After 2 weeks travelling the dusty roads of Rajasthan with the frantic pace of city life and the incessant horn blowing (read about our trip here) the hubby and I were in need of some karma; a nice beach resort where we could relax before heading home. Having eschewed Goa – I did that as a student back packer – we opted for Kerala.
Kerala (the name means land of coconuts) is a myriad of jungly green waterways which give way to a white sand coastline lapped by the Arabian Sea. Here there’s a lovely slowness to the pace of life. Men wear shirts and sarongs, ladies in brightly coloured saris wave hello with big smiles and children bid you bid you to watch them play cricket instead of trying to sell you something. You can definitely see why Kerala is referred to as God’s Own Country in the glossy brochures.
We (the hubby and I) concentrated our trip in the central part of Kerala between Cochin and Alleppey. We started on Marari Beach which has (so far) thankfully avoided the onslaught of chain hotels; here the tourist is very much the minority and the beach is still dominated by the daily life of the fisherman. We stayed in a chic Keralaen cottage with snazzy interiors, private verandas and wonderful sea views. Days were spent snoozing in hammocks, walking along the miles of sandy beaches, cycling round local villages and eating the most exquisite seafood.
Next we headed to the tranquil shores of Lake Vembanad. We chose to stay in a luxury lake side house and partake in a series of traditional Ayurveda treatments – be warned however, Ayurveda oils are not like aromatherapy ones and can leave you with a slightly odd odour for a few days! If you want your scenery constantly changing then you can take to a traditional rice barge and sail the back waters visiting villages and watching life unfold in front of you. From here it’s an easy drive up into the hill country and the stunning scenery of Munnar or may be try your hand at tiger spotting in Thekkady.
Our final stop was the bustling harbour town of Fort Cochi. Although quintessentially Indian, it’s been shaped by its colonial past (Portuguese, Dutch and British) and the Arab and Chinese traders who followed. There’s a charm to Fort Cochi and the best way to experience it is just to wander amongst the colonial buildings with their faded grandeur
Here you can discover groovy cafés, chic hotels with a contemporary edge and snazzy boutiques next to crumbling churches and the Parade Ground (the local village green) where children laugh and play football.
Next take to the seafront promenaded where the fishermen work the huge cantilevered Chinese fishing nets. Then there’s Jew Town with its many antique shops and the spice market with its heady scent and merchants running their empires, not with modern day electronics, but with little brass scales and hand written ledgers. It’s a pretty and fascinating end to our 3 week India trip.
They say India is a country of contrasts and that’s certainly true when you compare Rajasthan and Kerala and the two make a great combination for a holiday. However, we only scratched the surface of Kerala and it makes a wonderful holiday in its own right; a hugely diverse region offering a lot but without the long drives that typify northern India.
When to go
Kerala is most pleasant from late November to March. Avoid the monsoon season that runs from May and can often last into early November.
How to get there
Emirates has an excellent service (via Dubai) to Cochin from Manchester and London.
If you want to experience something a little different for your next holiday and would like to take a dip into India then please contact me – I can design a bespoke and truly special itinerary for you.
(Images: The Hubby and me)