Written by koshkha on 22 Apr, 2012
S is for SpicesKerala is the spice state of India, benefiting from lots of sun and rain and a superb climate for things to grow. We visited a spice garden near Munnar and even small towns have spice shops, with the larger cities groaning under…Read More
S is for SpicesKerala is the spice state of India, benefiting from lots of sun and rain and a superb climate for things to grow. We visited a spice garden near Munnar and even small towns have spice shops, with the larger cities groaning under the weight of little packets of chillies, cardamoms, pepper, cinnamon and spice mixes like garam masala. T is for ThekkadyThekkady is another high altitude town and the jumping off point for the Periyar wildlife park, lake and tiger reserve. We didn't see any of these – I think our driver was stressed about us being put in a crazy hotel over an hour's drive from the town and he wanted to get there before it got dark (because he didn't know where he was going). There are some fabulous luxury hotels, lots of elephant-things to do and plenty of shops. But that's about it.U is for UnionisationI already mentioned under G that the communists have run Kerala for many years and consequently a lot of the workers are in unions. One Kashmiri shop keeper told us about his uncle who came to visit and refused to ever return after being royally ripped off by the porterage charges at the airport. He told us that in Kerala you can't haggle about prices for services as much as elsewhere because drivers, porters, dhobiwalas, etc have formed unions and won't undercut each other. We certainly found that a lot of tuk tuk drivers weren't open for negotiation – if you wouldn't pay their price, they wouldn't take you. Fortunately not all were so inflexible but it's good to know roughly what you should pay and then stick to your guns, even if it means having to ask 2 or 3 drivers before you get one that'll take your price.V is for Vasco da GamaSt Francis Church in Cochin is also known as the Vasco da Gama church. I was surprised to learn that I could see Vasco da Gama's tomb because I had a sneaky suspicion I'd seen it before – in Lisbon. Sure enough, poor old Vasco was buried in St Francis, the oldest church in India after he die in 1524 on his third trip to India. Then a few years later his body was taken back to Lisbon and put in a beautiful tomb in the church next to the Jeronimos Monastery.W is for WaterThere's a lot of water in Kerala – the coast, the backwaters with their islands of reclaimed lands, waterfalls throughout the mountains and rather a lot of rain. X is for Ex-pat housesThroughout the mountains we saw lots of enormous fancy houses, often set in large garden plots. Very rarely was there much evidence that anyone actually lived there. We asked Beena in Cochin what this was all about and she explained that most of these houses were built with money sent back to the families by relatives working in the Gulf. She told us that if you build a big house with your money, you can pretty much guarantee good marriage offers for all your daughters. It seems a shame that the best houses are mostly just for show. Ironically, you see similar behaviour in the countryside of Portugal where relatives go to Brazil and send back money to build big villas. In contrast to the grandeur of the ex-pat houses, I saw one little house, not much bigger than a garage with a neatly painted little sign that said 'Lal Bhawan'. My Hindi is pretty poor but I'm pretty sure that means 'precious palace'. Y is for YesIf someone asks you if you want to go to Kerala – well that's the answer "Yes, of course"Z is for ZigZagsYes, another tenuous one but the mountains do have a lot of hair-pin bends.So that's your lot. What are you waiting for? Kerala is one of the least hasslesome states of India, the people are friendly but not pushy, the food is excellent and inexpensive and the scenery is spectacular. There aren't too many states where you can spend time on the beach, time on a converted rice-barge floating around on the backwaters, and get to high altitude and see fabulous mountains and hang out with elephants. Close
H is for Hill StationsThroughout India when the weather gets hot, those who can afford to head for the hills. With altitude comes respite from the heat and for Kerala the most famous of the Hill Stations is Munnar though Wikipedia lists 16 different Kerala…Read More
H is for Hill StationsThroughout India when the weather gets hot, those who can afford to head for the hills. With altitude comes respite from the heat and for Kerala the most famous of the Hill Stations is Munnar though Wikipedia lists 16 different Kerala Hill Stations. Munnar is the least overtly 'British' hill station that we've visited and it's not actually a terribly attractive place. However it does have lots of great scenery, some interesting and some ridiculously bizarre attractions and it's certainly a lot cooler than down by the sea.I is for Irritating Sales PeopleOK, it's fair to say that this applies to most of India and not just Kerala. There is little more annoying that being followed round a shop by someone trying to be helpful but most of the time just stating the 'bleedin' obvious'. If your eye should glance a moment to long in one direction, they'll be there telling you what it is, whether you're interested or not. I always feel like they think I'm going to shop lift. The fact that you express absolutely no interest and sometimes even state explicitly that you don't care what the price is you wouldn't give house room to the ugly macramé elephant will not come between the irritating sales person and his or her determination to sell you things that you don't want.J is for JewtownJewtown is the district of Kochi in the direct vicinity of the Paradesi Synagogue, an area which was once inhabited by the wealthy, historic Jewish community but is now mostly filled with shops run or owned by Kashmiri traders. The Paradesi Jews are a dying community with no prospect to make it beyond the middle of the 21st century because they've been so exclusive about not marrying outside their community and the only remaining woman of child bearing age refuses to wed her cousins. We were there on a Friday, the worst possible day if you want to see the Synagogue because it's closed but the best day to do a bit of shopping because nobody goes there when the Synagogue isn't open. We spent a lovely few hours eating, drinking and chatting to the most relaxed bunch of low-hassle shop keepers in the sub-continent. I have a weakness for Kashmiris and their stores because they