In God’s Own Country

When we planned our 3-week trip to India for my cousin`s wedding, we decided to include a trip to Kerala as well. I wanted to show my country to my husband, mother-in-law and our friend, Guido, who were traveling with me. My parents too agreed to join us. I checked many tour packages on make my trip, yatra and other websites, and after a lot of discussions we decided to go ahead with make my trip. The trip was to be for 6 days and the itinerary would include Cochin, Munnar, Thekkady, Alleppey and Kumarakom.

Our package included hotel accommodations, breakfast, the return airfare and a private car for getting around. It costed us around INR 30,000 (around USD 440) per person.

We flew from Bangalore to Cochin (an hour long flight). At the airport, we were welcomed by the manager of the transport company who showed us our car and the driver who would be driving us around for the entire trip. We were slightly disappointed with the car even though it was a 6 seater Innova. There was not enough space in the back seat. Thankfully, everyone took turns sitting there.

We drove from Cochin to Munnar, a 4 hour drive. On the way we stopped to check out the Cheeyapara waterfall while enjoying some juicy raw mangoes and pineapples sliced and mixed with chili powder, which were being sold by a roadside vendor.

Cheeyapara Waterfalls
Cheeyapara Waterfalls

After driving for another hour, we stopped at a Spice garden, where we took a tour accompanied by a guide who showed and explained the characteristics and benefits of different herbs and spices grown in Kerala like cloves, cinnamon, tulsi, hibiscus, eucalyptus etc. It was quite interesting. We could even catch a glimpse of the beautiful Valara waterfalls from the garden. (Entry to spice garden costs INR 100 per person).

On our driver’s recommendation, we pre-booked Kalaripayattu and Kathakali shows (An hour long show each which costs INR 200 per person per show) and an hour of Ayurvedic massage (We chose full body massage with steam which is INR 1800 per person) at the Punarjani Traditional Village. Our rooms were booked at the Misty Mountain Resort. After checking in and freshening up, we headed out to watch the shows. I must say, they were truly mesmerizing! At the beginning of the act, an actress showed the main facial expressions of a Kathakali artist called the ‘navarasams’. It was followed by an enactment of a story. Though we couldn`t understand what the story was about, we enjoyed the colorful dresses, the actions and the music. It is similar to South Canara`s “Yakshagana”,  except that in Kathakali, the artists do not speak. Kalaripayattu is an old and traditional form of martial arts. We were amazed to watch kids and young men showing different ways to tackle the opponents.

We ended our first day in Kerala with a relaxed massage which each of us enjoyed!

Munnar- View from our hotel
Munnar- View from our hotel

The next day we drove around Munnar. I’d never seen so much greenery in one place! Even my Swiss family was awed to see such beauty.

Munnar
Munnar

We visited Eravikulam National park located along the Western Ghats in Munnar. Anamudi (Elephant face), named because of its shape, at 2,695 meters, the highest peak in India south of the Himalayas is inside this park.

(Entrance to the park is 90 INR for Indian Nationals and 370 INR for foreign nationals!!) From the entrance, we were taken in a bus around the hill to a certain height. From there, we were free to walk around the hill. This region has the highest viable population of Nilgiri Tahr (Mountain Goat) in the world. Tea plantations and other variety of flora surround the region. The views are breathtaking!!

They say that wild animals like tigers and elephants abound in the underlying forest, but we are not allowed to enter as it is a restricted area. I highly recommend visiting this park for its stunning views.

A Mountain Tahr
A Mountain Tahr

A short drive from there, we visited the Kannan Devan tea museum. It was small but we learnt about the company’s history, what procedures the pluckers employ and the processes the leaves undergo to make Tea. We walked out of the museum relishing cups of tea. (Entrance fee is 90 INR per person)

Munnar Tea Plantations
Munnar Tea Plantations

Later we stopped at the Mattupetty and Kundala dams.

Next day, we drove to Thekkady. It was a 3 hour drive and we stopped at all the scenic spots to have some nice pictures clicked. As we drove from Munnar, the scenery changed from green hills and plantations to brown mountains.

