On India’s Malabar Coast, Kochi – a sleepy port city with one of the country’s oldest synagogues and a warehouse district stuffed with antiques – is emerging with a hit of new thinking. Until March, it hosts its first contemporary art Biennale (www.kochimuzirisbiennale.org), featuring exhibitions and installations on the surrounding islands – and the modern current is reflected in the city’s new hotels, with architect Bijoy Jain engaged to up the game at Trinity (www.malabarescapes.com; from about £220; bathroom in first picture). This three-suite guesthouse – to become five-strong by October 2014 – occupies the former Indian headquarters of the Dutch East India Company.
Kochi is the classic gateway to the Kerala Backwaters, where, further north on the quiet Karnataka border, a new boat is cruising the palm-fringed rivers and lagoons. The teak-decked Lotus (www.thelotuskerala.com; £587 per night; private terrace in second picture) has two suites with iPod docks, ensuite bathrooms and air-conditioning. It bears little resemblance to some of the down-at-heel rice barges plying the Kochi-Alappuzha route, but embodies the area’s authentic spirit.