always have the best stock and as a rule are utterly charming. K is for KathikaliIf you only take away one piece of advice from this review let it be this – life is too short and too precious to watch Kathikali dancing. It's the most ridiculous form of dance I've seen anywhere in the world and also the most boring (though the Catalan 'Sardana' comes close). We went to a demonstration the first time we went to Kerala and vowed never to do it again. Our driver – the man who bullied us into Ayurvedic massage - worked out very quickly that whilst we were probably the most laid-back and amenable clients he'd ever had, when we said 'NO KATHIKALI' we meant it.L is for the Lack of BeggarsI know, bizarre, but we didn't see a single beggar in Kerala. It might be something to do with the state having the highest level of education and literacy anywhere in India and a pretty good level of income, and no doubt being on the coast with direct flights to the Middle East means a lot of money comes into the state from families sending a son or two to the Gulf to earn money.M is for moustachesEvery good Keralan man has a moustache. To be more precise, every good Keralan man has the SAME moustache. It's an excellent bushy thing that goes all across the top of the lip and droops a bit down either side.N is for the Nilgiri TahrThe Nilgiri Tahr is a goat that lives in Eravikulam National Park, quite possibly the lamest national park in India and they have some pretty daft one. Despite the park being massive, you're only allowed to walk along one piece of tarmac path which is about half a mile long. So we waited over an hour to get the bus from the ticket office to the park, paid ten times more than the locals, walked half a mile, saw a goat, walked back, waited an hour for another bus and then went back to Munnar. The goat was nice enough – I suspect it was fed in the same spot every day to ensure people got to see one – and it must have been a deaf goat to put up with dozens of Indians shouting "Oy, look! It's a goat, let's shout at it".O is for Orange PekoeThe mountainsides of Kerala are coated in tea bushes which look like fuzzy green corduroy. We visited the Kolukkumalai tea estate and were shown around the factory which produces the highest altitude organic tea in the world. The standard quality grade is known as BOP or Broken Orange Pekoe. OK, it's a tenuous 'O is for' but it's the only one I could think of.P is for PancakesBeena's husband at the homestay in Cochin makes the most fabulous Kerala pancakes. We had them on the rice barge we stayed on on the backwaters but didn't realise just how wonderful they could be. Sudi's fresh hot pancakes stuffed with sweet coconut paste were so good that I ate four – I think my husband ate six. If there had been more I think we'd have eaten those too.Q is for Quiet PlacesIn a very loud country, it's hard to find quiet places and the most typical sound is that of car horns blaring. We stayed in four different place in Kerala and every one was quiet and peaceful. I slept like a log.R is for Roman CatholicismYou can almost always tell the religion of a driver in India by looking at what's dangling off his rear view mirror or sitting on the dashboard. Our driver Shijo asked us on the first morning in his broken English "Madame is Arsey?" - Yes, I thought to myself, perhaps she is but that's not the way to go about getting a good tip. Then the penny dropped – Arsey – RC – Roman Catholic. So not quite so insulting after all. The strange thing about Kerala Roman Catholicism is that even the new churches (we saw one built only a few years ago) have all their icons looking distinctly European. I've seen churches in Tamil Nadu where they've changed the skin colour to make the saints look a little more 'local' but oddly in Kerala they don't seem to do that. And we saw a LOT of churches. Close
How to capture a week in Kerala without stretching to the world's longest review? Well it's a tried and tested technique of mine to force myself to stick to an alphabet structure. We were in Kerala - visiting Kochi, Munnar, Thekkady and the backwaters around…Read More
How to capture a week in Kerala without stretching to the world's longest review? Well it's a tried and tested technique of mine to force myself to stick to an alphabet structure. We were in Kerala - visiting Kochi, Munnar, Thekkady and the backwaters around Allepey in November 2011. Here's my A to Z.A is for AyurvedaHaving an Ayurvedic massage in the hill town of Munnar was one of the most painful and uncomfortable experiences I've had in India – only slightly preferable to diarrhoea or a railway station toilet. However the general principles of Ayurveda are sound – and a lot less reliant on mumbo jumbo, mathematical improbability and faith than its more popular and better known cousin, homeopathy. Ayurveda is an Indian system of traditional herbal and mineral healthcare which is also popular in Sri Lanka. We spent a painful hour being beaten up by an Ayurvedic masseur and masseuse in a small centre and it took me about three days to shake off the aches and pains. It's entirely possible that my chakras were beautifully realigned but I felt like I'd done 9 rounds with Mohammed Ali.B is for Beena's HomestayWhen planning my trips to India – or anywhere else for that matter – I'm quite reliant on the recommendations of the tripadvisor website. The top tip I picked up for accommodation in Kerala's major city Cochin (or Kochi) was Beena's Homestay. Beena and her husband let spotlessly clean but simple rooms in their home, feed you 'til you think you'll burst each evening, and offer a lovely alternative to budget hotels. Yes, of course a full review will follow but for now, let's just say this is the best bargain in southern India and a chance to stay with some of the nicest, kindest people you'll ever meet. C is for CardamomsI adore the taste of cardamoms – I put them in rather a lot of my cooking. They're one of those 'crossover' spices that can be used in sweet or savoury dishes, are ludicrously cheap and grow like weeds all over the hills of Kerala. I'd hazard a guess that most people wouldn't have a clue how they grow but if you go to Kerala you'll be told at least once a day and people will stop and point out cardamom plants by the road side. They grow on plants that look a bit like palms and are found on stringy growths near the base of the stem that look a bit like the aerial roots on orchids. I read somewhere that cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world but that sounds ridiculous, especially since they grow like weeds all