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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Kerala- Land of greenery, polite hosts and mundu...

http://blog.blogadda.com/2014/08/19/tangy-tuesday-picks-creative-blog-posts
A travel experience becomes unforgettable with a beautiful place and polite and welcoming hosts. Kerala had both- amazing scenery and amazing people. Though best time to visit Kerala is during winters but it wasn't bad during May-June when we were beautifully baked till golden brown. The place was clean and roads were bump-less!Our tour started from Kochi towards Trivandrum- the lower half of Kerala. Since Kerala is horizontally straight, one can plan it vise-versa too!  

Thrissur: After reaching Kochi Airport, we changed our attires and visited famous Guruvayur Temple in Thrissur. It was quite crowded. Evening processions are held on a daily basis there, where statues of Gods were rested on Elephants and they took rounds of the sanctum sanctorum. Elephants were fairly trained. In Kerala- many temples allow Salwar-Suits for women, though in some temples women can only enter in Sarees . While for men- Mundu or Dhoti is a compulsion. One could purchase these from the adjacent bazaars. Women also have the option to tie Mundu over their dresses to be appropriately dressed before visiting God. See images below to understand the proper way to wear a mundu and don't ever dare to call a mundu a lungi, some of my Keralite friends swear by it:

Women:
Images above are taken from Google

Men:
Images above are taken from Google

About 2-3 km from the temple is the training house for the temple elephants- Annakotta, you can visit it if you arrive on time: 8:00 to 18:00 hours.

Not very far from this place, were these majestic waterfalls named - Athirapally. People say during rains their beauty is worth seeing. Though when we visited, it was not raining yet the falls looked beautiful. We were surprised to see locals especially females jumping from one large rock to another wearing sarees, and heels with no fear of falling down and getting wounded. We despite wearing sport-shoes couldn’t make those high jumps, but warily we trekked all the way to this:



KOCHI:  Next day we visited Matancherry. Matancherry palace, also known as Dutch Palace was a simplistic building housing the paintings and artifacts of the king's of the yore. Next we headed to Jewish street and a famous Jewish Synagogue there, which didn’t impress us at all. All along the street were some antique shops you could window shop there or buy something if you like.
Next we turned towards Fort Kochi and in vain we asked for the fort, but no fort was to be found as none existed (the Dutch had destroyed it long ago, but the name caught on). We went to a quaint little princess street for lunch and walked about there. One can choose to stay there as the locality looked attractive. We waited for sunset at the beach having the old Chinese fishing nets. I asked the local coconut vendor(a man fluent in malayalam, marathi, bengali, hindi and english) while sipping on my coconut water, “You must be getting these fishes real cheap being right there at the source.”
But he said- "No madam. They are most expensive here as they're only half-dead ('tadapta machli' he explained) and are thus more costly than others. They perish very easily. So most of the companies buy them from here and then preserve them for local people and export. One kg of fish is around 500 INR here. After reaching market they cost about 200 INR."

Watching sun going down from this place through the fishing nets was quite a photogenic affair.  If you are here, and interested in photography- don’t miss sunset here!


We missed Marine Drive in Ernakulam and mango festival going on there but as they say one cannot be at every place at one point, on tours we need to prioritize. And being from Delhi, malls and bling was not on our list.


Munnar: From Kochi we hired a cab and went to Munnar. Every bit of land in Munnar seemed to be covered by tea plantations. The patches of winding black roads looked like a snake crawling in a very large green garden surrounded by clouds.  The whole feeling of being there was an ethereal one. A visit to the Eravikulam national park is must. Many people get discouraged after knowing that there are a few 'goats' i.e. Tahr in this park. But go there to experience a lovely trek in lush green mountains, fresh air, and a lovely weather with clouds sweeping right by you!
TIP: Book your tickets from Munnar tourism office in advance for the national park. That will save you from standing in long queues there.
On the way back we stopped at the Munnar Tea Museum which turned out to be overhyped. A man in the museum educates visitors on benefits of green tea and shows some movie. Also if one hasn’t seen how tea is made from tea leaves, one can experience it there. Inside the premises there is a shop from where one can buy multiple-varieties of tea, coffee and other related products. You also get free green tea with your ticket there ;)
The chocolates local vendors sell were extra sweetened and hence were not up to our tastes. In the past, we enjoyed home made chocolates in Ooty by heaps, but here they were not worth a penny!



