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KERALA TRIP

Travel & food notes

I have been traveling for most part of my life but never thought of jotting down my experiences which are just too many. Some experiences have been fantastic and I have enjoyed many of my travels. I loved traveling then and thought I was so blessed to have been able to travel so much due to my profession. Besides I do travel with family and friends separately and that means I travel quite extensively.

Only last month I decided to note what I have seen, ate and experienced during my travels so here it goes. I would also indicate the important things to note and how you can make your holidays more enjoyable.

February 2018 – KERALA, India

I traveled with 7 other friends from Malaysia so I met them at the KL International Airport to join them on the flight to KOCHI which was our first stop.

On the way to the hotel the first night in Kerala, we stopped for a snack at Hotel Malabar, which served flaky parathas and a fragrant chicken curry which was actually a dry curry with chicken pieces. It was very tasty and we ordered more as we were eating halfway even though we were not actually hungry but greedy instead. This small restaurant is very near the airport and you will not miss it on your way to your hotel or other destination. Of course, this small eatery has a variety of food from Indian pancakes to kebabs. Though we didn’t try the rest of the dishes, looking at the others’ tables and the faces of people eating clearly showed the food was good. It was pretty packed in the late night as well.

We slept well and got ready to go on our way to catch the waterfalls at VAZHACHAL FOREST CHARPA RANGE.

It was a 5000 step up the range to reach the waterfalls. You have many monkeys as companions along the whole stretch. (Be careful of your specs, bags here) Of course then, there were steps down to play at the ground where the falls were pouring from above. Lovely sight to behold and water gushing from the hills were a delight to watch. I was told that a very popular Indian movie was shot here (Baahubali). I have seen the movie so I did realize the way the waterfalls and the ground area were beautifully captured in the film.

There were many notice boards cautioning about safety and not to get down to the rivers but who listens especially the young at heart. Many of them were playing in the water which had many rocks all over.

We had to go to Guruvayoor, a special place for Hindus, to worship at the famous Guruvayoor temple. I was happy to note that the queue lines were well managed., Steel benches specially made for the queue lines were meant for us to wait as batches of people were allowed to go into the sanctum. Ladies need to wear floor length clothes such as sarees or half sarees, and men need to wear dhoti, minus their shirts. Of course no photographs were allowed, no handphones. Most of us did not bring our handbags too. I left mine with all of our  handphones in the cloakroom.

What to note: don’t bring too much money, or be prepared to keep all your bags etc at the cloakroom. Just keep loose cash for temple offerings etc. The queue was long but this is the case in most popular temples throughout India. Keep some wet handtowels or hankies as it can be very humid inside. We managed to get a good tharisanam (a way of saying that we got the blessings) and later on I managed to get some prasadam too – this time it was jaggery rice. Superb taste. Why does temple food taste so divine?

As we finished our prayers we walked dpwn the aisle of the temple and outside, there were rows and rows of little shops selling kerala sarees, lamps and little antiques etc that you can buy.   My friends bought stuff such as decorations and hangings for the home etc. They said to buy the kerala sarees in Cochin instead as there will be more designs and better quality! To saree lovers – I say – pl buy here bec they had some good cotton kerala sarees and dhotis.  Give yourself a good 1 hour to do the shopping near the temple itself.

They were very reasonably priced, one thing to note though, no bargaining, all were fixed price.

Next day, we were on the road again, but this time we went to an ancient temple at Kannur called the Muthappan temple. It was set against the river bed where we washed ourselves before entering the sanctum. We were able to catch their evening prayers and I was bowled over by the intricacies of the prayer happenings. No words can describe the goings on because I was so mesmerized.. the prayer went on for about 2 hours . What struck me was that the temple staff told us to have tea and prasadam before the prayer started.   All of us were seated in long benches and a trolley carrying tea was pushed towards us. We helped ourselves to the hot tea and we were served with the prasadam in banana leaves in our hands. Unlike most other temples in India, food is always served after the prayers only.

I would recommend anyone to visit this temple for its simplicity, old architecture. respect and prayers.

