20th May 2014
If you read this travel blog, you might have already noticed that, coming along, there are some irresistible perks of blogging. Endless days sitting in front of my laptop behind, I stillget to TRAVEL A LOT. Much more than the average and more than I used to travel before starting it – and that’s something, believe me!.
Although most of my travels are on my dime, since I started this blog some 15 months back, I’ve had the opportunity of taking part in some blog tours in some of this world’s nicest destinations. Today I would love to take you to the blog tours’ behind-the-scenes stuff that barely gets noticed.
A blog tour, blog trip or press trip is a trip put together by a public or private organization to promote a destination. It usually involves (travel) bloggers, writers, photographers, journalists and people alike who mainly get invited and take part for free or at a discounted (media) rate. Minding than there’s not such thing as free lunch, the attendees are usually expected to produce some content which, ultimately, will entertain, inspire or educate a target audience and result in more customers and sales.
Enough with the boring stuff, here’s where you matter : In the end, all the articles, photo essays, social media shares, videos and so on are directed to you. But as you could have imagined, there’s a slight difference between a trip someone takes for the sake of it and a blog tour. That’s why articles coming out of a blog tour should always be disclosed to the audience as such both because that’s what law says and to keep up a certain level of credibility.
Because last, but not least, in these so-called blog tours, chances of having a great experience and therefore, talking about it as a great success, are pretty high. DMOs and companies work hard to present an interesting program filled with excitement, nice properties, delicious eats and the best sights in the area. Usually, a very fun one.
And Kerala Blog Express blog tour was not different.
Having sorted out the voting contest dilemma in an earlier post, I can’t say enough thanks to the 208 people who took the time and clicked through a Facebook app to help me jump on the Kerala Blog Express tour last Winter – you guys rock! So yes, I went there paying just half of my flight tickets, my medical shots and my Indian visa and I had an outstanding time with other 26 travel bloggers from 14 different countries. I felt like the luckiest girl in the world.
I had such a blast that, at some point after coming back, I started to wonder how everybody else on board the KBE bus had experienced it. And so I asked them.
Please, let me introduce my fellow blogger friends to you through their own words. From luxury hoteliers to foodies, from architects to journalists, from dedicated travel writers to professional photographers, from Brazil to Italy, Poland to India, there’s a wide array of different experiences they want to share with you. Because everyone tends to understand and perceive things depending on their cultural background, you might find this as interesting as I did 🙂 Enjoy the diversity!
I saw Kerala from a different perspective this time. And it with the eyes of 20 people from different parts of the world, most of whom had never experienced Kerala or India. I think that as Indians, we develop a certain amount of cynicism, having seen many of the sights before. And yet, when someone found beauty in seemingly mundane objects, gushed over elephants and were charmed by the always smiling people, it made me realise that sometimes we’re guilty of taking our own country for granted. It was definitely an eye-opening experience for me. One that I will cherish for a long time.
Kerala Blog Express, for me, were 16 days of happiness. I mean, imagine yourself on a boat, flowers around your neck, a bindi on your forehead, a beer in your hand, while you are cruising the backwaters, while palm trees are passing by, while your private cook is cooking fish for you, people smile and wave at you, kids are excited to see you. All these little things happening around you, the light, the raspberry ice-cream colored sunset. It all feels unreal, as if the world started singing for you and all you can do is standing there, amazed, with your mouth wide open…and soooo happy.
It was my second time in India, ten years after the first one, and I had a better impression of Kerala than I had from the North in my previous trip. But the best experience for me was taking part in a group of travel bloggers. Even being a professional travel writer for 20 years,I felt I was in an internship, learning the first steps of blogging with such fun experts from 14 countries.
One of my favorite things was learning from other bloggers. I not only learned about the business of blogging, but talking to everyone showed me differing perspectives on the same place, such as how a foodie or a backpacker sees Kerala compared to a photographer or luxury hotelier. I loved that there were five Indian bloggers on the trip who shed a lot of light on how Kerala compares to other parts of India, and the perception of Kerala domestically.
