The last time I was in Cochin was more than a decade back. I used to live in Bangalore those days and my friend from a village near Cochin was going home and I simply tagged along. I lived with his family, ate some fantastic home-cooked food and my friend also gave me a personal guided tour of the neighbourhood and the city. So when Neemrana Hotels incited me for an experiential stay at The Tower House in Fort Kochi, I simply had to say yes. It was to relive those fabulous Cochin days of the past, but also because having already reviewed a few of Neemrana’s properties in the past, I knew my stay would be special.
Before I go into details of the The Tower House, let me give you a quick history lesson on the region itself. Kerala was always the spice capital of India and traded with the world in spiced, including black gold, pepper. Now the king of the region of Cochin gifted what we know as Fort Kochi today to the Portuguese. The Dutch came next, destroyed quite a bit of history and architecture, but also added their own. British followed the Dutch and foreign rule in the region ended only with India’s independence in 1947.
Just like its neighbourhood in fort Kochi, the hotel, The Tower House, is loaded with history too. The Tower House belonged to the English trading firm Pierce Leslie and also housed a large stable back then.
Today there isn’t a tower or a stable, and the affordable hotel has made this into an accessible space for many of us. In fact, during the Kochi Biennale festival (the next one is in December this year), the hotel becomes an exhibition space and everyone is welcome inside to explore art and the space.
To put it simply, my stay at The Tower House was hugely satisfying. It was almost everything that I wanted and more.
Let's start with my room, also my favourite part of the hotel stay. It was large, spacious and full of history. The four poster bed was massive and comfortable. It was a bit of a shame that I was traveling alone and had no one to share it with!
The hotel also has a lovely pool, a bit secluded and with azure blue tiles. Trust me in the sweltering weather of Cochin it’s a blessing. Since there are only limited rooms at the hotel, at times you can have the whole pool to yourself too.
There is also a lovely little shop with all kinds of local handicrafts and curios. I didn’t actually buy anything, but enjoyed taking a few pictures.
I also tried something new at the hotel this time - Ayurvedic massage in my own room. I think I was indulged way too much, but it was actually great that I didn’t have to go anywhere after getting a thorough oil coating and could simply relax with a cup of tea and sound of rains outside.
If you didn’t know this already, I am a big promoter of the Ayurvedic way of healing and rejuvenation. It’s something we have lost during the past few centuries, and I try and do my best to talk about it - both here as well as on my blog.
The only aspect of the hotel which I didn’t enjoy as much was the food at the hotel. It wasn’t bad, just about average. Neemrana offers its guests luxury that’s affordable, and food isn’t the key highlight. However, if you do stay at all the hotel, ask for local delicacies (I had appam) as those are rather nice.
So if you do happen to stay at the hotel, here are the things I recommend doing:
1. Explore the neighbourhood
I didn’t have a car for myself so explored it all on foot. Even though it’s a small island, there is a lot to see. Right across the hotel in the morning the fishermen come and catch fish using the Chinese finishing nets. It’s a daily ritual worth watching and also clicking.
You must also visit the Jew Town - it still has an old and beautiful Jewish synagogue. I didn’t get time to visit on this trip, but I’ve been told that now there are cafes also in the area so you can walk and find some cold coffee when you get tired.
Kerala is also famous for its martial arts, particularly Kalaripayattu. There isn’t a school where you can see the practitioners actually practice, but you can catch a show at the Greenix Village. Additionally, you can also watch Kathakali there.
Fort Kochi has some fabulous places to eat, and here are a few that I can recommend:
2. Explore the backwaters at Vaikom
On my last trip to Cochin, I visited the hugely popular Aleppey region so this time I made it a point to visit another area, Vaikom.
The hotel will do the booking and a taxi will pick you up after breakfast in the morning, and a couple of hours later you will be on a boat floating within the backwaters.
3. Plan a trip to the Athirapally falls
Now this was a completely unplanned trip simply because my friend Bijoy happened to be in the city too when I was there. So we hatched a plan to visit the falls that I had been dreaming of visiting since watching them in the rare Mani Ratnam dud, Raavan.
The falls are magical, but unfortunately due to the intense rains, the access was limited. Taking a dip was simply out of question, and we just enjoyed looking at the ferocious water from a distance.
Of course, there is much more to do in and around Cochin, and I was more than tempted to cancel my flight and extend my stay. Guruvayur Temple is one such place, and I am really hoping to make it there next time I visit Kerala.