I have travelled twice to Kerala and been blown away both times by the bounty of nature and richness of culture. It’s truly God’s own country and there can’t be a better state to travel to in terms of architecture, beaches, clean smooth roads, lip smacking cuisine and the most friendly people.
I am going to list my top 5 reasons for why I think this has been the most perfect destination for me. This is without the experience of living on a riceboats, traveling down the backwaters or tripping in a tea garden. My Kerala experiences have been berfit of these; yet I have had the most marvellous time here.
Culture – Kathakali
The traditional dance form of Kerala is Kathakali and I would recommend not to miss out on it when you are down there. I had the good fortune of experiencing it live on a trip to Fort Kochi at a centre very near my homestay. The manager suggested I go a little early to check out the make up action. I am so glad I listened to him as that was the best part of the entire performance.
The main villain lies down with his eyes closed and actually puts in some seeds in his eyes to turn them blood-red. And all roles are played out by men; even the female parts. The dance stories are generally inspired from the Holy texts like the Mahabharata and are riveting to see. The makeup adds another dimension to the entire performance.I have written an entire post on it which you can read here. One can see this performance in most places in Kerala; check with the place where you are staying for one nearest to you.
Heritage – Mattancherry Palace
Mattancherry Palace or the Dutch Palace is a 16th century colonial building built by the Portuguese as a gift to Raja Ravi Verma. Its located in Fort Kochi and houses some of the most gorgeous murals I have ever seen in my life. Unfortunately, patrons are not allowed to photograph them and I sated myself by touring the entire building twice. The vividness of colours, strokes and imagination in the murals is breathtaking and I simply didn’t want to leave. The scenes depicted are from the Ramayana and other epics. The most notable one is the one in the Royal bedchamber which covers about 100 sq m and depicts with entire Ramayana through it.
There is a fine collections of texts, robes, weapons, etc of the royalty of that era but my attention was totally on the murals. The entry fee is a mere 5/- which seemed criminally low to me.
Friendly and courteous People
Both in Wayanad and Fort Kochi, I found the people to be warm and courteous. There is no letching/groping in the streets and public transports. In fact I was pleased to note how well-mannered the men are on buses and ferry service. They happily stand and keep the seats for women who actually constituted a large majority of the travellers.
On one of the culture tours, I happened to be in a group where the Lady was the leader. She was the head of the archaeology division and had come with her entire family and colleagues on the trip. When they realised I was on my own, they took me under their wing. They helpfully guided me during lunch about what I was eating and how to enjoy and in which combinations.
I met some really friendly fishermen at the Fort Kochi beach who narrated the entire tale of the Chinese fishing nets and helped me take a few pics as well. You can read a guestpost I did a while back on Kerala here
Every resort/homestay where I stayed in, the staff was very welcoming and happy to answer questions. I felt like I was amongst friends – didn’t feel like a solo trip at all.
I am a huge fan of the Kerala cuisine and sated my core with it on both my trips to this gorgeous country. The red rice or the matta rice is something I fell in love with. The appams, egg curry, Malabar parontha, vegetable stew – the list is endless and the food just uber delicious. The best places to eat local cuisines are the small joints by the road sides as they have true blue authentic flavours. No dilution for the foreigner palate as they cater to the locals. The high-end cafes might disappoint a bit there. So be brave and step into one of the roadside joints to simply enjoy true taste of Kerala cuisine.
I love to shop local stuff on my travels and Kerala happened to be one place where I couldnt decide what not to buy. Sarees were a must buy on both my trips and this time I also gorged on teas, spices, attar (perfumes) and banana chips among other things. The quality of spices here is just amazing and they are so so cheap. I was gobsmacked to see nutmeg selling so cheaply here – it usually costs a fortune up North.
The perfumery was a revelation and I couldnt stop sniffing away. They made some custom roll-ons for me after my selection was done. The entire process is bewitching to say the least and I will definitely go back for some more on my next trip.
So there you have it – my top 5 reasons for visiting Kerala again and again. Have you been here? Whats your impression of this Indian state? What was your favourite part of being here?
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