I enjoyed watching Ottemthulal dance so very much! The dancer’s green face captured my attention right away. But more than that, I was drawn in by its energy and dynamism. The involvement with the audience was so intense. He alternated between lobbing jokes and insults at the audience, like a salty comedian. Of course I have no idea what he was saying, but his movements enchanted me. I couldn’t take my eyes off him from beginning to end. Energetic leaping, powerful body language, and most of all, the way he wiggled his face like a madman. Face wiggles? Yes, face wiggles! Wiggled his eyes and cheeks at high-speed while the rest of the face stayed frozen. It’s crazy, and probably hard to imagine, so you’ll just have to come to Kerala India and watch it yourself!
My other favorite thing about #KeralaBlogExpress is the friendship with fellow bloggers. How we all got close together. Never be in group of friends this fabulous before… But I bet many has mentioned this too 🙂
Hanging out with 27 bloggers from around the world in a bus exploring Southern India was an incredible unforgettable experience, from learning a about everybody involved in the program to hanging out with the locals and learning about their beautiful culture. I fell in love with all the writers and all the locals, but most importantly I fell in love with their smiles.I can’t wait for the Kerala Blog Express reunion.
I visited Kerala already a few years ago, and I was so excited to go again and experience some of the things I didn’t get a chance to see or do in my first visit. On this second visit I particularly enjoyed watching and photographing the fishermen pulling the nets and gathering the catch of the day on those hot, sunny mornings on the beaches in Poovar and Kollam.
Other memorable experiences from the trip were the overnight cruise on a backwater houseboat and the visit to Kochi, which remains one of my favourite cities in India. What can I say about food? Those fish curries in coconut sauce were unforgettable and so were all the other delicacies we were shown during the trip.
It has to be said – the Kerala Tourism staff worked real hard to make sure we had a great travel experience, so well done! Kerala Blog Express was a first of its kind initiative in the whole of India and I’m so proud to have been among the first participants. Last thing I want to say is about my travel mates – if Kerala Blog Express was so special it was also thanks to all of you guys. I hope to meet all of you again somewhere along the road!
I was really impressed by the beauty of Kerala, its colours, its people, its landscapes… But what I enjoyed the most was seeing how tourism there is trying to be focused into a responsible tourism, ecofriendly and respectful with the environment.
Places such as the Kumarakom Lagoon in the backwaters, Thekkady or Wayanad have developed in the last few years different projects to protect the wildlife and the natural beauty of the forests or lakes there. In our blog we are very concerned about nature so it was just wonderful to discover these local initiatives. If you love adventure and natural experiences that is definitely your place to go! Remember, as we always say… No risk, no adventure!
Someone wiser than me wrote that in India nothing is what it seems. I remember during the early start of the trip that many of us had all sorts of doubts about what sort of trip would it be, what we where going do to and when. How much our minds changed form that moment until the farewell dinner, when Nelson made a speech about the wonderful two weeks we had, right? The KBX experience was about discovering not only a marvelous place, but also way of traveling: sharing photo ops, sharing stories, sharing laughs. And, of course, sharing endless cups of steaming chai.
For me, personally, it was the start of discovering India, a country that was not in my bucket list (can’t really remember why!) now a place I’m sure to come back soon. Another personal transformation was that I came back with the firm purpose of being a writer – as in ‘someone who writes’. To summarize, the KBX was a very inspiring moment
While I travel a lot on my own, blogging has given me more opportunities to see the world.Getting invited by other countries to visit and experience their great destinations is always most welcome. The Kerala Blog Express gave us the opportunity to experience so much of Kerala, God’s own country, in the two weeks that the group drove through the beautiful Indian state. I will always cherish experiences like staying overnight on a houseboat, exploring the backwaters, and seeing animals in the wild. The culture and heritage were colorful and exciting! Hopefully we get to see more of Kerala in the future.
