God’s own Country – Part I

After many many years of dreaming about Kerala and its fascinating backwaters, i was finally able to travel there. Kerala off course i found out is much more than its backwaters. The state forms part of the malabar coast that still runs major trading ports in India. Known for its spices and called the spice garden of India, Kerala held interest from Middle East and later on from the Europeans for the spices it produced. Nowadays, Kerala is a major tourist destination known for it’s Ayurveda, Backwaters and Beaches and its Tropical greenery.

Kerala is beautiful and it is definitely different from the rest of India. Its green and organic villages and small towns and it’s friendly people make you feel really at home. I ventured on a 10 day journey to discover Kerala found myself totally in love with it. Landing at Cochin airport, i was ready and excited to venture out. Kerala covers so many interesting districts, each with its own place and system that i will not be able to cover it’s beauty in one post. Therefore i have decided to do a district and town wise narration. Hope you will enjoy this journey along with me.

Cochin

First on the list was exploring the small town of Fort Kochi. It is roughly around 40 km

Appam and Chicken Stew

A much desired Appam and Chicken Stew

from the airport area and if you are entering Kerala by Cochin, you must make time to explore Fort Kochi before heading onward. It is small historical town, quite a world by its own. You can still find remnants of the Portuguese and the British era giving it a unique medieval aura. I was told by a friend to try appam in Kerala and on my first day, i decided that i must have this for breakfast. Hunting for appam at Fort Kochi turned out to be quite daunting though as most restaurants hadn’t opened yet and surprisingly most didn’t serve it. We finally found this place called “Dosas and Pancakes” where we got some Appam with delicious chicken Stew. The chicken stew was absolutely amazing. Cooked in coconut milk with spices and vegetables, its creamy taste went perfect with the fresh Appams.

Chinese fishing nets

The amazing installation of the Chinese fishing nets

With the delicious breakfast in our belly, we headed towards the Chinese fishing nets of fort kochi. This is a way of fishing by huge net installation from the boat at shore that is brought down and raised in an hourly interval. While it used to be a popular way of fishing in the early days, it mostly serves as a tourist attraction now. The lowering and raising is done manually and you get to try it out too and who knows you might get lucky and catch a few. We ended up catching a tiny one ourselves. 😛 The catch of my life time.

Vasco De Gama

Vasco De Gama

Heading onwards to the St. Francis church which is one of the oldest European church in India. Also called Vasco Da Gama Church, it used to house the remains of the explorer before it was removed to Lisbon.  Now they have markings where his remains used to lie. The beautiful architecture tells of stories gone by during the reign of the Portuguese and European colonial era and you will see maps of old routes preserved and stories of Vasco Da Gama’s feats and explorations. Oh it was exciting to be immersed in a different world, a thousand years away.

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Colourful Jew Street

Exploring jew street is one of the fun things to do here, especially if you like hunting for curios and antiques as i do. The dwindling Jewish settlement along this street forms a part of cochin’s unique heritage and the Jewish synagogue (Paradesi Synagogue) at the end of it is one of the oldest of its kind with architecture that depicts it’s grandeur in the olden days. Unfortunately photographs were not allowed otherwise i would surely have made an attempt at capturing its beauty.

There were off course many more places of interest at Fort Kochi, especially for history buffs but we just had half a day to explore before we headed towards Munar. Next time, i think i would definitely make it one day at Fort Kochi.

 

Munar

Munar is a beautiful place, an unexpected hill station cropped up in south India. It is a commercial tea hub with over 30 tea estates in the region mostly owned by the Tata groups Kanan Daven Tea Estate. Besides tea, Munar is also famous for spices and if you visit one of the spice garden along the way, you will be amazed by the number of spices that can possibly be grown there. It is a scenic 4-8 hours drive from Cochin to Munar, depending upon the time you spend along the way. You can stop along the way for food, enjoy a detour around spice garden to learn about the thousands of spices grown here and try elephant rides. You can even do some shopping and buy some tea, spices and home made chocolates. Off course we tried out all of it and by the time we reached Munar, it was already around 8.30 pm. The drive itself i must say again is so beautiful and it brought on a bit of nostalgia for me as it’s curved road, the sub tropical foliage and the cool weather reminded me of a similar drive from Phuentsholing to Thimphu.

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Beautiful Sunrise from my balcony

The sunrise above was captured from my room at Munar. We were lucky to have a room with a view. The wild beauty of Munar goes in sync with its perfectly trimmed and beautiful tea estates. It kind of reminded me of Sikkim though i find that this tiny hill station is more beautiful and natural.

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Munar town, a view from our hilltop resort

Munar is known for it’s tea and therefore, we had to visit the tea museum. As a tea lover myself, i have drunk tons of tea but never been curious about its making. I had to go see and learn for once. The tea museum i found was quite interesting as a small model for a working factory, they explain how tea is made and processed. They even had some old tea rollers from the colonial era on display and other antiques. A video explaining the evolution of tea estates in Munar and the efforts taken to make it a commercial success was also showcased and a short lecture was given on the benefits of tea and how to brew a perfect cup so as it derive the best from it. Now i am all set next time to brew myself a perfect cup. 🙂

A lesson in making tea, beautiful small town, breathtaking tea estates, i loved Munar. The hill station made me ecstatic. The mountains do bring me alive. 🙂 Well that is it for now. I will be covering more stories from my Kerala adventure in part II of my post. Please do look out for it. Thank you.

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