My wife and I had toured the Golden Triangle and Rajasthan over the previous 10 days on an excellent bespoke private tour arranged by Transindus which was exhilirating, educational, informative, interesting, fascinating and which exceeded all our expectations culturally and geographically. It was now time to move on to something culturally different and to experience perhaps a more leisurely, relaxed stay in Kerala as stage two of our passage through India. And so it was we found ourselves in Cochin via Mumbai (a short stop over and transfer) and Udaipur where stage one of our tour had come to an end.
As in our previous destinations, we are met at Cochin airport by the local Transindus rep and our new driver who will be with us for the remainder of our trip over the next 10 days touring Kerala. We are booked in at Malabar House Hotel in Fort Cochin. We had left our hotel in Udaipur for the airporrt at 6am and arrived at the Malabar House at about 5.15. We are greeted by a gurkha clad young security man who salutes us and deals with our driver on arrangements for our cases to be delivered to our room. Once again the reception staff are delightful in welcoming us and providing us with a delicious cold drink whilst they and our rep deal with the formalities of check in as we relax for a few minutes over our drink and reflect on our long journey here. Soon we are led to our room through an elegantly designed courtyard bordered by shrubs, tropical trees, radiantly hued flowers and a small pale blue pool reflecting the last vestiges of a slowly declining sun.
This is a heritage hotel (I would call it a boutique hotel) which means that it was not originally built as a hotel. It is steeped in history having been built in 1755 and originally a private Dutch mansion. It has character and old fashioned colonial charm. This area known as Fort Cochin which very much has a colonial feel to it having been built and occupied by the Portugese who built a fort here in the 16th century and which was also later colonised by Dutch and British settlers, merchants and traders.
Our ground floor suite is cosy and comfortable but we have no time to settle, only to shower quickly and be on our way as our driver is returning to collect us shortly to take us to a Kalikathi dance performance which is Kerala's classic dance drama where a story unfolds by dance, music, song and strangest of all, the performers make weird facial movements to convey emotions and dialogue. It is a mixture of calm, rhythmic movements, frenetic drumming and leading to a dramatic climax but throughout colourful and elaborate. It was all a bit odd to us and a little overlong but an experience of an ancient Keralan cultural tradition.
Our driver picks us up and takes us the short drive back to Malabar House where our table for dinner awaits us. We are in the courtyard under a palm tree by the pool which now reflects the stars and the moon. The tropical sounds of the local insect and amphibious life echo through the trees and shrubs. A cool breeze whispers through the foliage comforting us and we are not bothered by mosquitoes. Three Indian musicians gently play traditional music and songs.It is very romantic. We have an excellent meal including a delicious king prawn and mango curry cooked in coconut milk. The next day we are up early and met with an extensive buffet breakfast although my wife and I eat lightly with some cereal, toast, marmalade, fruit juice and black coffee.
Our driver arrives with a local guide and they take us to the harbour for sightseeing where we stroll for a couple of hours taking in the local history and meeting not only the local hawkers (we support these small businessmen by buying some useless nick nacks for a few hundred rupees!) but also fishermen and local people who want to chat to us inquistively and we are happy to do so. We are taken to a department store called Saga where we browse and buy some nice cashmere knitwear, pashminas, marble ornaments, pottery and small hand painted miniature trinket boxes. This is a government approved and licensed store so it is a guarantee of quality and authenticity and there are many such throughout India. You will pay more at these outlets but you have the security of buying hand made products of quality.
Back to Malabar House where we have lunch on our patio which is private and sheltered from the courtyard by shrubs and trees. I would recommend a room or suite on the ground floor leading to the courtyard, with a covered, sheltered patio to relax in the shade over a cool drink and a light lunch. My wife and I stroll outside the hotel, we watch the schoolboys playing cricket on the green outside and I bowl a ball or two and take a wicket!! We buy some good quality throws in a nice shop nearby and then we are off again as our driver collects us to take us to the harbour where we have a boat which can seat 20 to 30 people all to ourselves and embark on a two hour sunset cruise around the bay where we see local life at work and at play. Our crew then slow down and float gently for a few minutes so that we can take in the full effect of the last rays of the golden, fiery sun descending into the distant horizon of the Arabian Sea. Spectacular!
We reflect on how fortunate we have been on this journey. We sail back into the harbour and stroll and find somewhere to have dinner. It is our second and last night here and tomorrow our driver and guide will pick us up for a short tour of an area called Jewtown and they will then drive us to Alleppey where we will take an overnight house boat to our next destination on our passage through India. We check out of the Malabar House and the beautiful and colourfully adorned lady receptionist maintains the excellent service we have had here and we leave a generous gratuity for the staff as a thank you.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Malabar House is a charming boutique hotel overlooking the parade ground in the heart of Fort Cochin. The 17 highly individual rooms and suites seamlessly combine tradition and contemporary design. The Malabar House is a member of Relais & Chateaux. Malabar escapes offers the finest circuit of boutique and villa hotels in Kerala. Placed in colonial Fort Cochin, the backwaters and the plantation hills, each escape gives you a distinct experience & flavour. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Malabar House Hotel Kochi (Cochin)
- Malabar House Kochi (Cochin), India - Kerala