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Our dream travel to God’s own country -the State of Kerala , South India

December 29, 2019

Our travel to the State of Kerala , South India, took several months of planning . When to go, where to go, where to stay , what places to see , what to do , where to shop and dine at, et all .

Finally , the day arrived . We departed from IGI Terminal 3, New Delhi for Kochi on 30 November by Indigo Airlines arriving at Kochi International Airport @ 18.30 hrs. Picked up by cabbie Nizam provided by KOCHI TAXI 24X7 [ Phones :  4842600888 /  WApp: 9497600888 ] driving a new model  Swift Dzire car .

Kochi Day 1

It is a sheer delight walking along the corridor at the Airport                                                      looking at walls decorated with ornate motifs and paintings

Few words about Kochi International Airport will be in order .

It is the first airport in India developed under a public-private partnership (PPP) model and was funded by nearly 10,000 non-resident Indians from 30 countries.  It is the fourth busiest airport in India in terms of international traffic and eighth busiest overall. The Airport is a primary base for Air India Express operations which is also headquartered in the city.

On 18 August 2015, Cochin International Airport became the world’s first fully solar powered airport with the inauguration of a dedicated solar plant .  On 26 July 2018, the airport was selected for the coveted Champion of the Earth award, the highest environmental honour instituted by the United Nations .

Proceeded  to Treebo Zion Trip Plaza , 2 kms from the Airport . Located at Church Junction , Airport – Kariyadu Road, Akapparambu, Nedumbassery , Vappalaserry , Kochi 683572 , this is a small bed and breakfast hotel just about good for a short overnight stay.

Day 2 – 1 December .

Checked out  from the hotel around 8.30 AM after a light  breakfast served in the room  .

Kochi Day 2.1

A bright start to Day 2 

To Athirapally Falls , a 75 minutes drive along plantations on either sides . This is a wondrous site – also referred to as Niagara Falls of India –  where blockbuster Bollywood movie Bahubali and Ravan were shot . [ Admission fee : Rs 40 per person + Rs 20 charge for vehicle ]  . A walk on a 1 km long uneven cobbled path leads to the Falls .  At  the end of the path and after going down , visitors can have a side view of the falls . However, fuller view of the Falls can be had from a location on the main road leading to the Falls .

Athirapally Falls – Walking back uphill on an uneven cobbled path can be a difficult experience for senior citizens or those suffering from knee joints pain . Wooden ramp broken at several points makes walking without support even more difficult !

Thereafter , we proceeded to Vazachal falls, 5 kms further away  – which turned out be an amazing  experience with walk limited to just about 200 metres , enjoying full view of the falls from a very close proximity  [ Admission fee : Rs 40 per person + Rs 20 charge for vehicle ]

Departed  for Kochi @ 12.30 p.m. Serene Kochi has been drawing traders, explorers and travellers to its shores for over 600 years. Nowhere else in India would you find such an intriguing mix: giant Chinese fishing nets, a 450-year-old synagogue, ancient mosques, Portuguese- and Dutch-era houses and the crumbling remains of the British Raj. The result is an unlikely blend of medieval Portugal and Holland and an English village grafted onto the tropical Malabar Coast. It’s a delightful place to explore, laze in arty cafes and relax at some of India’s finest homestays and heritage hotels. It is also an important centre for Keralan arts -traditional and contemporary. [ Text courtesy: http://www.lonelyplanet.com ] .

Checked  in at Treebo Trend The Qasr, Colombo Junction, Market Road, Near Masjid Noor, Kochi 682 011 .

Post light meals served in the nicely furnished room  , we went  for a quick half-day sightseeing tour of Fort Kochi . St. Francis Church was our first point of call . Originally built in 1503, it is one of the oldest European churches in the coutry  and has a great historical significance as a mute witness to the European colonial struggle in the  subcontinent .

                    A war memorial dedicated to Indian soldiers who died during WW1 is located                        in front of St Francis Church 

The Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama died in Kochi in 1524 when he was on his third visit to India. His body was originally buried in this Church, but after 14 years his remains were removed to Lisbon .

