The good thing about Kochi is that it’s divided into neat sections (mainland Ernakulam, Mattancherry, Fort Kochi, Willingdon Island and a whole bunch of other islands), which makes it harder for you to get lost or end up in the wrong place by accident. Even so, it’s a vast place and most of the road signs and bus information is provided in Malayalam (Kerala’s language). Besides, your tourist brochures, maps, smartphone apps and guidebooks will tell you about the famous stuff, but not about what the locals do.
For example, your shiny brochure says you visit Matancherry to see the Dutch Palace and Jewish Synagogue and do some antique shopping. What you really want to do is explore Matancherry like the locals on a two-wheeler and end up eating delicious sweets on Gujurati Road or mouth-watering biryani at Kayees on New Road.
If you’re in Fort Kochi, your guidebook will tell you that good little tourists should not miss the Santa Cruz Basilica and St. Francis Church. A local tour guide, on the other hand, will take you to the Seagull restaurant, which is one of the few places in Kochi where you can enjoy a nice, cold beer or other alcoholic beverage with tasty seafood.
Ditto for Marine Drive which the brochures will tell you is a promenade for taking nice walks or a long drive. What the locals do is shop for mobile phones at Penta Menaka, or eat your fill of fast food at Bimbis. Does your guidebook say that bars have been closed in Kochi? Well, a local guide can still show you how the nightlife survives in the city and which watering holes on MG Road are filled with people having a good time as the alcohol flows at parties (legally until 11 pm).
Does your guidebook say which jewelry shop at Jewel Junction is the best place for buying South Indian gold jewelry? Or which silk emporium at Shenoys Junction is the best place to buy traditional silk sarees and other dresses? These are the kind of things that local tour guides who have been Kochiites all their lives know about and can share with you.
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