8th April 2014
The question of the title was made by a friend instagram * early in the trip. “I’ve been to India twice,” he wrote, “but I never thought about going pro Kerala . What’s to see there? “.
Understandable. Kerala, in the south, below Goa and west of Tamil Nadu, is a state quite visited by tourists, not part of the normal imagery we have of India: no Taj Mahal, sadhus bathing in the Ganges or up trains the mountains toward the Himalayas. Instead, it is abundantly green, with beaches, rivers, mountains and forests. It is flexible and quiet, a land where Catholic churches and Muslim mosques mingle naturally to Hindu temples. And proud, with more high rate of literacy, lower infant mortality rate and the lowest rate of violence against women across the country.
The #KeralaBlogExpress spent two weeks sleeping in great hotels, eating delicious food Keralam and walking bus, boat and tuktuk state. Even learn a few words in Malayalam. If you think it worth it? Certainly. Below, eight of the very reasons possible to schedule a trip to Kerala.
In items on India in the book cliché ‘1001 Places to Know Before You Die’ is this preciousness of Kerala: the network of freshwater canals connecting several villages. The weather is bucolic and the visuals are stunning, with infinite shades of green and full of birds coconut trees. There backwaters along the coast, but most tourist itineraries out of Allepey, ‘the Venice of the East’. A walk of one or two days absolutely relaxing aboard a boat house (with home and food stop overnight) is enough to enjoy the area. The boathouse we stayed was offered by Lakes & Lagoons group with three bedrooms, TV (but who wants to watch TV in such a place?), homemade food and simple comfort. see more this post with beautiful photos of Oscar Risch in MauOscar blog.
The state capital is called Thiruvananthapuram, affectionately called Trivandrum and told about in this post . With an international airport (the only other state is in Kochi) is a point of arrival and departure for those visiting the southern beaches like Varkala – smaller, less sought after and more beautiful than her rich sister, Kovallam. It was from Kovallam that tourism has become the economic reality in Kerala and the village now has a considerable variety of places to stay, ranging from hostels to resorts . I was in two of them: the comfortable Turtle on the Beach , a busy area, easy to get in and out, and nababesco Taj Kovallam with a chiquérrimo restaurant on the edge of the sea. Fair warning: legal here for Brazilian who are the hotels, the food, the rides. On the beach Brazil is very well served.
Kerala is the only state in India where the Ayurvedic medicine (created in India around 600 BC) is practiced throughout the population. Whether you believe or not in the system, which uses plant oils, natural remedies, massage and strict diets to promote healing, a fortnight detox in a resort in Kerala is beneficial. We visited some places (see this list of KeralaBlogExpress partner hotels if you research the subject) offering massages and various treatments, including Manaltheeram , near Trivandrum, and in the southern state, considered the best ayurveda resort state. The complete package begins with an extensive medical check their next fifteen days are dedicated to treatment with diet, yoga, meditation and massage. No drinking, no smoking, no dead and sexless creature. That is, for the strong.
Despite the diminutive size, I’m a voracious glutton and believe firmly that the food is the key to know a country. I always come back in love with the food places and Kerala was no different. When we talk about Indian food the first thing that comes to mind is curry – and this is not wrong, of course. But there is much more, as befits a country with a billion-odd million, 21 languages, three thousand and five hundred years of history, etc etc etc (you get the point). Part of the great trip out, meals in the company foodie Roxanne ( TheTinyTaster) and encyclopaedic Prasad ( desiTraveler ) who patiently answered my questions about Indian food. Another colleague, Anita Bora, made a good post explaining some of the common dishes of homemade Kerala food, watching the cook of a houseboat – read here .
Can you describe the food of Kerala as a mixture of spices, coconut, rice and vegetables. And the proximity to the sea and plenty of rivers, it’s easy to find seafood and fresh fish, often fried and quite spicy. But is the picture below dish, vegetarian, which is the tour de force of food keralan : the substantial Sadya served on banana leaf and mixed / eaten by hand (not your hands: use only the right). Rice ( Kerala rice , plumper our common rice and delicious), the Pappadom (a thin, crispy bread, you break with your hands and use to help eat) and sambar (a spicy vegetable broth) are served as much as you want. A smaller version and popular at lunch comes on a large metal plate: flame thalis .
