Written for: https://www.theflapperlife.com/post/kerala-the-coastal-adornment-of-india
Content Inspiration: My trip to Kerala
It’s 3 P.M. and 45 degrees Celsius, as I lay on my hammock and plan my days in God’s Own Country; getting used to the sound of the backwaters and the hustling leaves of palm trees in the backdrop of utter silence. There is some noise from the work-place part of my brain pulling me out of this tranquility. It feels exactly like the Kerala of my day-dreams that I pictured back in Mumbai. The moisture in the air and the smell of coconut chutney traveling with the air from the hotel’s kitchen reminds me of Malgudi.
The Kerala I witnessed was just a slice from the canvas of this serene land, and yet felt complete in its own self.
The temples across Kerala evoke a similar grandeur and devotion in their Dravidian architecture, mystique, and rituals. Padmanabhaswamy temple, in Thiruvananthapuram, is a massive set of pillars, galleries, and sand blocks covered by an open sky. Most of the temples in Kerala are lit only with diyas and no electric lights. Amidst the white and golden colors of the traditional costumes of visitors, skyrocketing lamp posts studded with diyas and royal processions composed with a symphony of local instruments, you float adrift into a different culture and time.
Do not forget to light some diyas and eat the Prasad (generally a rice preparation) before stepping out of this fiction-evoking temple.
When I met with the backwaters of Kerala in Kollam and in Allepey (Alappuzha), the description of these lagoons from the geography textbooks resurfaced in my memory, like it is to meet an old friend. You can see the vastness of the sea in their containment, as you float around the mosaic of canals.
While sailing through the ‘Venice of the East’, listening to K.J. Yesudas on the radio, I peeked shallowly into the lives of the locals, who were either swimming lazily or washing clothes and utensils ardently or canoeing from one place to another. We stopped for tea at the boat riders house, spoke about the rice cultivation in his backyard, and swung on the small jhula, absorbing every bit of his life.
Being the culminating stretch of the western coastal line of India, Kerala has one of the most scenic beaches. Varkala beach, with tourists mostly swarming the beach cliff, is popular for its surfing activities. Kovalam beach, also very famous for water sports, on the other hand, is a more crowded one.
Soothing and warm blue waters, clear skies, food shacks, and lots of white sand are the typical elements of these refreshing beaches.
Though is Thekkady is one of the most-visited hill stations of Kerala, its spice gardens and elephant camps can be disappointing. It was distressing to see the condition in which the elephants were treated by the camp owners for tourists’ amusement. In the name of “elephant shower”, a family of ten people had mounted an old elephant while it sluggishly kept showering them with its trunk, sitting helplessly in a narrow well.
However, I was hopeful to see that the mahouts caressed these animals gently and tried to protect them from the insensitive behavior of some tourists.
It can be difficult to hunt for a good hotel in Thekkady, locals hardly understand Hindi/English and the addresses available online can be confusing, as Tamil Nadu shares some part of Thekkady with Kerala. I had a good experience with Hotel Tree Top, because of its decent food, hospitable staff and Jungle-bookish location.
To experience the best of Kerala, make a list of popular choice locations, and see how much you can stray from them. The best sunsets of Kerala can be seen in the least crowded beaches and the best delicacies can be tasted in the tiny restaurants that serve thalis (assortment of dishes) with heaps of Kerala rice (thick rice) in it worth 60 rupees. The land of massive coconuts, ancient temples, and tea gardens, Kerala, should not be visited between April-May unless you have a super-strong immunity towards strong heat waves and sunbeams.
Also, did I mention, carry ample of sunscreen lotion?