June 2018 | Travel Blog Part 1
KOKOindia is on tour again, and my ten year old son and I are on a reconnaissance mission to one of India’s most stunning monsoon destinations, Kerala. All packed up with waterproofs, cosy socks, a stash of good books and a secret squirrel bottle of whiskey (Kerala has some strict licensing laws and it can get chilly in them there hills!), we waved goodbye to our little Goan house and set off for a three week odyssey across ‘God’s Own Country.’
Up-to-the-minute-travel expertise is an essential part of my job, but in all honesty I would be happy to make up any ol’ excuse to return to Kerala. Fabulous hotels and spa resorts, breathtaking highlands, unspoilt beaches, glittering backwaters, delicious food and outstandingly friendly people – what’s not to fall in love with?
Our first stop is one of my all time favourite cities – Fort Kochi. Since the 1500’s, a fascinating blend of Portuguese, Chinese, British, Dutch, Syrian and Jewish trading posts and communities have all met here on the tropical Malabar Coast. It is this curious mix of cultures, faiths and traditions that make Fort Kochi a uniquely special place to explore – as well as the many fantastic restaurants, cafes and shopping experiences to be found here too.
With an early monsoon in southern India this year, it managed to rain biblically the entire time we were in Fort Kochi. But it didn’t matter. I felt lucky enough to know this city pretty well by now, and the ceaseless downpours became the perfect excuse to simply snuggle up and enjoy the comforts of our family friendly hotels.
First was a stay at the Old Harbour – a truly fine establishment where KOKOindia places a great many of our guests. Elegantly styled with antique teakwood furniture and colourful art from the owner’s private collection, the hotel is just steps away from the bustling waterfront and adjacent to vibrant Princess Street. This makes the Old Harbour the perfect monsoon hotel for Fort Kochi, as we could make a dash in between rain showers to any of the lovely little cafes and galleries around us.
In reality however, it proved rather tricky to tear ourselves away from this lovely old heritage hotel – our garden facing room felt so cosy with its ochre coloured walls and huge comfy bed. The hotel’s excellent restaurant has long been one of KOKOindia’s top recommendations for dining in Fort Kochi, and freshly caught Masala King Prawns followed by a spicy Keralan aubergine curry were the perfect comfort food for a rainy day. The Old Harbour is a warmly hosted boutique hotel where the friendly and longstanding staff always make guests feel extremely welcome – and our stay here was certainly no exception.
By contrast our second boutique hotel in Fort Kochi, The Ginger House Museum Hotel, was a fabulous new discovery. Located in an original two hundred year old ginger warehouse right in the heart of historic Mattancherry, the existing Ginger Museum and Restaurant has always been an unmissable place for me to shop and dine in the old city. It is an awe-inspiring treasure trove of antiquities, with twenty-eight rooms showcasing epic statues and artefacts from across India – and is complimented by a harbour-facing restaurant serving delicious, ginger-inspired dishes.
The Ginger House Museum Hotel first opened its doors in 2017, and is a beautifully styled concept-hotel for those travellers (like me) who believe decadence and comfort should go hand in hand. Designed by The Ginger’s visionary owner and curator, each of the nine, individually themed rooms is borne of a passion for classical Indian architecture and artisanal craftsmanship, and feature intricately carved doors, rococo art, quirky antiques and stylish bespoke furniture. Opulence is definitely a distinct theme – the Kings Suite on the ground floor boasts Art Deco tiles made of 24-carat gold – but there is also a reassuring emphasis on friendly hospitality and the very highest standards of comfort.
Our spacious luxury suite was on the newly created upper level, which also boasted a Gallery Museum, a Tea Lounge, a peaceful garden and an infinity pool with views right across the lake. The vast rosewood bed in our room was so ridiculously comfortable, my son began to have serious visions of asking the friendly Manager to winch me out of there. Fortunately the lovely old rocking chairs on our veranda were also a key draw, and my son and I loved just sitting peacefully there watching the ever changing scenery of the harbour go by.
*KOKO top tip for families: never underestimate the value of a great hotel bathroom to keep kids entertained. It may be as simple as a Jacuzzi they can splash about in for hours, but our gorgeous bathroom at The Ginger had a state of the art Japanese toilet with temperature control and a comically self lifting lid. It kept my boy amused for hours!