Chinese fishing nets at Vypin Island
I think the rise of Airbnb has contributed to how we travel these days. Now even traditional b & b and homestay have opted to list their accommodations on Airbnb to increase competitiveness. I have had both positive and negative experiences using Airbnb, and the negative experiences did leave a bitter taste in my mouth, which made me more cautious than before.
Nowaways, many of of us prefer to travel independently and connect with the locals; we want authentic experiences and hang out in non-touristy areas. Occasionally I would join specialised guided tours (like the textiles tour in Gujarat last year), but most of the time, I would plan my own itineraries, which does have some ups and downs as well. Sometimes I don’t necessary pick the most convenient accommodations, but I do get to see how the locals live, which I think makes the trip more interesting.
After one night in Fort Kochi, I moved to an island opposite called Vypin/Vypeen, which is a residential area reachable by ferries and a few bridges. Actually there is not much to see on Vypin Island, but if you want to get away from the tourists in Fort Cochin, then Vypin may be right for you. Fort Kochi and Ernakulam are accessible by commuter ferries, which operate daily and are fairly frequent.
Commuter ferries to Fort Kochi and Ernakulam
On the island, there are some homestays and one of them is a 2-room homestay called Bungalow Heritage Homestay, which is a 1930s heritage home built by the owner, Neema‘s father. The main attraction for me was the cooking class offered by Neema, as I was keen to learn about South Indian cooking. Neema is a passionate cook and she even has a Youtube channel where she shares her recipes and cooking tips.
Since Neema‘s husband was a Captain on Merchant ships, which meant that their family has sailed around the world, and their home is filled with nautical decorations and items. Even the rooms are named after the world’s greatest explorers, Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus. As I was the only guest there during the two nights, Neema upgraded me to a bigger room and even invited me to her relative’s birthday party next door. It was interesting to meet her extended family and chat to the locals who were all very hospitable.
Bungalow Heritage Homestay
Inside a relative’s home
Another positive aspect of homestay is that breakfasts are never dull! I am not a fan of many hotels’ breakfast buffets, so I appreciated Neema’s homecooked breakfasts featuring a variety of local dishes. I don’t usually eat spicy food for breakfasts, but when I travel to hot places, eating spicy food for breakfasts suddenly becomes quite appealing.
My cooking class took place in the afternoon, and I learnt to cook five local south Indian dishes using fresh spices from Neema‘s kitchen. The dishes I learnt are not complicated, but various spices are required in all dishes. After eating at different restaurants in Fort Kochi, I do think that my (Neema‘s) homecooked meal was the best I have had so far!
Although there isn’t much to see on this island, you can enjoy a laidback stroll along the waterfront to see the Chinese fishing nets. Since there are no tourists here, you can watch the fishermen at work and take many good shots.
Like in most part of Kochi, churches and shrines are conspicuous… By the ferry terminal is the Roman Catholic Our Lady of Hope Church (Igreja Da Nossa Senhora Da Esperança), one of the oldest churches in Kochi built by the Portuguese in 1605. The church was renovated in 2005, which explains why it looks fairly polished. I visited the church early in the morning in between the masses, so it was empty and very peaceful.
Our Lady of Hope Church
Besides the small churches and shrines, there is a large pilgrimage centre on the nearby Bolgatty Island called The Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom/Vallarpadam Church. This is an important prilgrimage site in India and around one million people visit the Basilica every year. Originally built in 1524, the former churcn was destroyed by heavy flood, and a new church was reconstructed in 1676. It became famous after a miracle happened in 1752 when the lives of two devotees were saved from a violent storm. In 1888, the church was declared as a special church by Pope Leo XIII and later the Union Government stated it as a major pilgrim centre. I didn’t have the time to visit the church, but took a photo of it when the taxi drove past it (see below).
Bottom: Basilica of Our Lady of Ransom
I think two nights on this island was enough; it offered me a different perspective and I enjoyed the tourist-free time. If sightseeing is not your main priority, then I do recommend a short relaxing stay on this island.