Travancore and Kochi – The treasury of God’s own country – Part 2

Below are a few things to consider while planning/ preparing your trip to the God’s own country.

  1. Brush your bargaining skills thoroughly before visiting Kerala. Don’t worry about the language barrier.

    A local spice market
    Buying stuff from where locals buy is a good idea. It will be cheaper and reliable as well. This shop was in front of Suchindram temple. The stuff was not of the best quality but not bad too.
  2. Except for some rural areas, most of the population understand and speaks basic English. Nobody responds to Hindi questions.
  3. Dress codes are very strict and tedious at a lot of temples. E.g. At Padmanabhsamy temple, Thiruvanantapuram women are supposed to wear sarees. If you can’t manage that then you will need to wrap a Mundu (long white dhoty) around. Avoid wearing shorts or sleeveless clothes. For men, Mundu is a must. Men must also remove the shirt/ tshirt. The temple trust sells Mundu outside the temple. Carrying any electronics, camera, leather items is strictly prohibited and they do a thorough security check before allowing you into the temple premises. You can either keep these items in the lockers provided by the temple’s trust or better leave them in your vehicle/ hotel if possible. The temple staff is perpetually frustrated and talks rudely.  We visited other temples in Kerala however this was the only temple where we spent more time outside the temple understanding the rules and depositing our stuff than inside the temple.

    IMG_7063
    The Padmanabhasawamy temple (Clicked from a distance on an iphone)
  4.  In every other temple you will meet some priests asking you to pay extra and join the queue of offering devotees to avoid long general queue. Don’t do that unless you really are a highly religious devotee. General queues could be longer but they would be less suffocating.
  5. Most of the temples are closed during the afternoon hours which can seriously affect your travel schedule especially if you are trying to squeeze too many things in a day.
  6. Kovalam beach is good for water surfing. This area is more foreigner friendly, in fact so foreigner friendly that at a couple of cafes by the beach, we got a good taste of favoritism towards the foreigners by locals.IMG_7115
  7. If you are planning to visit Thekaddy then you must stay at ‘Stay Melody’ – a lovely homestay. It is clean, spacious and extremely homely. We had a great time staying here, interacting with the owner and indulging in the yummy dinner cooked by his mother. The owner (Fazal) is very friendly and helpful and will give you proper guidance on what could be done in Thekaddy apart from the normal touristy stuff.
  8. The best time to visit Kerala is end of Monsoon and winter. Summers are extremely hot and humid and are not tolerable.IMG_7062
  9. If Kochi is not on your list then add it because it is one of the most intriguing places in Kerala. The fort Kochi area which is a good 1.5 hours drive from the Kochi airport is full of old colonial buildings, pop up shops, art cafes and lovely peaceful streets. The antique shops in Mattancherry sell some really amazing brass artifacts that are way cheaper than what one would find in Mumbai (still bargaining works).
    Kochi-Muziris Biennale festival
    Kochi-Muziris Biennale festival is held every year in Kochi and if you an art lover, you shouldn’t miss it.
    Fort Kochi
    Mattancherry, fort Kochi
    Cafe Kashi
    Cafe Kashi is an art cafe in fort Kochi and has a lovely ambience. The food is great too. Full of sculptures, paintings and foliage, this little cafe is full of good vibes.
    Chinese fishing nets, Kochi
    Chinese fishing nets, Kochi
    Fort kochi
    Before the colonization by the Portuguese, Dutch and British, Kochi was known as the kingdom of Cochin which was controlled by Hindu kings (Not part of Travancore kingdom). Post Independence, Cochin merged with Travancore to create Travancore-Cochin, which was in turn merged with the Malabar district of Madras State on 1 November 1956 to form the new Indian state of Kerala.
    Fort Kochi
    A lot of colonial buildings are now converted to boutique hotels in fort Kochi.
    Fort Kochi
    A lovely stone carved corridor in Mattancherry, Fort Kochi

    Time travellers rickshaw
    An old manual rickshaw driver at the Jew town, fort Kochi, Kerala. These rickshaws are a rare sight and rarer than them are the pretty ones. This vintage ride makes sure you travel back in time as you ride through the tiny lanes of the Jew town.
  10. The state transport connectivity is very good.  The bus plates will be in Malyalam however feel free to take a help from any local or the staff. They will happily help you.
  11. Munnar is lovely round the year. However it is at it’s best in the monsoons. We visited it during February when most of the waterfalls were dry. There was ample of greenery and the weather too was pleasant however the locals suggested that we should visit again during or immediately after the monsoon once.
  12. In Allepey (Allapuzha) exploring the backwaters in a Shikara is a better idea than staying in a houseboat. The shikara being smaller than the houseboat rides through smaller canals providing glimpses of lives around these backwaters. Also if you are planning to visit the beach and other attractions in the town, it is best to stay on the land. Keep mosquito/ insect repellent handy wherever you go in Allepey.

    IMG_4886c
    Allepey backwaters
IMG_4901c
The St. Andrew’s church, Allepey was set up by the Portuguese but was rebuilt in 1584 by Vicar Fr Jacoma Fenicio. Among his parish he was known as Arthunkal Veluthacham or the ‘fair-skinned father’. He was attributed with magical healing powers. After he passed away in 1632 the church was rebuilt facing the Arabian Sea and its long white sandy beach. Once it was constructed a statue of St Sebastian was installed. The statue was sculptured in Milan and showed St Sebastian with arrows stuck all over his body from each of the wounds blood was depicted as oozing out. This statue occupies pride of place at the altar. [reference: allepuzhaonline]
Mullakkal Rajeshwari Temple
Mullakkal Rajeshwari Temple is accessible for devotes from all castes and religions and is devoted to goddess Durga.
Mannarasala Sree Nagaraja Temple
Situated near Harippad, this is a serpent shrine under the patronage of a brahmin family, headed by a priestess. The ancient shrine is an internationally renowned pilgrim centre dedicated to the Serpent God – Nagaraja. Sarpa Yakshi and Naga Yakshi are the beloved consorts of Nagaraja. It is believed that Nagaraja as the installed deity is endowed with the form of Hari (Lord Vishnu) and the spirit of Lord Shiva. Do visit it to experience the mystic aura around the place.

13. Travancore and Kochi  are famous for sea food and meat delicacies. But if you are a vegetarian like me, you need not worry. There are good vegetarian options available everywhere. You can check for ‘Sarvana Bhavan’ which is a vegetarian restaurant chain that provides excellent south Indian food and has a consistent quality across all the outlets. In Kerala, the food is generally spicy (since it’s the state of spices) so if you can’t handle a lot of spice, please specify it beforehand.

14. Before going for any Ayurvedic massage do check the authenticity of the place from some locals/ online reviews. There are a lot of good options in Thekaddy/ Kovalam.

Kerala is for those who are open to explore cultures, traditions and history. It is for those who respect the nature and feel at home in its company. Kerala is about being connected to roots. It is about breathtaking views and scrumptious cuisine. It is about banana leaves, coconut trees and cardamom hills. It is about vivid colors and sweet smell of Jasmine.It is about magnificent temples and grand villas. It is about gold and spices.

As I said earlier, Kerala is rich. Literally and metaphorically.

Allepy backwaters

Kerala is for those who are hungry for experiences. Don’t be the ‘sightseeing’ kind of a tourist here. Because honestly, everything that you ‘see’ here is a sight, and if you are not used to observe or feel the place then you are going to miss most of the fun.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Nomadosauras says:

    The pictures are really beautiful! Great post too! 🙂

    1. Madhura Doshi says:

      thank you 😀

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