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Cochin

Cochin is the great water city of the Malabar Coast, sprawling over islands and headlands in the Arabian Sea and leading into the winding canals of the Backwaters. Documented since Roman times, it is the oldest European settlement in India, with an amazing blend of architectural styles.

There is an old Jewish quarter with a synagogue built in 1568, there are Portuguese churches, Hindu temples, the Dutch-built Mattancherry Palace, Chinese fishing nets sweeping above the water and a pretty tangle of alleyways, merchant houses and markets in the old town of Fort Cochin.

The busier, more modern district of Ernakulam is on the mainland. It's always fun to ride on one of the local ferries and visiting the wonderful spice markets is a must. Cochin also stages performances of Kathakali, a classical Keralan art form combining music, painting, dance and literature - performers wear elaborate costumes and spectacular face-paint, but there is no speech.

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