Galactus on a Kerala trip - Jan 2012

Old Feb 1st, 2012, 10:42 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Galactus on a Kerala trip - Jan 2012

Just finished my 5 day trip to Kerala and thought it would be a perfect opportunity to write my first trip report. While the trip itself had its ups and downs like any genuine vacation, the state itself is truly stunning. I have never seen such natural beauty with so much diversity in India, from beaches to backwaters to mountains, Kerala has it all.

Photos at: http://travel.webshots.com/album/582258915ggdkWf

Day 1
Long haul flight from Pune with a 4 hour stopover at Hyderabad. Nice, clean airport with plenty of ways to kill time, insofar airports go in being means of passing time. It has some pretty empty (in a good way) areas where you can sit in peace and enjoy a good book or just watch the planes go about their business. The damage to the wallet started with the purchase of a rare Waterman fountain pen I found browsing around. Nice start, with a hefty price tag. The next leg of the journey to Cochin was by a medium paced turboprop plane, which was exciting mostly because I get to travel by them less and less each year.

By the time I finally reached my hotel in Cochin, it was dark and most of the city had closed down. For the single night, I chose the Presidency Hotel in Ernakulam, which is the downtown area of the city. The dinner at their main restaurant was disappointing, I expected much from the serving of grilled prawns in a city famous for its seafare. I had to leave that plate halfway and finish up with a club sandwich. Oddly enough my waiter when queried about the number of restaurants inside the hotel, replied that it was the only one. In reality they had three, though I never got to know about them till it was too late.

Day 2
Another dismal meal at the hotel, this time a buffet breakfast. But the room was fair for its price and after a restful night, so I could not complain much. The driver Biju had already decided that we should see the Chinese fishing nets which hark back to the 13th century. They were innovative structures I admit but the catch and speed of operation was so meager that I wonder if they would be around much longer. After a quick peek at the nearby beach structures and the beach itself, I thought the best option was to head straight to Munnar and reach in daylight. With a heavy lunch dripping in coconut oil and eaten at a reasonably clean joint, I thought the rest of the journey (5 more hours) would be a breeze. Alas, with the heavy food and the zigzag mountain road coupled with the driver intent of joining the F1, I became seriously ill and barely looked out of the window till we reached Munnar. At the sight of the first resort - Royal Retreat (note to self: stay here next time), I was elated only to find that my resort was another 25 kms away, well outside the town of Munnar. But oh what a sight I was treated to on the way there - magnificent tea gardens, stunning valley views and awe inspiring cloudy mountain tops. So this is the reason everyone loves Munnar and who can blame them.

We checked into our hotel - the Siena Village which is nestled neatly below two mountains high enough that their tops were usually covered in clouds. The rooms were extremely charming with wooden flooring, a small fireplace and a neat little balcony upstairs. Ah, I could get used to this. The evening was mostly spent gazing at the scenery around me and the dinner remained a mystery since I managed to have only a couple of bowls of chicken soup remembering the difficult times I had only hours ago. Still, the weather was good, the hotel cozy and the surroundings peaceful. Good day all in all.
galactus is offline  
Old Feb 1st, 2012, 11:14 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,286
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
More, more! This area is on my radar.
Kathie is offline  
Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 09:38 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Day 3
A breathtaking morning in Munnar. I can't think of anyone who would get bored of watching cloud kissed mountain tops with the rising sun everyday. Breakfast at the Siena Village was good enough, a great improvement over the hotel in Cochin. I felt fully recovered and raring to go explore the sights of Munnar. The first stop was the Tea Museum which displays the machines that are (most probably were) used to create the famous local teas. It did not live upto my expectations but there was a fine tea shop which was selling packets of locally grown tea and I dutifully bought one bag. Right outside, they were also giving out free cups of the cardamom tea - nice and flavorful, but extremely sweet.

The next stop recommended by Biju was the Matupetty dam. An impressive structure but does not achieve a legendary status as damns go. What is stunning though is the scenery around it. The dam forms a beautiful lake of sorts surrounded by hills covered in lush green tea leaves. There are even photographers with digital cameras who would click you and print the photo using a mini-printer kept in their backpacks. I was so fascinated by this, that I got one even if the charges were way above the usual. It was time for lunch and after turning down the first offered restaurant, Biju took us to a north indian place called Shri Krishna below Sujata Inn. The food was basic but did the job of satisfying our hunger.

From there we went to the famous flower gardens of Munnar which is touted as a big tourist attraction. Well it certainly is attractive (flowers do that), but it is nothing unique about it. For the evening and sunset, I again spent it at the resort looking out of the gardens to the nearby hills. The best way to spend many hours. Dinner was hearty as expected, since the breakfast was good. However as I found out later, looks can be deceiving.