over the Kerala countryside.D is for driving and driversThe mountains of Kerala have horribly bad roads. If you ask whether they drive on the right or the left side of the road, the answer is neither; they drive wherever the pot holes are less deep. The tracks through the tea plantations around Munnar are shocking even in a four-wheel drive Jeep. Doing hair pin bends in reverse in a vehicle with the threads sticking out of the sidewalls of the tyres is for the brave or foolish.E is for ElephantsElephants are the state animal of Kerala and they have three thousand five hundred wild ones wandering around as well as massively more tamed beasts who work in the logging industry and tourism. We had a short ride in Thekkady and it was by far the best elephant ride I've had due to the lovely Nelly we had (her name was Lakshmi) and mostly due to the type of saddle used in Kerala. Unlike the more popular basket-style frames that are used in the tourists traps of Rajastan where you sit sideways in a metal cage that lurches from side to side, or the strange forward facing metal 'sofa' type seats in Thailand, the Keralans let you sit astride the elephant with a leg down either side and your feet on a metal bar with lots of padding between you and the elephant. It helps to be of above average height as short people and children can slip around if they can't reach the foot bars. Being astride the elephant offers some 'interesting' differences from the other seating types – most notably that when the elephant farts (which they do a lot – high fibre diet and all that) you can feel the entire elephant vibrate.F is for Fishing and FishKerala is a coastal state and they have the most fabulous fish which is typically presented as a spicy 'Kerala fish fry'. Whilst I normally eat strictly vegetarian food in India to avoid the risk of tummy upsets, I ate fish throughout Kerala, even up in the mountains and on the backwaters and I even had the odd prawn a couple of times on the coast. Cochin is famous for its use of so-called 'Chinese fishing nets' – an historic form of fishing in which large stretched nets are dipped into the water and then raised out again by the use of counterweights. For a small fee the fisherman are more than happy to demonstrate their highly photogenic technique. The fish market beside the fishing nets offers even more good photo opportunities and a chance to get a really fresh lunch of dinner.G is for Green and Gods Own CountryKerala is green, very green. Why? Because it rains all the time up in the mountains and quite often down by the coast as well. It's astonishingly lush. The state slogan is 'God's Own Country' because it's a majority Christian state but in reality most of the time God has to share it with the Communists who until very recently dominated local politics. The Communist Party of India seems to rub along surprisingly well with the Church which is more than can be said in any of the other Communist strongholds or ex-strongholds around the world. My guess is that if you're a Christian and your choice of political parties is a bunch of Hindu or Muslim groups, your enemies enemy might just be your friend. Close
Written by koshkha on 28 Nov, 2011
When you book a tour in India with a local driver you do pretty much take your chances with what sort of driver you get. Very rarely you’ll get a chap who drives like a dream, understands what you want and can explain what’s going…Read More
When you book a tour in India with a local driver you do pretty much take your chances with what sort of driver you get. Very rarely you’ll get a chap who drives like a dream, understands what you want and can explain what’s going on. If you’re lucky he’ll not kill you but you’ll never really have a clue what’s coming next. If you’re very unfortunate you’ll sit in the back of the car for several days with white knuckles.I booked a tour with an Indian operator and they organised the driver. Of course I shouldn’t expect to get someone without amazing English and sure enough our driver was a pleasant chap who tried his best to entertain us, didn’t hit anything or come too close to doing so, and got us from A to B via a mix of places we were and weren’t expecting. Shijo picked us up at Kochi airport, drove us to our hotel and said he’d be back the next day at 9 o’clock to start the drive up into the mountains. An unexpected bonus came when he declared that we would be passing his village and so he was taking us home to meet the family and to take us to the church.I don’t know if this is standard behaviour when he has local clients – I suspect probably not. I think as the deep pocketed foreigners he recognised that we might well be interested and that showing us his home and family might be good for a better tip at the end of the tour. We have been to India many times but getting into a proper village is always a treat. Kochi is a quite well off state and the homes are mostly well built and often quite opulent due to the tendency of families to send a son or two off to the Gulf to earn money and send it home. Someone explained to us that the whole family chip in to build a good house so that the family will get a good match for their daughters.We turned off the main street into the village, a neat and tidy place with roads that were no more battered and worn than elsewhere in Kerala. "That’s my friends shop" said Shijo, waving out the window to some smiling young men. He turned down a side alley between well built houses, and came to a rough looking track where a goat was sleeping in his path. Shijo tried the horn but the goat was uninterested. He got out to shoo it out of the path and by the time he was back in the car, the goat had beaten him back to its favourite spot. Some swearing and arm waving followed (Shijo, not the goat though for all I knot the goat might have been cursing him under his breath) and eventually we were able to pass. First he took us to his parents’ house and showed us round the garden. All the nearest neighbours came over to say hello and the ones further away waved and called out to us, asking our names and how we were. Shijo showed us the plants in his mother’s garden before introducing us to his mother and his tiny old grandma. It’s easy to think that people are much older than they look and his grandma was actually younger than my mother who is only 70 and still pretty sprightly. Next he took us to his house, a rather basic breezeblock building about the size of a double garage which had been built in the back yard of his landlady’s bungalow. We met his wife and two young sons, had a cup of coffee