Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kerala Kathakali


          Kerala is one of the most beautiful places on earth. I used to find images on the net and still be skeptical of its beauty. The truth is, you have to be there to experience "Gods Own Country". 

        Facing the Arabian Sea, this picturesque country with lush greenery, swaying coconut trees, beautiful hill stations, fascinating wildlife, magnificent culture and fantastic food will definitely take your breath away.

For 10 days, you can choose to visit Cochin-Munnar-Thekaddy-Kovalam-Allepey and back to Cochin for your flight back.


Most of the airlines will land here. Cochin is a small fishing village turned port - town. You will be able to visit all the attractions here within half a day.  Here are some of the places :

Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi is not a fort. It is one of the many water bound regions in Cochin. Most of the places of attraction are concentrated here. You can see European style architecture here. Some of the attractions below are in Fort Kochi itself. You can walk around the streets here to most of the places.

Jew Town

You must take a stroll in this town just to feel the atmosphere and take a sniff of the aroma of spices here. There are also antiques and wood craft shops here. There is a Jew Synagogueat the end of the road.

Jew Synagogue - Rs 2 per entry. Open: 10-noon, 3-5pm, closed on Fridays, saturdays and Jewish Holidays
Pic : Google Image
At the synagogue, u have to leave handbags and cameras at a counter n they will give u a token. It is a place of worship, but its a small place. You just enter, see and leave. 
 The synagogue is 400 years old and its interior holds curved brass columns, an intricately carved teak ark, Belgian crystal chandeliers and Torah crowns of solid gold set with gems.
The floor has hand-painted porcelain tiles from Canton, each tile different, depicting a love affair between a mandarin's daughter and a commoner.The 19th century, oil burning glass chandeliers hung from the ceiling were imported from Belgium.

Dutch Palace

It is also known as Matancherry Palace. It is within walking distance from Jew Town.
Matancherry Palace - Rs 5 per adult. Children below 5 is free. Open everyday, except Fridays and National Holidays.
Nothing much here. Photography prohibited. I assume its because if anybody posts pics of this place, no one will be interested to go in. But those who are interested in history would be happy to see this place. A visit to the Palace is rewarding for its mythological murals, historical and architectural value and heritage value

 St Francis Church

Quite an old building; it even has manual fans. But as I am writing this,  I just learned that we missed the Santa Cruz Basilica. It seems its a beautiful church. 
On the way out of Fort Kochi, you will pass by Dutch Cemetary and Thakur's House.

Cherai Beach

Cherai beach faces the Arabian Sea and it is about 25kms from Cochin. It is in Vypin Island. At the end of the beach are the Chinese Fishing Nets.
Many come here during sunset to take beautiful pictures of the Chinese Fishing Nets.

Willingdon Island

This is a man made island. It is nice to just take a drive around this area.

Thats all for Cochin sightseeing. If you reach Cochin late evening, you would not be able to do anything much as most shops here close early. If you have the time, you can shop at MG Road. Next day, leave early to drop by at the places of attraction in Cochin and by midday, you can shoot off to Munnar. 

Depending on the days you have on your itinerary you can choose to either put up a night in Cochin or travel straight to Munnar. It is 3-4 hour drive to Munnar. 

Munnar is a hill station (we call it highlands in Malaysia). You MUST spend at least a night here. Two nights if time permits. 
If you are only staying one night here, and your next trip is to Thekaddy, then leave early the next day to enjoy Munnar attractions on the way to Thekaddy. 

On the way up Munnar, you will stop by at few places to enjoy the scenery and waterfalls. 

If you reach early, you can go to the view point to enjoy a cup of chaya with chill breeze and beautiful scenery.

We put up a night here. The next day, we proceed to Thekaddy. On the way, you can visit all the main attraction spots of Munnar. 

