8 Important Tips for Visiting the Chinese Fishing Nets in Kochi, Kerala

Chinese Fishing Nets Fort Kochi | Things to do in Fort Kochi

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for details.

The Chinese fishing nets in Kochi are pretty much an icon in Kerala and a favourite spot for tourists to visit when they arrive here.

But, there are quite a few things you need to know before you decide to visit them! 

Personally, I had no idea what to expect. I innocently thought that this was a business and that the fisherman in the area traded the fish caught from here each day.

However, what I found was a gimmick, a tourist trap. With no fish caught from them at all really. 

Later, when I found out why, I felt bad and I understood a lot more about the dark side of this picturesque harbour town.

These are all the important things you need to know before you visit the Chinese fishing nets in Kochi.

Chinese fishing nets in Fort Kochi
Chinese fishing nets in Kochi – I took this from the ferry

Top tips before you visit Kochi and Kerala

  • I flew to Kerala from Delhi via a 3-hour domestic Vistara flight for less than $50! Skyscanner is my go-to for checking cheap flight prices.
  • In Kerala the locals speak Malayalam, they even have their own songs and films that have been recorded in the language. As one of the most literate states, they speak excellent Hindi and English
  • Kerala is a politically appointed Communist state, so you’ll see lots of communist flags and artwork around the area.
The Communist club in Kochi
The Communist club in Kochi
  • Getting around Kerala can be quite a minefield with public transport. But, there are buses and trains. I would personally recommend a hire car for your time here.
  • You’ll need travel insurance, I always choose World Nomads for their flexible policies.
  • I stayed connected with my Keepgo WiFi Hotspot, these kept my mobile roaming charges capped! But, getting a SIM card in Delhi is also a great option that provides you with 1GB per day for 30 days. 
  • In Kerala they use the rupee, I always found that State Bank of India (SBI) was the best as they take foreign cards as they don’t charge you extra for withdrawals.
  • Kerala is a little more conservative than its neighbour Goa, but not as conservative as Delhi, so make sure that you dress appropriately. But, it’s not uncommon for tourists to wear strappy tops, dresses that show your legs and shorts either. 
Fort Kochi
The colourful streets of Fort Kochi

8 things you must know before you visit the Chinese fishing nets in Kochi

1. No one really knows the exact history of the Chinese fishing nets

So, how did these Chinese fishing nets make their way over from China to Kochi in India? 

Well some say that traders from the court of the Mongolian Kublai Khan introduced these around 1350 and 1450.

There is also a theory that the nets were transported from a Portuguese colony in Macau during the time of Vasco De Gama. Kochi was a Portuguese settlement at that time, so it does make sense.

But, the most popular theory is that a guy named Zhang He introduced these nets to Kochi around 500 years ago! 

He was a famous Chinese explorer and the nets have stayed here long after he left. 

Chinese Fishing nets in Kochi

2. They are now an icon of Kochi and Kerala

Locally known in Malayalam as “Cheena Vala”, these wooden stationery lifts have wowed tourists for hundreds of years. 

This is because they are not only beautiful to look at but you will be amazed by the way they use them to fish! 

Today, there are sadly less than 10 Chinese fishing nets along the Fort Kochi shoreline. This is due to the fact they cost so much to maintain. However, they are still an iconic part of Kerala tourism.

Most of the time, people are taking photos of these nets from afar, rather than buying any fish. So, I’ll go through some top tips for photography below. 

Chinese Fishing Nets in Kochi
The fishing nets from the Vasco de Gama Square

3. The best photo spot for the nets can be found on Vasco De Gama Square

Did you know that these fishing nets are the most photographed attraction in the whole of Kerala? 

So, you’ll seehundreds of tourists all taking selfies and photos on the shorelines to try and get the best shot. 

The best time for this would be either at sunrise or sunset. At this time the lighting is perfect and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to a beautiful Keralan sunset in all different colours!

Now, where you go at sunset is up to you. But, I think the best view of the Chinese fishing nets can be found on the boardwalk near Vasco De Gama Square.

It will be really busy at this time, but the photo spot is perfect as you can see all of the nets hanging over the sparking sea!

But, if you want to get a closer shot of the fishing nets, you’ll need to climb aboard! Which will cost you a few pennies, but I think it’s totally worth it and you get to help out!

Chinese fishing nets photo spots
The promenades along the coastal walk from Vasco de Gama square were the best for photos of the Chinese Fishing nets

4. What the guidebooks don’t tell you is the fisherman are not paid well here

When I mentioned the Chinese fishing nets at my homestay, the owner mentioned that it was a sad story about the fishermen here in Kochi. Naturally, It piqued my interest and I wanted to know more. 

The Chinese fishing nets need at least 4 or 5 men to lift the net and see what has been caught throughout the day. So, it’s a shared enterprise.

The market sellers buy the fish in bulk from the fishermen. Then the restaurants buy the fish from the market who added on commission. The restaurant then charge 4x the price of what the fish is worth for the dishes they cook. 

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi
It takes at least four men to lift the ropes to take in the catch

So, the fishermen have to share that small wage between them which isn’t much at all. All the while the restaurant owners and market sellers make quite a profit. 

