A Travellerspoint blog

VYPIN - a peaceful haven close to Fort Cochin

Get away from it all on Vypin Island

Like Venice and Istanbul, Cochin is a city where water plays an important role both functionally and aesthetically. The Cochin ‘metropolitan’ area that includes Fort Cochin, Mattancherry, the modern city of Ernakulam, Willingdon Island, and other islands is infiltrated with waterways that flow past them and out into the Arabian Sea. These watery channels are alive with shipping, lined with fishermen, flanked by warehouses, and swarming with waterfowl. The sun reflects off the waters, producing a rare quality of light that heightens the beauty of the area.

Chinese fishing nets at Fort Cochin

Chinese fishing nets at Fort Cochin

The historic city of Fort Cochin with its many historic buildings, its Chinese fishing nets, and its colourful shoreline, makes for a wonderful place for tourists to linger. I have visited the place three times in two years, and Cochin’s attraction simply continues to grow for me.

Ferry boat at Fort Cochin

Ferry boat at Fort Cochin

The elongated island of Vypin (aka ‘Vypeen’) runs in a north-south direction, its southernmost tip being across the estuary from Fort Cochin. Two ferries connect Vypin with Fort Cochin. One carries foot passengers only, and the other carries both vehicles and foot passengers.

Boats at Vypin

Boats at Vypin

The first time that I crossed to Vypin on the foot passenger only ferry, I noticed that a section of the boat was reserved for ladies only. Indeed, the queues for the ticket boot were segregated by gender. Lately (2017), I did not notice any separation of male and female passengers.

Leaving Fort Cochin, the ferry passenger gets a good view of the Chinese fishing nets on one side, and of the waterfronts of the Brunton Boat House and its neighbours (such as the old Aspinwall warehouse complex).

The ferry captains have to navigate carefully, so as to avoid colliding with all manner of craft: everything from ocean going liners and enormous dredgers to tourist pleasure boats and smaller craft used by the local fishermen.

As the Fort Cochin shore begins to recede and mingle with the heat haze, the Chinese fishing nets of Vypin get nearer. Behind them, it is not difficult to see a couple of huge cylindrical structures, which are part of an oil refining site near to the Arabian Sea shore.

Belts in a shop on Vypin

Belts in a shop on Vypin

Both ferries dock at the aged, rather shabby Vypin ferry terminal, which until recently contained an even shabbier café, The Sealand, now closed. Passing through the terminal, we reach a line of small shops that face a parking area where multi-coloured busses and auto-rickshaws park. These busses carry passengers to a variety of places including Ernakulam and beaches at the northern tip of the island.

House on Vypin: detail

House on Vypin: detail

The southern shore of Vypin is a peaceful contrast to the relatively busy shore of Fort Cochin, which faces it across the water. A good paved footpath follows the shoreline, passing several Chinese fishing net set-ups, upon whose ropes and wooden structural elements sea birds roost. On a recent visit, most the avian population consisted of white egrets. Landward of the path but partly hidden by the dense foliage of luxuriant gardens, you can just about spot low dwellings.

Taking one of the paths that lead away from the sea, one enters a series of narrow lanes lined with domestic residences surrounded by lush gardens. Wandering around these lanes reminded me of the lesser visited parts of Venice. There was hardly anyone around, little or no traffic, and a lovely calm silence.

The Church of Our Lady of Hope

The Church of Our Lady of Hope

The village of Vypin is built around The Church of Our Lady of Hope, (aka "Nossa Senhora Da Esperança"), which was built during the Portuguese occupation in 1605 AD.Along with other Roman Catholic buildings in the Cochin district, it was badly damaged by the Dutch in 1663, but has been restored lovingly since then. Usually this is closed except for early morning masses. My wife managed to persuade a passing nun to get the sacristan to open up the church for us. While its interior is not as grand as some of the churches we saw in Goa, it is nevertheless worth seeing. A great anchor hangs from the northern wall of the chancel. A highly-revered effigy stands in a glass-fronted cabinet covered with a curtain near the southern wall of the church.

The Church of Our Lady of Hope, 1605

The Church of Our Lady of Hope, 1605

A short walk through more narrow lanes brings one back to the ferry station. Whereas the passenger only boat is quite comfortable for passengers, the boat that carries vehicles is less so. Passengers congregate at the covered foremost part (the bow) of the boat.

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Cars and vans are tightly loaded onto the ferry, and then the two wheelers motor bikes and scooters) squeeze their way into the remaining spaces including at the bow of the ship where foot passengers congregate, trying to avoid being knocked by mirrors or getting their feet run over by wheels.

Ferry ticket office at Vypin

Ferry ticket office at Vypin

Disembarking, one realises how peaceful Vypin is in comparison with Fort Cochin. This is not to say that Fort Cochin is not particularly unrestful (as is Ernakulam); it is just far busier than that peaceful haven Vypin.

Goat on a boat: ferry to Fort Cochin from Vypin

Goat on a boat: ferry to Fort Cochin from Vypin

NOW CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINK TO SEE A VIDEO OF CROSSING FROM FORT COCHIN TO VYPIN


Video of the ferry crossing : http://www.ipernity.com/doc/adam/44298968

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 12:56 Archived in India Comments (0)

Across the water to Durbar Hall

Durbar House, Ernakulam, Kerala, India

Durbar Hall

Durbar Hall

The Durbar Hall in the heart of busy Ernakulam was built by the Maharajah of Cochin in the 1850s. Today, it is used as an art gallery. We visited it in January 2017 to see some exhibits, part of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, exhibited there.

We were staying across the water from Ernakulam in Fort Cochin (Kochi). Although there is a regular direct ferry from Fort Cochin to Ernakulam, we chose a less direct route.

