Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Tour de Kerala: A 5-day holiday

When was the last time you were truly ecstatic?
When was the last time you wanted to quit your daily chores?
When was the last time you wanted to know more about yourself?

Days spent in Niravana...
Days spent being Carefree...
Days spent in God's Own Country!

4500+ KMs of air travel complimented by 1000+ KMs of road trip...

Prologue - 

Travelling enables us to explore different flavors of life. It offers you unique ways of connecting with yourself, with the nature in its truest form.
Somebody wrote "travel and tell no one because people ruin beautiful things". But unless you share your travel tales with like-minded people, how will you able to learn for future trips".

It was the time of the year when I was all set to undertake one of the awaited trips that I had been planning for long time.
We were planning for a family trip since quite a long time. We wanted to explore south India as I never had a chance to visit that part of the country (Been till Bangalore for work, But I wouldn’t call it a south India tour).

We shortlisted below places for our trip –
- Andaman & Nicobar Islands
- Rameshwaram Via Madurai & Pondicherry
- Mysore & nearby places
- Kerala & Kanyakumari

Out of the choices, we ruled out Andaman & Nicobar, maybe next time. We had hard time deciding between Rameshwaram & Kerala. Both places were important places of tourist attraction.

After a bit of discussion and further pondering over the places to visit, it was Kerala decided as our holiday destination.

It was a 5 days & 4 Nights travel plan. Following places were on must to visit list -

  • Kanyakumari - Devi Kanya Kumari Temple, Thiruvalluvar Statue, Gandhi Memorial, Muttom beach, Vivekananda Rock Memorial,
  • Kovalam Beach, Trivandrum
  • Swami Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Trivandrum
  • Pazhavangadi Ganapathi Temple, Trivandrum
  • Munnar - Various places like Kolukkumalai Tea Estate, Tea Museum, Top Station, Mattupetty Dam, Kundala Dam Lake, Rose Garden, Echo Point, Attukal Waterfalls, Pallivasal Falls

We missed out on Boat house, couple of wildlife sanctuaries and other places due to lack of time.

Day 1 - Started from Delhi, our home to airport 3-4 hours before the boarding considering the maddening Delhi traffic these days. Reached airport in time and did the boarding formalities, got busy in clicking pics at the T3 terminal after having some snacks at the airport food court.

Our Air India flight from Delhi to Thiruvanthampuram was a connecting one Via Cochin. Air India's most of the domestic flights have non-functional in-flight entertainment system, torn carpets to say the least!

Anyways, we landed in cochin after 3 hours of flight. Waited for 40 minutes before it started again fir the final destination, Thiruvanthampuram. We also met Thiruvanthampuram's MP Shashi Tharoor on our flight from Cochin to Trivandrum. Appears to be a decent & gentleman!

Cochin to Trivandrum via flight is 30 minutes’ journey. We reached the Trivandrum International Airport around 11.30 in the night and headed our way to our place Hotel to catch up some sleep before starting our journey to Kanyakumari the following day.

Day 2 – We started for Kanyakumari around 7 am in the morning. Thiruvanthampuram to Kanyakumari is around 100 Kms one side. The traffic along the way was quite dense, mostly single lane highway, that too, through the crowded markets that delayed the travel time even further. 100 KMs journey took around 6 hours. We reached Kanyakumari around 1PM and had some typical Kerala lunch served at a local Dhaba. South Indian food served there has a different taste than what we usually eat at like say, Haldirams!

After having lunch, we started our journey to visit Devi Kanya Kumari Temple, Thiruvalluvar Statue, Gandhi Memorial, Muttom beach, Vivekananda Rock Memorial.

For visiting Vivekanand rock memorial, & Thiruvallur statue, one needs to take a boat ride for around 100 meters as both places are away from the beach. Rock memorial was built in 1970 in honour of Swami Vivekananda who attained enlightenment on the rock. Thiruvallur statue is 29-meter-long situated at the India’s southmost tip.

After roaming around these places and sightseeing, we spent some time in Muttom beach and Gandhi Memorial. Devi Kanya Kumari Temple is one of the major shakti peeth.

After covering all these places, we started back for Thiruvanthampuram. We visited Kovalam Beach later in the evening. While our plan was to visit Kovalam beach at the sunset time but due to slow traffic we reached Kovalam Beach around 8PM.

