10th April 2014
I first encountered tea plantations when we visited Tanah Rata in Malaysia back in 2008. During that visit, I fell in love with the lush green color and picturesque nature of tea plants. As part of the Kerala Blog Express, we visited Munnar, a town in the Western Ghat Mountains which is one of the premier tea growing regions in the world.
Munnar sits at an elevation of 5200 feet (1600m). To get there, we slowly ascended from the coast on a windy road through the mountains. Along the way we were treated to spectacular views of valleys, rivers and forests. Eventually as we climbed high enough, the landscape changed to miles and miles of tea plants.
Our visit to the Munnar region included a tour of the KDHP Madupatty Tea Factory. During our visit, we learned about the tea making process and how the tea industry provides a majority of the jobs for people in the area. While the KDHP facility is not open to the public, there is a tea museum in Munnar which tourists can visit.
As we drove along the road to Munnar we stopped in several areas in order to take photos of the stunning landscape. During some of these stops, tea workers were alongside the road hand picking leaves. They are paid by the kilo, with an average wage being around $8USD per day. We also managed to see their modest accommodations at several points along the way. It definitely is not the easiest job in the world.
In Munnar, we stayed in Tea County, a government owned hotel that sits atop a hill overlooking the town. The views from the hotel are fantastic and I get the feeling that Tea County has the best location in town. From my hotel’s balcony, I could see a bustling night market below, so I naturally walked down to investigate.
Munnar’s night market was my favorite part of visiting this area of Kerala. Walking down the hill, I saw just how colorful and vibrant Munnar is. My senses were overwhelmed with the smells, sights and sounds of the crowded area. As for the market itself, it had just about everything. The real reason to visit though is for people watching. It seemed like the whole town was there!
While Kerala is most famous for its beaches and backwaters, the tea country around Munnar is definitely worth a visit. Not only is the scenery stunning, but the night market is among the best I visited in India. With far fewer tourists than in areas like Kochi, you will find a closer and more authentic experience.
For me, traveling is not always about seeing the biggest and most famous sites. While I had never heard of Munnar before my visit to Kerala, it is the type of place I could see myself getting stuck in for a few days. With so much beauty and an abundance of culture, it is a place I definitely can see myself returning to!