Activities in Cochin
Local Tours, Ayurveda, Kathakali, Kalarippayattu
Most hotels and tourist offices can arrange a day trip out to the Elephant training camp (7am-6pm) at Kodanadu, 50km from Kochi. Here you can go for a ride and even help out with washing the gentle beasts if you arrive at 8am. Entry is free, though the elephant trainers will expect a small tip. A return trip out here in a taxi should cost around 700 to 1200.
This private tour agency runs the popular full-day water Valley Tour through local canals and lagoons. A canoe trip through smaller canals and villages is included, as is lunch and hotel pick-ups. It also offers a Wayanad wildlife tour and Munnar hill station tour. Prices include accommodation, transport and meals.
The KTDc has backwater tours (Half day tour) at 8.30am and 2pm. and tourist motor-boat tours (2.5hr ) around Fort Cochin at 9am and 2pm. Its full-day houseboat backwater trips (day tour; 8am-6.30pm) stops for you to see local weaving factories, spice gardens and, most importantly toddy tapping!
For a dip in the ocean, you can make a day trip out to the lovely white-sand Cherai Beach, a short journey by ferry to Vypeen Island.
Body and Soul
Grande Residencia Hotel
Nonguests can swim at the hotel's small pool for per person.
Tel: 0484 2502362
Run by third-generation ayurvecdic practitioner Dr Subhash, this delightful waterside treatment centre specialises in long-term treatments. By appointment only. Massage and sirodara (steady stream of oil poured onto the forehead) costs 1000. It is 4km from the Vypeen Island ferry (autorickshaw).
KB Jacob Rd
Tel: 0484 6456566
Part or an India-wide chain of avurvedic centres, this place also does long-term treatments.
(Kerala Ayurveda Ltd)
A M Thomas Rd
Tel: 0484 2378198
This government-approved centre comes recommended for all types of ayurvedic treatments.
SVM Ayurveda Centre
(Kerala Ayurveda Ltd)
A small Fort Cochin centre, this offers relaxing massages and Hatha yoga daily at 8am. Longer rejuvenation packages are also available.
Tel: 0484- 2215398
Good, cheap beauty salon with massage, hairdressers, pedicure and manicure in new premises.
Sanathana School of Yoga Studies
Beach Rd Junction
Tel: 0484 2294155
Daily classes 7.30-9.30am and 4.30-6.30pm pranayama, and asanas plus 28-day teacher training programmes in a pretty residence in downtown Fort Cochin
The Kerala Kathakali Centre has lessons in classical Kathakali dance, music and make-up. For a crash course in the martial art of kalarippayat, head out to ENS Kalari, a famed training centre, which offers short intensive courses from one week to one month.
Cook and Eat
Tel: 0484 2215377
11am and 6pm
Mrs Leelu Roy runs a popular two-hour cooking class called 'Cook and Eat' in her great big family kitchen, teaching five dishes to classes of five to 10 people. Several of the homestays in towns are also happy to organise cooking classes for their guests.
There are several places in Kochi where you can view Kathakali. The performances are certainly made for tourists, but they're also a good introduction to this intriguing art form. The standard program starts with the intricate make-up application, followed by a demonstration and commentary on the dance and then the performance. The fast-paced traditional martial art of kalarippayat can now be easily seen in Fort Cochin.
See India Foundation
Kalathi parambil Lane
Tel: 0484 2376471
make-up 6pm, show 6.45-8pm One One the oldest Kathakali theatres in Kerala, it has small-scale shows with an emphasis on the religious and philosophical roots of Kathakali.
Kerala Kathakali Centre
KB Jacob Rd
Tel: 0484 2217552
make up from 5pm, show 6-7.30pm
In an intimate, wood-lined theatre, this place provides a useful introduction to Kathakali, complete with amazing demonstrations of eye movements, plus handy translations of the night's story. The centre also hosts performances of the martial art of kalarippayat at 4 to 5pm daily, traditional music at 8 to 9pm Sunday to Friday and classical dance at 8 to 9pm on Saturday.
Tel: 0484 2700810
If you want to see real professionals have a go at kalarippayat, it is best to travel out to this renowned kalarippayat leaning centre, 8km southeast of Ernakulam. There are one-hour demonstrations Monday to Saturday at 5.30pm (one day's notice required, admission by donation).
Festivals and Events
The eight-day Ernakulathappan Utsavam festival in January/February culminates in a procession of 15 decorated elephants, ecstatic music and fireworks.
Broadway in Ernakulam is good for local shopping, spice shops and clothing, and around Convent and Market Rds is a huddle of tailors. On Jew Town Rd in Mattancherry there is a plethora of Gujarati-run shops selling genuine antiques mingled with knock-offs and copies.
A couple of shops close to the synagogue sell exquisite lace work. Most of the shops in Fort Cochin are identikit Kashmiri-run shops selling a mixed bag of north Indian crafts.
Many shops around Fort Cochin and Mattancherry operate lucrative commission rackets, with autorickshaw drivers getting huge kickbacks (added to your price) for dropping tourists at their door.
Coir products (eg mats), carvings on rose- wood and buffalo horn and antiques may catch your eye here. Several narrow streets in Jew Town, towards the synagogue, have become popular for 'antique' hunters in the last 25 years. All these shops sport a similar range of old (some faux) and new curios.
There are several government emporia on MG Rd, Ernakulam, including National Textiles (another in Banerji Rd). Other shopping areas are in Broadway, Super Bazar, Anand Bazar, Prince St and New Rd.
Tel: 0484 2216448
One of Fort Kochi's oldest antique dealers. Lovely family-run store with fixed prices and no-hassle browsing.
Tel: 0484 3263465
Popular throughout Kerala, Niraamaya sells 'ayurvedic' clothing and fabrics- all made or organic cotton, coloured with natural herb dyes, or infused with ayurvedic oils. Also at Jew Town, Mattancherry.
Tel: 0484 2217O77
Fabindia has heaps of fine Indian textiles, fabrics, clothes and household linen.
Post Office Rd
Tel: 0484 2217124
Cinnamon sells gorgeous Indian-designed clothing, Jewellery and home wares in an ultrachic white retail space.
Head Post Office
Tel: 0484 2215O77
Tcked behind the post office, this TRIFED (Ministry of Tribal Affairs) enterprise sells tribal artefacts. Paintings, shawls, figurines etc, at reasonable fixed prices and the profits go towards supporting the artisans.
Tel: 0484 2391295
This has a typically great English-language selection of fiction and non-fiction.
Tel: 0484 2217075
Huge range of quality new and used books. Very good range on lndia, travel, fiction, religion, philosophy, etc. Also at Jew Town, Mattancherry.