Kerala Tourism Photos

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Thank you Kerala Tourism for asking me to update Nancy’s India Blog with three of your photos!

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Travelers and nature lovers from across the world travel to the Kerala Backwaters to see a quieter, more serene side of India. The backwaters are comprised of 44 rivers, a vast network of lakes, and 1500 km of labyrinthine canals. There are over 300 species of birds, floating markets and the famous snake boat races.

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Click on Nancy’s India Blog to read about my trip to Kerala and to see the photos as part of the blog. Click here to see an enlarged version of the photos and scroll through the backwaters.

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Sea Wallapping at Cherai Beach, Kerala

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As promised, ten year old Craig is my guest blogger. Here is his account of Cherai Beach:

“At Cherai Beach we went high wave jumping and built sand castles. It was sooooo much fun! Until the second day:( we were walking on the beach with big waves right at shore. First, I tripped then came a big wave which smashed me into the rocks. I got a big bruise on my thigh, good cut on my foot, bump on my head and blood on my knee which, after a few days is still hurting and sore but other than that great trip!!!”

Well that about sums it up in a nutshell from Craig.

I’ll elaborate a little but I’m sure my account won’t be half as exciting:

From the houseboat we took a 2 1/2 hour taxi ride to Cherai Beach (1000INR). The drive was ok except through the city of Ernakulum which is big, busy and full of grey highrises. Made me appreciate Bangalore with all the trees, parks and low buildings.

We stayed at Cherai Beach Resort. Our hut looked out over a peaceful lake. And just across the road from the resort is the Arabian Sea. It was so nice to swim in the ocean. Actually the waves were big, you couldn’t really swim. In fact you couldn’t let your guard down or you would get pounded by a huge wave. Hence, Alanna coined a new term, “sea wallopping.” We all had so much fun trying to jump higher than the wave, diving under or trying to body surf. And if we didn’t time it right we got a good “sea wallopping!”

The beach was long and sandy but they are in the process of building up a breakwater with boulders between the road and the sand. I guess when it gets stormy the water would easily swamp the road.

We booked the “Monsoon Package” – 2 nights, including all meals for 12,200INR (for four of us). The food was good for the most part. The Kerala fish in banana leaf was excellent, as was the mango milkshake and fresh grape juice.

The Monsoon Package also included an Ayurvedic Massage for both Michael and I. We decided to take advantage of it the first night. We didn’t know where to go so we went to reception and they sent us off with a little old man to show us the way. We followed him to the lake and he motioned for us to get into the boat. Oh oh, we thought there must be some mistake and we tried to explain that we were going for a massage, not a boat ride. But he nodded vigorously, saying, “massage, massage.” And so we got into the narrow canoe and he paddled us a short way to some huts. Off we got and sure enough this was the massage hut.

An older Indian woman and a man were waiting for us. We each went to a separate room, me with the woman, and Michael with the man. The room was bare bones, with a massage table with no linen on it at all. There was a two burner gas stove. One side was heating up oils, the other side was heating up water.

I lied down on the table and she plied me with so much oil that I was scared that I would slide right off the table. It was an odd but relaxing hour. After the massage I stood up and she had a tall drink ready and she said to drink it all at once. She spoke little English so I have no idea what it was but I drank it (I was a little bit scared of her). The drink didn’t have much taste.

Then she put me into a steam shower, the kind that looks like a small capsule. You step into it and the door shuts around your body, with just your head sticking out. The hot water on the stove was heating up the steam shower. I sat there for about ten minutes by myself, sweating. She let me out and I had quite the time showering and trying to get the oil off of me and out of my hair.

Next she gave me another drink and a small pill which again I took but had no idea what it was. Then she had a small bowl of red, brown and white “paint” which she put on my forehead. That was the finishing touch and she walked me out to wait for Michael. Of course I was still sweating from the steam bath and immediately wiped my brow. Oops…she took me back in and redid my forehead.

Back to the beach. On the second day we decided to walk along the beach to where we had seen more people in the water the day before. The tide was right up to the rocks and down further there was a bit of a beach. When we got there no one else was there.
The kids jumped into the water but Michael and I noticed a group of fifteen guys coming down the beach towards us. Sure enough they stopped and sat on the rocks and stared at us. This is pretty common because there aren’t many tourists on the beach and the Indian guys just stare at the westerners in their bathing suits.

We felt a little uncomfortable, being the only ones there so we decided to walk back to our beach by the resort. I took the road and Michael and the kids decided to walk along the shore. This is where Craigs story comes in.
Michael had a backpack on and was carrying four towels and the kids each had a towel around them. I lost sight of them as the rocks hid them from view. So after a bit I climbed the rocks to see where they were. That’s when I saw Michael up to his waist in water and the backpack getting soaked. Waves were crashing into him and he was stumbling. Then I look behind him and I see the kids climbing up the rocks.