We were in Munnar next, a cool place due to higher altitude and winding roads etc. Munnar is a hill station on the Western Ghats. The name of Munnar means 3 rivers. The region in and around Munnar varies form 1450m to 2695 m above sea levels. This green hill station is surrounded with layers and layers of tea gardens, you see much mountain mist and waterfalls along the way.                                                                                                               DRINKING ONE OF THE BEST TEA IN MUNNAR

Spice plantation was a must visit, especially for those who haven’t seen how a clove flower looks like or a cinnamon bark in its orginal form. Very educational. At the end of the educational tour, of course we had to buy some of their stuff. I bought raw honey and pure rose water. I didn’t buy any spices as I already have much at home and spices cannot be kept too long in our humid climate.

                                                                                                                            MUNNAR – A VIEW FROM OUR HOTEL

We visited an elephant sanctuary. It was a sight to watch elephants able to understand Malayalam especially when the elephant keeper was giving instructions to bathe, or to move forward etc. But I felt so unhappy and sad when one elephant keeper kept whacking 1 elephant. Why would you do that!

 

Another place we visited was the Echo point, a small place with a lakeside. It is called Echo Point bec when you shout you can hear your echo from the other side of the mountain. The day was cool so we enjoyed the place.

We did book tickets for the Kathakali dance and the Kalahari fights.

 

 

                                                                                                                           KATHAKALI PERFORMANCE

Both were very enjoyable. A must visit – I would say.   So much of training and hardwork by the dancers and the boys who showcased their talents in self defence etc.

 

KALAHARI FIGHT SEQUENCE                                                                                                                                                                                       WATCHNG KALAHARI WITH FRIENDS

 

In Thekkady, which was our next destination, we went for the famous Ayurvedic oily body massage. Indeed so oily, but the girls did a good job. I still prefer our aroma therapy massages back home.

We visited the Periyar dam and indeed it was so soothing just to watch the lingering slow waves. This dam is a masonry gravity dam on the Periyar River in Kerala. It is about 880 m above mean sea level.

 

What excited me most in this trip was the jungle safari, we rented a jeep with a driver and he drove us up the mountains to catch the sunrise as early as 5 am as well as some animals. That was so exhilarating, cold air pushing itself to every part of my body. I loved every minute. Though we saw only deers and many families of them and some mountain goats, we couldn’t spot other wild animals. I half expected a tiger to come next to me!  Nevertheless this was my most favourite event of the whole trip.  There were some tree houses where you can rent and stay if you wish.

 

  SUNRISE IN THE MOUNTAINS

ME AT 5 AM IN THE JEEP

 

Our visit to the famous and richest temple in India, Padmanabaswamy temple in Trivendram was unforgettable. I loved every minute I was inside. I was taking in all the granite sculptures on every pillar and there were just too many columns of granite pillars throughout the temple. It was a huge temple and parts of it was closed to the public. The main sanctum was a sight to behold but I have tips for you.

Remember to look behind the main sanctum which is engulfed in precious stones and shimmering gold,  that’s where you see Vishnu lying down with his consorts and he was very very huge. I missed seeing him, saw only Sridevi at his foot and I was wondering who was that. It is very easy to miss as  you will not give a look to the unlighted back where lies the full form of Padmanaswamy! What was also enchanting were the live performances of dancers which was going on around the queue snaking into the the sanctum. And the sound of music was the best, soothing and bewitching on that evening.

I was checking on the way out with the shopkeepers asking questions about the temple and the main sanctum and one of them explained to me well enough to understand.

Another thing, all ladies must wear sarees or covered till floor length and men, dhotis.

The next day was very relaxing, we checked into a houseboat in Allappey which is also known as the Venice of the East where we did nothing but relaxed with the swaying winds and the silent lullaby of the waters. Allapey is an important backwater destination. The houseboat travels through the big canals. You see many villages and natural sceneries along the way. Our houseboat had 4 bedrooms with air con of course, a large living room and a huge dining area.

