Ship’s horns resonate along moody, fading facades then mingle with calls-to-prayer and bells from 17th Century cathedrals. Chai sellers proffer fragrant brew in gleaming crockery while baby goats skip by. Sacks stuffed with chilies are pushed from wooden carts into crumbling Dutch-era storehouses.
At Fort Cochin, being plunged headlong into the spice-trading heyday requires no imagination. This gritty, eclectic and engaging history is embodied within Malabar House, a haven combining centuries-strong lore with jaunty surprises.
Traditional craftsmanship and local (where possible, recycled) materials were used inventively in reviving and re-imagining the circa 1755 Dutch traders bungalow. The challenge, says designer and Malabar Escapes director Joerg Drechsel, was to respect the existing building while incorporating “edited innovation”.
Cozy yet cool, each of Malabar’s 17 unique rooms and suites feature a bespoke blend of antique and modern handcrafted furniture, along with widely- sourced handicrafts and art. Comforting details abound: generous lounging zones; ambient lighting; yummy honey and vanilla scented potions; light, hand-stitched bedcovers. Private outdoor nooks – ‘sit-outs’ in colonial parlance – are a defining pleasure.
Splashes of fired-up curry colours continue the warm, convivial vibe created in the courtyard, where, by oil- light, dancers and musicians perform each evening.
Cochin’s iconic sunset promenade lies a short stroll away. Or, hop on a bike and revel in the colourful clamour and intense aromas of the spice market and the enduring grandeur of the Dutch Palace.
That’s assuming you’ll stray from your swinging day-bed or the ayurvedic massage pavilion that opens to a skyline bristling with pomp and gravitas… and the triumphant shrieks of cricket heroes.
Words + Photography: Melissa Rimac