I start waving to Michael to come up the rocks but he wouldn’t. So I went to help the kids. Just as I got to them about ten guys in matching blue shirts come running up, looking very concerned. I’m assumming they were lifeguards. Sure enough Craig had hit his head on the rocks and had some scrapes on his arms and legs. Alanna had some scrapes as well.
Luckily nothing more serious happened, the waves were really crashing in. The three of them had another good “sea wallopping” and I think we all learned a good lesson that waves and rocks don’t mix – at least don’t put yourself between them.

So that was it for the morning, we walked back to the hut pretty dazed. Took it easy, had lunch and rested. But then we decided we didn’t want to end the trip like that so off we went in the afternoon when the tide was out again. The kids jumped right in and didn’t come out for 1 1/2 hours. We had a blast and watched the sun go down.

Kerala Backwaters

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Got picked up from our hotel in Cochin by taxi and made our way to the Kerala backwaters at Kumarakom, near Kottayam. It was Sunday morning and the streets were filled with people walking to church. There is a large Christian population in Kerala and every church was overflowing with people standing outside.
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We boarded the houseboat at 11:00 A.M. and took off shortly thereafter. The boat is a traditional Kettuvallam (rice barge) and has two floors. There are two small bedrooms, an eating area and a kitchen on the lower floor. The upper balcony has a seating area, a mattress and pillows to lounge on and watch the scenery go by.
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We began on a medium size canal and then made our way onto a huge lake (Vembanad Lake) and cruised along the shoreline. Three guys took care of us – the cook, the captain and the assistant. The cook was especially friendly and spoke pretty good English. He made us an excellent lunch, including some flavorful little fish, served whole of course.
We spent most of the afternoon on the lake, which got a little boring because there wasn’t much to see in the way of  village life. However, late in the afternoon we came to Alleppey and we were able to go on the larger canals. The houseboat is too big to go on the small canals. It was nice to see people and life on the water. Riverboat taxi’s cruise people back and forth, people wash dishes, clothes and themselves in the river. The pace slowed and it sure felt like a different India. People paddled and sang and laughed and waved.
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The famous Kerala snake boat race was a week away and we were able to see some of the teams practicing. They are similar to dragon boats, being long and narrow. But the snake boat is even longer and there are a lot more people paddling. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the big race. They were building the starting gates and the grandstands at the finish line. On the backwaters, the snake boats are the only ones who are fast and loud.
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We stopped along the river to buy beer at one place and at another, the “Ice Cream Corner,” we bought jumbo prawns to have for dinner on the boat. Then we were back on the lake and it was enjoyable and incredibly relaxing.
At 5:30 P.M. we docked at a small village. All large boats must be off the lake from 5:30 P.M. – 8:00 A.M. to allow the fishermen to go out and set up their nets for the night.We went for a walk through the village. Kids ran out and waved or asked for pens, which sadly we were not prepared for.  Must remember to keep some in the backpack.
Back to the boat and the cook set Craig up with a homemade fishing line – he used bamboo for the rod and chapati dough for bait. Craig caught four fish, including two Kerala sharks – he was thrilled. In the end he threw them all back in the water. I think he did it to make his sister happy, considering she ran to her room crying and calling him a murderer.
At nightfall, the fishermen set out to lay their nets in the water. We had dinner at 8:00 P.M. and went to bed early at 10:00 P.M. We were in for a long night. The guys had a generator on to keep the A/C running, but it was so loud that we asked them to turn it off. We thought we would just use the fan in our room. Big mistake. It turned out to be even louder and now we felt like we were in a sauna. Then there were the pillows – why would they would give us pillow cases filled with cement? And the sheets – they reeked of that dusky, damp monsoon smell.
Surprisingly, I did mange to fall asleep right away, but woke up at 1:00 A.M. and so did Michael. We tossed and turned until 5:30 A.M. when we got up and went outside. Worth it though because that is when I took this award-winning photo (Global Adjustments 4th Annual Beautiful India Photo Competition):
The sun rose and the fishermen were out to retrieve their nets and their catch. The palm trees made beautiful silhouettes. Even though we were  exhausted we appreciated the peacefulness and the beauty. Soon everyone was up and we were on our way, cruising the lake and down another canal for a couple of hours til the end of our journey. Got up at 5:30am and went outside.
Personally, if I were to do it again, I would go to Alleppey and hire a small boat to tour the backwaters. The best part of the trip was on the canals and I’d rather tour the small ones and see the villages, than spend so much time on the lake. Cost for the entire twenty-four hours for a two bedroom houseboat, including meals for the four of us – 8000INR ($200Can).
I’ll post the last part of the trip (Cherai Beach) soon and you can look forward to my guest blogger: Craig!