and played with the kids. It was a very basic place to live but the family seemed really happy. Since it was Sunday, next stop was the church, a massive modern building where the service had just ended. He told us that up to 5000 people squeeze in every Sunday and there is standing room only. I was quite surprised that a building only a few years old had been build with all the saints and icons depicted with fair European skin. I’ve seen that in the old churches which date back to colonial times but I was surprised that the statues would be shown that way without the influence of foreign missionaries. When we left the church one of the local priests came to speak with us, asking where we came from and getting us to shake hands with some of the children who were with him. It was a stark contrast with my local church which dates back to the eight hundreds and is the oldest Saxon church in Europe but struggles to pull in a couple of dozen people on a Sunday. Everywhere we went in his village people were really friendly and it was lovely to see that he was working so hard to bring up his children with his parents and grandmother nearby. And of course it made us feel pretty generous when we reached the end of the tour – it’s hard not to put your hand deeper in your pocket when you’ve met four generations of the family. Close
Written by dishatis on 05 Oct, 2009
A Tour to Kerala:Kerala is probably one of the greenest places in India with the highest rate of literacy, truly said. In the month of July I planned a tour to Kerala with my family.It was a tour of 10 days. When I reached there…Read More
A Tour to Kerala:Kerala is probably one of the greenest places in India with the highest rate of literacy, truly said. In the month of July I planned a tour to Kerala with my family.It was a tour of 10 days. When I reached there I realized that Kerala has got a lot of unique reasons to be called a paradise. A pleasant climate, sun kissed beaches, backwaters, hill stations, exotic wildlife, breathtaking waterfalls, Ayurvedic health holidays, enchanting art forms, magical festivals, historic cities and temples. The city which we saw in Kerala was Kochi (Cochin), the commercial and industrial capital of Kerala. It has one of the finest natural harbours in the world. It is now Kerala's commercial center. The Backwaters extend east and south of the harbour and contain tiny islands. We reached at 9.00 in the morning, boarded the hotel. The reservation was done by our tour operator. It was a lovely hotel. After resting for sometime we went for our first destination. It was Kumarakom -which is a famous unique backwater destination and is also famous for the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary which is a renowned bird watching centre. Kumarakom is also a centre for houseboat cruises. Next we headed for the Dutch Palace-originally built by the Portuguese .Here we had the famous Keralian food and moved for Jewish Synagogue which is the oldest synagogue in India built by the prosperous Jewish community. Apart from this there was the St. Francis Church built Portuguese and is the India's oldest European church. Then there was a visit to Thekkady famous for unending chains of hill and spice and tea scented plantations where in the crisp, cool air of the Western Ghats we experienced the most enchanting tour. It is also famous for the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best in the country for watching and photographing wild life.Then we came to most exciting visit to the Kovalam Beach which is one of the best beaches in India. It's a must see destination of India and have facilities of safe sea bath. The beach is bordered with low cost lodging houses, and restaurants which offer facilities, at affordable tariffs. This was the end of our expedition to Kerala.I want to thank the team of http://www.indiantravelpackages.com/ whose professionals are well experienced. They know what a traveler anticipates and more than that they know what it takes to satisfy the customers. They made our trip memorable which we will always cherish. We enjoyed the trip and loved the visit to the Kovalam beach and the lovely spice plantations. The car journey was long but still very interesting to pass through various towns and villages. Thanks a lot for arranging an excellent trip for us./> Close
Written by kris_kandath on 03 Oct, 2006
Ever since my early childhood days in Kerala (where I grew up in a rural village) I had been fascinated by the monsoon rains. My long 25 years stint away in Europe added a mysterious touch to it. After re-locating to India almost 3 years…Read More
Ever since my early childhood days in Kerala (where I grew up in a rural village) I had been fascinated by the monsoon rains. My long 25 years stint away in Europe added a mysterious touch to it. After re-locating to India almost 3 years ago I now have made it a point to observe this amazing phenomenon when ever and where ever possible. The monsoon rain is something Westerner´s need to experience in order to understand it fully. In the last few years it has become a big attraction for the foreign tourist´s who is visiting Kerala and India. This is what Vickipedia, the famous free encyclopedia on the Internet has to say about monsoon: "A monsoon is a wind pattern that reverses direction on a seasonal basis. The term was originally applied to monsoonal winds in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. The word is also used to label the season in which this wind blows from the southwest in India and adjacent areas that is characterized by very heavy rainfall, and specifically the rainfall that is associated with this wind. The southwest monsoon is generally expected to begin around the middle of June and dies down by September. It is said that it begins first in the coastal state of Kerala and moves upwards at a rate of roughly 1-2 weeks per state. The monsoon accounts for 80 percent of the rainfall in the country. Indian agriculture (which accounts for 25 percent of the GDP and employs 70 percent of the population) is heavily dependent on the rains, especially crops like cotton, rice, oilseeds and coarse grains. A delay of a few days in the arrival of the monsoon can, and does, badly affect the economy, as evidenced in the numerous droughts in India in the 90s"
Hope this proves to be useful to you all. Attached are a few photos demonstrating the ferocity of monsoon rain here in Kozhikode.All of them are taken after heay rain with flooded countryside and town areas alike. I look forward to your feedbacks in due course. Take care and God Bless!