Day 4
Woke up ill again and today was the day we had to drive to Alleypey, a solid 6 hour drive from Munnar in good conditions. So I skipped breakfast completely and gritted my teeth for a hard drive ahead. But not before a couple of hours spent in the dewy gardens again. This time Biju drove slower, much to my relief and at lunch we were only nearing Cochin. We stopped at the same place again as day 2, but this time I got smart. Instead of coconut oil food, I ordered curd-rice wit added seasoning for flavor and a hint of chilli. Tasty and gentle on the stomach.

Reached Alleypey backwaters around 4, which was much later than I had anticipated. Then was greeted with the news that the houseboat we had booked had already been taken and we were put on the Goodwill Lotus. It seemed like the other boats so we climbed in with 3 crew members. And away we went on a gentle trip of the backwaters with the first stop being a small shop selling fresh fish (questionable) which did not elicit anything from my wallet. Now since houseboats interfere with the fishing nets, they are supposed to dock after 6 PM which we did. But not before a nice sunset on the backwaters. From then on, I climbed on the shores and went through a typical backwater village with paddy fields and little grills cooking freshwater fish.

The houseboat in the meanwhile was hooked with electricity and cable TV from the nearby house jarring us back to modern times. While we watched TV and became a snack for mosquitoes, the crew prepared a homely meal with easily available ingredients like Karimeen fish. And what a great meal! I admit there was almost nothing I could point out as a dish I've eaten before but it was top-notch. Who could believe, three crew members would cook up that good a meal in the tiniest kitchen. After dinner, we headed to bed which brought in more rules. There is no fan in the rooms and since the houseboat is docked in a village, they ask you to close the doors (not that there is any great worry) for added safety. The AC is switched on only from 9PM to 6AM and has no controls. The captain told us to switch it off when it became too cold; a feat I deemed impossible when I turned in. But it did happen, then went the other way and this happened through the uncomfortable night.
galactus is offline  
Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 10:53 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 4,121
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Keep going. This is fascinating. Having just spent a week in Kerala I'll be really interested in the continuing saga. I get the feeling you were traveling on your own? Did someone put this itinerary together for you - or did you plans and book it yourself?

You're delightfully positive in face of all the obstacles. I'm not sure I would have been... lol. Next chapter, please...
dogster is offline  
Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 11:23 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 375
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I'm very much enjoying your report and looking forward to the next installment!
travelaw is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2012, 10:54 AM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thank you all for the kind words. The final chapter will be up shortly. To answer dogster's questions: I was traveling with my family, an annual vacation of sorts. Thankfully they held up much better than I did in the health department.

The local sightseeing and hotel bookings were done by an agent called FreezeMyTrip. The air tickets were purchased by me through Yatra.com. However, I(we) chose the hotels including the Presidency Cochin. Mostly because I wanted to live in the heart of the city rather than Fort Cochin which is quite touristy and has a less 'local' feel to it. The agent did book the houseboat with not much input from us. Though their prices are fair, I'd rather not book with them again considering everything they were managing turned just about passable.
galactus is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2012, 11:37 AM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Day 5
Woke up before sunrise mostly because I slept early and the no AC rule after 6AM. And I don't regret it one bit because I was treated with the most awesome sunrise on the backwaters with a church like building in the background and the gentle sound of a village waking up. It is hard to describe just how beautiful it is, the only thing I could compare it to would be the sunrise I saw in Kashmir once near the Lima mountain. School children were getting ready and using the ferry service on the backwaters to get to their classes, fishermen were taking off their nets and going over their catch and it was still quite peaceful and serene.

The washroom though was not really to my liking, lacking both hot water and a shower. The water itself looked quite suspect, so I decided to give the bath a miss and just freshened myself as best as I could. The water also is stored in the tank only when the engines are running leading me to believe it might be the lake water with some minimal cleansing routine (this is not the cooking or drinking water).

The crew removed the cables and we were off again through the backwaters while two of them prepared breakfast. We were served rice idlis and sambhar (which I avoided due to the coconut oil in the latter) and delightful omelette's laden with green chilis. With some sniffling and lots of water, I ate a couple and was not disappointed. These guys were the best cooks on the entire trip, who would've guessed that. While the captain was brisk about his business, the other two were kind enough to cut us up a fresh pineapple to go with the breakfast. Wading gently again, we were close to the end of the ride and that came surely enough. Biju was on time and all prepped up to take us back to Cochin airport. Since the flight was not scheduled till after lunch, we thought of stopping at a small local cafe to pack a few things for the journey. Bad mistake, since those guys managed to take over 50 minutes to pack bread and butter. With time running short, Biju (re)found the inner F1 instincts (on a relatively non-curvy road thankfully) and we reached the airport with a good hour to spare. The rest of the journey back is just regular air travel in India. And oh, I didn't get the turboprop on the way back, shucks.

