Subha Manoj

While I Was Away

Subha Manoj

October 2016 – Munnar, Thekkady and Backwaters.

I am a Delhi bred Keralite and my father made sure that I visit each of our relatives based there during every summer holidays. But in the first 24 years of my life, I visited no other place in Kerala, other than the cultural capital of Kerala: Thrissur. (It happens to be my home town) My parents were not travelers, so well, I never traveled.

Have I felt bad about it? YES (In bold, italics and upper case). I think many non mallus have seen Kerala better than me. I decided to fix it for my kids and me. This month we decided to visit Munnar, Thekkady, Kumarakom and Alleppey. This blog is all about my visit. 
WHEN: 2nd October – 6th October ( 4 nights and 5 days)
WHO: Manoj, A (10 years old), N (6 years old) and me. 
FROM: Bangalore
TRAVEL PLANNING: I pretty much knew what we wanted to do, but I mostly let our travel planners arrange everything. This time we chose VENTURE OUT, run by Ramshai Prakash. 
1st October night: We took the Kanyakumari Express from KR Puram and got down at Ernakulam Town. Venture Out had arranged for a driver and an AC SWIFT. The driver’s name was Mr. Mohan Babu. If there is one word that I can use for him, I would say: Perfect. A perfect driver, a jolly good fellow who loves to drive, has loads to information for info-thirsty beings like me and knows when to be quiet at the right time. 
2nd October: We reached Ernakulam at 8 am. Mohan was waiting for us at the station. We had our breakfast at a nearby restaurant and started our journey to Munnar around 9 – 9:30. Enroute, there are a few waterfalls. I am skipping writing about them because it didn’t really fascinate me. But yes, what I would like to add here is that all these places sell corncobs, pineapples, raw mangoes which I would eat anytime. I would like to add here that this was one trip in which we skipped all packaged snacks and relied completely on natural food stalls/local food. 
The route to Munnar is quite scenic and a photographer’s delight.

We stopped at SN Restaurant for lunch. A must visit on the way to Munnar. A small local restaurant which served fresh fish and meals. A meal in Kerala means almost a complete aunthentic Keralite dishes (mostly veg) with a non veg curry and fish fry. It was lip smacking and absolutely easy on the pocket. 
Our resort was 22 kms away from the Munnar town, in Chinnakanal. We reached around 2 pm. I would suggest staying in this area as the view is beyond words. 
THE RESORT: Mountain Club, Munnar. 
RATING: 5/5 
WHY: The cottage was perfect for our family. Spacious yet cozy, Beautiful interiors. Good food. I got over my inhibitions and got an Abhyanga with Kizhi done from their ayurvedic spa. Yippee! 
Munnar is really not a place to roam around. You check in a nice resort in the middle of the mountains and enjoy pure nature. 

3rd October: We visited the Mattupetty Dam. Horse rides, fresh local produce, a little ahead was the Echo point, boating, a little local shopping. Came back to the resort and remaining evening just chilled out. 
4th October: Check out. Drive to Thekkady. We started around 8:30 am and reached Thekkady by 11:30 am. 
THE RESORT: Spice Grove 
RATING: 3/5 
WHY: The room was just okay. The TV wasn’t working properly. The technician came and fixed it though. 2 tea cups for 4 guests. The intercom had a lot of disturbance. I understand that Thekkady is the land of spices, but it still is not reason enough to load every damn dish under the sky with spices. Not happening 🙁 
The 3/5 is solely to the guest management team. They were very courteous. Another positive point for the inhouse Kashmiri shop from where I picked up some pretty German Silver jewellery.   
After checking in, we went for the Periyar sanctuary river safari. The KTDC restaurant inside the Periyar sanctuary is easily avoidable. I would suggest packing food or eating elsewhere. 

About the river cruise: the sanctuary was disappointing. One of my friends later on told me that we should have done this visit in the morning to have a better sightings. The Bannerghatta safari was way better. You can read about my experience here
The highest point of Thekkady was the visit to Mudra Kathakali Centre. This is a must visit. There is no way, anyone should miss this place. If there is one takeaway from my Kerala Trip, it is this. There is a lot I want to write about the Kathakali performance, and I would be blogging about it in another post. You can read about it here
5th October: We checked out in the morning after breakfast and drove down to Kumarakom. 
Enroute, we stopped at the tea estate of Harrisons Malayalam. I have been to other tea estates too, but this one takes the prize. Well managed and resourceful. Most importantly, it changed the way we look at tea, especially green tea. 

FYI, Alleppey and Kumarakom are the 2 ends of the backwaters. While Alleppey is more of a town, Kumarakom is laid back interiors. 
THE RESORT: World Backwaters
RATING: 3.5/5 
WHY: The resort is beautiful. We could have access to the backwaters from the backside of the resort. The food could have been a lot more local and good, keeping in mind we were in Kerala backwaters. I also did not much approve of the fact that the resort was completely Non-Keralite driven. By that I mean, the staff members were completely non Keralites. The food missed the Keralite factor completely. It was disappointing in that sense. 

6h October: We checked out in the morning and drove to the house boat in Alleppey. Reached by 9:30 am. 
The Backwaters was a real treat. We are a family of water lovers. The backwaters gave us all that we were missing upon. The sea food, water (water water everywhere) and scenes of the local life. I was pleasantly surprised to see the expanse of the backwaters. I never knew that the backwaters was so vast, I actually thought we were in the sea. We had asked for lunch to be served in the houseboat. A young man cooked for us, using basic Kerala spices and fresh sea catch. It was truly delicious! FYI, we opted for a 3 hour cruise in the house boat instead of a night stay. Overnight stay can be expensive and really unnecessary because at night the houseboats are parked ashore. Moreover kids can get bored after a while. 

The overall rating I would give to this trip would be 4/5. Being a Keralite, I think I have been exposed to our intricate and beautiful culture a lot already. The extraordinary locales is something I get to enjoy even during my visit to meet our family and relatives here. My husband’s ancestral house has a pond and a beautiful carpet of lush green paddy fields and hills around it. The local drives from his home town to mine itself is a beauty in itself. But I am glad I took this trip (off my bucket list). My kids got to see places other than their homes in Kerala. 
A lot of commercialization has eaten up the sanctity of many of these places. From the economy’s point of view, it is definitely good. But from the point of view of culture and purity, I am not sure whether this is the right direction. Nevertheless, every travel experience teaches us something more about not just the place, but also about ourselves.  

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