Some of Munnar Attractions (info taken from www.team-bhp.com. Pics are mine ):

A. Photo Point: Good place to take snaps in the tea garden. (4 kms)

B. Mattupetty Dam: Is a storage masonry dam built in the mountains of Kerala. The District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), Idukki provides boating facilities in the Mattupetty Dam. Speed launch, slow speedboat and motorboats are available on hire. (11 kms)

C. Dairy Farm Indo-Swiss Project: The dairy farm is a unique one of its kind with several varieties of high-yielding cattle being reared. (13 kms)

D. Cinema Shooting Point: An enchanting spot where a small hillock of uniformly spread grass with an even more enchanting backdrop of trees, high rise mountains with their white misty hood. Place where many south Indian movies have been shot. (14 kms)


 E. Echo Point: It also offers panoramic views. An excellent place, especially for young travelers to disembark for a while and yell out — and listen to your voice coming back to you! (17 kms)

F. Elephant Arrival Spot: Is just a 100sqm glade in the banks of the Mattupetty reservoir. The glade has elephant trails and morsels of elephant dung here and there, which suggest frequenting of these huge mammals. (20 kms)

G. Kundala Lake: Kundala Lake and its surrounding area offer a calm and quiet atmosphere with quiet natural beauty. Beautiful Kashmiri Shikkara boats, pedal boats and row boats are available on rent. Boating in this dam is an experience beyond words. (25 kms)

H. Kundala Golf Course: The tourists can make a visit to the Golf Course that belongs to the Tata Tea Ltd. (28 kms)

I. Top Station (about 6300 ft above the sea level): This is in the border of Kerala and Tamil Nadu; there is a way to Kodai from this place. We need to walk down for about a 1 km to reach this stop from the road, it is a terrific sight, and you can also see the world’s highest tea plant from this place. Rs15 to go to Top Station(32 kms)

Taken @Top Station

All the pictures above were taken on the way down to Thekaddy. So even if you decide to stay only one night in Munnar, you wont miss out on the attractions. :)


There are few things to do in Thekaddy depending on your interest.

 You can 
choose to watch any traditional shows such as Kathakali or Kalaripayattu. We reached Thekkady just in time to check in n go for Kathakali. Kathakali is a play based on body language and facial expressions - no conversation. The tickets were Rs 150 per adult.

There are also authentic Ayurvedic Massages here.You can have these massages at night after the Kathakali show. Please read more on Ayurvedic Massages beforehand as they are not the same with the massages you get in Thai. Its compulsory for men to remove all clothing and wear their cloth underwear. Not sure for ladies as I didnt try this massage at all. According to my hubby, the massage was excellent; as it was done by men, their strokes were really hard and relieves body pain. After the massage, you are ushered to a homemade sauna that rejuvenates your entire system.He recommends the Ayurvedic Massage here.

If you love nature, you will enjoy going on a early morning boat ride in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary. Put up a night and take the early morning boat ride and you will be back before your check out time.
Early morning, at 6 am, we left for Periyar Lake Cruise. The driver already got the entrance tickets for the vehicle. You can go up to distance, then walk to to the ticket counter, to purchase boat tickets. We went without any expectation to see any animals. The ticket purchase is quite confusing. There are two places where you can purchase the tickets, but only one place where you can buy tickets for your camera/ video cam. The tickets were about Rs 300, (or Rs 25 if you pass for an Indian). You need to fill up a form with your Indian address and Indian phone no, though. Different charge for Upper Deck of the boat. You need to pay Rs25 for camera and a little more for video cam. 

The lake is large and it was beautiful in the misty morning. 

We managed to see few animals. Mornings are the best time as animals come out for a drink by the river. If you are a nature lover, you must go for this. Otherwise you will not enjoy. The ride takes about 2 hours.

Samba Deer


Wild Boar


Variety of birds

If you are not into nature, then forget about the boat ride and take time to shop in Kumily Town.

After the ride, we went to Kumily and got a Kerala Saree for Vimily :)

You can also spend some time with the elephants. Be it their bath time or feeding time. They also offer elephant rides.

Before leaving Thekaddy, we bought some food and spent some time with the elephants.

One night will be good in Thekaddy. You can watch the shows and have the massages at night and enjoy the boat ride the next day. You will still have time to stroll along Kumily town and leave on time to Kovalam. If you are adventurous, then you can stay up to three nights here. There are jungle trekking and many other adventurous activities here.

If you plan to go to Allepey to stay at boathouse, it's best you stay another night here as you need to board the boathouse before 12pm.But if you are not interested in Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, then you can leave straight to Allepey in the morning. 

As I wanted to enjoy nature at Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, it would be too late to catch boat at Alleppey, so our next destination is Kovalam.

