A flying helicopter carrying a jeep across the sea is perhaps the most unusual sight to watch. However, if you are in Kochi, chances are that you will see this spectacle in the backdrop of huge naval war ships and those carrying cargo. What you will also see is fishermen’s tiny boats bobbing on the waves, sea birds scavenging for food, and smell the distinct air of the place with the fragrances of cinnamon, cardamoms and vanilla pods.
Start your trip at the charming Jewish Synagogue, which is also known as Paradesi Synagogue or Mattancherry Synagogue. It is a symbol of the multiplicity of the city. It’s located in the Mattancherry area and was built in 1568. The term Paradesi (foreigner in many Indian languages) refers to the Jews from Europe and Arab countries who would frequent Kochi for trade purposes.
Even hundred years later, the grandiosity of the synagogue is intact. The grand chandeliers were imported from Belgium in the early 19th century. The floor is made of hand-painted blue porcelain tiles, which was brought from Canton, China, in 18th century. Each tile is painted differently from the other. An oriental rug gifted by the last Ethiopian emperor, Haile Selassie, is one of the prized possessions. The favourite though is a set of fourth-century copper plates with inscriptions in Malayalam, describing the privileges granted to the community by the king of Kochi.
A short ride away is a spice heaven — the spice market at Bazaar Road. It is almost meditative to see a number of trucks offload some of the best spices at the warehouses and little shops, where they are sorted and packed for their journey across the globe. It is fascinating to gaze through the old wooden structures where onion dealers and star anise agents go about their business.
Explore a Fort
Almost a kilometre away you will hit the popular Fort Kochi beach and one of the most photographed sights in the country — the famous Chinese fishing nets and the tapering wooden boats. While the fishermen artfully spread out their fishing nets to catch the ocean’s bounty, people often spend time watching the activities silently.
History says that the Chinese were introduced to the native fishermen by Chinese explorer Zheng He, from the court of the Kubla Khan, between 1350 and 1450 AD. To explore the waters some more, hop onto a traditional houseboat to cruise through rows of coconut trees on either banks, casting a green reflection on the waters, paddy fields and little villages enroute Alleppey.