Written by kris_kandath on 29 Sep, 2006
I recently made a visit to an elephant sanctuary, perhaps the only one of its kind in the world, here in Kerala. It is located in Trissur district near the famous Vishnu temple in ´Guruvayur´ and it houses nearly 63 elephants. The elephants of Kerala…Read More
I recently made a visit to an elephant sanctuary, perhaps the only one of its kind in the world, here in Kerala. It is located in Trissur district near the famous Vishnu temple in ´Guruvayur´ and it houses nearly 63 elephants. The elephants of Kerala are an integral part of the daily life here. They are loved, revered, groomed, and given a prestigious place in the state´s colorful culturespace. Unlike the elephants in the other parts of India and the rest of the world, here they are considered very beautiful and normally people buy these elephants looking at their ´lakshanam´ (qualities to be considered as good elephant), for example a good elephant should have a long trunk which almost touches the ground, the ideal elephant should be very tall etc. The elephants are also referred to as the ´Sons of Sahya (western ghats). Some of them are brought up as working elephants to lift or move big loads and also bring trees which are cut down in the forests. It’s reported that Kerala alone has a population numbering nearly 700. Just to underline the importance given to these noble and intelligent animals here in Kerala, one only has to look at the various festivals of the state. Practically all of them will have at least one richly caparisoned elephant for the function. They are normally decorated with gold plated caparisons, colourful umbrellas, alavattom, venchamaram, necklaces etc during these festivals. Many Hindu temples here in Kerala have their own elephants. Most of them are donated by devotees. The famous temple in Guruvayur has more than 40 domesticated elephants and in order to look after them the governing body of the temple have constructed this elephant sanctuary in ´Punnthur Kotta´, 3 kms away from the temple itself. Here altogether nearly 63 elephants are housed. Most of them belong to the temple, and some to wealthy individuals including film stars, sportsmen and politicians. Some elephants are lethargic, some seem to be dancing to an inner tune and some others just relaxing in the safe haven of the sanctuary. Without doubt it is a remarkable sight to see all these elephants together being looked after very well. People are coming in great numbers to the sanctuary from various parts of India and countries abroad to spend a few days’ elephant watching. There are artists who are here to draw portraits of these magnificent animals, photographers to capture every movements of them. Each elephants have 3 mahouts called´ pappan´ in malayalam (Kerala´s language) to look after them. These animals are being looked after methodically in the sanctuary by these keepers - by bathing them, massaging them with small rocks or husk of coconuts and trimming their nails and polishing their tusks. These elephants at the sanctuary also systematically undergoes ayurvedic rejuvenation treatment by expert mahouts once every year and I was told that they (elephants) enjoy every second of it enormously. Without doubt any visitor to Kerala cannot afford to miss an opportunity like this to be in close proximity with one of the most intelligent and biggest mammals on land. The visiting time at the sanctuary is 8am - 5pm and the charge for visiting is just Rs 5 per adult. I would like to conclude this report by saying something about the temple town of Guruvayur and paying tribute to the legendary "Guruvayur Kesavan", the most famous and majestic elephant of Guruvayur temple who sadly passed away in the 1980´s.Guruvayur is around 3 kms from the Arabian Sea Coast, 32 kms west of Trissur City and is approximately 95 kms away, north of Kochi. For Hindu´s from all over the World this is one of the most important temples of Kerala along with Shabarimala. Undoubtedly this is a place which smells ´ faith ´ in every nook and corner. Its the same faith of the thousands of devotees that transforms this incredible place into something far more powerful than just a temple town. When you reach the gates of the temple what welcomes you most of the time is a queue of people that has no apparent beginning or end at all. It just stretches to eternity and inches forward at a mind-boggling pace of say six steps an hour or 8 if you are really lucky! Devotees are fully aware of the fact that this hours of waiting is only for a fleeting glimpse of their beloved Lord to be had but there is no hesitation for them to wait for that moment, however difficult it may be knowing fully well that how blissful it is going to be. Historical references dates the temple to 14th century. Legend says that its origin is timeless. It´s said that Guru (Teacher of the Gods) and Vayu (Lord of the Wind) rescued the child-size idol in the temple from a flood that submerged the legendary kingdom of Dwaraka. While looking for a holy spot to consecrate the idol, they came upon a place sanctified by Lord Shiva, who benevolently moved to a place called Mammiyur, vacating the place for Lord Krishna. At night with a thousand oil lamps lighting the temple there are performances of Krisnanattam a dance drama which narrates the story of Krishna. On the whole this is a memorable place indeed and no wonder devotees from all walks of life are queuing up together for divine blessing every day. Guruvayur Kesavan´s story is on the lips of every Keralite and has attained folklore status. He was gifted by the King of Nilambur to Lord Krishna, the deity at Guruvayur temple and was well known for his devotion to the Lord and was considered the ´King of Elephants´. If any of you reading this report is interested to know more about these wonderful elephants and the sanctuary feel free to contact me. I look forward to seeing you one day here at God´s Own Country. Cheers, Kris Kandath Close
Written by kris_kandath on 24 Sep, 2006
Classic Kozhikode in north Kerala is the area which the legendary traveller Marco Polo described in 1320AD as the Great Province of Malabar. In fact Chinese were the first to establish commercial contact with these shores and many eminent travellers followed their footsteps. Ibn Batuta…Read More
