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For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni
For other destinations and types of holiday, visit Kuoni 

Things to do in India

A walk through Kochi’s culture pot

One thing that you wouldn’t find on a standard tour is a visit to a local Brahmin community…

By Sajayan Thottakara
Heritage Tour Guide

Our tours start in Fort Kochi, an area of great colonial influence where east meets west. We set off at around 8.30am down the shady promenade when the activity starts to hum around the Chinese fishing nets and you can usually catch a gentle sea breeze. As we stroll, we talk about the history and how the Greeks, Romans and then the colonial Portuguese all came here to trade in the spice industry. There are chances to talk to the fishermen who work intuitively with the tides. Then you see the lottery ticket sellers, café vendors and church goers kickstarting the morning bustle.

From there, we hop on a tuk tuk to Matancherry, a neighbourhood where you get this melting pot of cultures. Kochi’s kings used to live in Matancherry Palace, gifted by the Portuguese. It sets the tone of how these trading communities live side-by-side all with their unique cultures. Walking is the best way to immerse into this mix. Along the way you’ll see mosques, synagogues, candle-making shops and narrow, spice-scented streets.

One thing that you wouldn’t find on a standard tour is a visit to a local Brahmin community. Like anywhere, when it comes to religion, it can get quite complicated. Brahmin families don’t usually open their doors to tourists but since we have the right connections, we can take guests to these very nostalgic houses – some up to 250 years old where the families are very happy to give you an insight into their lives. You’ll no doubt see walls decorated with different gods and old photos of great grandparents. When the children are home, you can discuss school life with them and how it differs to the schools back home. Sometimes the family will teach you how to draw mehndi on your hands (henna body art) which is a really special experience.

Whatever your whim, we can make it happen but when you travel to India I must encourage you to use your heart. Your head will want you to visit landmarks like the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort but it’s only when you connect with the people you’ll find the real magic.

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Alfred & Sajayan Thottakara

Born and raised in the suburbs of Kochi, Sajayan returned to his hometown after gaining an MBA in the UK. He has worked as tour guide for 10 years and has developed a close connection to Kerala’s local community. He is passionate about the culture and heritage and loves to venture off-the-beaten track to discover new experiences for his guests.