It was quite a sight looking at Chinese fishing nets where huge nets are dropped from boats moored on the banks to catch the fishes. The Chinese Fishing Nets are fixed land installations, used for fishing in a unique method.

Chinese fishing nets – an innovative mechanism to catch fishes

These nets are fixed on bamboo and teak poles holding it horizontally by huge mechanisms so as to pull them down into the sea. These nets are weighed by large stones tied to ropes. Operated by a team of six fishermen, the height of the Chinese fishing nets is around 10 meters, each sprawling to 20 meters over the water body.

There are charming cafes and shops selling textiles, antiques, handicrafts , spices and natural oils  on Synagogue Lane – Jew Town Road . We bought  spices of different varieties at Highlands Spices shop in Jew Town . We could not visit the famed Paradesi Syngogue at the end of Synagogue Lane , however,  as it was closed by the time we got there around 5.15 P.M.

While driving along ,  we noticed one Shop selling traditional Silk sarees made by weavers in Kerala and bought a few at down to earth prices .

Historic Mattancherry was built by the Portuguese in traditional Kerala style . Former colonial buildings mix with religious ones including mosques, churches, Hindu shrines and an ornate Jain temple.

Dined at Indian Coffee House quite  close to the Hotel  where we relished crisp masala dosas  and hot filter coffee at just Rs 86  before returning to the Hotel for overnight stay.

Day 3- 2 December 2019 :

After a good sleep on a comfortable bed , we checked out post breakfast @ 9.00 AM for Alappuzha , 65 kms away,  almost  1.45 hours drive .

Alappuzha (or Alleppey) is a city best known for houseboat cruises along the rustic Kerala backwaters, a network of tranquil canals and lagoons. Alappuzha Beach is the site of the 19th-century Alappuzha Lighthouse. Punnamada Lake’s snake boat races are a well-known annual event.

Arrived at  Johnney’s Houseboat , near Punnamada Finishing Point [ Contact: Joseph Johnney : Phone: 80753 50114]  for a 4-hour cruise in backwaters on board deluxe houseboat named “Whispering Maid” . The traditional houseboats , called ” kettuvallams”, have wood harvested from local jackfruit tree plantations, hand – stitched by local craftsmen with coconut fibre rope. The ride covered the backwaters with dozens of  Ayurveda clinics  [ reportedly unlicensed ! ] and beautiful resorts  lined up on either sides .

 

A ride in the backwaters in Alapuzzha  aboard a deluxe Houseboat is a life time experience.

Sumptuous vegetarian meal was  served on board as per our choice . Due to hot weather and humidity , however , we cut the ride short by an hour and de-boarded around 3 P.M.

Full body massage at Life Care Ayurveda Panchkarma and Spa near Trium Resorts, Punnamada Finishing Point [  Akhil : 9048414173  ] from  5.15 PM to 6.45 PM , was a great rejuvenating experience for both of us . [ Paid Rs 3500 in all ]  .

Life Care 1.jpg

While in Alapuzzha ,must go in for a treatment in one of these Ayurveda Clinics esp if you are suffering from joints pains or for rejuvenation even otherwise .

Transferred to a small 3-room guest house [ Maya Residency in Punnamada ]  2 kms away , for overnight stay where we were quite well looked after by its owner, a delightful lady called Maya Madhu [Phone : 9847081198].

Accommodation in this homestay is quite comfortable at an affordable price

Day 4 – 3 December 2019

Post check out from the guest house  and proceeded to Mannalarasala Sree Nagaraj Temple , P.O. Haripad  [ Phone : 0479 2160300 ] – 33 kms away , about 55 minutes’ drive . Mannasarala Sree Nagaraj Temple is a very ancient and internationally known centre of pilgrimage for devotees of serpent gods . This famous Nagaraj temple is nestled in a forest glade , like most serpent temples .The temple is full of statues of serpents set up in different  places and is very calm and peaceful . Bought special turmeric paste  at the temple which is supposed to have curative powers .

