For Bose Krishnamachari, co-founder and director, Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB), exploring a city means walking aimlessly along the streets and having conversations with people. He also enjoys visiting art galleries, museums and artists’ studios. “Half a day chatting with an artist is a day well spent,” he says. As tourists and art aficionados prepare to visit the fourth edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (which runs from December 12, 2018 until March 29, 2019), Bose helps chart an itinerary. Have 48 hours? Here are his ideas.
Arrive: Nedumbassery airport is the world’s only solar-powered airport. Look out for the acres of dark, shiny solar panels embedded in a sea of green from the flight. A visual novelty, it is a cue for what’s to come.
Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, the seat of KMB, are a heritage zone and an hour’s drive from the airport. The 4.5-square-kilometre area is inhabited by several communities, each practising its unique culture. Pick any of the homestays (www.keralahomestays.com) here and you will be close to the nine venues presenting the sprawling art exhibition.
8 am Breakfast at the cafés around Parade Maidan. Try the Planter’s Plate at Teapot or home-made granola at the popular, relaxed Kashi Art Café.
10 am This is when gates to the main Biennale venue, Aspinwall House, open. Pick up a map from the information counter. The other eight venues — old warehouses — are down the three-kilometre stretch of Bazaar Road, starting from Aspinwall House and ending at TKM Warehouse in Mattancherry. Another great way to see the Biennale thoroughly is to hire the services of volunteers (free for students) or mediators who will explain the work. Ask for them at the counter.
1 pm The area is dotted with cafés, waterfront restaurants and swanky hotels, offering everything from a quick sandwich to an elaborate elasadya. Try the ginger-lime drink at Ginger House in Jew Town. If you are in the mood for fish, step into Oceanos on Elphinstone Street, which offers colonial food.
3 pm Post lunch, explore Durbar Hall, the only venue on the mainland, in Ernakulam. It is 10 kilometres away, and the most scenic way to get there is taking a boat to Ernakulam jetty, from where you can flag down an auto.
6 pm As the Biennale venues begin to close, The Pavilion at Cabral Yard, comes alive. Catch live music and cinema here. Savour artisanal food options: Kudumbashree Canteen and Edible Archives, recreating dishes made with lost rice varieties. Walk across to the beach, and if you are lucky, you may catch sardines or mackerel, which you can have for dinner, made at The You Buy We Fry outlets.
7 pm Waterfront restaurants like Seagull or the wine bar at Malabar House are ideal for sundowners. Drop in for the films screened under the Artists’ Cinema programme.
9 am Those with a love for history can head to Pattanam (30 kilometres away) on the Muziris trail, either by boat or road. Here the remnants of the great trading route and of the flood of 1341 AD are evident. If you have half a day to spare, explore the weaver’s settlement at Chendamangalam (35 kilometres away).
11 am Bazaar Road is replete with individualistic spaces. Catch Sosa Joseph, Sara Hussain or Zakir Hussain, in their studios. You can also step into the small and big art galleries ensconced in the busy traders market. Alongside are seven venues exhibiting works by students, part of the Students’ Biennale.
3 pm Choose from three history-related museums. The Kerala Folklore Museum in Thevara houses a rich collection of antique artefacts; visit the seat of the Cochin Royal Family, Tripunithura; the Hill Palace Museum with its collection of royal artefacts. The Kerala Museum at Edappally is a must-see. Don’t miss the original Ravi Varma here.
6 pm Step back a century at Cherlai, also called Gosripuram. Here you will see papad makers, kite crafters, corner shopkeepers and textile stores — images that inspire artists and photographers.
10 pm Wind down with a gentle walk around Parade maidan and saunter up to the beach. The ocean on a December night, in Kochi, can be a beautiful keepsake for eternity.
Issac Alexander, Hotelier, suggests ways to step off the trail in Kochi
Water sports: Kochi’s backwaters afford great sailing and kayaking opportunities. The Global Sailing Club at Panangad has all facilities and a full-time coach, with lessons for beginners.
Fishing and more: Manually pull the Chinese fishing nets with local fishermen. Sports fishing is popular in Kochi. Go angling along the coast for an unusual catch of catfish and eel.
Speedboat rides/yacht parties: Though not available commonly, event companies organise fabulous boat parties and provide speedboats on hire.
Bar hopping: Kochi has distinct watering holes — Seagull on the water, Clubb 18 for great music, Mezzo in the heart of the city, with signature cocktails and live gigs, Divine at Malabar House for a sophisticated ambiance and tapas. For a real punch, sample fresh toddy at one of local joints.
Designer shopping: Since Kochi-Muziris Biennale started in 2012, Fort Kochi has seen a spurt in high-end designer stores. Pick up international and Indian labels at Cinnamon, Pepper House Store and Cult Modern. The antique market in Jew Town is a must-see for souvenirs.