Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Kerala - Indeed ,God's own place - ( country ) -India !!

It's hard to believe when someone uses a tag line - God's own country . It says and conveys a lot . And as always, for most of the things in life you need to - travel, down south to this amazing state located in the south-west region of India. The name Kerala takes the form Keralam in Malayalam, the main language of the state .


Since this was my second visit to Kerala - I decided to focus my travel on the western coastal belt of this divine state criss-crossed by a network of interconnected brackish canals, lakes, estuaries, and rivers known as the Kerala Backwaters.

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Kochi –

The journey started with Kochi - formerly Cochin, a major port city on the west coast by the Arabian Sea , part of the district of Ernakulam . It is also the largest urban agglomeration in Kerala.

Kochi is home to the Southern Naval Command of the Indian Navy and the state headquarters of the Indian Coast Guard . Commercial maritime facilities of the city include the Port of Kochi, an International Container Transshipment Terminal, the Cochin Shipyard, offshore SPM of the Kochi Refineries and the Kochi Marina.Kochi is home for the High Court of Kerala and Lakshadweep, and the Cochin University of Science and Technology.

We stayed at the superb looking Bolgatty Palace, the exclusive heritage hotel located on the picturesque Bolgatty Island in Kochi (http://www.bolgattypalacekochi.com/ ) . A beautiful picturesque property which will make you fall in love , all over again .

Key places to be seen in Kochi are - Cochin Jewish Synagogue or the Mattancherry Synagogue , Dutch Palace , Cherai beach , Fort Kochi and Willingdon Island. Just like other big cities it has its own MG road for a shopping spree and indulgence. Traffic , indeed is like a city traffic so keep your nerves cool .

We took a little detour and headed for the divine - the famous Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple, the fourth biggest temple in India in terms of the number of devotees per day. A short two hour drive to this temple town will make you feel connected to Krishna again.

Strict dress code exists for people who wish to enter the Guruvayur Temple. Men are to wear mundu around their waist, without any dress covering their chest. But it is allowed to cover the chest region with a small piece of cloth (veshthi). Presently the dress code for women have been relaxed with shalwar kameez . Indeed, this also happened to be the first time ever , I stripped ( if that’s the right word ) and worn a mundu . Indeed a sight !!



Guruvayur Temple
Did you know - Kerala has the highest media exposure in India with newspapers publishing in nine different languages; mainly English and Malayalam .

Did you know -A merry making feast called the Cochin Carnival is celebrated at Fort Kochi every year during the last ten days of December till the new year . Various unique games, dirt bike races, beach volleyball and fireworks display are held as part of the festivities. The carnival is celebrated as a continuity of the Portuguese New Year revelry held here during the colonial days.



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Munnar

Munnar is a hill station on the Western Ghats, a range of mountains situated in the Idukki district of the Indian state of Kerala.The name Munnar is believed to mean "three rivers", referring to the town's strategic location at the confluence of the Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers.

You have breath in the tea air , as it is called in this part of the world. This green hill station is surrounded by the country's highest tea gardens. Layers and layers of tea estates, mountain mist, waterfalls and wildlife sanctuaries make Munnar almost surrealistically beautiful.

Did you know - Munnar is also famous for the wild orchids locally called Neelakurinchi which blooms once in 12 years. During this time the entire valley turns violet. It is also home to Nilagiri tahr, a rare breed of mountain goat.


Neelakurinji


Key places to see in Munnar  – are the Tata Tea Museum ,Lakkom waterfalls, Rajamalai National Park (Eravikulam National Park) , Mattupetty Dam , Forest Rose Garden & Anamudi Peak (- the highest peak in the Western Ghats and South India, at an elevation of 2,695 metres (8,842 ft), literally translates to "elephant's forehead ) .

For shopping you can purchase and see for your self the entire process of tea making at the Tata Tea Museum . This place is beautiful and a perfect destination for long nature trails all over.


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Thekkady

Also known as God’s own district - located in the Periyar forest of Thekkady is one of the finest wild life reserves in India and spread across the entire district are picturesque plantations and hill towns that hold great opportunities for treks and mountain walks.

One of the rare places where you have spice gardens, lakes , forest reserves & tiger trails . Key places to visit in Thekkady  - are Abraham's Spice Garden , Periyar Lake & Tiger trail at the Periyar National Park & Kadathanadan Kalari Centre  - well known for Kalaripayattu martial arts.



Periyar National Park

Did you know - Periyar National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary (PNP) is a protected area in the districts of Idukki and Pathanamthitta in Kerala, south India. It is notable as an elephant reserve and a tiger reserve.


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Kumarakom  

Always used to wonder and think – what exactly were backwaters . Until , I visited and saw them eye-to-eye . Nature has so much spread all across that it’s impossible to cover everything . Yet , if we manage to cherish some of these offerings it’s our good luck than destiny .



Kerala Backwaters - Kumarakom
Did you know - Kumarakom is a popular tourism destination located near the city of Kottayam - famous for its backwater tourism. It is set in the backdrop of the Vembanad Lake which is the largest freshwater lake in the state of Kerala

This is one of those places where you just need to sit back and enjoy God’ creation . We enjoyed our stay at the luxury cottages overlooking the vast Vembanad Lake. It’s hard to describe in words and hence you need to be there to feel it .

There are only two places to be visited in Kumarakom – in case the water sets you free - Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary & Bay Island Driftwood Museum .

Did you know - A one hour drive to Alappuzha ( Alleppey ) can take you to the The Nehru Trophy Boat Race -Vallam Kali held in the Punnamada Lake near Alappuzha.Vallam Kali or Vallamkali literally means boat play/game, but can be translated to boat race in English. The most popular event of the race is the competition of Chundan Vallams (snake boats). Hence the race is also known as Snake Boat Race in English. The race conducted on the second Saturday of August every year is a major tourist attraction


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We stayed at the ABAD group properties ( http://www.abadhotels.com/ ) . They are a renowned hotel chain across Kerala and the properties are indeed great .

Also, the Kerala tourism website  offers great options and insights into the places of tourist interest in Kerala .  To add , with 44 rivers, a vast network of lakes, 1500 kms of labyrinthine canals, snake boat races, over 300 species of birds, floating markets showcasing the magnificence of  Kerala backwaters, Kerala tourism has recently launched a focused campaign on the Kerala Great Backwaters .  I feel in love with it all over again . 





Authentic Kerala cuisine , pools ,backwater cruises + not to forget the Kerala massage experience . A lot on offer.

Keralites are sweet and simple people . They love wearing and purchasing - Gold . Women have a strong inclination towards silk sarees and hence you will see many out of home media dominated by these two key themes. Across the state you will find more number of churches than people . The NH roads are small since on both sides you have residential houses .

Keep the place safe and clean . And don't forget to have coconut water everyday . Apply a sunscreen for sure .
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PS  - As always , I have kept some things under the wraps . In case you plan to go visit Kerala and have any queries whatsoever , let me know / drop in a  Tweet at my twitter handle . As you all know , I do my ground work research before visiting any place and would be happy to chip-in for any queries that you may have.


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