Day 3 - After visiting Kovalam Beach in the night, we reached our Hotel around 11 PM. Since there was hardly any time left to explore nearby places, we had our dinner and dozed off for the day. Next morning, I woke up early and spent some time in the balcony of the Hotel we were staying in, and observed the beauty of Kerala with dawn setting in and rooster’s sound all over echoing in the city. People mostly here have large houses with ample of parking space and lots of coconut and banana trees grown in their gardens.

We started for Munnar around 7 am, but before that en-route we visited Swami Padmanabhaswamy Temple. It was amazing experience there wearing traditional dhotis and having darhsan of Swami Padmanabhaswamy temple. It is known fact that around $22 billion worth of gold and jewels stored in underground vaults. We also visited Pazhavangadi Ganapathy Temple, it was crowded on the occasion of ongoing Ganpati festival.

After that we finally started for Munnar around 9 am. Total distance to Munnar is around 300 KMs. It took us nearly 9-10 hours to reach Munnar via Kottam. The roads, again, were mostly crowded having single lane reducing average speed to 45-50 KMPH. There are lots of scenic views en-route to Munnar. I saw lots of rubber plantations for the first time in my life (have studied about them in school time in the subject of social studies).

Traffic sense is mostly decent in Kerala, I would say, drivers have lots of patience. There is hardly anyone honking madly and increasing BP of fellow riders. People seems to have good temperament in this region of the country.
We finally reached Munnar around 4PM and checked in a hotel.

After having a quick refreshment, we again started for local sight-seeing.There are several places worth vising in Munnar.

But covering entire Munnar itself require 3-4 days if you want to each and every place as the travelling from one place to another is time consuming considering it is a hill station situated at the height of 5,200 ft above sea level in the Western Ghats range of mountains. In the evening we covered few places like Attukal waterfalls, Kolukkumalai tea estates.

One amazing thing I noted about Munnar was that, all our tiredness went away as soon as we reached there. Nice cold climate throughout the year. Travelling from Trivandrum to Munnar was tiresome for sure with not so great roads and slow traffic. A five hour journey took nine!

 Munnar mostly has cold weather throughout the year. The maximum temperature was around 17-18 degree Celsius while the minimum temperature dropped to around 8 degrees at the time of our stay at Munnar. Also there are various places where you will see dense fog & mist throughout the day time.

Munnar is one of the underrated tourist spot of our country. It does not get hype as other places like Shimla or Goa gets. Whereas in my opinion, it is one of the finest hill station of our country and it should be promoted even more.

I first got to know about Munnar from the Honda City i-VTEC – ‘the Race’ television commercial aired in 2009 when the new Honda City was launched. It was such an amazing advertisement shot at Munnar, Kerala and ever since in the back of my mind, Munnar was marked as a must to visit place.

Here is the advertisement youtube video link just in case if you have not seen the ad. The jingle is prepared by Strings – “Bus Khud hi se Aage Jaana Hai” with tagline ‘The race lies within, the acclaim outside’ is simply amazing!

Day 4 – Overnight we stayed in Munnar, had nice dinner at a nearby restaurant serving north Indian/Gujarati food. Next morning, we started a bit early as we also had to reach Thiruvanthampuram by night. After having breakfast, we started covering the places that were left over from day 3. By early afternoon, we covered Tea Museum, Top Station, Mattupetty Dam, Kundala Dam Lake, Rose Garden, Echo Point, Pallivasal Falls.

We started back for Thiruvanthampuram around 1 PM. Took another 8-9 hours with small breaks before we finally reached our Hotel.

Day 5 – Next morning we reached airport early in the morning. Our flight was scheduled at 6 am in the morning, reached Delhi via Cochin. It was amazing journey and experience travelling all across Kerala. Though I missed some places, I will surely cover up next time I visit that part of the country again.

Ending my travel cum photologue with a short 20 second video I recorded. The Amazing feeling of Driving through the city of Thiruvanthampuram, Kerala on the eve of Onam...and it was beautifully lit up. You will forget Dilli ki Diwali! Do watch

Happy Onam and upcoming festival season. Keep Revving!

Complete Set of Pics - Tour de Kerala: A 5-day holiday