We came back to the hotel lazy and feeling tired, gasped a few glasses of water and just relaxing in our balcony, talking, reading some magazines and going through the various snaps we had clicked during this time of the trip.As Ruth left in the evening to leave for her friend’s place on the town side, I bid her goodbyes with promises of uniting again on another trip very soon.
That evening we decided to go to Mattancherry, just a bridge divides it from Fort Kochi, Su and Swaraj rode and I decided to follow them on my bright looking cycle. Sometimes I just wondered how I almost saved myself from a bad fall, once even I almost hill the bridge boundary which was short enough that I could have almost slipped into the water below. It was a long ride, we visited the Jewish cemetery and went to Kashmiri shops as Su wanted to buy some stuff for her family from there. W rode back from the inside roads, it was a nice clean road with almost no traffic with nice wind and sunset setting in till we joined the bridge on the busy main road and this time Su and Swaraj waited as I decided to walk with my cycle and cross the bridge and hopped on it again to reach Fort Kochi.
Mattancherry was a nice ride with some warm-hearted Kashmiris in their pink glowing skin greeting us and encouraging to enter their stores and buy something from them. They had some good collection though but I wasn’t too intrigued to buy anything, as you know my instinct didn’t tell me anything.
As the 3 of us just relaxed in our home stay and dinner time was coming closer, Su suggested we go to Fusion bay, she was really keen to visit the place as it also had amazing reviews on Zomato and is a famous restaurant in Kochi.
So we decked up, wore our comfy shorts and slippers and just decided to walk to this place called – Fusion Bay right at the corner of the Jacob road, and 10 steps away from the Santa Cruz Basilica church. It has some great reviews on Zomato and is one of the most frequented restaurants.
Nice comfortable ambiance (though not very fancy) we were welcomed very warmly by the staffers there. Within 5 seconds the menu was graciously handed over to us and as we looked around we realized the place was almost full, with a number of foreigners and everybody being warmly looked after by waiters. We went up and down the menu and decided to ask for suggestions from the waiters – we ordered Fresh lime Soda, okra masala and chapathi for myself while Su and Swaraj opted for Prawns and pumpkin in coconut milk, Meen mango curry and rice for themselves.
The food was spicy but it was delicious to the core. We weren’t too far from the door, all throughout our meal we kept talking about how delicious all the stuff was on our table and pretty affordable as well, they really had some different recipes and a lot of fo stuff to choose from. We just enjoyed the cool breeze lightly waving our hair occasionally, twinkling lights hanging across houses on the opposite side, extremely chilled vibe fo this place and the warm people cozily enjoying their time in Fusion Bay. We had a great evening here and the thought of leaving this place was already making me sad.
As we were ending our meals we didn’t know a surprise waited for us – we were just brought 3 portions of Banana crumble with custard and ice cream on our table by the waiters. A happy glance and we were told that it was complimentary with the meal we had. That made our evening totally!!! We loved every bit of this super delicious dessert and were too happy that we visited this place on my last day here. I highly recommend fusion bay to everyone who is coming down to Fort Kochi.
After reaching our homestay , we quietly decided to head upstairs in the unoccupied second floor and enjoyed the rest of the evening on the beautiful small open terrace there, washed out with energies, clad in our warm nightsuits and laughed and shared and talked and remembered what our dear Aparna would be doing as a new bride at her new home.
As I retired to my room and made arrangements to not get scared in my room alone, I was feeling really sad that this was my last night, how you wish at these times that you had one more day to stay here. It took me a really long time to fall asleep perhaps a bit scared as my bed just faced a huge antique almirah with an antique mirror and that made me really uncomfortable. I kept my bathroom door open with lights on and tried hard to get a good night sleep.
The next morning I got up around 7 am and still in my night suit headed off to the balcony and ordered my breakfast, enjoying it alone and collecting every memory from this place. I got back to my room, got ready and started looking for a taxi for myself to ferry me to the airport. To my surprise, I got down on the road and just found a nice old uncle with a rick who was ready to charge me only Rs. 700 to the airport. Since the weather was nice and uncle was sweet too and I wanted to enjoy the open wind I hopped in, bid my goodbyes to Su and Swaraj, thanked uncle and the team for their warm hospitality and left the homestay with a heavy heart and loads of beautiful memories. I still couldn’t believe Aparna was now a married girl beginning her life with a man from an arranged match which she dreaded but perfectly blended in, perhaps we all have our separate destinies and I am waiting for mine..!!