Odds and ends I forgot
In Munnar, while everyone was buying spices from SN Spice shop (decent enough), I managed to stumble upon the most amazing departmental store in the town. Its called the Munnar Supply Association and was built in the year 1900 and the grace of the building shows it. Its like a big old house cum barrack with the most laid-back atmosphere for a general store. Do yourself a favor and buy whatever you need in Munnar from there, its like stepping into the pages of a history book.

Another thing I found interesting was the local handmade bathing soaps. They are encased in what can only be described as an oyster shell (its not) and while a bit pricey, they were totally worth it if I am to go by the words of the ladies traveling with me.

Tips for future travelers based on my experiences
Do not eat at the Presidency if you do stay there, atleast not in the restaurant on the first floor! I did manage to see the Grand Hotel (my next choice when planning) and it certainly looked better kept though I did not venture inside or eat there. If you eat fish, try the Karimeen rather than the widely available salmon simply because the latter you can get anywhere in the world, but a freshly caught and cooked Karimeen by the locals is worth it.

This is probably too specific, but if you react to mountain driving like me and if you are a party of 3 or less, try to book an Ambassador or a Corolla rather than the Toyota Innova (which I did). While its a great vehicle, its suspension to a bit too springy and gives you a roller coaster ride on the smooth but curvy roads of Munnar.

Finally, the driver with you is going to add his meal to your bill, so don't be surprised. Ours used to order something called a Fish Curry Meal which is basically rice and a dozen small bowls of different curries with the biggest (relatively) containing the fish curry. It was cheap enough and we were happy to foot the bill of a polite and accommodating driver. When he is not present with you, like when we ate at the north indian cafe in Munnar, the decent thing to do is to give him money for his meal. Food is fairly cheap everywhere in Kerala, while gentle drivers are hard to come by.
galactus is offline  
Old Feb 3rd, 2012, 01:14 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 257
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks; I was in Kerala for just four nights. I always find it interesting comparing notes of almost identical trips. We saw some of the same things, and some different ones. I totally agree about the stunning scenery and the tranquillity of Munnar; I'm sorry you were hit by the dreaded traveller's curse.

My trip reports are here:

Munnar, Kerala, India http://loraltravel.blogspot.com/2011...ala-india.html

Kochi, Kerala, India http://loraltravel.blogspot.com/2011...ala-india.html

Cheers, Alan, Australia
Trav_Eller is offline  
Old Feb 5th, 2012, 10:12 AM
  #9  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Fantastic posts Trav_eller, good to see you enjoyed Kerala. And I must say, you seem to be a way better photographer than me. Thanks for the interesting read.
galactus is offline  
Old Feb 5th, 2012, 11:50 AM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 26,842
Likes: 0
Received 1 Like on 1 Post
Thanks for the TR, sorry you got sick! When I did the houseboat thing back in 2001 there was no electricity at all, so any AC puts you ahead. (Didn't see anything wrong with the shower that I remember, though.) The food on the houseboat was fabulous then too. Interested to hear about Munnar, I opted for Coorg instead on my last trip, but now have Munnar on the list.

BTW, quotes for car and driver usually include the cost of the driver's meals and accommodation.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Feb 6th, 2012, 04:00 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Posts: 257
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Thanks for the compliments Galactus. Happy travels.

Next time, ask your doctor about Norfloxacin for the traveller's curse. Not all can take it, but it worked like magic for me in Hong Kong and Cairo.

Cheers, Alan, Australia.
Trav_Eller is offline  
Old Feb 8th, 2012, 09:29 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
thursdaysd: thanks for that information, I did not think to ask about it beforehand. But will keep this in mind when booking through an agent.

Trav_eller: thanks for the tip, I'd keep it as my last resort remedy to pack.
galactus is offline  
Old Feb 8th, 2012, 09:16 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4,533
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Best prophylactic for carsickness is meclizine. Sold OTC. Take one hour before winding roads...assuming you know that beforehand. If not--even taking it during the ride whould help. It is also sold as Bonine.

Thank you Galactus, for description of your Kerala trip. Your report echoes others i've read and is why i have never wanted to take an overnight houseboat trip there.

Curious: Since you live in India and are on vacation, why not stay in a place like Ft Cochin, vs Ernakulum, even if Ft C is more "touristy" ? Why choose city chaos, when you can see that any time at home ? Perhaps the trip would have been off to a better start (and better food) and equally priced, if you'd have stayed at a homestay in Ft Cochin? Ah well....for next time!!