I was not the travelling type, I was the kind of person who finds joy sitting in front of a computer all day. Even though I lived in Kerala for my entire life, even though I knew it was a tourist destination I never tried to see Kerala. Even when I started working on Tourism projects it was the social media part that excited me. But Kerala blog express changed all of it.
It was the first time I am seeing Kerala through the eyes of a traveler, Coconut lagoon, a property that redefined Kerala’s Tourism is just 30 mins from the place I grew up and I never knew, I’ve never taken than road before. Now I find myself looking at the map, looking at locations, friends places, nearby tourist locations, making plans for weekends to visit these places.. and I have already covered a few places. Now I am making a list of places in Tamil Nadu which I can visit during the weekend from Trivandrum.
Yes.. Kerala Blog Express has made me a traveller.
The Kerala Blog Express was an incredible experience! This was my first time meeting up with a bunch of travel bloggers to explore a country, which was new to me. I’ve never really considered going to India before, but my visit to Kerala has certainly changed that.The beautiful sceneries, the friendly and curious locals, the spicy food (though I missed the taste of a cheese burger) and everyone on the tour bus filled my backpack with happy memories of Kerala. One of my most memorable moments from the tour was the full day houseboat cruise down the backwaters. It was peaceful, relaxing and I had great company. I would do go again in a heartbeat!
They say lovers feel more bonded and connected during the sight of a sunset than any other time of the day.
If this is true then Kerala has to be the next place where you have to take your better half. Kerala has more beautiful, mesmerizing, thought-provoking, tear jerking, solemn moment, perfect golden light sunsets that the whole of the exotic islands in the world put together. The feel of an India for beginners, gives Kerala a whole cultural multidimensional and diversity, where the Hinduism storytelling, the picture postcard beaches, the luxury hotels and abundant smell of spice in the air enough to melt even the colder of hearts. I recommend leaving your camera at home, as you will want to keep these sunset moments just for yourself.
When I got invited to join KBE I was excited – I’ve never been to India before, I’ve never been to any kind of bloggers’ event nor a press trip. On the other hand I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy traveling by bus with 30 strangers. I don’t like organized trips, I don’t feel comfortable in large groups and I usually travel with people I already know – good company on the road is very important to me. Now looking back at those 15 days I am very happy I decided to join KBE. Kerala turned out to be a perfect destination: it was sunny, it was warm, it was beautiful, people were nice, the food was divine and I just loved the backwaters of Kerala. I know I will be back. And those strangers turned out to be a group of amazing, inspiring people – I got 30 new friends!
The best part was meeting passionate travelers from around the world, and understand how different cultures look at travel. This traveling with other passionate travelers made discovering Kerala even more interesting and we could see different aspects of the beautiful state which I may have missed otherwise. E.g a the food bloggers wanted to learn about food, and the photographers helped us discover beauty of Kerala in a unique perspective and also to take interest in the life of common people and not just the touristy experience.
Another part that I was impressed was by how local communities, tourism and nature are intertwined in Kerala, peacefully coexisting with each other.
It’s extremely un-nerving to think about travelling for 15 days to places you’ve never been to with people you’ve never met. It turns out that’s the great gift the Kerala Blog Express has given me. Apart from understand their culture and cuisine ( which is extremely interesting to me as I write about food) it’s the people I met on this trip, both local as well as the other bloggers that made it special.
From beaches, to backwaters, houseboat expeditions and luxury resort pampering, trekking, traditional arts, crafts, dances even religious ones – this was an action packed 2 weeks exploring the state. An eye opener in many ways because even though I’ve been to a few places in Kerala before there was so much I explored on this particular trip. If nothing else, it reminds me how diverse and gorgeous India is. After all, I was in God’s own country.
