Four friends and three days

It took us 12 years to break the jinx. After a trip to Austria back in 2011, we threw several places into the pot and churned out tentative dates for a trip, but for various reasons, none came to pass. That was until two weeks ago when we decided to go to Kochi for the Kochi Muziris Biennale (KMB).

We unknowingly picked dates during Bangalore’s Aero Show when regular flights get rescheduled. One can see it as getting more time in Kochi or being horribly sleep-deprived (something none of us fancies!). We got to the airport at an unearthly hour for a flight before sunrise and reached Kochi at an equally unearthly hour. The hotel manager hastily washed his face to meet us at the lobby and told us check-in was impossible (“Hotel is full madam, early check-in not possible, sorry”). From the manager’s suggestions, we picked a place for breakfast (the Ginger Restaurant ). We sauntered, trying to reach the restaurant when they would start serving (9.30 am, Indian Stretchable Time, as we discovered). We were thankful they allowed us to lounge around as we could not achieve anything else. The restaurant is by the water making it a lovely setting. The highlight of our breakfast was ‘pathiri’, a local rice flour roti that goes well with chutney, sambhar or egg/mutton curry.

Ginger restaurant Kochi
Ginger Restaurant

Shops along Jew Town Road were opening one by one, and we weaved our way around from one shop to another depending on what caught our attention. Between all that waltzing around, we visited the Mattancherry Palace, the Paradesi Synagogue, Sarah Cohen’s Embroidery Shop and Mocha Art Café, one of KMB’s satellite venues where a documentary on the North East specifically on those growing paddy and harvesting rice made quite an impact on us.

Lunch was at Oceanos (the fish thali was finger-licking good, said my carnivore friends, as were the Kerala parottas; the vegetable creamy coconut curry was meh). We chanced upon a KMB venue close by at the Ashraya Child Development Department, which wasn’t too bad, really. After these sneak previews, we were ready for the art onslaught and made our way to TKM Warehouse, one of the larger venues. Once again, we weaved around the halls; but the heat and exhaustion eventually got to us.

We unanimously agreed that chilled beer was the solution to our state of being and immediately rushed to seek remedy at the Brunton Boatyard Restobar. We had by now stayed up more than 24 hours and needed to hit the bed.

Brunton Boatyard
Cheers to us!

Most people sleep in a bit more than usual when they are on holiday. I used to be like that. However, off late, I wake up at my usual time. With nothing much to do, I decided to go for a walk. I helped myself out thanks to the key hanging on the door (the manager, as you might have guessed, was asleep somewhere). The streets were quiet except for the lone fish seller, a newspaper boy, and another tourist. With all the shops shuttered down and the pedestrian path clear of display of wares, Jew Town seemed to have donned a different avatar.

Bazar street Kochi

Yesterday while at TKM, the warehouses caught my fascination. So I walked, trying to locate a way to get to the water’s edge between the warehouses. I entered a few lanes, which further led to more warehouses that seemed to be occupied by families and workers. I did not want to pry, so I returned to the main road. Lady luck did smile down, and I discovered an abandoned warehouse (more about it on another day).

Warehouse a sneak peak

We tried a vegetarian café for breakfast this morning. The food was good, but the coffee seemed part tea, part coffee, and part mud. I don’t know what the waiters thought, but it was strange that they avoided us till we had paid the bill (“That was terrible coffee”. “Oh, why didn’t you tell us it was not ok?”. “Well, we tried, but you ignored all our call for attention”).

Most of today was dedicated to Aspinwall House, the most extensive and main venue of KMB.

Aspinwall House Kochi
Aspinwall House

We had lunch there and shared the table with a film and video communication student from NID Ahmedabad who was trying to capture the landscape for his KMB diary (he was visiting with his classmates who were asleep, he said, while our dedicated student was at work).

We quickly stepped into Ballard Bungalow across the street from Aspinwall before heading to Kashi Art Café for a quick rehydration of the juice/coffee kind. We met the NID student again, now with his wide-awake classmates. We checked the Chinese Nets off the to-do list, watched them cast the net, watched a fisherman mend his fishing net, and watched the sunset while Suman watched a watercolour artist capture it on canvas. We got cheesy rings for Galentine-Valentine’s Day, dined at the Old Courtyard Hotel while listening to a live flute recital, and had beer fall off a tray with frothy waves reaching our feet, a heady simulation of the sea, I must say. After all this adventure, we called it a day.

My friends wanted to go on a walk the following morning but were too cosy in their beds, so I went alone. There was no key on the main door this time, so I jumped out of the window. Yet again, Jew Town lay bare its soul, and I tried to see if I could find any more abandoned warehouses. That’s how I discovered the Kaduvambhagam Synagogue.

Kochi synagogues
Kaduvambhagam Synagogue

As much as we go late for breakfast, the place opens later than that! Having decided to have the first meal of our last day in Kochi at Mocha Art Café, we hung on, and it was worth it (the toast and sandwiches are sure winners!). We met the owner, whose grandfather used this space as a spice warehouse. It lay abandoned for years before the current generation converted the space into a (much sort after) café.

Mocha art cafe
Mocha Art Cafe

We hit the streets again, walking into the antique shops, admiring and gasping at their collection and making small purchases. It was time to shift back to KMB mode. We visited the Hallegua House, a few Student Venues, and other exhibits nearby.

Hallegua House
Hallegua House

It was time to head back after a longish pitstop at the Casino Hotel in Willingdon en route to the airport and a real pitstop to buy the customary banana chips before heading home. We returned to Bangalore at an unearthly hour but didn’t feel the sleep deprivation as much, maybe because we had accomplished a long overdue trip and felt a sense of achievement. Some art, some food, some sightseeing, some relaxation, some touristy stuff all in 3 days. Can we ask for anything more? Yes, of course, another trip, sooner than this one happened since the one before that!!

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