Kerala, Day 1 & 2, Fort Cochin 44INR=$1Can

Just spent five days in Kerala, on the southwest coast of India. We took a one hour “Go Air” flight from Bangalore to Cochin. The cost was zero for the flight and 4000INR ($100Can)per person, return for taxes. Not a bad price.

The first two nights were in Fort Cochin, a great little fishing town on the Arabian Sea. It is quiet, with small buildings dating back 500 years to when the Portugese and Dutch set up shop, trading spices, teas and other wares.

The first afternoon we took a tuk tuk to the Jewish town. There is an old Synagogue and lots of shops selling jewellery, carvings, antiques and spices. Unfortunately the Synagogue is closed on Fri. and Sat. so no luck seeing it. Craig had some fun on the way back to the hotel – the tuk tuk driver let him sit up front and drive it on one of the smaller roads – big smile on his face and a lot of concentration.

All along the beach front are Chinese fishing nets. They look like giant Praying Mantises lined up one after another. A huge square net descends into the water. On the beach a group of men pull down on a bunch of ropes, lowering huge rocks (weights)and the net is raised. After they check their catch they release the rocks and the net is lowered into the water. They do this every ten minutes or so. The fish are taken to one of many stalls along the beach and are soon for sale.

The first night we stayed at Fort House. It seemed ok when we arrived and lunch at the restaurant was good. But that night it was so noisy with people yakking, dogs barking and ships sounding their horns. And dinner was awful. So the next day we moved to Arches – half the price, quiet, close to the shops and way more comfortable.

Found a good restaurant called Teapot that had mouthwatering chicken curry, good samosas, and huge pieces of Death by Chocolate – need I say more. About $12Can for the four of us to eat.

Fort Cochin was a nice way to start the trip – laid back, little traffic, and lots to see and do. Next – Kerala backwaters and Cherai Beach…

A Great Weekend Getaway (Published Article)

Here is an article that I wrote for the Rangoli magazine (Oct. 2009):

Fort Cochin, a quiet town on the Arabian Sea, is a one hour flight from Bangalore but feels like a world away. Fort Cochin makes for a great weekend getaway or the starting point to a trip to the Kerala backwaters, nearby Cherai Beach or elsewhere in Kerala.

There are deals to be had, especially when travelling during monsoon season. My family of four took a comfortable one hour “Go Air” flight from Bangalore to Kochi. The cost was Rs 0 (yes, zero) for the flight plus taxes, Rs 4000 each return. Not a bad price.
We quickly arranged for a prepaid taxi at the airport and set off for Fort Cochin, 90 minutes away. The town may be quiet but the port is bustling with fishing boats large and small, with horns to match. The town itself has one or two storey buildings dating back 500 years to when the Portuguese and Dutch set up shop, trading spices, teas and other wares.
The first afternoon we took a ten minute rickshaw ride to Jew town. There is a 350- year- old Synagogue, the oldest in India, and shops selling jewellery, carvings, antiques and spices. The buildings are colourful and the streets narrow.
The Synagogue is closed on Saturdays and it happened to be closed on Friday when we were there, so we missed out seeing the inside of it. But it was a nice lazy afternoon browsing in shops and sipping cappuccinos.


Fort Cochin is a walking town and the next morning we walked along the beachfront where Chinese fishing nets are set up. They look like giant Praying Mantises lined up one after another. On the beach a group of men pull down on an elaborate set of ropes, lowering huge rocks (weights) and a big square net is raised out of the water. Someone scurries out along bamboo poles to check the catch. The men release the rocks, and the net is lowered into the water again. The fish are taken to one of many stalls along the beach and are soon for sale.

The men repeat this every ten minutes or so and are happy to have tourists come and try their hand at it. Just show a bit of interest and they’ll soon be calling you over to help them out!

A short walk from the water is Princess Street, lined with shops and restaurants. We enjoyed the aromas of shops selling essential oils and pretty glass bottles to put them into. There are so many oils to choose from but I finally narrowed my favourite down to Kerala oil.

Nearby, we found Teapot, an eatery which has delicious Kerala spiced chicken curry, samosas, and huge pieces of Death by Chocolate – need I say more.

A little further on is St. Francis Church, said to be India’s oldest European church. Kerala has a large Christian population but we were still surprised to see so many churches. As we drove out of town Sunday morning, churchgoers filled the streets and the churches.

With Fort Cochin’s laid back feel and old European charm, you may feel like you’ve left the country altogether. But that’s the beauty of it – you haven’t left the country – this is just one more of the many sides of India.