                          At the Serpents” temple located in a forest area

Proceeded  to Lakesong Resort on Ammankari Road , Kumarakom , 35 kms away , 55 minutes drive [Phone : 0484 2774999/9446001498 ] . Checked in at the 5-star resort  where we were welcomed by 2 pretty saree clad girls with garlands and application of  haldi/kumkum  tilak on the forehead . Walked around the amazing complex with awesome landscaping  and coconut trees all around and took a small canoe ride on a small canal within the hotel complex itself   .

                                  Lakesong Resort – it simply takes your breath away . 

Thereafter ,  spent some time at the Lakesong Ayurkshethra  housed in an elaborate traditional model structure with decorative handcrafted wooden carvings,  to understand various kinds of Ayurvedic treatment that the Clinic offers . We enjoyed our meals at a restaurant overlooking the Lake , which comprised of delicious vegetable pulao and mixed raita . After a 2 hours siesta , we went on  a complimentary boat cruise offered by the property from 5-6 P.M. and watched the sunset while we were returning .

The restaurant at the Lakesong Restaurant serves delicious regional and continental cuisine . Right : Picture taken during the boat ride in the evening 

The backwaters in Kumarakom is said to be rich in marine life especially pearl spotted fish, tiger prawns, crabs and many more. There is also a bird sanctuary in close proximity that we could not visit due to long walk involved !

Day 5  – 4 December 2019

Checked out post breakfast [ the most delicious and varied during our trip ]   and proceeded to Deshadan Cliff and Beach Resort , Kurakkanni Cliff, Varkala [ Phone : 48423 21518] : 130 kms, 3.5 hours’ drive .

Deshadan – Verkala Cliff  beach is 200 metres away walking along a very narrow lane 

Not so well known, Varkala is a perfect place for a holiday getaway to enjoy golden beaches and is also rich with history. Papanasam Beach, also known as Varkala Beach, is one of the best beaches in Kerala because of the view it offers from the cliff top. Like its name suggests, its water has medicinal properties and is believed to wash off one’s impurities and sins. There are some Tibetan shops in Verkala Cliff  road from where we bought a few souvenirs, ending our visit  with light snacks and coffee atop a restaurant overlooking the  sea .

           View of the Verkala beach . Centre : Shops lined up along the road on the Cliff  

Later at the time of evening Arti , visited Janardhanaswamy Temple, also known as Varkala Temple , a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu, built 20 centuries ago. A significant feature of the temple with a beautiful entrance gate,  is a huge old bell which is considered an oblation to the temple.

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The awesome entrance to Janardhanaswamy Temple

Day 6 – 5 December  2019

Checked out post breakfast and proceeded to Poovar Islands,  75 kms away , close to 2.15 hours’ drive . It was an amazing experience to go for a boat ride [ cost: Rs 2000 for a one hour ride ] amidst dense mangroves which opened out suddenly to a large backwaters . Unspoiled and unexplored, enveloped by the most serene backwaters and opening out to the Arabian Sea and a golden sand beach, Poovar Islands is truly a window into paradise and is unique in India for the amazing Villas and restaurants which are afloat on the backwaters .

                      Views from the boat during the ride in Poovar Islands take you by surprise 

Located about 30 kms from Thiruvananthapuram International Airport, the island is accessible only by a 10-minute boat ride .

Checked  in at Abad Harmonia Ayurveda Beach Resort , Chowara P.O. Vizhinjam , Kovalam . [Phone : 48441 44000] ,  30 kms away .  This is a very nice resort with superior rooms /cottages and dense plantations all around with a nice swimming pool right in the centre facing the lobby and cottages. The resort has an Ayurveda Center which is managed by a qualified doctor and experienced masseurs and sells herbal medicines and natural oils for wellness.

                     Abad Harmonia – It is a delight to spend some quality  time in  natural                                       surroundings

Took some pictures of elegant structures close to the Adimalathura beach [  within 500 metres walking distance ] which is not so clean , inhabited by fishermen .

