About Me

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Hyderabad, AP, India
I used to be a bit of a drifter, still am partly, but life is getting more and more organized recently due to a special someone. I love playing and watching cricket, I have recently realised that I have a very big interest in wildlife and birding. I work for a blue chip company. I am well and truly blessed! No complaints there :)

Monday, March 1, 2010

Quintessential Kerala! Untouched, unhurried, un-occidentalized

We'd like to think that anyone planning to do a Kerala in 5 days should come to us for tips! Our trip was perfect and true to the title, we did experience quintessential Kerala!

Sleepy on an early morning flight directly into Trivandrum as we approached the western ghats our eyes popped out! Mountain peaks sneaking through dreamy morning clouds- it was unmistakably one of the most beautiful out-of-an-airplane-window-sight we both ever saw! And then as you get closer the endless series of swaying palms is what reminds you how you are definitely in God's own country!

We took a cab from the airport to Kovalam where we had booked a beachside hotel. Travelguru really got me the best deals what with an additional 15% off if you own a Citi Visa Gold card :) :) One thing to watch out for is the very steep cab prices across Kerala. Go for other modes of transport wherever you can!

Kerala is hot and humid and we set out for sunset by the beach after an afternoon of lazing indoors. A beach is a beach is a beach! There's crystal sand and sun thirsty tourists everywhere. Unless you are one of those typical beach people what will probably clinch the deal for you is the amazing row of sea food joints or trinklet shops that line the beach :) And of course, if you have a fancy camera here's your chance to be arty ;)

Next day early morning we set out for Alleppey, referred to as the Venice of the East. The handy tip here is if you take a cab it will charge you anything between Rs. 3500-4000 and will take you through uneven bumpy roads for over 4 hours. What we did was, took an auto (Rs. 300) to the TVM station from where we took the Jan Shatabdi train to our destination. We had gotten our tickets already from IRCTC for Rs. 60 or so. The exactly 2.5 hrs journey by the countryside was not only beautiful but quick and comfortable. I recommend it- highly!

Alleppey is another unhurried Kerala town. The large network of canals provides for its lifeline. Water carnivals using the gigantic snake boats and the country canoes of varying sizes add to the touristic attraction of the district. After a nice breakfast and a walk through the city area we were escorted by our boat guides to the jetty. We had booked a houseboat through a friend who runs a tourism business in there. The jetty was lined with boats of various sizes and after the crew had brought in supplies for the entire day we set off. Our's was a two bedroom single storeyed houseboat. Comfort onboard was beyond what we imagined - there were neat attached bathrooms with sufficient running water, an AC operable in the night, a deck designed as a living area with sitting and dinning arrangements and a TV with satellite connection. The crew consisted of a boatman who sat at the steering, a cook who made amazing (not too spicy) Kerala meal (you can specify veg or non veg) and a helper. The boat navigated leisurely through the wide canals of the backwaters passing by other passenger or tourist boats and also was met by small fishing boats selling prawns if you desire. The balmy winds and the silent lagoon inspired rest like never before! We stopped by at small land masses to purchase tapioca chips and soft drinks and take pictures in spite of the amazing lunch and snacks on board. The boat was moored for the night by 5.30 pm which is when I joined the crew at the back to try my hand at fishing! Ajith wouldn't stop taking pictures, be it of the amazing variety of birds you encounter in the journey or the landscape and sunset or other boats.

Next morning after amazing idlis on the deck the boat dropped us off at Kumarakom at the private boat jetty of Paradise Resorts where we had a cottage booked for a day. Luxurious individual cottages, a crystal clear pond, extending into the backwaters and further into the ocean, amazing staff, very very restful ambiance. We also got Ayurvedic massages organised by the hotel for extra payment. I totally recommend this hotel for ultra comfort at awesome value for money.

Evening we went ahead to explore the village and landed at the Mudra Institute that showcases Marshal arts and Kathakali performances every evening for tourists. The performers were dressed on the stage to show the painstaking effort that goes into the heavy costume. It was crazy! Almost 30 gunny bags were tied around the waist to get the elevation of the frock alone! The episode from the Ramayana they performed was good to watch and I throughly appreciated the detailed explanation of hand gestures and expressions prior to the actual performance.

Kumarakom is a lazy backwater town best for relaxation but Ajith was keen to explore the bird sanctuary we read about so much online. There's hardy any bird left there but he did manage some amazing landscape shots!

Around noon we bid adieu to Paradise Resorts and took a bus to Cochin. The local bus ride left us completely rattled. Many close shaves, too many stops, lots of coconut oil smelling co-passengers and a sultry 3 hours later we reached Cochin and slept exhaustedly through the afternoon post a heavy kerala fish curry lunch. Evening we took a boat from the Marine drive jetty and went on a water tour close to the harbour and the other islands. What saved the day for me was the gold shopping that I did after. Kerala is famous for its one gram gold jewelery and if you like chunky ornaments you definitely should not miss it. Each item of jewelery is made of about a gram gold with other metals filled inside. They look as good as real gold and last forever (is what I hear) without losing sheen!

You can't be in Cochin and not check out the Chinese fishing nets at Mattancherry. Next morning we took the Govt boat ( ticket- Rs. 2.5 per person) to Fort Kochi to check out the giant fishing nets and also the famous synagogue (taking picture strictly prohibited) and dabbled at curio shopping. Great stuff but very expensive! We took the same ride back to Ernakulam and after some great iddiyappam and egg roast proceeded to the airport to get our flight!

P.S: I hear Munnar is amazing. However since we had little time and the hill station was out of track (we were sticking to the coast) we decided to leave it for next time. Ours was Kovalam-Allepey-Kumarakom-Kochi but your trip could include more Kerala destinations! Enjoy :)

Posted by Shaon (guest writer )