South India Kerala Feb 1 ‘08
We recently traveled to Singapore and South India departing Vancouver BC Canada Jan 12 ‘08 and returning Feb 9 '08. We are baby boomers 60 plus rather creature comfort people certainly not trekkers. Our idea of a winter holiday is getting away into the glorious sunshine and out of the grey gloom of Vancouver’s winter. This information covers the Kerala portion of our trip.
Arriving at Kochi (Cochin) Airport at 6pm we were met by a pre-arranged tour guide/guest house proprietor named Meena. I had talked with her on the phone and she had come highly recommended by friends in Goa to show us around Kerala. Meena along with her driver drove us to her beautiful home Villa Prakriti in Kumily just outside of Thekkady.
We arrived late that night after stopping along the way for dinner. The distance was only 135 km but the roads are quite rough through the mountain passes. The next morning Meena prepared a wonderful breakfast with an India flair. We then headed out to a local spice garden “Aroma Spices Garden” fully organic spices and Ayurvedic plants. The gardens are owned and managed by a man named Shaybu M Sebastian also locally known as Baby. He took such pride in showing us his home and gardens, it was a great experience.
Meena and her German husband Bibi were wonderful hosts for the two days we had in their comfortable spacious home. They are an interesting couple Bibi (former antique dealer) a German with sort of a 60s rock star look to him; a very personable and gracious fellow to talk too. Meena is all Indian (Tamil) and has a wealth of knowledge and opinions about her country. Her knowledge, vivacious personality and can do attitude make her exceptional as a tour guide. She also hosts cooking classes and is an established painter. Unfortunately we didn't make time for the other big attraction in Kumily, Thekkady the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Kumarakom, Kerala Feb 3 ‘08
We left Kumily Sunday morning with Meena as our guide and a driver named Binu and headed out for the 4 hour drive to Kumarakom. We traveled through many small towns and mountain passes along the way a fabulous journey through the South Indian country side. Meena had prearranged our accommodations in Kumarakom for 2 nights. We stayed in this jungle paradise beside a small stream our small cottage with a/c and full bathroom facilities was more than comfortable it was paradise. Check it out www.sylvaniaenclave.com We took a small paddle boat complete with operator upstream to a local resort for some our meals. We hired a tour boat and cruised lake Vembanad for 3 hours and marveled at the birds and water plants. We shopped antique, craft stores and visited a local bird sanctuary. As evening crept in the three of us sat on the porch of our cottage listening to the jungle sounds of nature while enjoying a few shots of brandy.
Fort Kochi, Kerala Feb 5 ‘08
Arriving in Fort Kochi we stayed at the Fort Cottages on the water front. The location was part of the busy port city. We had meals over looking the water, very special in the evening the fresh fish was especially good. We shopped in town and the personality of the port city was fun to be part of. We did take in the local culture by attending a classical dance and music concert just down the street from our hotel. Kathakali a traditional art form of Kerala where Kathakali and other dance forms of Kerala are demonstrated in traditional style. www.kathakallcentre.com I marveled at the ancient Chinese fishing nets utilizing wood beams and large rocks to form a balance for raising and lowering the nets into the water.
Kochin Airport, Kerala Feb 7
We headed out early in the morning to catch our 9am flight back to Bangalore. The airport is only 1 hour from Fort Kochi. We said our goodbyes to Meena and our driver Binu and felt sad to be leaving such wonderful helpful people in a beautiful part of India also known as “God’s own Country”. Would I return? Most definitely!
So if you are considering touring the Kerala area make sure to hook up with Meena you won’t be disappointed. Her insight and knowledge of the area made our time with her far more enjoyable than it would have been on our own.
Our costs were: Approximately in US funds
Meena’s Home “VILLA PRAKRITI” www.villa-prakriti.de $40 per night including breakfast.
Kumarakom and Fort Kochi: Approximately $50 per night for four nights accommodation.
Meena’s services as a travel guide for four days including her meals $35 per day
Meena’s accommodation per night $40 for four nights
Car & driver expenses to Meena’s home for two nights then on to Kumarakom, Fort Kochi and then back to the Cochin airport were $300. Having the car and driver available anytime greatly enhanced our travel. We stopped when we wanted for as long as we wanted. We covered approximately 550 km. Driving in India is totally different from the west, not something I would consider. The roads are quite rough making a journey of 150 km almost four hours.