                      Structures like these close to the Beach are a delight to look at

Post our meals at the restaurant  and  rest , spent time at Kovalam Beach, 20 minutes’ drive from the Hotel . Unlike other beaches in Kerala, Kovalam beach is not that much big. But it is one of the most favourite beaches in the State among tourists which is largely due to clean water, interesting beach activities including surfing , delicious regional cuisine and affordable stays , with a lighthouse at one side , and several shops selling all kinds of wares on the other .

                                          The very vibrant Kovalam beach

Day 7 – 6 December 2019

Post a delicious buffet breakfast, we moved over to Kanyakumari in neighbouring Tamilnadu State , 85 kms away .

Famous for colourful sea-shores, tall coconut trees and paddy fields, Kanyakumari is one of the most serene places in India. The coastal town has pristine big and small beaches which make it one of the most popular beach destinations in the country. At the southern tip of the country , Kanyakumari is the confluence of 3 Oceans , Arabian sea, Indian Ocean and Bay of Bengal .

Unfortunately, we had to wait for nearly 90 minutes to obtain a road permit at Regional Transport Office, Poovar for crossing over to the State of Tamilnadu that caused us a great deal of inconvenience . After arrival in Kanyakumari , we went around  Vivekanand Exhibition Centre which is devoted to the life of Swami Vivekanada [ 1863-1902]  , also referred to as “ Wandering Monk” . We could not visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial , however, as  due to high tide, ferry services were suspended .

A view of Vivekananda Rock Memorial in the background . Right: Vivekananda Exhibition Centre 

After shopping for cotton sarees and lunch at Shravana Restaurant on the main road leading to the Seas , we returned to the Hotel around 4 PM.

Day 8 – 7 December 2019

Checked out from the Hotel and proceeded to the capital city Thiruvananthapuram  , which unlike other places that we had been to , was sizzling at 31 deg C  !  Checked in at Treebo Trend Amalas Residency – a 3 star hotel located centrally  on Power House Rd, Chalai Bazaar, Chalai.

Amalas

Amalas Residency – a budget hotel in the heart of the City

The hotel rooms are spacious and well furnished with all requisite amenities and kept quite clean with a wide open space in front for parking of vehicles . However, the staff, although quite courteous ,  is a bit careless , forgetting to provide much needed bath towels , tea cups / saucers , glasses etc. in the room before we checked in .

Spent time going around famed Attukkal Bhagavathy temple and  having darshan of the deity. The temple is located in Attukal in a sprawling complex. Goddess Bhadrakali (Kannaki), mounted over ‘vethala’, is the main deity in this temple. Bhadrakali, a form of Mahakali, who killed the demon king Daruka, is believed to be born from the third eye of Lord Shiva.

                                  Devotees lighting shining brass lamps at the Temple

The temple is renowned for the annual Attukal Pongal festival, in which over three million women participate,  A festival that has figured in the Guinness Book of World Records for being the single largest gathering of women for a religious activity, the Attukal Pongala continues to draw millions of women with each passing year.   Devotees believe that all of their wishes will be fulfilled by the Goddess, and help attain salvation.

Visited Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple , located less than 1 km away from the Hotel , at 4.45 P.M. As per tradition, wore a dhoti and angavastra bought at a nearby shop prior to the visit .

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Wearing a cotton dhoti and angvastram prior to the visit to                                                    the Temple was an interesting experience for me .

It may be noted that  wallet, mobile phone, bags etc are not allowed inside the temple . The Shrine is one of the most revered abodes of Hindu deity Maha Vishnu. The reason for it  is that God resides in Anantha Shaiya (in supine position on the giant serpent Shesha) with a lotus attached by its stem to the Lord’s navel and on the divine flower sits Lord Bramha. In the sanctum sanctorum are also present two consorts of Sri Vishnu, Sri Devi and Bhu Devi, a rare sight. This  temple is one of the richest in the world. We were fortunate enough to get a quick darshan of the deity within 15 minutes, buying special tickets worth Rs 50 each.  Entering from South Gate of the Temple, we had to walk quite a lot to get to the sanctum sanctorum . While leaving, we witnessed a huge procession of devotees waiting to enter the temple on return from their pilgrimage to Sabarimala Temple .