In fact, the fishermen could catch more on a single boat rather than use these huge fishing nets that require lots of man power and are expensive to maintain.

As sad as it sounds, this is the way that Kochi has been for centuries and it isn’t going to change anytime soon. 

Personally, this changed my whole perspective on the way the fishermen make a living around here. You may call it a tourist trap or money grabbing but, can you blame them?

For some this is the only way they make enough money for their families. So, I would go with an open mind before you completely write it off. 

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi
Personally, I had a lot of fun meeting the fishermen! But, I knew I had to pay before.

5. Visiting the Chinese fishing nets in Kochi can be a bit of a gimmick…

I knew before I even arrived I wanted to learn more about these fishing nets. But, I was a little put off at first. 

As I said, I really didn’t know what to expect and I just thought you climbed on and learned about fishing… how naive I was! 

So, when I saw the fishermen heckling people to come on board, I instantly knew something was a little suss about it. 

Then, when I saw a couple of tourists pay the fishermen, I realised that the photos and joining them to reel the fish in was something you had to shell out for.

But, knowing the story my homestay owner told me I just threw caution to the wind and decided to pay. I mean, you only live once right? 

Things to do in Fort Kochi | chinese fishing nets Kochi
I took some of my favourite photos in Kochi here!
Chinese fishing nets Vasco de Gama Square
The ones on Vasco De Gama square are incredibly touristy

6. …But, it also makes a great photo opportunity and story to tell!

I actually ended up loving it, if I’m being honest. The photos I got from onboard here were some of my favourites from my trip to Kerala. 

Plus, the fishermen make it super fun to join them bringing in the fish by lifting up the nets. 

They quickly explain to you how the fishing nets work and then you can join them by pulling on a rope to lift up the net! You sing a song with them and it’s a good laugh. It was actually really cool to try it out for yourself. 

I knew I had to pay a tip. The only thing that was a little cheeky though is the fact that there was 5 of them and they were all asking for individual tips. 

My advice would be to tip what you feel and stick your heels in. Obvious dig deep but don’t bankrupt yourself for a few photos! You’ll be just one of a dozens tourists that do this each day. So, they will make some good money. 

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi
I found it incredibly fun and made some great memories here!
Chinese Fishing nets Fort Kochi
Testing the ropes out with the locals!

7. You can actually buy fish and get it cooked for dinner 

Beyond a gimmick, the fishermen here do actually use these nets to catch fish too every day. So, you can ask if they have any fish to sell.

Most of the time, these will already be on display on ice in the little hut by the fishing net. Or, in a bucket. Then, you can negotiate the price based on the weight of that fish.

Once you’ve bought it, you can take it to the stalls near Vasco De Gama square who will cook it for you and add rice or side dishes alongside with it for dinner.

So, you can enjoy a fish supper at sunset by the sea, under the Keralan skies – how romantic!

Fishermen in Kochi
make sure you ask the fishermen to look at their fish – you can get it cooked for dinner!

8. If you want to see less touristy fishing nets, head to Vypeen Island

The fishing nets on the shores of Fort Kochi are a bit of a trap. But, if you wanted to see some real ones in action that aren’t flooded with tourists I’d recommend heading to Vypeen island.

It costs 3 rupees to take the local passenger ferry and the whole journey will take you around 10 minutes. You may even spot some dolphins on your way over.

Once you’re on the island, you’ll be dead opposite Fort Kochi and you can completely escape the crowds!

Ferry to Vypeen Island kochi
The passenger ferry to Vypeen Island cost 3 rupees

Head along Vypeen shoreline and you’ll find some more laid back fishermen, catching fish in their nets. 

While I was here, I got to talk to some of the fishermen without them hounding me for cash and they showed me their catch of the day.

It was a really nice experience which showed me some of the local customs here, without them asking for tips. 

Vypeen Island fishing nets
Vypeen Island had Chinese fishing nets that weren’t swarmed by tourists
Vypin Island Vypeen Things to do in Fort Kochi
There are non-touristy fishing nets on Vypin Island too

Things to do around the Chinese Fishing Nets in Kochi

Of course, the Chinese fishing nets in Kochi aren’t the only thing to do around here. Fort Kochi has so much to offer tourists who visit Kerala

For such a quaint fishing village it’s a powerhouse of history and a lot of the cultue that we see today is a legacy of what was left behind. 

Here are some of the top attractions in Fort Kochi to visit!

Read more – the top attractions in Fort Kochi

Things to do in Fort Kochi
Coconut stalls were my go to with the heat in Fort Kochi

Head down to Fort Kochi Beach 

Once you’re finished snapping up the fishing nets, I would carry on your stroll along the shoreline towards Fort Kochi beach. 

Here, you can get great views of the beach, the waves crashing on the shore and swaying palm trees in the distance.

This was one of my favourite things to do in Fort Kochi and it’s even better at sunset when the weather is cooler. 

The sun can be incredibly harsh during the day, but once the sun sets, the crowds come out and it makes a lovely atmosphere. 