Classic Kozhikode in north Kerala is the area which the legendary traveller Marco Polo described in 1320AD as the Great Province of Malabar. In fact Chinese were the first to establish commercial contact with these shores and many eminent travellers followed their footsteps. Ibn Batuta (1342), Abdur Razzak (1443), and Anthanaseus Nikiten (1468) were few of them. The remarks made by these travellers confirms the by gone glory of Kozhikode. After the 13th C Kozhikode grew in importance as a port and capital of the powerful kingdom of Samoothiri's or Zamorin's as Portuguese called them. Interestingly Kozhikode has lent its English name 'Calicut' to Calico, the fine variety of hand woven cotton cloth said to have originated from here. It was also Vaso da Gama's (the discoverer of sea route to India) first halt in India. He set foot on the sands of Kappad beach north of today's city on 27 May 1498AD, a landing commemorated by a small stone monument at the beach. This event marked a new epoch in world, Indian and Kerala history and marked the advent of European powers on the Indian sub-continent. Today Kozhikode is an important centre for timber and tiles and hunting ground for that famous delicacy, 'Calicut Kallai river, Kozhikode !This is kallai river once the second biggest timber trading centre in Asia after Japan.Halva'. Now it is also slowly gaining reputation as a holiday centre teeming with natural beauty. The lush landscape dotted with beaches, backwaters, rivers, hills, ancient monuments, historic sights and wildlife sanctuaries and of course a unique culture that offers warmth, friendliness and hospitality for the visitor as it has been doing since time immemorial. Kozhikode is well connected by road, rail and air. While in Kozhikode a must for every tourist is a trip in the local 'autorikshaw' who are rated the best in Kerala, if not in whole of India. It is a hair raising experience for anyone taking a ride through the busy city roads during peak hours. Favourite spots: For the tourist who is inclined to learn about the way of life and culture of Kozhikode, the following offer the maximum reward: 1)Mananchira Square-This serene square in the heart of the city, originally the palace tank of King Mana Vikrama, is an architectural marvel. The square is surrounded by kerala style buildings incl. the commonwealth trust office.2)Sweet Meat (SM) Street- is the busiest shopping street with history behind and is named after the numerous sweetmeat stalls located here. 3)Pazhassiraja Museum-5km away from the cityin east hill and named after'Pazhassiraja The famous Kappad beach near Kozhikode!This is where Vaso da Gama landed hundreds of years agoKerala Varma', who led the historical Pazhassi revolt against the british in the 18th C. Maintained by the state archeological department, this is a veritable treasure trove for historians and connoisseurs of art. 4) Others include tali temple (14C), Jain temple, Muchunthi Palli (13C Muslim Mosque), St Mary's Church (built in 1860) and Kozhikode beach which is a popular sunset point. What's really great: The most wonderful aspect of Kozhikode tourism is the diversity on offer for the visitor. All the places mentioned above are within easy reach of the city, say within 6 kms. if you travel 10 kms you can get to the old port town of Beypore where traditional mammoth shipping vessels called 'Urus' were built going back a few hundred years. By travelling 16 kms one can reach 'Kappad Beach' where Vasco da Gama landed in 1498. Travel further by say 50kms and u can get to the stunning Western Ghats which is part of the rainforest region with breathtaking hills and lush forests. Sights: The extraordinary places one must not miss while in Kozhikode are 1) The ancient mosque-'Mishkal Masjid' in Kuttichira which was built a long time ago and is one of the oldest mosques in town. Rural ferry near Kozhikode!This is a rural ferry near Kozhikode. The natural beauty of the place is remarkable indeed.was burnt down by the Portuguese in 1510 and burnt portions can still be seen.2)- 'Lokanarkavu Bhagavati Temple' near vadakara. It is a 1500 year old shrine dedicated to goddess Durga and associated with the heros and heroines of 'Vadakkanpattu' or northern ballads of kerala and... 3)' Peruvannamuzhi Dam', 60kms from Kozhikode is a really outstandingly beautiful place. Speed and row boat cruises can be enjoyed on the waters of the reservoir. There are a number of un-inhabited islands in the reservoir, a bird sanctuary and a crocodile farm to explore. Accommodation: In Kozhikode they have a wide range of hotels with Taj Residency on the P.T.Usha road (*****star) at the top end. The places ideal for middle budget westrn tourists are: 1)Hyson Heritage, Bank road, 20 Asma Tower, Mavoor Road and... 3) calicut Towers, Mavoor Road etc. There are awide range of 2* hotels to choose as well. Hotel Malabar Palace is of good standards. Nightlife: There are no clubs here in the Western meaning of the word. Again if you are looking for Club activities and night life like in a western resort you have come to the wrong place. There are a wide range of local Sandbanks near Kozhikode!This un-spoiled beach near Kozhikode is really wonderful indeed.activities which one can explore with some help from english speaking guides which can easily be arranged Pubs and clubs: No pubs available at all. Some of the 2 and 3 * hotels have their own bars which is the closest one can get if you are looking for pubs. If you go to kozhikode beach, there are a few good sea-facing hotels like the Beach Hotel, Sea Queen etc which offers a certain amount of night life and have modern bars attached to them. These are comfortable places for saty and also offers good sea food. For the more adventureous there are tody shops (where a strong liquor made from coconuts are served). My advice is to avoid such places if you are not accompanied by locals who you can trust. Restaurants: There are some excellent vegetarian and non vegetarian restaurants in Kozhikode. I found the food at Asma Towers, Dakshin the Veg, Hyson, Calicut Towers, Woodlands and hotel Vigneswara very good. While in Kozhikode one must'nt miss local delicacies such as ' Pathiri and Erachi Curry (pathiri is a type of very soft bread made from rice dough flattened on a banana leaf and cooked; erachi Tali Siva temple in Kozhikode!This is the famous old Tali Siva temple in Kozhikode.curry is of course mutton or beef curry cooked