Two weeks in Kerala

I have been just a wee bit behind on blogging over the last couple of months. But I’m trying to catch up now, so today we’re going back in time a couple of months to mid-July when I left for my trip to India. I blogged about it when I was on the way. Then we skipped forward to getting home. Today is for filling in the blanks.

This holiday came together when my sister had a slight change of travel plans, and ended up with some alone-time. She suggested a trip. I immediately agreed and suggested doing some yoga. We researched and planned and found cheap flights, and soon a plan was born: two days in Fort Kochi, a week at a yoga retreat, then five days free time before we flew out again.

This is how the plan went down:

Fort Kochi

First up was Fort Kochi.  We met there at a rad little guest house, and spent a couple of days basically just wandering around and chatting.  We tried a little bit to avoid the rain, but we pretty much failed.  It wasn’t cold though, and we managed to find little nooks and crannies to hide from the worst of it.  We had umbrellas, but my sister lost hers when we visited a small local restaurant for Veg Thali.  She lost track of her umbrella when one of the local patrons invited us over and tried to hand feed her some Biryani, and when it came to leave, we were so distracted by the delicious yellow pancakes with coconut filling that she plain forgot to grab it.

Mural in Fort Kochi

Mural in Fort Kochi

Fort Kochi is a tourist area, and we were disappointed to find that there was not much Indian food.  Most of the recommended restaurants in our guide book were western, and the one hope we had for great South Indian food was unfortunately closed.  But the Thali and Kaati rolls at Dal Roti made it well worth a visit (we went twice).  Another pleasant surprise on the food front was a little snack bar called Chai Kada.  It had only just opened, and we were some of the first customers.  We spent a rainy afternoon enjoying bottomless coffee, assorted snacks, and great conversations.

Fort Kochi Sunset

Fort Kochi Sunset

Once we had looked around Fort Kochi, we wandered down to Mattancherry.  We passed through the spice centre and the more industrial areas, and enjoyed watching people live their lives.  The old men in dhotis and women in beautiful saris gave us some slightly odd looks as we walked past.  The auto-rickshaw drivers constantly offered us rides and sight seeing tours.  We wandered, took photos and chatted.  We noticed just how many rad looking guest houses there were in Fort Kochi, and we found an awesome fair-trade shop that would fill our water bottles (I always feel guilty about the amount of plastic consumed by buying bottled water, but in India in Monsoon it’s just an essential).

On the way to Mattancherry

Munnar/Kaivalyam Retreat

After a couple of days in Fort Kochi, we boarded my first auto-rickshaw, and my first Indian bus to take us on the journey to Munnar.  Apparently it’s only 128 km, but it took 5 hours on the windy roads.  We were lucky that the rain held off for the most part, and we were able to enjoy the view.  The buses don’t have windows, just shutters, so when it’s all closed up it’s a bit dark and miserable.  The journey was surprisingly comfortable, and gave us some amazing views.  I wish I could have taken more pictures, but it’s just impossible to capture how amazing it all was from the bus window.

The bus to Munnar

The bus to Munnar

Monsoon means lots of waterfalls

Monsoon means lots of waterfalls

Eventually we arrived at Kaivalyam retreat.  My sister has a far better summary of our time there than I can be bothered writing.  But basically, it was awesome.  The yoga hall is just the best.  The food was great.  The yoga was relaxing, but strengthening.  The people were lovely and we had loads of time to read our books.  We had no internet, and it was pretty much constantly raining, so we just holed up and relaxed.  At the end of the week, I did my best Crow/Bakasana pose ever, and felt pretty chuffed with myself.

Kaivalyam Retreat

Kaivalyam Retreat

The yoga hall at Kaivalyam Retreat

Crow Pose

Crow Pose

Alleppey

After the retreat, we had no official plans.  But when we looked at the options around, we decided the best idea was to head to Alleppey and see the back waters.  They are, after all, one of Lonely Planet’s top 10 to do before you die.  There are many popular ways to see the backwaters.  But we were pretty much all relaxed out, so we chose to skip all the luxury and take a local ferry for the grand price of 14 Rs (about 30c).   We also stayed in the cheapest guest house of our trip, at 300 Rs ($5) per night, for both of us.  This meant that Alleppey was the cheapest part of the trip.

DSC_0170

Alleppey backwaters from the local ferry

While we were in Alleppey, we discovered the greatness that is Indian Coffee House.  It is cheap and delicious and has great breakfast options (Egg Roast was my favourite – I first tried it in Kerala, and it has since become a regular part of our home breakfast rotation).  And the best part?  It’s a co-operative set up in the 1940s and owned by the employees (who have retained some of the amazing headpieces from the time).  We also visited the beach, and said no to camel rides, bought clothes, and wandered around seeing how people live.  We had a lovely time, even if it wasn’t the typical Alleppey-tourist experience.

A camel on the beach at Alleppey

A camel on the beach at Alleppey

Ernakulam

Finally, for the last couple of days before our flight out, we headed back to Kochi.  We hadn’t been wowed by the Fort the first time around, so we decided to give Ernakulam a go, and were pleasantly surprised.  We stayed at a hotel that was a little more than we wanted to pay and didn’t have Wifi (which didn’t seem to be popular among the cheap hotels there).  But it was a 24 hour check out.  And since we checked in at 6:45 pm, we had all day on the day of our flight – I wish everywhere worked that way!  The hotel was right near the Indian Coffee House (score!) and a lovely waterfront walkway.

The trucks in India are pretty much the greatest

The trucks in India are pretty much the greatest

We found a great Pure Vegetarian restaurant in town, and ate Aloo Chaat (another of my favourite discoveries of the trip).  We visited countless markets.  We had a mall day, which was wonderful – there was a great supermarket, all sorts of interesting shops, and an amazing food court, where I could get a Nepalese Momo burger.  We ate banana leaf meals at a fantastic restaurant.  We concluded that Ernakulam is way underrated.  Sure, it may not have the tourist attractions of Fort Kochi.  But it has a whole lot of real Indian life, which I have to say I found a lot more interesting.

Banana leaf meals in Ernakulam

Banana leaf meals in Ernakulam

In a lot of ways, we didn’t do much. But we discovered South India. We talked to people and each other. We ate some great food and some interesting food. We saw the monsoon, went out in the monsoon, and lived the effects of thr monsoon. We relaxed and moved at a nice pace. We rode on buses and saw so many towns. We shopped and ate and learned and had an all round great time.

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