Cochin (or Kochi)

Cochin is a cosmopolitan city and important port town in the southern state of Kerala. Any trip to southern India should include a stop here as Cochin has an interesting mix of Indian culture and past empires that used to rule the port town. Portugal initially established its base here, making it the first of the European colonies in India; it was subsequently followed by the Dutch and English. There is a good chance you’ll arrive by train or bus to the Ernakulam, which is the mainland side of Cochin, from where you’ll need to travel by ferry across to Fort Cochin for the best scenes and attractions. No mind though, it’s a great ferry ride.

One of the things I love about Cochin is the fact it’s an important Spice trading center that will become apparent in the Fort Cochin part of town as there are still stores and buildings drying, storing and trading various spices such as; ginger, garlic, black pepper, cardamom and chilies to name a few. The aromas and sights are quite unqiue, but be careful around the chili stores! The dust can irritate your eyes and make you sneeze!

The Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi are an icon of the city and very photographic during the evenings setting sunlight. Not far from the ports Chinese nets is the must see Princess Street which gives you a slice of authentic colonial European architecture. It is the perfect destination for an evening walk with numerous western styled cafes, souvenir shops, art galleries and heritage complexes.

One last thing Pierre, the French med student who I travelled with for three days, and I did while in the Cochin area was to take a ferry from Cochin to Kottayam which meandered through Kerala’s backwaters; a system of beautiful inland canals. From Kottayam we’d board the local bus onto Munnar’s Tea Plantations.


The mountain hill station town of Kodaikanal, at over 2,100m, is the finest in Tamil Nadu and a popular tourist destination as it offers a welcomed relief from the heat and mosquitoes of the plains. The views weren't half bad either from many of the granite cliffs (such a Pillar rocks), the evergreen forested valleys, lakes, grassy hills and waterfalls.

There are a number of tours of the region you can join as there are many scenic spots and places of natural beauty to enjoy in the mountainous region around Kodaikanal. A group of other travellers from the hostel I stayed at choose to complete several local hikes in the region.  One in particular was a day long return trek down the mountain side to an isolated coffee bean growing village which would result in me trying my first ever cup of coffee.


Moving on north from Tamil Nadu to Mysore in Karnataka state which is best known for its opulent Maharaja’s palace home to the Wodeyars dynasty which is still well-loved by the locals as they are nostalgic of the former royals pre-Indian independence from Britain. Mysore is well known for its yoga centers like Ashtanga yoga which originated here therefore you won’t be surprised to learn there are many Ashtanga yoga centres in Mysore.

I have had a hard time getting beneath Indian's skin, seeing past the dirt, the rubbish, the tooting rickshaws and touts, but I have made it near impossible for myself by only visiting tourist haunts, without a moment to breathe and take it i.  In its defense though, India just buzzes, there’s never a dull moment to just sit and watch her heart beat.

I know there is infinitely more to Indian culture than a ruin and beach here and a temple and palace there. Good things take time, hopefully as my intrepid journey around India continues I’ll have a break through moment when things click and I start to see the real India; the richness and diversity of its people.

With my journey through southern India complete, I need to head north, all the way from Bangalore to New Delhi via a 40 hour, 2,453km train journey, to meet up with my New Zealand travel companion to travel the northern Indian cities and later hike in the Mount Everest National Park in Nepal.

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