We joined a crowd of pedestrians on the small passenger ferry that plys between Fort Cochin and the southern tip of Vypin Island. I will describe this in more detail elsewhere.

Bus to Ernakulam at Vypin Bus Stand

Bus to Ernakulam at Vypin Bus Stand

On landing at Vypin, we walked through the gloomy ferry station into the car park outside it, wher colourful busses and autorickshaws wait for passengers travelling to a variety of destinations including Enakulam. We boarded a bus, and were sold tickets just as the bus began speeding out of the bus stand. Notice that in India, busses leave from 'bus stands', not 'bus stations'! The ride was fast, but the driver made no effort to avoid back-jarring defects in the roads' surfaces.

After crossing two waterways over two long bridges and another island, we reached the outskirts of Ernakulam city. The bus dropped us, somewhat shaken, at the High Court, and from there an autorickshaw took us into the centre of the city to the gates of Durbar Hall.

The Durbar Hall is set in well-manicured grounds with large lawns, many flowere, and plenty of trees. The ground floor rooms were dedicated to an exhibition of lovely ceramic sculptures made by an Indian artist Himmat Shah.

Sculptures by Himmat Shah

Sculptures by Himmat Shah

On the first floor there were a number of works by the US artist Gary Hill. The main hall of the Durbar Hall with its magnificent decorated ceiling was dedicated to a video installation by this artist.

Cieling at Durbar Hall

Cieling at Durbar Hall

A flattish circular metal construction hung in the middle of the vast room. It was equipped with 16 invisible video cameras. Each one was connected to a projector, angled to project its image on a particular part of the room's walls and ceilings. The video cameras recorded images of the spectators as they wandered around the room, and the projectors projected the distorted images on the walls and ceiling of the room, creating an ever changing fresco painted in light. Now, I am not an afficianado of video installations, but I must admit that this was superb.

Video installation by Gary Hill at Durbar House

Video installation by Gary Hill at Durbar House

Outside the Durbar Hall in its grounds, there is a small café and a drinks stall where fresh fruit drinks can be obtained. Although I would not reccomend staying in Ernakulam - Fort Cochin is much nicer - a visit to the Durbar Hall is certainly worthwhile.

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Posted by ADAMYAMEY 04:32 Archived in India Comments (0)

Coffee, cakes, and culture

Pepper House in Fort Cochin

Pepper House: artwork during 2016/7 Biennale

Pepper House: artwork during 2016/7 Biennale

Pepper House is one of the many now disused warehouses lining the waterfront of Fort Cochin and neighbouring Mattancherry.

Now, it serves three functions. Firstly, it houses the magnificent library of books relating art that belongs to Bose Krishnamachari, the founder of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. It is open for anyone to browse and read, but books cannot be borrowed. In addition to books, there is a large collection of DVDs that can be watched on-site.

Secondly, Pepper House is home to a wonderful café. Its tables look out over the grassy inner courtyard of Pepper House. Beverages, hot and cold, cakes, and light meals are served there. Quality is quite good. The shaded café is a perfect oasis to escape the hurly burly of Cochin's daily life. Beyond the courtyard there is a small area by the water's edge.

The third function of Pepper House is temporary. It serves as an exhibition space during the Kochi-Muziris Biennale.

Pepper House is worthy of a visit however long you plan sto stay in Cochin.

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 03:06 Archived in India Comments (0)

Every two years: Kochi-Muziris Art Biennale

India's first ever art biennale is held in and around Fort Cochin.

Pyramid art work in courtyard of Aspinwall House

Pyramid art work in courtyard of Aspinwall House

The first Kochi-Muziris Biennale was held Dec 2012 - Mar 2013. I attended the second (2014/5) and third (2016/7) biennales. These art festivals are held within the historic buildings of Fort Cochin, nearby Mattancherry, and Ernakulam. The first two mentioned places are chock-full of so-called 'heritage' buildings, some of them in use and others disused. The largest of these is the complex of buildings that make up the Aspinwall Compound.

These picturesque old buildings make excellent sites for displaying the contemporary art works that attract people to the biennale.

Part of artwork in courtyard of Pepper House

Part of artwork in courtyard of Pepper House

Within Fort Cochin itself, the main venues are Aspinwall House, Pepper House, Anand Warehouse, and David Hall. In Mattancherry, there are a number of picturesque venues where in addition to mature artists' works, the works of art students can be viewed.

A work in progress. will be completed by end of 2016/7 Biennale. Tou can watch the artist and his two assistants working on it. (See next picture)

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

It is worth crossing the water to Ernakulam to view the exhibits in the Durbar Hall, which was specially renovated to be used as an exhibition space by the Biennale Foundation.

All kinds of work are on display, paintings, sculptures, videos, poster-art, performance art, and spectator experience art.

In addition to the official biennale exhibitions, there are 'collateral' shows held by private galleries from all over India. These display some very fine works of Indian contemporary art.

It is a joy to wander through the old buildings whilst viewing the art exhibits. Mind you, it's hot work because even in December temperatures can be high in Cochin. And as the biennale approches its ending in late March, the humidity becomes very high.

A warehouse in Mattancherry

A warehouse in Mattancherry

The biennale is a must for lovers of contemporary art. Even if you are not an art lover, the biennale is special because buildings not usually open to viewing by the public become accessible during the months of the biennale.

Ceramic artworks

Ceramic artworks

Chinese hologram

Chinese hologram

Video installation by Gary Hill

Video installation by Gary Hill

Sculpture in Aspinwall House

Sculpture in Aspinwall House

Posted by ADAMYAMEY 12:33 Archived in India Tagged art india kerala cochin kochi biennale art-fest Comments (0)

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