Last week I was in Kerala for a short trip covering popular Kerala. Destinations like Munnar, Kochi, and Northern Alleppy. When you travel to Kerala, you always have in your mind that you are visiting one of the 10 best destinations in the world as rated by National Geographic. Additionally, I had heard all kinds of stories from my Mallu friends who never fail to introduce themselves by saying I am from ‘God’s own country’.
Popular Kerala Tourist attractions
My impressions of the state after visiting popular parts of Kerala. It’s a nice place, picturesque and quiet. A noticeable point was that the whole area that we traveled to was very clean unlike most of the rural areas in the other parts of the country. Every small house on top of a hill was well painted. Most of the time in a combination of green and white (don’t know if this is a regulatory requirement like the walled city of Jaipur). Roads were well laid out even in the interiors.
Munnar Tea Estates
Munnar tea estates look like green carpets spread over the hills, and the women plucking tea leaves look very romantic. In that place, the only thing you find missing is the accompanying music. The tea museum is good. There is a demonstration of the tea production and grading process, along with a small history of tea growing in the Kannan Devan hills. But I found the ticket too costly for a place where you can not spend more than 30 mins or so. Apart from that, there are a few Dams in that area. What is interesting is that the Kerala electricity board has developed areas around their dams. And after every few km, you have boating sites and resorts developed.
The development of multiple small points like this keeps the crowding and cleanliness in check. And should be earning substantial revenues for KEB, as every site had an entry ticket. The boating tickets were also priced for the high-end traveler. Like Western countries, the tour routes seem to be pretty standard as we kept bumping into the same people at every site and location. It also seems to be pitched for the overseas traveler, otherwise, things like a ‘honey bee tree’ may not be on the itinerary.
Kochi is a big city, has the all familiar traffic and pollution. But I found the ferry trips across to the Kochi Fort, Willingdon Island, and Mattancherry very interesting. Don’t know how they manage it, the tickets cost like Rs 2.50. This means in 5 Rs you can have a round trip to and from any island to any other island.
In Fort Kochi, you can see a Marine Museum, another museum, and a synagogue. You can visit a small beach and see Chinese fishing nets. In Jews Town, you can see a lot of good antique items. Some things that your parent’s generation would have thrown away because they thought it to be unfashionable. And now you go back to buy the same at ten thousand times the cost that your grandparents might have paid for it. Again the whole street is pitched for the overseas traveler. Even the spices that you get for x in the next street are sold at 3x on this street.
You can see ubiquitous Kashmiri guys selling their usual stuff and interestingly flirting away with women visiting their shops. You can cover the whole of the island in less than half a day. And actually, there is nothing which is too striking.
Village Trip on Houseboat in Backwaters of Popular Kerala
We took a village trip which was a day long. And included a small cruise and lunch on a houseboat in the backwaters. A visit to a typical village house in the state with a spice garden and almost every spice and herb in their backyard. A lime factory where lime is produced from seashells. Punting along the canals, plucking fresh coconuts, and visiting a coir-making unit. It was an extremely well-packaged trip, with fairly well-trained guys handling the trip.
Rarely do you see the guides in India trying to strike up a conversation with tourists and trying to read their minds and respond accordingly. And all this was reasonably priced at Rs 425/- per person. If we want to develop the tourism economy, we need more such packaging and well-serviced offerings.
The things that I missed out on this trip were a local dance performance, a walk in the tea gardens, and spending some quiet time on a beach (not sure if there is a good and quiet beach around Kochi). And of course, could not manage time to go and take the famous Kairali massage. Could have done some good photography if I had a better camera…
Overall I think Kerala is a bit overrated; there are so many places that are much better tourist destinations in terms of the sheer natural beauty. But the attitude of the people, the tourist-friendly orientation, and the awareness that tourism is a part of their economy is definitely that need to travel to all the places that want to see themselves on the world tourism map. The attitude of Keralites was probably second only to Goa in India, though it may still be some time before it reaches the level that you see in Europe.
Recommend you read the following travel blog on places to visit in popular Kerala.