Kerala Blog Express 2 Roundup
shared by Anna Phipps
I recently had the privilege of being selected to explore tropical Kerala in South India for 2 amazing weeks with Kerala Tourism. The Kerala Blog Express bus of 30 travel bloggers from 21 countries took us on a varied. action packed, whirlwind ride through the state also referred to as ‘God’s Own Country’
Here is a quick recap of all the action from the Kerala Blog Express.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 1
Arrived in Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) and settled into Kerala at nearby Kovalam Beachstaying at the Uday Samudra Leisure Beach Hotel
Kerala Blog Express – Day 2
After a press conference at the swish KTDC Mascot Hotel in Thiruvanathapuram the Kerala Blog Express was officially flagged off by the Minister for Health (the Tourism minister was travelling!) and we set off to explore Trivandrum including the wooden Kuthiramalika Palace and the golden Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple – the richest temple in the world!
Kerala Blog Express – Day 3
An early start to visit the Elephant Rehabilitation Centre at Kottur and witnessing these incredible animals being fed and bathed in the lake. We then got an insight into yoga at the serene Sivanandra Ashram and practiced eating a simple, vegetarian lunch the Indian way (with our hands!)
The evening was a complete contrast to the simple lunch as we were treated like VIPs at the luxury riverside Raviz Hotel in Kollam and were gifted traditional sarees to wear for a fancy dinner party in our honour.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 4
Kollam (Quilon) is one of the oldest ports on the Arabian sea and we got to met the tourism minister on a boat ride around the port area that gave us fine views of the historic fort, lighthouse and beach.
From Alappuzha we boarded a Lakes and Lagoons house boat designed like a Kettuvallam (traditional rice barge) and enjoyed a peaceful and mesmerising afternoon cruising through the serene, palm fringed backwaters and spent a quiet night on the river. Cruising the backwaters is simply a must do Kerala experience!
Kerala Blog Express – Day 5
Up early to watch a big red sunrise over the house boat as we made our way to Kumarakom where we swapped into a smaller boat to meander through smaller, lily pad filled waterways, getting a glimpse into village life on the backwaters with the Kerala Village Life Experience (Kerala’s responsible tourism initiative)
We explored these amazing waterways further by walking and cycling before relaxing for the evening and taking part in some of the many cultural activities available at Coconut Lagoon – a fantastic resort where nature meets luxury in a beautiful resort themed like a traditional Kerala village.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 6
Heading up to the Cardamom Hills of the Western Ghats was a welcome respite from the heat and humidity. The drive provided great views over luscious green hillsides, tea plantations and spice farms that this region is so famous for. After a delicious lunch at the peaceful Niraa Maya Resort we explored a spice plantation and learned more about the plants and their myriad of amazing uses and properties.
We are getting used to being treated like VIPs from all the amazing hotels we have stayed at byGreenwoods Resort topped them all with a elephant joining the welcome ceremony!
Kerala Blog Express – Day 7
The best way to explore the wonderful, refreshing nature is by trekking through the stunningPeriyar National Park and Tiger Reserve and taking a boat ride on the Periyar Lake to spot samba deer, monkeys, squirrels, buffalo, wild boar and many types of birds, stopping along the way to enjoy afternoon tea at the KTDC Lake Palace Hotel. Unfortunately, we didn’t see the tigers or elephants but I am assured they are there.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 8
The Kerala Blog Express bus rolled out of Thekkady and the stunning Periyar National Park and wound its way across the hills blanketed with luscious green tea plantations to Munnar. I could never get enough of these mesmerizing views, the thousand shades of green and the fresh air.
We explored the hill station town of Munnar, enjoying the sights, sounds and colours of the market and street life and the mosque, Hindu temple and Christian church all in close, wonderfully peaceful, proximity before spending the night partying around a camp fire and staying at the KTDC Tea County Hotel.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 9
We started our day with a visit to the Tata Tea Museum in Munnar and got an interesting insight into how tea is made and the history of this stunning hill station. From Munnar we enjoyed the magnificent views again as we headed to Kochi, Kerala’s largest city with a rich multicultural history.