Catch a show of oldest form of martial arts Kalaripayattu, at Punarjani theater. It was extremely entertaining.


Thekkady: Thekkady is famous for its spices. One will see cardamom plantations in Thekkady like tea plantations in munnar. We bought spices from there. Red chilly flakes bought there turned out especially outstanding, I love them in my lentil soup! 
Thekkady will spoil your fun if you are not planning to live in forest premises. We stayed in the KTDC resort inside the forest. The night came alive with fireflies, the sounds of forest, the beautiful fragrance of wild lillies and captivating stories of the animal encounters as told by an ever smiling watchmen. He boasted- 'Madam in Kerala nobody will cheat you. People are educated here, even an Autowalah will be graduate. I had long conversation with him. When I called my mother excitedly to witness firefles (Jugnu) which are nowhere present in metro cities, he told us, “Madam, these are very few right now. Let the monsoon come, and this forest will be covered with flying lamps.” I was lost dreaming of a disney movie scene.
We got up in the wee hours of the morning and walked to the boundary of the restricted area when some deers passed by the road. Afterwards, we went for a boat ride in the periyar lake and saw many beautiful birds, a baby elephant taking a stroll near the lake, black monkeys playing, a fox trotting by and some bisons and sambhar. Though these animals were not very clearly visible at such a distance, still it was exciting to spot them in their safe and natural habitat- a glimpse of a distant unreachable world. Walking back from the lake towards the resort, we saw an Indian Giant squirrel leaping from one tree branch to the other, a group of wild boars crossed our path, some funny and pretty insects and butterflies made us smile.



Alleppy:  Alappuzha is known for it's backwaters experience. And what an experience it was! One can choose to stay in some loved house-boat or on a land resort and take a ride in the backwaters in Shikara-boat ride.We preferred to stay in resorts near the backwaters and opted for three hour Shikara Ride. During the ride in backwaters one gets to see the local villages, rice bowl of kuttanad (the only palce in world where farming is done 1-2 m below sea level), people fishing in waters, loads of coconut trees, boats with fishing nets or carrying coconuts, ducks disappearing in water and coming out with fishes, kingfisher birds looking for prey and pet eagles kept by the locals. To drink coconut water we got out of our Shikara on the land and saw a pet eagle. Our Boatman put that pet eagle on our shoulders for a photograph! You will see different types of boats in it viz. Shikaras, Houseboats, Fishing Boats, Kayaks and bus like long boats in which people commute between their homes and offices. It was a very relaxing experience, where we ourselves sit back and witness life happening right on the shores of backwaters, as though a drama was being played for us, the only difference was it was a real one.


Trivandrum and Kovalam: Trivandrum is the capital city of Kerala. We couldn’t find much to explore there. However early morning at 5 a.m., mundu clad, we rushed for the darshan at Padmanabham Swamy temple. After coming back from there we hired a cab for Kovalam. Had we more than that day, we could have stayed at Kovalam. The shacks serve freshly prepared food, which was very tasty. Head to the German bakery(waves) for a lovely view and some yummy shakes (try the date shake or orange and vanilla drink). Winds at Hawa beach or Eves Beach were very strong especially at the rock garden high up- it was as if it would sweep us off our feet. The other beach adjacent to it was light house beach. We saw many surfers enjoying their acrobats on their surf boards. Others were swimming or walking at the beachside. Weather was pleasant, the black sand under our feet was soft as muslin and the waves were big yet gentle and pampering!