But my favorite meal is breakfast in the morning, and in Kerala morning not start without delicious idlis , white dumplings cooked rice that plunges you into chutneys tomato and coconut. Another favorite is the vada , kind of fried donut made pasta lentils and dosas , pancakes stuffed with vegetables and served with sambar and chutneys. What I got in my memory was a more simple thing, stuffed thin pancakes with caraway seeds, grated coconut or sliced and topped with honey banana. Always with massala chai , tea with milk, sugar and spices you find everywhere in Kerala.
With so much coconut, rice and spices on hand, clear that Kerala is a paradise on sweets. The kheer , for example, is a soft boiled rice porridge with sugar and spiced milk with cardamom and saffron and served with pistachios or cashews, and yes, it’s as tasty as you are imagining. Unniappam is a fried rice cake with spices, used as offerings in ceremonies in Hindu temples; kozhakkatta are baked rice balls with coconut filling and sugar; churuttu are mass fried straws of wheat flour and my favorite is the ilayappam , a white, thin pancake, cooked in foil banana with coconut filling with brown sugar and sometimes cinnamon and cloves.
Kerala also has the best probable world of street snack: banana chips. Banana slices are fried in coconut oil and served in paper cones while still hot or plastic bags after they cool. I killed my last bit before arriving at the airport Cochi and just write longer feel the taste. It also has jackfruit chips , jackfruit chips, but that I have not much faith button.
The ascent of the mountain called Western Gaths in towards Tekhaddi is tough, but nature is justified. The Periyar Tiger Reserve has National Park status and is home to around 40 tigers, more elephants, giant squirrels, wild boars, deer, huge variety of birds, besides the inevitable monkeys. The main tour is by boat by the huge lake that baptizes the park, but there are also guided trails and lodging options within the RESERVATION . It is on the border with Tamil Nadu and near Kumily – where I wrote this post .
The same goes for the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary , another RESERVATION high in the Western Gaths , but more to the north. Two of the tips of hotels that are written here and the region receives more and more tourists looking for unspoiled nature, contact with wild animals and with people of the tribes. The huge park can be reached by three main cities, Mananthavady, Sulthan Bathery and Vythiri – where the colleague Daniel Nunes had a meeting with a group of monkeys, read here . In addition to lakes, waterfalls (which we could not see, as we were in the dry season) and caves (including one with entries from six thousand years, calls Edakkal ) also has extensive plantations of spices, tea and coffee in its mountains, the most a thousand meters of altitude.
7. Kalamandalam University / Thrissur
This school was opened in 1930 in the city of Thrissur, known as “the cultural capital of Kerala.” It is a place to preserve and teach the traditional arts of the state in the form of music and dance Mohiniyattam , ottam thullal and theater Kathakali . The blogger Malayali Vijay Nambiar made a very complete post on the site for FeelFreeorFly site (in English here) and I agree with him: the visit to the university campus, complete with the entries in the classrooms to see students concentradíssimos taking lessons serious masters, was one of the high points of the trip.
The university is a series of open rooms for heat (and rainfall in the monsoon season, of course) in each specialty is taught daily for not more than twelve groups of students. The whole course takes five years and form teachers who can follow artistic career and teaching. But there are smaller courses too, including foreigners. Students begin with thirteen years and school age, are taught the regular curriculum in the school campus. The highlight of the ground is a huge wooden theater that houses the stage where the students must make their first appearance as artists.
All you can think of BUY during a trip to Kerala, including Trivandrum silk saris, the teas ‘Blue Mountains’ of Munnar and cardamom Tekkadhi, can be found in Cochi. Trivandrum is the official capital, but the commercial center of the state is here and it is not today – long before the Portuguese arrived in 1400 and so, Kochi (yes, has several spellings) it was already an important port where Chinese and Arabs bought spices and wood. Over the centuries the city was conquered and conquered by the Portuguese, Dutch and English heritage visible in its streets, museums, churches and bazaars. The mixture of accents, religion and flavors is the maisinteressante of Cochi, which is divided in Ernakulam on the mainland and the islands of Fort Kochi (where is the Jewish quarter, Mattancherry), Willingdon and Vypeen. It was the last city we visited and the place I chose to ‘decompress’ after almost a month in India. And so will earn a post itself soon.
* Forced Paulinho, the question helped define how to approach the trip on the blog. Who knows you and family can choose Kerala as a destination in a soon coming to India? 🙂