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Awesome! - The Magical world of Kerala in my palm
1. WHY I WENT
The call of spring in the land of Parasurama, to run with mogra blossoms in my hair and feel Onam in the air… when the whole of Kerala is celebrating the return of the mythical king Mahabali, in an excess of folk rhythm and feasting…. When elephants march, when an otherwise austere state wears an indulgent face, and beauteous women dance the Thiruvathira.
2. WHAT I DID
Gripped the edge of my seat and watched long, sleek chundan vallams or snake-boats, each manned by a hundred oarsmen possessed by demonic energy, hurtle across the backwaters…. The Nehru Boat Races and the Aranmula Races (all happening around August- September) is reason enough to abandon all, and rush to this south-western tip of India… Took a languorous(lazy) boat cruise from Allepey to kochi across the lovely Vembanad lake, past loamy paddy fields, and literally thousands and thousands of coconut palms!
3. WHAT I SAW
The arrestingly beautiful Jewish Synagogue in Cochin, a Cherished relic of the past- its floor paved with 18th century blue tiles; Punnathurkota, a unique 11 acre elephant sanctuary attached to the Guruvayoor Temple; and the magnificent seven- storey gopuram of the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum, an architectural wonder of hoary antiquate and in a fitting climax- The awesome Periar Sanctuary at Thekkady.
4. WHAT I BOUGHT
The artisans of Kerala trace their linage to Vishwakarma, the architect of Gods and are called Kammalas. Truly, you can pick up the most divine Sandalwood carvings, Coconut shell toys and kathakali mask in the handicraft showrooms at Trivandrum and Kochin.
Kuruppam Road in Thrissur, is a great place to buy those famous bell-metal lamps like Arathy deepa (prayer lamp). The mile vilakku(Peacock lamp) or the towering Deepa-sthambha ( tower of light in a temple). Prices start at Rs. 80 and can cost upto Rs 50,000 or more! But, for something extraordinary, hurry down a lane in the heart of Trivandrum and youll find Karalkada- a shop that has been here for over 150 years and has the most equisite Kerala saris called neryath with the classic gold edging.
5.WHAT I LEARNT
That travelling in a car is about the pleasantest way to see Kerala, for there is really no urban-rural divide here. Topographically, it is one continuous vista of greenery interrupted by placid, unblinking stretches of water. The coconut or The Indian Nut as Marco Polo described it is the dominant motif in the landscape and in its cuisine as well! Drool over fish moiley (king fish in creamy coconut sauce spiked with vinegar) idiappam or rice noodles drenched in sweetened coconut milk and pathiri, a thin rice chappathi drenched in fresh coconut milk and served with a khorma in coconut paste…..You could eat anywhere and still get clean, hygienic food.
6. WHAT I LIKED
The fragrance of spices in Jew Street in Mattanchery (you could buy little packets of fresh pepper, cardamom and cashew for folk back home)…. The ravishing, cantilevered Chinese fishing nets brought from Kublai Khans court… and the classic signboards strung on a nail on the walls of the small eateries all along the way that bear the legend Meals ready, which must be understood as We have lunch ready- usually steaming hot red rice with fish curry or a pure vegetarian meal with Sambar, avial etc.
7. WHAT I RECOMMEND
Go off the beaten track and take your holiday up north in Kozhikode. Besides some really pretty coutryside, it has the gorgeous Kappad beach that still marks the spot where Vasco da Gama came calling…. Visit Beypore, the post-card pretty fishing village, and the lush plantation country of Wynad (about 76 kms north-east of Calicut) with its coffee, cardamom and pepper estates… And dont leave without gorging on the redoubtable black halwa from Calicuts famous Halwa Market!
Work in mind-blowing houseboat experience, your home on the waters with a glorious moon and a personal chef in attendance! Indulge in a rejuvenating massage (take the whole course if you can make the time!)- this is absolutely the happening place in ayurvedic treatment, and its offered all over the state. The best time for ayurvedic therapy is said to be from June to September, so go forth and return as new energized beings!