Day 9 – 8 December 2019

Being the last day of our travel, we took a leisurely walk along the markets close to the Hotel . Parthas is a very nice place for shopping for clothes for the family , a must stop during stay in the capital city . We bought cool cotton sarees quite affordably priced and also looked at dresses for kids .

Parthas 2

#38/1515, Near Power House, Power House Road,                                                                          Chalai Bazaar, Pazhavangadi

Napier Art Museum was our last stop . Kerala’s rich cultural heritage is in full display here.  The architectural style of the Museum is a mix of Indian, Chinese, Kerala and Mughal Schools of Architecture. Built in the 19th century, it has its own natural air-conditioning system. It contains a host of historical artefacts including bronze idols, ancient ornaments, a temple chariot and ivory carvings. We were especially impressed by the Japanese shadow-play leather that was used to depict the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana.

                           The architecture of the Museum leaves you speechless .

Named after a former Governor General of Madras , John Napier , this  huge complex comprises of Art Gallery ,  Children Activity Park,  Aquarium,  Natural History Museum and a Zoo . A delightful place that must be  visited during travellers’  stay in the capital city , Thiruvananthapuram . Admission charges [Museum]  : Rs 20 per person  [ Zoo] :  Rs 30 per person .

As it was quite hot , quenched our thirst while leaving  with fresh coconut juice sold by vendors sitting outside the main entrance and relished bites of  sliced “kerry ” – raw mango sprinkled with lemon juice and salt  !

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Goodbye Kerala. Thanks for being such a great host .

Got dropped off at the Trivandrum International Airport Terminal 2 at 4 PM  [ a mere 10 minutes’ drive from the Hotel ! ] for our return flight home by Air India , which unfortunately arrived 90 minutes late from Maldives resulting in great deal of inconvenience to the passengers . The mid-sized international Airport offers all amenities and facilities for passengers including lounges , cafes and  shops selling branded goods, spices, coffee  and traditional handicrafts . Arrived at IGI Terminal T3 around midnight with happy memories of our 9 day dream travel to God’s own country . If during our lifetime, we travel to Kerala again, we intend to go to Kollam , Munnar and Wyanad – amazing places that we could not cover in the present trip for lack of time.

Memorable experiences:

Day 2 :   Gazing at the gushing waterfalls in Vazachal                                                              Day 2:    A walk on the stone paved street in Jew Town, Kochi                                              Day 3 :   Our stay at the luxurious Lakesong Resorts in Kumarakom – a hamlet of villages.  Day 5 :   Boat ride along the mangroves in Poovar Islands.                                                    Day 8:    Darshan of deity at the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

Acknowledgement :

KOCHI TAXI 24 X7 owner Cherian Chesin who provided valuable tips in advance of our travel .

Our taxi driver Nizam – very courteous , very punctual , smartly dressed , so very helpful and knowledgable . Doubled up as our photographer too  !

nizam

[ In front of South Gate of Shree Padmanabhaswamy Temple – a highlight of our travel ]

Treebo Corporate Office [Bangalore ]

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For coming to our rescue instantly  whenever we needed support during our stay in their franchisee properties in Kochi and capital city, Thiruvananthapuram .

Front Office Manager and supporting staff at Lakesong Resorts , Kumarakom – our stay there was probably the best part of our 9-day travel

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The viewing area at the rear of our deluxe cottage

Thanks to all viewers  from India , Qatar and United States at the time of editing this blog for one last time .

 

 

 

 

 

 

From → My movie blogs

One Comment
  1. Dr Vikram permalink

    Very useful information
    Will guide us when we next travel to these destinations

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