with coconut etc in the traditional malabar way). Another delicacy is the 'wafer thin' banana chips to munch away while sight seeing. Local 'Appam and Stew', 'Puttu and Kadala' (all made from powdered rice and coconut milk) are other treats awaiting ones taste buds. Other recommendations: 'Kallai' was once the second largest timber trading centre in asia. A steel bridge built here by the British is still in good condition. Kottakkal is a small town 48 kms away from Kozhikode. Here is the head quarters of the renowned private ayurvedic institution which was established in 1900. People from all parts of the world are coming here for treatment. About 100 kms away is 'Thusharagiri' a popular haunt for enthusiastic trekkers. The famous trekking route starting from the second waterfall to Vythiri in Wayanad is worth exploring. The people of Malabar are renowned for their hospitality and the ideal way for a Westerner to thoroughly enjoy the 'Mystique of Malabar' is by becoming one among the locals, which can also be arranged. In a nut shell north Kerala and Malabar are a big de-tour for the tourists from the usual beaten tracks of south and central Kerala. Hope these few lines proves to be of help to you all. Take care and God Bless! Cheers, Kris Kandath Close
I recently did a whirlwind trip to the beautiful and magical Mahe, which is a tiny enclave of Ponicherry (on the east cost of India and 630 kms away) with a heavy French influence. In fact this former French town covering approximately 9 kms and…Read More
I recently did a whirlwind trip to the beautiful and magical Mahe, which is a tiny enclave of Ponicherry (on the east cost of India and 630 kms away) with a heavy French influence. In fact this former French town covering approximately 9 kms and have a population of around 36,000 people is an incredibly peaceful place. This petit town is situated on the west coast of Indian peninsula between 11 degrees 42´ and 11 degrees and 43´ Northern Latitude and between 75 degrees 31´ and 75 degrees and 33´ Eastern Longitude, just between badagara and Thalassery. It is 58 kms away from Kozhikode, 24 kms from Kannur and 8 kms from Thalassery and is a busy trade centre. Historical facts points out to Mahe´s interesting past. Originally the name of the region was ´Mayyazhi´ which means black river mouth. The French Commodore de pardallion, who re-captured Mahe from the local rulers changed the name to Mahe in respect of the French Naval captain, Mahe De Labourdonnais whose skill and enterprise was mainly the cause of the victory then. This interesting place has a history of two and a half centuries of French rule. The first representative of the French East India Company, Mr Mollandin landed here in 1721 and immediately entered into an agreement with the local ruler (known from the French records as Bayanor of Bargaret, or the ruler of Badagara) to establish a trading centre on the estuary of river Mahe. In 1724 the French built a fort here. Afterwards the region changed hands between them and their rivals the British (who came to the picture in 1725) a few times. By the second decade of the 18th century the French re-established their authority here. When India became independent in 1947, there were repercussions here also. On the 20th October 1948 the union flag was hoisted over the administrative office in the presence of thousands of people. Messengers were sent to the Government of India to say that the French administration has collapsed and requesting Government of India to take over the administration. However on 26th October 1948 a cruiser of the French Navy arrived at Mahe. They insisted on lowering the Indian Flag and re-hoisting the French Flag. This was done and the Cruisers which arrived for the purpose left suddenly on 31.10.1948. All were silent till 1954. The movement for freedom intensified in 1954 and on the 1st of November 1954 Mahe was handed over to the Government of India by the French. Coming back to the present one can say that everything here at Mahe is either on the waterfront or near the beach. A statue of ´Marienne, symbolic of the ideals of the French Revolution - liberte´, equalite´ et fraternite´ can be seen at the beautiful Tagore Park right next to the Government Buildings (1855). The architectural style of the French is much in evidence here including the magnificent Government Buildings. This style blends with the local styles give the streets a special look. Another attractive building is Mahe´s St Theresa´s Church which is famed all over Malabar for the efficacy of prayers said here. People of all religions decend on the Church for the fete (October 5-22) considered especially auspicious. There is a French built St George´s Fort at Cherukallu which provides spectacular views of Mahe and its envi´rons. Above all what attracted me most was the warmth of Maheans whom I met during my brief visit. They were welcoming, helpful and wonderfully nice. I was able to meet a wide group of people including politicians, businessmen, fishermen, hotel owners and the local policemen who were vastly different from their counterparts in rest of India with their strong French connection. This place is only starting to cater for the incoming tourists now and the infra structure is only slowly being organised. Even with the limited resources Mahe still paints a wonderful and colourful picture for the visitors. At the current pace I have no doubt that Mahe will rapidly become a sought after tourist destination on the Malabar coast. It definitely offers a French flavour to the God´s Own Country. Close
Written by MichaelJM on 14 Dec, 2005
Golden Sands had a Ayurvedic treatment centre, and I couldn’t resist having a go at the full body massage--after all, for just over £5, it was too good an opportunity to miss. The treatment rooms were on the top floor and consisted of a couple…Read More
Golden Sands had a Ayurvedic treatment centre, and I couldn’t resist having a go at the full body massage--after all, for just over £5, it was too good an opportunity to miss. The treatment rooms were on the top floor and consisted of a couple of bamboo rooms with treatment tables and subdued lighting. The air hung heavy with the aroma of incense and essential oils, and the shiny surface of the treatment table was a testament to the fact that the masseur did not skimp when it came to administering the massage oils.
