Dispatches from Fort Kochi: Cycles and facades

It’s been a better part of the week since our pop-up set up shop at the Kochi Muziris Biennale. We’re at David Hall, right beside a Garden Cafe that’s canopied in green, and we’re here for a while, which suits us just fine because Fort Kochi is meant to be explored slowly, in a fashion that complements the sleepy town’s unhurried pace. Best not by foot, or by autos, but on a cycle.

Rent a cycle, or, if you must, a motorbike or scooter but we strongly urge you choose a cycle for that little bit of extra exertion (we never say no to anything that leads us to toned legs), and for that extra bit of quiet. You’ll find a number of options on Princess Street.

We set off from our pop-up shop at David Hall, right beside the huge expanse of the Parade Ground. This Dutch building was built in the 1600s and it is, even today, spotless, its white exterior offset by a roof of earth-toned flat faced rafters, giving it the appearance of an upturned hill. It is the Biennale’s staging ground: two galleries that host art exhibits and dance performances. Park your cycles outside the main gate (there’s a back entrance as well, if you want to skip everything and go straight to The Nicobar Edit), and head inside for a little sampler of the Biennale. Further in, like many other structure in Fort Kochi, you’re met with age-old trees and their gnarly roots, housed within an open-air courtyard. Nature and structures exist in harmony here. Linger here for a while, taking in the unhurried air of this place. The pizzas at the Garden Cafe are delicious, and there are a few vegan options for the discerning foodie.

Past Brunton Boatyard’s historic stretch (we love the entire property, a beautiful ode to seafarers and the ocean), and Aspinwall House (one of the Biennale’s prime sites), we chanced upon Pepper House. Spend an afternoon here, between lounging in their wall-to-ceiling stacked library, outdoors in the grassy courtyard by their cafe, or indulging in a little retail therapy at their shop. You’ll leave refreshed, and more so if you’ve tried their ruby-red beetroot soup.

Fort Kochi is a treat for sore eyes: you’ll cycle by whitewashed buildings with sloping roofs that are designed for coastal monsoons, and by red brick facades with terracotta veranda seats at the entrance that are intended to counter Kochi’s balmy days. A mix of Dutch, Portuguese, British, and Indian architecture all sit side by side, and in perfect harmony. Riding through narrow by-lanes stacked with cheery houses of yellow and blue, windows dressed with basket gardens and blooming flowers, we love how The Biennale has seeped into Fort Kochi’s every nook and cranny. Walls are blocked in a riot of colour - art, installations, posters, and graffiti - and we stop for pictures often.

More Dispatches from Fort Kochi here.