Kovalam @ Trivandrum

Trivandrum is the capital of Kerala. It is a big city with alot of attractions and nice places to shop. 

Kovalam is a nice place to stay in Trivandrum. It has beautiful beaches here. 

You can stay here for two nights to enjoy Trivandrum and a day relaxing at the beaches. There are massages here too.

We reached Kovalam at night and we took a walk to the beach. This is the first place in Kerala that we noticed had night life. Many cosy restaurants and small shops were open. Although it is a tourist area and the area is filled with europeans, the shops are not allowed to sell alcohol. However you can ask for "special tea" and they will serve you beer - kingfisher. But you will have to keep the bottle under the table.
After food, we walked along the beach to the hotel. 

Next morning we got up early to take morning stroll at the beach. Beautiful weather, accompanied with the sound of waves hitting the rocks. We loved it! 

After breakfast, we got ready to go to Trivendrum. Then, the driver told us that there is a festival in town; there will be about 3 million people there and all roads to Trivendrum is closed. So, we did not have much options than to travel to Kanyakumari, the southern most part of India.
The travelling was hectic, about 3 hours. On the way we stopped at Padmanabhapuram Palace -
Timings: 9am to 1pm  2-5pm (Closed on Mondays and national holidays)
Entry fees : Rs 200 for foreigners,  Rs.10/- adults (Indian National - or if you pass for one :))) & Rs.2/- kids  Rs.25/- camera & Rs.1200/- video camera

Its quite an old palace. Took some pictures, then shot off to Kanyakumari. 

We took the boat ride to visit the Tiruvalluvar statue and Vivekanandapuram. To me, these places were not worth the hassle we had to go through. It was very hot and we had to wait at least 1 1/2 hours at the ticket counter. There were just too many people in Tamil Nadu. People actually walked right into me! Kerala was so much different from this! Wished I was back at Kovalam doing some light shopping and lazing on the beach.
By the time we came out of this place, it was time for sunset. Driver took us to a spot for sunset. After that, we were taken to 2 temples, one amman and the other resides all 3, Brahma, Siva & Vishnu. If you pay them about Rs 100, they take you for a special tour around the temple. Then after dinner, headed back to hotel. Reached nearly 12 and very tired. 
Conclusion: Tamil Nadu is not my cup of tea; its a violent crowd out there.

On the final day in Kovalam /Trivandrum, leave early to catch your Boathouse ride at Allepey. The boats leave at 12pm. Kovalam to Allepey takes 4-5hours. Do not plan to leave Kovalam to catch a flight in Cochin. It takes about 10 hours of travel time.

Boathouse @ Allepey
 Allepey is known as "Venice of East". You have to experience one night on this houseboat to truly enjoy nature. Enjoy the lush greenery and smooth waters while the locals go about washing, bathing and fishing in the backwaters. The river flows at the back of their home, so, this is their main source of water.

After all the travelling to KanyaKumari and back, time for some relaxation.  As we entered the house boat, we were sure to enjoy the stay. We were welcomed by the captain and chef with chill lemon juice. 

2 Room BoatHouse with private bath and viewing deck

In the boathouse, you are treated like king and queen. As the captain and 'navy' put on their chef uniform, they cook the tastiest Kerala meals as per your request. I can still feel the smell and taste of their food as I write this. It's the best fresh seafood you can get in Kerala. Hot and Spicy and finger licking good. I could just go on and on about it.

After a fabulous lunch, the rest of the day was spent by relaxing, taking pictures of the locals and simply enjoying the wonders of nature. We stopped at a village to buy some tiger prawns and crab. 

Around 6pm, all houseboats will be anchored and you can take a walk at the villages, meet new people, make new friends or just enjoy the sunset from the top decks of your boathouse.

At night, after dinner you can watch movies or play board games or retire to your cozy room for an early night. Trust me, you won't regret staying in the houseboat. Even the bathroom/ toilets were so clean, I could sleep there. It had floating vinyl plank flooring.

Next day you will be brought back to the jetty and you will be on your way back to Cochin.

Morning 9 am, reached the jetty and checked out of HouseBoat. We headed back to Cochin. We didnt have much time for shopping, so we had to rush through it. We had only about 2 hours; shopped and left to Cochin Airport for our flight back to KL. 
It was an enjoyable, relaxing holiday. :))