There are some great street food stalls lined up, as well as places selling toys, souvenirs and even an option to weigh yourself! Any takers? 

Fort Kochi
October was the backend of the monsoon so it was still lush and green all around!
Things to do in Fort Kochi Kerala
Fort Kochi Beach Kerala

Go temple and palace hopping

Due to the colourful colonial history in Fort Kochi, there is a wide range of historic buildings along with temples from all cultures and religions. 

So, you could easily spend a whole day hopping from palaces, to churches, synagogues and Hindu temples.

Here are some of my favourite stops below; 

St Francis’ Church

This was one of the first ever Portuguese churches that was built after Vasco De Gama arrived on Keralan shores in 1501. 

After a rather risky trade off with the Rajah of Kochi, he agreed that in exchange for defeating the King of Calicut, the Portuguese could build in the area.

So, in 1503, the St Francis’ Church was built in the area. Today, you can go inside and see the tomb of Vasco De Gama. But, his body was moved to Portugal years ago. 

St Francis Church Fort Kochi
Vasco De Gama was originally buried here in St Francis Church, now his remains are in Portugal

Mattancherry Palace

Also known as the Dutch Palace, this building was originally gifted to the King of Cochin from the Portuguese in 1555.

But, once the Dutch took over, they decided to make significant improvements to the palace and therefore it is now nicknamed the Dutch Palace.

Inside you can see fantastic 16th century paintings of the Ramayan, displays of the Mattancherry royal family and learn about the colonial history here.

They are extremely strict about what you can and cannot take photos of here. So, be careful! 

Dutch Palace | Things to do in Fort Kochi
The Dutch Palace or Mattancherry Palace is well worth a visit

Jew Town and the Paradesi Synagogue

One of the most popular areas for tourists to visit in Kochi is Jew Town. This is a shopping area in Mattancherry that used to be home to the Jewish community.

As well as shopping for artworks, antiques, clothes and souvenirs, you can also visit the Old Jewish Synagogue here too. 

It’s over 400 years old and was built on permission by the King of Mattancherry. Unfortunately, over time there are now only 6 Paradesi Jews here. If you want to know more, read this article by the BBC. 

Entrance to the synagogue is only 5 rupees and it’s beautiful inside!

Jew Town Fort Kochi | Things to do in fort Kochi
Jew Town in Fort Kochi
Paradesi Synagogue things to do in Fort Kochi
Photography is strictly prohibited inside the Paradesi Synagogue

Santa Cruz Basilica 

This is seen as one of the finest examples of a Catholic church in India, so it’s worth putting on your list. 

Originally built by the Portuguese in 1505, it is still delivering mass daily and tourists flock from all over the world to see it. 

I would highly recommend visiting and going inside, but just beware you cannot enter during a service. These happen at 5am, 6am, 8am, 9am and 4pm! Make sure you pop along here at night time as the church will be covered in dazzling blue lights.

Watch a Kathakali Dance Performance 

This is a bucket list item for anyone visiting Kerala, but especially in Fort Kochi. Kathakali is an ancient dance practice based on the Hindu epic the Ramayan.

Dancers take years to study the art in order to perform it and you can learn all about it in one of the performances that are put on each evening.

The first half you will watch the actors prepare makeup, then you will watch the dancing which is the best part.

Instead of communicating to each other by talking, they communicate by thousands of movements and actions made with their body. Including their eyes, cheeks, hands and face muscles! The rest of the narration is made by the musicians and singers.

It’s a must-do in my opinion. I watched mine at the Kathakali cultural centre, tickets cost 350 INR.

Click here to read my top tips on how to watch a cultural show in Kerala

Kathakali Dance Kerala
Kathakali Dancing

Where to stay in Fort Kochi

I organised my Kerala trip through India Someday who booked me into the wonderful Delight Homestay.

It is a family run homestay that is the oldest in Fort Kochi. The building is from the Portuguese era and is hundreds of years old. So, you really felt part of the history while you were here! 

Inside the homestay was a gorgeous garden where they grew their own herbs, fruits and vegetables. So, you know when breakfast was served it was all organic.

My room was clean, spacious and had fantastic air conditioning which was perfect for the sweltering temperatures in October.

Read my full review here

Where to stay in Fort Kochi | Delight Homestay Kochi | Fort Kochi Hotels
Delight Homestay is part of the history and the oldest homestay in Fort Kochi!

Looking for more inspiration for Kerala? 

If you’re looking for further ideas on where to head while you’re in Kerala, make sure you check out my 7 day Itinerary which includes the beautiful Munnar and Alleppey.  

Read more: the very best places to visit in Munnar

Or, check out my top tips for visiting Munnar in these articles;

You complete road trip to Munnar guide

Tea fields in Munnar here 

A complete Lakkam Falls guide

Eravikulam National Park: Why it is a must-visit!

Top Station: is the drive worth it?

Tea plantation in Munnar | Lockhart Tea Plantation
Lockhart Tea Plantation, Munnar

Like it? Pin it!

Chinese Fishing nets in kochi

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Trips100 - Travel Blogs
Trips100