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4.33 

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Rocky Hill United States of America
Enchanting Kerala!
Oct 26, 2010 03:32 PM 11065 Views
(Updated Nov 10, 2010 09:36 AM)

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My hubby and I desperately needed a break from routine life, more importantly some time together. None of us had ever visited Kerala. We took this opportunity to visit God's own country and made our travel plans.


After some discussions on places to visit, tourist attractions and a few inputs from my dear Mallu friends, we selected Munnar, Alleppey, Kumarakom, Thekkady and Kochi. We decided to "outsource" our travel arrangements. After a fairly elaborate research on different package tours, we selected Sai tours and travels. The issues that we faced with the other agents were- 1. They offered us packages that dint suit our requirement or schedule 2. They offered some fixed durations in 3 places. They charged at least 6 k more if the tour was to be customised. 3. They were overall too expensive.


Day 1 (17th Oct, 2010): Place - Munnar.


Drive- 4 hours from Kochi Airport


We took the flight from Mumbai to Kochi (the closest airport). Pick up was arranged to Munnar. This was a dreamy and colourful drive. There were lush tea plantations on hills on either side of our road. Word of caution for friends with motion sickness- Munnar doesn't have any straight roads beyond the length of 100 meters! Each road is winding and narrow. Half an Avomine tablet taken an hour before travel should take care.


On the way, we visited the Blossom parkwhich was a decently maintained garden of flowering plants. Later, we went to the elephant parkand enjoyed a thrilling elephant ride for half an hour. It was amusing to see the majestic elephants obediently responding to the mahouts' instructions in Malayalam. We stayed in Hotel C7(c7hotels.com) on the outskirts of Munnar Town. The rooms are good and have a beautiful view of tea plantation beds, but the food here for us pure vegetarians was horrible.


Day 2 : Place - Munnar.


Next morning, we set off to an exciting day of sightseeing tour to Munnar. The rare species of Nilgiri Tahr goats could be seen at the Eravikulam park. The best time to go there is in the morning around 9 am as suggested by our driver. One has to stand in a serpentine queue to buy tickets if one visits around 10 or 11 am in the peak seasons even if it is a weekday. Mattupetty Dam, Echo Point and Kundala Dam were the other places we visited. We both are not keen at shopping, but there are handicrafts and mementos available all over. Kerala is also known as the land of spices. There are packaged condiments of 'Eastern' brand available in Munnar and Kochi. We visited Pottanmedu viewpointwhich is a nursery of all types of plants- flowering, spices, medicinal herbs, cactii, fruit trees.


Day 3:Place - Thekkady


Drive- 4 hours from Munnar


This was the best drive of our journey. We drove amidst magnificent mountain ranges covered with tea plantations, interspersed with waterfalls, piercing through thick fog. We checked in to hotel Grand Thekkady(grandthekkady.in/). The beautiful hotel is newly built and they have not yet arranged for a restaurant, but do provide breakfast. We had our booking for a Deluxe room, but since it was not a peak season, they upgraded our booking to a Super Deluxe room without any extra charge. We went to the Periyar Wildlife sanctuary that covers 777 sq km. This is a tiger reserve as well. There is an option of renting a safari jeep from 5.30 am to 5.30 pm for Rs 1500. This sounded exciting, but we had to check out the next day morning. We saw Kathakali (classical folk dance that has originated in Kerala) and Kalari (martial arts also originated in Kerala) shows in the evening. These show tickets cost around Rs 150. Kathakali performance was amazing with elaborate make-up and fine gestures and facial expressions. They also explained that it requires a practice of 8 years to portray the emotions accurately.


Day 4: Place - Kumarakom.


Drive- 2 hours from Thekkady


Our next stop was at Kumarakom at KTDC's Water Scapesresort ( waterscapeskumarakom.com). After my dear friend Minu strongly recommended it ( http://www.mouthshut.com/review/Kerala_-_General-192213-1.html), there was no reason we would go in for any other hotel and we were equally enthralled by the view there. Each family is given a cottage exclusively amidst coconut and mango trees. We felt we were living with the wild, it was a very memorable experience. The resort is on the shores of the famous Vembanad lake. Just a 2 minute walk from the resort took us to the Kumarakom bird sanctuary. We got to know that the best time to visit this place is from December to May when many colourful migratory birds chirp around merrily. We could spot just a few crows. :P


There was a cultural program arranged for the guests. An Ayurvedic massage center was equipped with oils and creams. We had a rejuvenating and refreshing massage there.


Day 5 : Place - Alleppey :Venice of the East


Drive- 2 hours from Kumarakom


We started off on our much awaited houseboat journey in the enchanting backwaters of Alleppey. We had rented a Deluxe houseboat for 22 hrs. (grandeur houseboats- keralahouseboat.co.in/) A three member crew (Oarsman, Chef, Attendee) was exclusively at our service (which made us feel really important. :P). We were served authentic Kerala food. We saw the untouched nature of Kerala and core village life on both sides along with lush paddy fields called 'kuttanad' set in the grids of canals. The experience was amazing. The houseboat sailed deep into the back waters and parked in the evening at 5 pm in Kainakary village. The way we have bus stops, they have boat stops there called 'Jetty' for traveling to different places. We rented a little fishermen's boat for one hour for Rs 250 and ventured deep into the villages. That fisherman was studying BA in English. Truly, each person there knew English, at least, the basics. The scenes of this adventurous ride are imprinted on our minds very vividly.



Day 6: Place - Kochi


Drive- 3 hours from Allepey:We stayed at Blue waters Cherai ( bluewaterscherai.in/).The food here was awesome. This is on the banks of the famous Cherai beach. It is a huge beach extending more than 10 km. We also saw the Fort Kochi beach that used Chinese fishing nets for bulk fishing, St. Francis Church which was the first church that the Europeans built in India and the Mattanchery palace which was built by the Portuguese. There is a huge spice and perfume market here.


Day 7:We reluctantly headed back to Kochi airport to catch our flight to Mumbai. We would surely come back for another wonderful, green journey to God's own country.


Finally, a bit on Sai Tours and Travels- Sai packages are less known, but we found them to be professional. We can tell them the type of preferred accommodation (2/3/4 star) and vehicle for transport and they will take care. All hotels were either good or excellent. We had taken the plan that included only breakfast at the hotel. So we could experiment with other restaurants wherever the food was bad at our hotel. Our driver was friendly, punctual and cooperative; he knew English and Hindi. The total cost of package came to Rs. 35000(excluding flight tickets to Kochi and back). These guys are definitely recommended and trustworthy. saitravels.in/



Whew! And this qualifies as the longest review I have ever written, but Kerala deserves this and much more! Doesn't it?


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