Kerala is a dream destination for many couples, however when they want to plan a vacation to the southern state, it could be a daunting task because there are so many resources online. Many of these are simply lists which do nothing but get you in mood for the state, but they don't help you plan the trip. My close friends Vikram, of Engineer This fame, and Roshni visited the state a while back and came back with stories and personal recommendations of things to do in the state over a one week long vacation. In the Part I of the series, Roshni told us about the first part of the trip to Kochi and Munnar. Here is final part of the two part series from their vacation in Kerala. Enjoy :)
Thekkady, situated near Kerala - Tamil Nadu border is most popular for the biodiversity of Periyar tiger reserve.It is also popular for spice plantations growing cardamom, pepper,nutmeg, ginger, clove & nut mace.
We chose to travel from Munnar to Thekkady by cab, this was a very scenic but winding route & took us about 3 hours. Enroute to Thekkady one finds many beautiful plantations growing cardamom, coffee, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, ginger & various other spice & medicinal plants. We chose to stop by at a spice plantation on the way. Our guide gave us a tour & explained the importance of each herb, plant or spice & its uses in Ayurveda. Apart from the traditional spices we also got a chance to see wild lemons, red, yellow & green bananas & cacao being grown. The tour usually ends at their store where you can buy these spices, oils & Ayurvedic remedies made from these herbs.
We stayed at Chrissies hotel in Thekkady, here we got a room on the 3rd floor with one of the best views in the hotel! The property had tall teak trees & some spice plants of their own! The hotel staff helped plan our stay in Thekkady & also the travel ahead for Allepy & Poovar.
First we chose to see a Kathakalli performance at the Mudra cultural centre. They usually have 2 shows in the evening (5-6 & 7-8) If you choose the first one, you also get to watch the artists apply makeup & get ready for the performance.This was an hourlong performance where they first explain the dance, talk about its origin, explain ‘abhinaya,’ (expression) movements, & gestures followed by a dance piece-usually a popular incident from the epics - Puranas or Mahabharat. It was a mesmerising performance by both the dancers!
Kathakali performers are usually men, portraying even the women characters. Next, we watched a Kalaripayattu performance - it was a gripping performance - the stunts revealed a rigorous training & discipline. The show demonstrated various disarming & combat techniques followed by stunts including jumping from 3 rings of fire!
We dedicated the next day to the Periyar tiger reserve! we had pre-booked our boating tickets from the Periyar foundation website, It is a 90 minute long boat ride & 4 timings in a day- we chose the one at 9:30 am. It was already quite sunny when we started,during the walk to the lake we spotted a Sambhar deer grazing in the forest! Once in the boat, we got settled in our upperdeck seats. It was definitely a very scenic boat ride. We spotted a family of elephants, a heard of bisons, a heard of deer & wild boar. We were even able to spot kingfishers & snake birds but sadly no tigers!
After lunch & some rest we headed back to the reserve for a nature walk. This is a 9 Km 3 hour walk into the forest along with a guide in small groups (maximum of 5 people at once), although during our walk it was only Vikram & I along with our guide.The forest was calm with tall banyan trees that seemed hundreds or years old.At first, our guide spoke about the trees, plants & remedies used by tribals living near the forest. soon we started to spot animals! We saw a group of Lion-tailed Macaque, perched on a tree right next to us, Came across a heard of Sambhar deer within 15 feet distance from us & the scary part - when we were deep in the forest we came across a dead bison, killed that morning (according to our guide) with a tiger pug mark next to it! This time around we were happy to not spot any tigers!
We spent the evening in the market buying chocolates from Paradise chocolates, they had all the flavours imaginable - including spice chocolates (I bought one of each!) & we bought spices from Lords spices, both places were recommended by our hotel staff. We ate at grandma’s cafe, although all their food was great, they had exceptionally good payasam. The remaining times we ate at Chrissies cafe, the food there especially Italian was pretty good too.
Alleppy is the city of backwaters, canals , beaches & lagoons. Probably most famous for its houseboats, Alleppy is often compared to Venice.
The drive to Alleppy took us 4 hours from Thekkady by cab. We planned to stay in an AC premium single room houseboat booked online after reading tons of reviews. Houseboats leave around noon & stop for lunch for an hour around1 pm & again start at 3 & park for the day at 5:30.As per regulations, they then remain parked through the night & cruise again from 7-8 in the morning. Another regulation, AC timings are limited from 9PM to 6AM & Alleppy is extremely hot! the one fan provided in the deck area was not enough to beat the heat!
The backwaters were beautiful! once the boat began to move the breeze made the heat bearable. The cook at the houseboat made delicious food! when we halted for lunch we met Kunjomon, who for 700/- took us around in his narrow boat for about an hour & we got to see all the smaller lanes where our houseboat would not be able to go. This gave us a glimpse of the living style of people here. we saw a vast expanse of paddy fields & banana plants. Once back on the houseboat,for a few hours we saw a series of other houseboats- single room,multiple room,simple & premium all taking the same course from the back waters moving towards the lake. We stopped to select & buy freshly caught fish & prawns for dinner.
Once the boat was parked, there was nothing to see or do around as these boats are parked outside the owner’s house. The captain told us he could call a rickshaw driver he’d come pick us up & take us to allepy beach after an hour but since it was nearly sunset we decided against it.This would have been great if arranged earlier in the day, so instead we walked around the area & watched tv on return. The dinner was delicious! after 9PM with the AC on, all the heat was forgotten!
The morning cruise was the best part, at 7AM it was quite pleasant outside.An hour’s cruise later we were all set to head to our last stop, Poovar.
Instead of Kovalam & other popular beaches, we chose our last stop to be the calm & not very commercial Poovar. The drive from Allepy took us nearly 5 hours & was the longest distance we covered in this trip.
Situated in the southern tip of Trivandrum, Poovar is an estuary where the sea, river Neyyar & lake all meet at a point. Poovar is a quiet but beautiful beach, with very strong currents so one can’t really swim in the sea here. One can actually see the river & sea meeting at the beach! The only way to reach the beach is by boat. There are no water sports & activities developed here, it will be well liked by those who are looking for a relaxing getaway.
We stayed at the Estuary island resort. It is well situated with a view of the beach & arranges for daily boat trips for hotel guests.We also took a boat ride into the Poovar backwaters from the hotel, this is an hour long ride & one sees dense trees, birds,narrow lanes only boats can ply on & mangroves, I personally preferred these untouched backwaters to those of Allepy! One can also opt for a longer boat ride & visit nearby fishing villages.
As Poovar was meant to be our last stop in Kerala & a relaxing day before the holiday ended I think we chose well! Although I think I’d like to visit Kerala again & visit all the Places I missed out this time.
• Make sure you carry cotton clothes (we found most of Kerala to be quite hot & humid)
• The Hill- Stations don’t get very cold, a light jacket is more than enough.
• Do carry an umbrella, the rains are unpredictable.
• Most restaurants shut early & some are shut between lunch & dinner time.
• We spent some time reading restaurant reviews (on trip advisor) so we knew what to expect from each place - this turned out to be most helpful!
• Good chapatis are hard to come by!
• There is tons to shop in Kerala (antiques,teas ,spices, Ayurvedic products & souvenirs to name a few) be sure to carry your bag accordingly.
• Most people in Kerala speak either English or Hindi, so we never had any trouble communicating.
• Some tourist destinations & activities were overpriced, we had to bargain quite a bit.