January 2017 was the first time in my life I went on a vacation to South India. Before this the most I have managed is till Goa but this time the plan was to explore the real treasures of culture and natural beauty the equatorial region has to offer to a comfort-traveler like me.
We started our journey in Delhi and took a flight to Thiruvanantapuram (Trivandrum for English speakers). Even in January, the weather was super hot in TRV and we were happy to be in the air conditioned cabin of our train to Kottayam a few hours later. But before that we managed to see (from outside) the famous Padmanabhaswamy temple in TRV. We could not enter as there are strict dress code. Its funny to see that the dress code is a bare male body from waist up and a traditional Indian dhoti. A kind man explained later that this means we go without any veil in front of the God which is a rather nice idea.
We arrived in Kottayam almost at twilight as our train got delayed but we were happy to feel the cooler weather of the place as compared to Trivandrum. Our stop was a small home-stay and the people were really nice. Over the next two days we managed to see a catholic church and famous Thirunakkara Mahadeva temple. We also visited a bird sanctuary, but as it was not the ‘bird season’ we were content with enjoying a walk through the park.
About 25 kilometers from Kottayam was our next halt: Alleppey (aka Alappuzha, literally meaning the home of God). There we stayed at another home-stay (Lovedale) run by a fabulous couple (Anshad and Amina). With Anshad’s super advice on sightseeing and things to do we managed to do boat ride in the backwaters, visit the paddy fields, drink toddy (coconut beer), see a Church festival and parade, and enjoy some awesome food cooked at the home-stay: specially the fish with sauce served on a banana leaf. The owners of our home-stay really make people feel at home and try their best to have us experience a real South Indian life. In between, we also went to the Alappuzha main market and when we were about to miss our bus back home our rickshaw driver swerved the vehicle right in front of the bus to make it stop for us (totally a Rajnikanth move and not advised to be tried in any circumstances). Marari beach was also nice although a bit overwhelming as the locals were distinctively not as helpful as back at Alleppey. Interestingly, we met two British women who have been coming to this home-stay every year for more than 5 years now and along with their vacation also help out at a local orphanage: its nice to talk to cheerful seniors who love what they do. They also advised us to go to Munnar and stay at Anna’s home-stay. But due to our rest of the trip being meticulously planned we could not accommodate Munnar this time but of course it is now on my list. Munnar is famous for its cool weather even in the heat of the South Indian climate and has fabulous hills with spice and tea plantations. And yeah, we also took ferry rides in Alleppey and walked along the rice fields with our friendly guide – cum- shikara driver.
Our next spot was Kochi and true to its reputation of the most famous tourist spot in South India it has a rich offering of art and culture for us along-with nice expanse of the sea and beaches. Aspin Wall is the HQ of many culture events and we enjoyed our walk through its museums and got inspired by some very new ideas of art. In Kochi, our home-stay was again right on sea-side and initially I was woken up in the night by the sound with the waves hitting the rocks outside the room: it was like a tank roaring on the road and asserts the might of the big bowl of water right in front of us. Our last stop was Goa and I was a little sad leaving Kochi. Maybe because in my mind Goa was only the party and yoga destination. More or less yes, but the day spent in Panjim (capital of Goa) was nice in terms of the old Portuguese church and other architecture.
The only event not to my liking was my phone crashing after a few days I came back from the vacation and this means all the beautiful photos and videos too were drained. Luckily, I could scrap a few which I had already shared with my friends. Lesson learned: back up data as soon as the vacation ends 🙂
I hope I could follow up this lovely travel with another one very soon and this time my list would definitely include Hampi and Munnar and of course a few days at Anshad and Amina’s home-stay.