 

VIEWS OF OTHER HOUSE BOATS

VILLAGE CHURCH                                                                                                                                                                                                                              BREAKFAST               

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                   CRAB CURRY

 

We were satiated with a lovely lunch cooked by the chefs in the boat, we had  lovely chaai with golden fried bananas for tea.

We even bought ice cream from a boat vendor in the afternoon as we were too free, I guess and also wanted to give some business to him.

 

Dinner was more elaborate, we stopped by to choose some seafood, gigantic prawns, crabs and a huge mackerel which the chefs happily set out to prepare a banquet for us. On top of that we had chappati, rice, typical vegetables made in kerala style, pepper chicken and so on. We were just too full and we lazed

                                                                                                                             Bedroom in the houseboat

 

our time  to watch a movie in the boat before going to sleep.

 

We went to another temple – I was told – is the famous Chottanikkara Temple of the Hindu mother goddess Bhagawati. This temple is located near Ernakulam. This Mother Goddess is worshipped in 3 different forms, namely Saraswati, Laksmi and Durga.

                                                                                                                            Chottanikara temple amman

Within the temple grounds there was another temple some 300 steps below. I can see that the temple is so old but people are there to worship the amman. I couldn’t see her well though. It was just pretty dark. I don’t have expectations but formed a vision and prayed from my heart. That’s enough and I think I am so blessed to come to the abode of Amman.

 

 

What you must bring

A carefree attitude and a childlike happiness.   The traffic is quite bad at some places but I enjoyed watching people and the billboards, oh my god, they were so lovely and catchy, They do have good copywriters and advertisement personnel.

Personal stuff such as toiletries, tissues are a must, sanitiser, mosquito repellent,sun screen and definitely toothbrush and tooth paste. Of course you can buy such stuff easily but when you travel, bring it along instead of wasting time at a shop to buy such!

Bring at least 1 saree, you need it if you are going to some temples, for men it has to be the dhoti.

A good pair of walking shoes.  There is lots of walking to do.

What you must eat

Enjoy their food – it was so good especially all their seafood dishes.

                                                                                                                                   fried icecream

 

Fish was superb, simply fried or wrapped in banana leaves and grilled. We ate fish at almost every meal. Fresh fruit juices were great especially pineapple and grape. I totally enjoyed the pineapple juice.

Tea, or chaaya was superb practically everywhere.

Their rice was a little tough on me, it was like the brown rice and also each grain was bigger, I kept choosing the usual white rice. Most of the time I enjoyed their traditional food such as appam, stew and puttu. They were really good. We enjoyed some snacks along the way too.  The onion pakoras and banana chips were excellent.  Not forgetting friend bananas.

In Anjappar restaurant in Kochi, we ate some kotthu paratta and Kal thosai with fish curry. It was good too.

My takeaway

People of kerala were not as friendly as the Chennai people, but I guess that’s bec literacy rate in kerala is high, people live in huge bungalows and you can see the richness in the country.

Everywhere it was green and you see small rivers, lakes etc

There are rules which are being followed by the people which I think is a good sign.

All places are clean including the restrooms at various stops.

Strict rules were followed at all the temples – which I liked.

You need to walk so wear a good pair of covered shoes and a slipper to wear indoors.

 

Give at least 2 days for shopping.  Thats the only thing that I couldn’t do in this trip.  We had very little time.

You can buy accessories, gold accessories, sarees, antiques, home décor, lamps, spices, banana chips, pappadams ( so very different from the rest)   tea and of course some more shopping items at LULU mall, Central Mall and MG Road.                                                                                                          My friend, vatsal, being draped in a silk and ivory saree.

 

On the whole I enjoyed the company of my lovely friends and the whole trip which was well organized by my friend, Vatsal.  We had leisurely lunches and dinners and we enjoyed the fun, jokes, exchanges in the huge travel van which was enough for 12 people. And our driver Osman was so alert and drove with care and made sure we had our lunches and dinner at lovely places and on time.  We spent about 10 days together and this is definitely a memorable trip.

My suggestion, stay longer in  Munnar and Cochin.  I met many newly weds especially in Munnar so it is very relaxing here.

Enjoy reading  and do comment if any.



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