Cochin (as its inhabitants prefer to call it) is a collection of islands and peninsulars jammed along the shores of tranquil Vembanad Lake and the Arabian Sea. Each district has a distinct personality, from the colonial trading post of Fort Cochin and concrete towers of Ernakulam, to the sandy beaches of Vypeen Island. A multicultural bubbling hotpot of humanity, Cochin has a place for everyone. In Ernakulam (the commercial district) Jew Street, Muslim Street and Convent Road weave together through its heaving market area. And in Mattancherry the first synagogue in India stands just down the road from the first European church in India. Here too you can hear the Muslim call to prayer while you smell the incense from Hindu shrines.
Often said to have been "discovered" by Vasco da Gama in the fifteenth century, Europe came late to the table. Trade with Africa and Asia had being going on for millenia along the Malabar coast, and Chinese adventurers were already hauling in their catch from huge cantilevered fishing nets on the estuary long before da Gama arrived. You can still watch the fishermen working these spider-like nets today under the rain trees of Fort Cochin.
Forget hotels, and choose instead to stay in an elegant family-run homestay among the colonial buildings of this über hospitable city. Try some home-cooked food (reckoned by many to be the best in India). Don't expect to lose weight, though, as you can't eat anything that hasn't had a coconut introduced to it at some point in the cooking process. Meen moilee just about sums up Cochin cuisine: sear fish stakes hooked from the ocean, cooked in coconut milk, green chillies, and curry leaves.