Ayurveda is an Indian medical science that has been around for over 5,000 years and harnesses the body’s own resources to rejuvenate and begin healing processes. It maintains that diseases occur when three elements (dhoshas) become out of balance. The dhoshas impact on motion and energy (Vatha), metabolism and digestion (Pitha), and body structure (Kapha). Any imbalance gives rise to harmful body toxins, and Ayurveda claims to help all manner of resultant ailments by attending to the 107 “marma points” on the body, which are seen to be vital energy vortexes that, when stimulated through massage, promote healing and create deep relaxation. There’s a wide choice of options, but I certainly didn’t fancy Snehapanam (medicated ghee given internally) or Nasyam (herbal juices applied through the nose). Some treatments give massage by hand and foot, but I honestly didn’t fancy a guy walking over my back or rubbing his calloused feet along my chest. Pizhichil is one of the most expensive treatment (1,200 rupees), where lukewarm oils are applied over the whole of the body by two to four trained therapists in a “special rhythmic way” for 1.5 hours. It is said to be beneficial for diseases like arthritis, hemiplegia, and skeletal weaknesses but needs to be repeated on a daily basis.
As I tentatively presented myself for treatment, an incense stick was lit and the bamboo door pulled to, and I was sat down on a low stool. Oils were poured in a symbolic way on my head and dabbed on other significant parts of my body. Then a fairly vigorous head and neck massage was started. My initial thoughts were not tranquil, as I was so conscious of the rhythmic pounding to my skull, but in a very short period of time I was drifting into a relaxed and contended existence. Having acclimatised to the sensation, I was asked to lie face down on the “operating table.” Swimming trunks were discarded, and I lie, dignity exposed, awaiting the first onslaught.
Again there was the symbolic dripping of essential oils to key parts of the body and then a gentle massage to the neck and upper body. This was sensationally relaxing, and I was soon drifting off. Until...
The massage now moved down my back with a range of “strokes” ranging from kneading actions with the thumb, slaps with the palm of the hands, and karate chops with the side of the hand. I can’t confirm with certainty, but at one stage it felt like the masseur’s fist was been thrust into lower back. It was interesting to note that he spent a proportional greater time massage around the shoulder blades and lower back (he later asked if I experienced any particular discomfort in those area--how right he was). A change in gear and his hands are fast flowing down my back to my ankles--now I know why clothing is a no-no. Legs are bent and individual toes massaged and gently tugged. This certainly would be difficult if you have ticklish feet! I’m just getting used to the pulsating action of the masseur’s hands as they dance up and down the length of my body, almost slipping off the extremities as they went, when I’m told to flip over onto my back.
Now any dignity that I thought I had has been stripped from me and a small hand towel is delicately placed over my groin (how’s that for subtlety). The front massage again starts at my head, with nose and ears getting particular attention, a peculiar sensation, but strangely relaxing after a time, the finger being placed in the ear and removed with a flicking motion. Next there is the onslaught to my torso, and the full-length massage skirted dangerously close to the small hand towel. This was a little concern to begin with, but after a time, I relaxed and became quite blasé about it.
After an hour or so, I was super-relaxed and almost dropped off to sleep, indeed I lay quietly in the semi-darkness of the room for quarter an hour or so after the conclusion of the treatment. As I left the room, my body was fair glistening in the sunlight, and with a bit better muscle tone, I could have passed for a contestant in a "body beautiful" competition. Well, in my dreams that was certainly the case!
The advice was that I relaxed for another half-hour before taking a hot shower. A further period of relaxation was recommended after the shower, so the whole treatment cycle required a food 2 to 3 hours.
This truly was a great experience, and I would recommend that you too surrender your dignity and give it a whirl. There are numerous centres around in Kerala, but I chose the one at Golden Sands because it was convenient. I suggest that you also choose one as close to your accommodation as possible, as the last thing you'll want to do after your treatment is to walk back to your apartment.