The freedom of choosing a travel destination may have both, its pros and cons. I am lucky to get this freedom from my husband (always) because this is absolutely my favourite part of every travel-right from choosing the destination to planning every bit of it. So much that I love it more than the trip itself as it makes me look forward to something that I am sure is going to be great! But once the trip starts, I somehow feel sad in the remotest corner of my heart that its going to end soon!
I had wanted to visit Kochi for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale which ends in March this year. A Biennale (once every two years) is basically an international platform for artists worldwide, to display their work and passion for art and design. Being an architect I have always known about it but never really got the opportunity to visit one earlier. So, I dragged my husband into it as well. And this is when I come back to my first sentence i.e the cons of having the freedom of choosing the travel destination. I was very unsure of my husband liking it at all. I almost risked his hard earned weekend into an international art fest and already knew that he was not interested in the Kerela backwaters as a backup plan! But whats the fun without any risks! Kochi did take us by surprise! After all it was not just about the art Biennale. The city had much more to offer than my short-sighted itinerary. Phew!!
Of course I do my through reading before heading to any destination. I like to get the flavour of places through books before experiencing them physically. So, we opted for a home-stay as it was the most popular, economical and hands-on experience we could get in Kochi. Fort Kochi is where we chose to put up since it was the closest to Biennale. As we started out our first day, we came to notice that almost the entire city was celebrating the art exhibition. It was not some ordinary exhibit happening in isolation and targeting only the artists or professionals from a similar sector.The walls along the streets were full of paintings and graffiti and posters by artists of all age groups. People seemed to had taken whichever spot on wall they liked and seized the opportunity to show their love for art. So, there was art inside and out. I realised Kochi has a natural flare for art and the incoming of Biennale just adds to its originality. All this, kind of built an excitement before we reached the Aspinwall house where we were supposed to buy our passes and was also one of the venues for Biennale. What I really loved about the Biennale was that it wasn’t just concentrated to one venue unlike other air conditioned art exhibitions. The venues chosen were old traditional Kerela courtyard houses with sloping tiled roofs,most of them sea-facing.If you have the appetite to walk a few kilometres, the twelve venues could be covered on foot and there was no better way of exploring Fort Kochi otherwise. Of course we didn’t cover it all in one day,two days were just enough!
Fort Kochi also has many small laneways with interesting names like Princess Street, Lily Street, Burghar Street, Napier Street, Rose Street and even more impressive character in terms of architecture.There is a restaurant or cafe almost every alternate block and they really test your decisive power!! These streets are full of well restored,photogenic colonial houses and details dating back to the Portuguese, Dutch and British eras. Most of them are converted into home stays,art galleries or quirky stores. Since we visited in the month of March, the air was really humid but it didn’t stop or tire us from scanning these pretty streets of Fort Kochi. As it gets warmer,more tourists pour in and the streets glitter all the more with happy faces wandering around.
We tried to eat as much as possible because we wanted to try out as many cafes and restaurants as we could! I must say we did reasonably good! Kashi Art Cafe is one of the most popular cafes on the Burghar Street. The cafe was also one of the venues for exhibiting a few arts pieces. Oy’s was another quirky artsy cafe and also my favourite one. One coffee down and we were ready to devour on some authentic Keralite seafood,which took us to an outstanding restaurant called Fusion Bay. The same cycle repeated itself for the next day where all we did was walk the streets from one venue to another,take pictures,drink lemonades, gorge on divine food, wipe our sweats and repeat!!
Breakfast at Teapot Cafe;fabulous old bungalow converted into a cafe serving 16 types of teas. I loved the breakfast we ordered and also the displayed array of teapots collected from different parts of the world.
Oy’s cafe was our top favourite.So much that we visited the place twice and spent hours lounging around. This was again a house converted into a cafe hence a very homely feel to it. Artistic,great music, good food and had a dog!! I had to like it,no.
Kashi Art Cafe,the most popular cafe among tourists.
The Drawing Room, was more of a fine dinning place, different from all the other places we ate at. It had the loveliest ambience, live music, hand sketched walls, candle lit tables but decent food.
I could eat this food from Fusion Bay everyday. This restaurant specialises in Keralite – Syrian food and its just lip smacking!!
Kochi is a living example of amalgamation of both traditional and contemporary values, so rich in history! Due to the time crunch we were not really able to visit other parts of Kochi like Mattancherry,which has a Jewish influence but there should always be a an excuse to revisit a place! My husband’s happy face was like cherry on the cake. Kochi without any doubt, is beautiful throughout the year but the Biennale did play a very important role in getting all the good things together at once! It was the atmosphere that the Biennale created where everyone was just in the mood of appreciating the good,like a common thread getting people together and celebrating creativity.
And we ended our weekend with a Kerela oil massage therapy to just pause and soak in all the goodness we experienced. Following the therapy was a long walk along the coast in the dawn. And not to miss the age old Chinese fishing nets which is the most obvious tourist must-go.