Hotels and Other Reservations:
Munnar-
We had a home stay at Munnar at Estate Residency, which was around 10 kms away from the main market area and free from hustle and bustle. The owner has a a cardamom plantations and mornings are greeted by birds songs around- especially a whistling bird. The food was awesome too. Read full review at tripadvisor
You can also book your seats for Kalaripayattu Martial Arts shows or Kathakali dance shows here:
Punarjani Theatre
2nd Mile Pallivasal
, Munnar, India
04865 216161
 
In Thekkady: We booked one of the hotels of KTDC. One must live in the forest area to enjoy the wilderness. (Though one has to stay within the restricted hotel premises in late evening to early morning hours). There are many of these hotels offering different rates catering to different pockets.

Alleppy:
In Alleppy our halt was at Palmgrove Resort. The resort offers a wonderful view and is next to the backwaters. They have both open bathrooms safely shaded from outside view and closed ones are also available with some specific rooms. However it lacked majorly in good service and good food. One can rent a shikara for few hours stroll in backwaters of Alleppy. We found Mister Mohan the most reasonable person there who offered us a better deal than anybody else there for the Shikara Ride. He can be reached here: 09544999674
Though One can hire a house boat for the whole day if one wants to spend whole day in back waters. The boat stops at places, if asked. One can enter nearby village on the shores and explore it.

Trivandrum:
In Trivandrum we stayed in Hotel Regency after deboarding from our Allapuzha train. Since we wanted a place near Padmanabham temple, we found this one 5 kms away. The room service and staff were very unprofessional but then it wasn't expensive for a one night stay. Near this hotel was another hotel- Highland. It had pure vegetarian restaurant which was crowded all the time and sumptuous food was served by pleasant people. 

25 comments:

  1. Amazing...its a perfect virtual tour of Kerala :)

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  2. A delightful read of your trip to Kerala. And some beautiful shots too :)

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    1. Thankyou so much Beloo for your kind appreciation! :)

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  3. That's a comprehensive travelogue of Kerala! Insightful and interesting! :)

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  4. Those pics are amazing. I always wanted to go to Kerala- and now even more. Thanks for the info - saving that for when... (not if ..:-) So enjoyed reading about it:-)

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    1. I am delighted Eli. I wish you get that chance to travel there really soon :)

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  5. Lovely photos and very interesting travelogue. I love learning more about India and all the fascinating places that make up such a huge and vibrant country.

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    1. You would surely love it Cathy whenever you visit the Country. There is so much to see here. Thanks a lot for appreciating it :)

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  6. What an amazing trip you had! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and beautiful photos.

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    1. Absolutely Laurel. I am glad you enjoyed the post and photographs! :)

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  7. Wow, quite the travelogue, Shesha! Those waterfalls are stunning! I've only visited Guruvayoor in Kerala and hope to explore more of it in this lifetime!

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    1. Absolutely! One of my blogger-mate suggested these waterfalls and we had an awesome time there. Hope you plan an amazing trip to Kerala soon. :)

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  8. Very Nice Shesha...Well written with beautifully shot pics. Already printed them out for our next upcoming trip to Kerala next year Jan.Will take your more inputs near to the travel dates.

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    1. Thanks a ton Jijaji! I hope you have amazing amazing trip! :)

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  9. lovely post - very informative with personal touches as well as good pics :)

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    1. I am glad you enjoyed the post Roshan :-)

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  10. Beautiful and scenic place and offers lot for everyone.

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  11. You covered so many places. Loved the detailed descriptions of each place. Kerala is exotic, it's natural beauty is unparralled... lovely captures too.

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  12. Benefits of not being a Keralite :P You can plan an overall tour & visit the entire state. Myself being a Kochiite, havnt gone to half the places :D Quite a trip :)

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    1. Hehe Yes it happens for sure. Being a Delhite myself, I have started exploring places in Delhi from last two years. There are still many places I haven't been to! :D Thanks a ton!

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  13. Lovely...nice to read again. Thanks for sharing :-)

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Thankyou for your feedback :)

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