Way to Thekkady
Way to Thekkady

We went to Periyar national park. (Entrance tickets cost 25 INR for Indian Nationals and 300 INR for foreign nationals plus there is an additional cost of 50 INR for the car as well. This ticket does not include boating). Periyar is pretty huge and vehicles are allowed only until a certain point. As you walk around, our ancestors will greet you, and by “ancestors” I mean “monkeys”; one even tried to jump on Mike! We bought our tickets for boating inside (it is 125 INR per person). The hour-long ride was amazing!

Boating at Periyar National Park
Boating at Periyar National Park

After the ride, we checked into our hotel “Michael`s inn”. The rooms were quite big and tidy. In the evening, we went around the small town, looking for souvenirs and gifts to buy for family and friends.

It is a 4 hour drive from Thekkady to Alleppey and we drove early in the morning, after breakfast at the hotel. We reached our houseboat by noon. The boat had upper and lower decks. There were 4 rooms in the lower deck and 2 in the upper. We were allotted 3 rooms and another family (who hadn’t arrived yet) the rest. Our rooms were quite spacious. There were 5 men to serve us food and care for our needs. There was a dining hall in the upper deck. As soon as we reached, we were served a glass of fresh juice followed by a delicious lunch. Later, we were taken on a short ride around the Punnamada lake.

Houseboats in Aleppey
Houseboats in Aleppey
Room inside Houseboat
Room inside Houseboat

After the ride, the boat was brought back to the original location to pick the other family who had finally arrived. We were again taken on a 3 hour ride around the lake. It was pure bliss. After a hectic schedule with family functions and travelling, this was just  what we were looking for, some unwinding time. We spent all that time reading, chatting, watching the birds fly and relaxing. We stopped at a small island, got down and walked around enjoying the beautiful sunset. Over dinner, we sat together and discussed the functions we’d attended, our present and future….

Chilling on the Houseboat
Chilling on the Houseboat
Enjoying the Sunset
Enjoying the Sunset

The next morning, the houseboat drove back to the pickup point as we enjoyed our breakfast. From there, our driver drove us to Kumarakom. (Houseboat was included in our tour package)

Our hotel in Kumarakom, “Ashirwad Heritage”, was again a nice hotel with spacious rooms. After checking in, we drove to a city called Kottayam, which is 20 km away from Kumarakom. It is similar to Mangalore or Bangalore, busy with traffic, lots of shops around. We bought some freshly-made banana  and jackfruit chips (famous in south India). We were mostly looking for authentic Kerala stores, but we found very few.

We took another boat-ride on the backwaters of Kumarakom (What?! Kerala is famous for its backwaters my dear!). We booked a whole boat for 900 INR (which can accommodate up to 8 people) for a one and a half hour ride. We drove a small part of Vembanad Lake spotting birds like Kingfisher, heron and even a water snake.

Backwaters of Kumarakom
Backwaters of Kumarakom

Next morning, we left early to Cochin, from where we would be flying back to Mangalore. Sadly, we couldn’t visit the beautiful Jewish Synagogue or the famous Dutch palace in Cochin as our flight was scheduled for noon and we did not have enough time. In the limited time we had, we went to Lulu Hypermarket and St. Joseph’s church.

Kerala… What can I say… The beauty of the land, its culture, the people truly makes it God’s own Country. We simply fell in love with it!

God's own Country
God’s own Country

Points to consider when visiting Kerala

  • Better drink tea rather than coffee as Tea is widely grown here
  • If you want to include Kumarakom in your itinerary, better make it a half day trip, as there is nothing much to see. Instead visit Cochin.
  • It is hard to find Vegetarian restaurants in smaller cities. You’ll have to make do with Veg/ Non-veg restaurants.
  • Please try to leave it as clean and green as you’ll find it.
  • Do try to stay in a houseboat for atleast a night, even if it is a bit expensive. It is totally worth it!
  • Our driver was good as he showed us a lot of places. Make sure you choose a good car and a driver.
  • And last but not the least, do inquire what all your travel package covers. We didn’t know ours didn’t include the entry tickets to various parks! Shop around (a lot) before you finalize the package!

Cheers,

Madhurya

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12 thoughts on “In God’s Own Country

  1. Hi Madhurya, A very useful post for us because we are planning to visit Kerala on our next trip to India. Thank you very much. Hopefully I get to read many more travel tales like these from you.

  2. Superb writing Maddy! You have added richness to the whole experiance with such wonderful words! You are a great writer; so proud of you!
    Love
    Sue

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