11th April 2015
Hi there, it’s been a while, right? I’ve had two very busy months travelling around Asia, London, then back to Asia. More precisely, I’m now in my room at Eighth Bastion Hotel, in India’s Kerala state, sorting pictures and reviewing notes taken during our experience on Kerala Blog Express – yes, that competition I was asking you guys to vote for me!
Kerala Blog Express was an initiative by Kerala Tourism, who took 30 international bloggers on a bus all around Kerala state. Brazil, UK, Indonesia, Spain, Israel, New Zealand, Italy, USA and 13 other countries were represented on this 15-day trip that saw us climbing coconut trees (me, me!), sleeping in houseboats, avoiding blood-hungry leeches in the forests and exploring tea and spice plantations. Add to that a visit to elephant orphanages and being visited by cheeky forest monkeys, and you will have “the journey of a lifetime”, as promoted by Kerala Tourism. And you bet we did!
We were welcomed at Thiruvananthapuram airport (or Trivandrum) like A-list celebrities, driven in official cars to our plush hotels, and pampered all the way.
At first I felt slightly out of my depth – 15 days with thirty strangers? But sooner than expected we all got to know each other, and on our last night, we were all hugging one another and crying, sad to say goodbye to our new friends.
No more dinners together, or crazy bonfire parties, traditional custom dressing. That myriad of places and activities to showcase to us cultural, culinary aspects and the natural beauty of Kerala, will no longer be there.
During the trip, some of my friends asked a lot of questions. So before I start writing detailed accounts of each activity, I will answer their main questions here. So let’s start:
That was actually the most common question I got. I have to say, I couldn’t be more pleased with the standard of accommodation offered to us during Kerala Blog Express. We stayed in some superior level hotels, as well as some absolutely A-MA-ZING five star resorts and spa hotels all over Kerala. From beach resorts, spa retreats, forest and business hotels, there was a bit of everything. Some of us also had the chance to experience local home stays, getting an insight into home life in Kerala. We all had our own rooms, some of them with private pool and jacuzzi.
Kerala cuisine, to non-specialists, is similar to the rest of Indian cuisine. Considering this is the land of spices and coconut trees, it’s with little surprise that you’ll find a lot of spicy food. Personally, I found local food milder than the Indian food I’m used to, but some of my peers just couldn’t take so much hot food for so long.
Think mildly spicy, creamy, colourful curries, fish cooked in banana leaves or in coconut milk. That’s definitely something I’ll miss a lot.
Keralites… I can’t stop thinking about the beautiful smiles, curious looks and genuine welcome I (we) got during this trip. Keralites are very hospitable, pleasant and respectful people. Perhaps because they enjoy a higher standard of living and level of education than the rest of India – literacy rate in the state is nearly 100%. Learning a few words of Malayalam, the local language, will get you a lot of attention, but the vast majority of people speak English. However, as you venture into smaller towns and rural areas, that won’t necessarily be the case.
Since we were travelling together on a bus, I felt I didn’t have as much contact with locals as I’d like to, so I really cherished every opportunity I had to talk to them. And I am happy to say that Keralites were the friendliest and most genuine people I met on my entire trip to India.
I can’t wait to share detailed experiences with you! Now I’ve got thousands of pictures to go through, notes to review and many posts about this once-in-a-life-time experience in Kerala.