Posted by: Anna | March 2, 2011

How to see Kochi in one day

An interesting day – shared by the hour. Usually we only do a couple of activities each day, leaving plenty of time for relaxing and staying organized. With Sarah here, we had to speed up our pace, and here’s a perfect example of a vacation-paced day. The cool thing about the one day we spent in Kochi is what a great slice of India we were able to capture in one day: shopping, chai, the friendly, personal touch that has characterized our interactions in India so far, music and dance, a palace…and more!

6:00 AM – We wake up, throw on grubby clothes, grab the box of pastries we purchased last night, and head out to the curb to wait for our taxi to pick us up to take us to the Elephant Training Camp, where we will help to bathe an elephant.

7:00 AM – Taxi has not arrived, and the elephants stop bathing at 9 AM. It is a 1.5 hour drive; we decide it is no longer worth waiting and we will try to go again tomorrow morning. Very frustrating to get up early when you don’t have the payoff. Now what? We decide to walk down to the shore to see the Chinese fishing nets at work.

8:00 AM – We are walking along the shore, admiring the nets and the fish stands. We find a stand with thousands of whole squids – creepy, and yet somehow delicious and appealing.

9:00 AM – Try to stop for coffee at the coffee shop we found earlier that opens at 9 AM, but it’s still inexplicably closed. Two local guys also try to go to that coffee shop, and we meet them at the locked door. They tell us to follow them to another coffee shop. We order waffles, omelets, chai, and coffee; it is delicious and a nice change from the never ending Indian food we’ve been eating.

10:00 AM – We decide to finish shopping for scarves, tunics, jewelry and rugs at the shop we liked the best on our shopping odyssey yesterday (we visited around 8 different shops, all selling various versions of the same stuff). Sarah picked out a saree, then had them make it into a tunic. I looked, but decided not to buy.

11:00 AM – Still shopping. Sarah moved on to the jewelry room, evaluating bracelets and neckaces. Tommy negotiated for a rug for over 2 hours, finally getting the guy to
agree to his price (half the original price). I still didn’t like the rug, so we didn’t buy it, violating one of the etiquette rules of bargaining (if the seller agrees to your price, you are supposed to buy). Tommy and the seller cheerfully shook hands, agreeing that the negotiating had been “fun”. I guess – they walked off, sighed, and rolled their eyes at each other for two hours. Everyone has their own idea of fun.

12:00 Noon – We finished up shopping and hopped in a rickshaw to “Jew Town”.

1:00 PM Hungry from the exhausting shopping, we wandered the streets of Jew Town, a neighborhood in Kochi, looking for sustenance. We happened upon a small art cafe with paintings on the wall (for sale) and two small tables. The friendly 40-something proprietor approached us when we sat down and brought menus. We asked him for recommendations and decided to accept them. Tommy had a milkshake, Sarah had a fresh lime juice with mint, and I had a fresh lime juice with ginger. We had some delicious samosas that he fried right there, and then waited for our briyani (rice dish with spices and vegetables). And waited. Finally, a guy on a motorbike rides up to the entrance to the restaurant, and hands over a package – our briyani. We were disappointed, suspecting that he just ordered it from another restaurant. However, he brought it to us proudly, explaining that the briyani was a little slow because he called his mother at her home and she prepared it in her kitchen. Then his brother would drive it over to the cafe on his motorbike. Charming.

2:00 PM Finishing Lunch

3:00 PM Leaving the art cafe, we wandered over to the Palace. The Palace sounded awesome in the guidebook – 40+ buildings with amazing murals inside. We wandered through the palace, a little disappointed that it wasn’t more grandiose. On the upside, admission was ten cents. The murals were nice, and a quiet, historical interlude was pleasant.

4:00 PM We walked around Jew Town for a few minutes because Tommy wanted to find funny “Jew Town” signs. We found a few, but I was hot and tired. We took another rickshaw back to the hotel.

5:00 PM A brief break for everyone to change clothes, shower, or whatever. Tommy fell asleep on our bed, and Sarah and I headed out to the Kaleidescope Kathakali Performance.

6:00 PM Early for the Kathakali performance, we hopped out of the rickshaw we had taken to the theatre and wandered into a bar across the street right on the harbor. Excited to have found a pleasant spot for a beer before the show, we made eye contact with the host and started to walk to a table. Immediately, the Indian men sitting at the other tables started to yell at us to turn around, gesturing emphatically that we must go around the corner. We realized that in fact the deck was entirely full of men, and all Indian men – no visible tourists. Doing as we were told, we turned around, and the host walked us to a different deck fifteen feet away. This deck only had two tables occupied – both with white tourists. Apparently, we had stumbled into the local area (unofficially for men only – drinking in public is not really done by traditional Indian women). It was a little jarring. We ordered our beers and watched the shipping boats go by.

7:00 PM We went to the Kathakali Theatre to watch a performer apply his makeup. Kathakali is a form of dance with elaborate costumes and structured hand signals and emotional cues enacting traditional Indian stories. The man applying his makeup laid down, while another man leaned over to apply makeup from above. After the helper finished his section, the performer sat up to continue the process. It takes over an hour just to apply the makeup.

8:00 PM We were seated in the theatre to watch the dance and martial arts performances. Each was interesting in its own way. Perhaps the most memorable moment was when one of the performers in elaborate costume (man dressed as a woman) leaped off the stage, ran down the row of chairs until he reached Sarah, and “blessed” her with some soot on her forehead. She looked slightly terrified.

This is the dancer that will haunt Sarah's nightmares.

9:00 PM We headed back to the shop to pick up Sarah’s tunic. She tried it on right in the store.

10:00 PM India runs on a late schedule for meals, so 10:00 PM is not a strange time to want to have dinner. We got back to the hotel, hungry, put down our things, but Tommy was no where to be found. We decided to leave him a note that we were heading to a cute place we saw the night before so he could come meet us. We started walking. Not more than twenty yards from the hotel, I hear a voice flying by in a rickshaw yell, “There they are! Stop!”. I turned, and Tommy leaped out of the rickshaw. His face lit up with excitement to see us – not because he missed our presence so much, but because he was hungry and didn’t want to eat alone. We ate dinner and then headed off to bed – the next morning promised to come too soon since we had to be up at 5:30 AM to head out on safari.



  1. There are times that a bar segregted by men and women would be okay with me. But in the end, I would rather have my freedom to go where men go (except for the bathrooms – please don’t make me use the men’s room).

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