I was on my own backpacking trip to Gods Own Country – Kerala in November, as solo traveller, that when Keralablogexpress came my way . India is place where you can travel different countries within itself and travel without visa. Each destination is unique so as Kerala as well, which has great mix of wildlife, adventure, plantations, modern luxury style of homes,etc. For me , KBE was more uniting with an extended family of travel bloggers and learning from 27 of them a unique special way to each to see world in different way. For some Kerala was ayurvedic and spa rejuvenation, for some it was place to explore the taste buds, for some it was seeing the scenic beauty, for me it was “Travellers hear to ease themselves and get subdued in the green heart”.
I played a role of handling these bloggers and also played the role of travelling to explore. Not that I could explore much, but even little I could I must say it was “Experiencing 14 countries lifestyle in one country with different lifestyle in each village”. My favourite part of this trip, was how each traveller, mostly from different country adjusted and became friends during trip and explored each destination with same warmth. Favourite part of the trip was the exotic cuisines, larger than life luxurious stay at Kumarakom Lake Resort , serene sunsets of Kerala at each location and the never ending bus journey.
The Kerala Blog Express was an amazing experience that opened my eyes to a part of India that I previously had not heard of. It was very rewarding to travel with 26 other bloggers who each brought their own unique perspective to the journey.
Kerala is a fantastic destination with so many unique landscapes. I loved that you could be in the mountains in the morning and swimming in the ocean just a few hours later. For me though, the amazing backwaters and the people who live and work on them were the highlight of the entire trip.
India has been forever on my wish list but up till now I never had the opportunity to visit, so when I got the invitation to join the Keralablogexpress I was very happy. I really enjoyed everything, but my three highlights were:
1. The wonderful nature at the Thekkady Tiger and Elephant reserve
2. The mesmerizing music and dance at the Kerala Kalamandalam University for Art & Culture.
3. Watching the villages and the bird wildlife during the overnight trip on a houseboat
My whole perception, that Kerala is only a most sought after Honeymoon destination of India, got vanished when I landed in Kerala. It is much more than that. My dream of printing sunset postcard of my own with Chinese Fishing nets in front , eating with hand on Banana leaf and above all watching family of Elephant coming in front of me ,feel the luxury of spending whole day on a House Boat in backwaters of Alleppey , watching fishermen catching fish for their livelihood at the earliest hours of morning have been the best moments of mine in Kerala. Truly very hard to jot down the best moments , as every moment spent in Kerala ” The Gods Own Country ” is priceless and last forever in my heart and mind. Want to Go back again , Kerala is calling me.
Kerala Blog Express is my most ultimate travel experience so far. Never thought that Kerala would be more like my home country, Indonesia, with its hot & humid air, rice & spice plantations, endless coconut trees, and dense forests. We even share similar puttu, appam, and achar. Visiting Kerala makes me feel like going back to my grandparents’ village where everything was so green, calm, beautiful, and friendly. And usually I don’t even want to leave! Of course Kerala has so many unique things to offer such as backwater experience and tiger reserve I liked most.
What I remember most during KBE trip is our bus ride that took us almost hours everyday in it. Whether you hated it or not, you’d got to like it eventually. Our seats have become our own little palace. Along the ride you could hear Manoj’s (our guide) voice explaining everything all over the cabin. When everything got so boring then it’s time for sleep bombs. Off the bus for tea & toilet. Head wobbles. Smiles from friendly Keralites. We were a bunch of kindergarten kids who happened to be the luckiest travel bloggers in the world visiting God’s Own Country. We took this trip professionally but we didn’t lose a chance to have fun and make the most out of it.
Being the only Malayali (native of Kerala) amongst the bloggers selected for the Kerala Blog Express, this was my first real home-coming. The experience for me was all about the people I met during the two-week journey. Sharing, learning and forging friendships with inspiring travel bloggers, falling in love with the people of Kerala and their honest smiles, experiencing mesmerizing sunsets; every moment was magical. But the one thing that I have most importantly been gifted by this unique road trip is a sense of pride in belonging to a land so aptly known as God’s Own Country.
Thanks everybody for sharing your experiences!