On arrival we enjoyed another sumptuous buffet at the CGH Earth Casino Hotel before checking out the Kochi Biennale Art Exhibition and then wandering along the shore line and enjoying witnessing the sunset behind Fort Cochin’s fascinating and historical Chinese Fishing Nets.The night was spent in luxurious and characterful Eight Bastion Hotel, another of CGH Earth’s amazing hotels.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 10
Kochi’s rich, multicultural history and wealth was largely due to the spice trade and influences from traders from China, the Middle East, Portugal, Dutch and English are still visible in the historic district of Fort Cochin. Nearby the fabled, ancient port of Muziris is literally being unearthed and 2000 years of history are being discovered right now! Archaeological finds are being discovered every day and a museum is in construction.
A boat trip through the backwaters is a pleasant way to explore the different sites of the Muziris Heritage Project. We had a lovely vegetarian lunch on the backwater island of the Vedic Village Resort and arrived at Cherai Beach Resort in time for sunset on the beach.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 11
We left Cherai Beach early to make the long drive to Wayanad, up in the hills of North East Kerala, stopping on the way near Thrissur to visit the Kalamandalam University for Art and Culture. It was a mesmerizing sight to watch so many talented students practicing and performing traditional classical Kerala dances and music with such grace and such fascinating facial expressions and delicate movements and even saw students making the intricate costumes.
A further drive up to the Western Ghats revealed wonderful, misty, sunset views before a warm welcome from the Wayanad Tourism Organisation at the Upvan Resort before arriving at our amazing Pranavam Homestay, our home for the next few days.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 12
Wayanad is one of the prettiest districts in Kerala with stunning nature, magnificent rolling views and the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the best places to see a wild elephant, and many other animals, in India. Unfortunately due to the heat the wildlife sanctuaries were closed and it was also not possible to enjoy the bamboo rafting that had been planned due to low water levels (it’s better to visit in the cooler months of December – February).
Instead, Kerala Tourism gifted us with traditional Kerala Sarees and mehendi tattoos and I felt like princess dressing and having a photo shoot at the Vythiri Village Hotel and eating atraditional Kerala lunch on a banana leaf. In the evening Vythiri Resort put on a fantastic show of Kalaripayattu – a thrilling marital art unique to Kerala and an fantastic buffet and party in the jungle.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 13
The forests of Wayanad are home to many tribes but unfortunately our visit to the Wayanad Tribal Village Life Experience had to be cancelled because of a strike meaning that everything was shut and no transport was allowed on the roads. However, it is often when plans go wrong that the best experiences occur and instead we spent a wonderful day with our incredibly lovely Pranavam Homestay hosts.
We were shown around the plantation and taught about all the exotic fruits, herbs and spices before being invited into the 200 year old ancestral home in the middle of the luscious plantation.
Rema also showed us the family shrine up stairs and we talked for ages about our different religions and cultures, all learning from each other. Then we enjoyed an amazing traditional vegetarianKerala Lunch on a banana leaf in the home. I was blown away by the hospitality shown to us by our amazing hosts.
We spent the rest of the day relaxing in the plantation grounds before the strike ended at 6pm and we were able to attend an evening dinner and party at the Silverwood Resort where I was mesmerized by a Theyyam Dance – a traditional tribal dance.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 14
With some sadness we made the long drive back from Wayanad to Kochi, sensing that our trip of a lifetime in Kerala was nearly coming to an end. A stop for lunch and incredible hospitality on the way at the Raviz Kadavu Hotel in Kozhikode raised the spirits with the exuberant, warm welcome we have come to expect from ITC Hotels, an extravagant lunch at an exquisite property and even some time to get more mehendi done and be part of a Oppana (traditional wedding dance) before arriving late in Kochi and staying at the Dream Hotel.
Kerala Blog Express – Day 15
Our final morning was spent exploring the most historic and intriguing part of Kochi – Fort Cochin. It was clear to see the multicultural influences that were traded alongside the spices. A visit to theMattancherry (or Dutch) Palace taught us more about the history in Fort Cochin and the famous wall paintings depicting the Hindu Epic – the Ramayana had us spellbound. We also visited the Paradesi Synagogue, the oldest Synagogue in the Commonwealth and spent some time in this colourful and charismatic part of town shopping for souvenirs and, importantly, practicing our haggling skills.
Later we enjoyed the hospitality at the heritage Brunton Boatyard Hotel who threw us a grand farewell dinner complete with the famous, unique, traditional Kerala Kathakali Dance, and cocktails as the sun set over the backwaters on the Kerala Blog Express and sad, heart felt, goodbyes were said by all 30 travel bloggers and the amazing orgainsers and staff from Kerala Tourism who had come together as strangers and bonded over a trip of a lifetime experiencing enchanting Kerala together.