Thanks again for taking the time to write your story.
CaliNurse is offline  
Old Feb 10th, 2012, 03:04 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Cali: thanks for the suggestion. About your question on Ernakulam vs Fort Cochin, being an Indian is precisely the reason of my choice. I do not see it as city chaos, because I've lived here all my life. Just like driving in India does not scare me at all, I've driven here for a long time now.

While there was some economic advantage to choosing Ernakulam, the primary reason was the feeling in my head that it would be the modern day equivalent of Malgudi, a fictional town in the writings of RK Narayan. What I mean by 'local' feel is that since India is so vast and yours truly hailing from the north, it was of great interest to see what is the variance of daily lives down south.

There is also perhaps some events related to a Parsee cafe in Pune which affects my choice. It is an old place called Vohuman's and serves a great breakfast fare. A long time ago they used to have these wooden tables where students would etch their thoughts on the mute table. It ranged from cheesy love confessions to exam worries to some thoughtful notes and messages to generations who would sit on those tables decades in the future. It was a source of endless fun and gave me a glimpse of India as it was in the 60s/70s/80s (there used to be a couple more such cafe's). The old town of Cochin - Ernakulam - was this era's embodiment. Fort Cochin hails back to the old colonial times (even pre-Raj) and while perfectly serene and romantic, it does not have the same color to my eyes. Atleast not while planning the trip. In retrospect, it might have worked out better, but that is something I could know only in hindsight.
galactus is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2012, 03:38 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4,533
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Galactus, thank you for the further explanation. that all makes sense. Wow, you drive yourself in India??!!! Without being in terror?? I: I know many folks do...but it impresses and amazes me, as there is NO amunt of mney or anything else you could offer, that would get me behind the steering wheel there.

Very interesting about the old cafe. The first time i was in India, was in 1971. it was another world (bikes and bicycle rickshaws,s not many autos, as i recall--imagine Connaught Place with NO CARS !)

So when we arrived at Cochin airport, and were riding into town, we passed through some outlying suburbs before the town itself, and it was like a trip back to my first trip to see the shops, the little narrow hotels, etc. That initial memory, meant more emotionally, on the return 37 yrs later, than seeing the "tourist" sites.
CaliNurse is offline  
Old Feb 11th, 2012, 03:44 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 4,533
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
p.s. Forgot to say how i enjoyed your photos. Thanks for the tip on the Munnar Supply store--wonderful to have details like this (Have you been yet to Shimla? CheckMaria Brothers bookstore).
No wonder you got carsick on those narrow roads. Glad to see you looking quite healthy and happy in the "relaxing" and "yours truly" photos!
CaliNurse is offline  
Old Feb 13th, 2012, 10:05 AM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Aha the driving, well there's one great thing about it - learn to drive here and there is no place in the world you cannot tackle

The cafe in question now has marble top tables I think, probably the permanent messages got rude but I'm not too sure why. I've not been lucky enough to see India as it was back then (too young) but I'm always looking out for that experience. What you saw in those suburbs is what I'm looking for, only to experience it for the first time and first hand!

My photography skills are pretty average actually, especially once you click on Webshots slideshow which manages to pixelate even the tiniest images. Oh well, atleast the price is fair (free account). I have been to Shimla once with a similar experience on the roads (ouch) but will surely check out that bookstore, thanks for the tip.
galactus is offline  
Old Oct 28th, 2013, 02:15 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 35
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
Hi Galactus,

Thanks for this great TR! Helpful & entertaining.

Husband and I are going November, and one concern for me is ensuring our hotel is rodent-free, as I had the unfortunate experience of seeing one in our hotel room in Kandy, SL and therefore very wary of places near lakes, lagoons, etc. Could you comment on that, did you see or hear from other travelers anything like this in areas around Kochi (esp. around Lake Vembanad, Kottayam, Mararai Beach?)

Thanks!
Tara_M is offline  
Old Oct 30th, 2013, 03:22 AM
  #19  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2010
Posts: 212
Likes: 0
Received 0 Likes on 0 Posts
I haven't experienced or heard of any such rodent incidents near Kochi, but my best guess is that it'll depend upon your hotel choice. The more upmarket it is, the lesser chance of such an encounter.
galactus is offline  
Related Topics
Thread
Original Poster
Forum
Replies
Last Post
SusanInToronto
Canada
9
Oct 13th, 2018 01:48 PM
FromDC
Asia
21
Feb 21st, 2015 02:06 AM
GreenDragon
Europe
25
Jan 19th, 2015 09:25 AM
annhig
Europe
44
Jun 13th, 2011 07:33 PM
Miramar
United States
12
Jun 30th, 2009 12:43 PM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Do Not Sell My Personal Information