Kerala or God’s Own Country as it popularly called is a south eastern state of India. Malayalam is the official Language of Kerala. I have travelled through Kerala by Train on several occasions and always found the region interesting due to its abundant water bodies, greenery and interesting culture but never actually got to spend any time there Finally in the Summer of 2016 I had an opportunity there on a family road trip along with some friends.
We decided to drive down from Chennai and decided to visit Munnar, Kumarakom and Thiruvananthapuram.
The drive from Chennai to Munnar took about 12 hours by road with a few stops for lunch and refreshments on the way. As usual I did the hotel bookings on Booking.com and we were not disappointed. Our accommodations at Munnar were at the Munnar Tea Country Resort . The rooms were spacious and family friendly. The food and drinks were good too.
After a good nights rest at the resort we set off to explore Munnar and the surrounding Tea Plantation region.
Even though it was summer the temperature at those higher elevations was nice enough for all day excursions.
The countless rows of tea plants with borders of eucalyptus trees are a pleasant sight for eye sore from laptop and mobile phone use. The air was fresh and cool.
We took time to explore the plantations on foot and get a few fun photos with the greenery as a backdrop.
We drove to nearby Lakkam Waterfalls one of several in the area and relaxed for bit there while the kids played in the water.
Where to Stay in Munnar
There are plenty of Hotel options and Home-stays too at Munnar. But the best ones tend to get booked up in advance so make your bookings early to avoid disappointment.
Here are a few accommodations with good reviews.
From Munnar we set off for Kumarakom the gateway to the extensive backwaters of Kerala. The Drive from Munnar to Kumarakom took about 4 hours. We reached our resort for this leg the well known Vivanta by Taj Kumarakom. After a quick check in we were escorted to our Cottages which were right alongside a manmade waterbody. The cottages were also just a short walk away from the backwaters.
Taj Kumarakom Resort and Spa Kerala (earlier called Taj Garden Retreat) the first modern tourist resort in Kumarakom was established in the Victorian two storied bungalow built by Alfred George Baker in the year 1881 on huge pieces of Teak wood rafters packed in mud as a base. This house on the lake at Kumarakom was the house of four generations of the Baker family, for over a hundred years. The bird Sanctuary and the two storeyed Bungalow built by Mr.A G Baker on the muddy land are places of interest for tourists from all over the world
Tourism in Kumarakom largely revolves around the backwaters of the Vembanad Lake. Several luxury and budget resorts lined up on the shores of the lake provide tourists with facilities for boating, yachting and fishing, with panoramic views of the lake. The other major attraction is the Bird Sanctuary, which is open from 6 am to 6 pm and can be visited by canoes arranged by local fishermen at the entrance to the sanctuary. A two-hour rowing canoe trip is quite cheap, and is best undertaken in the evening or early morning to avoid the afternoon sun.
The Aruvikkuzhi Waterfall and its surrounding rubber plantation are a photographer's delight. There is also the Bay Island Drift Museum near the Kumarakom beach for history lovers, open from 10 am – 5 pm on Tuesdays – Saturdays and from 11.30 am – 5 pm on Sundays.
Where to Stay at Kumarakom
There are a number of Luxury and Budget options and Houseboats to choose from for stay at Kumarakom.
Here are a few popular options
After a relaxing couple of days at Kumarakom we set of for Thiruvananthapuram . The Drive from Kumarakom to Trivandrum takes about 2 hours.
Thiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum) is the capital of the southern Indian state of Kerala. It's distinguished by its British colonial architecture and many art galleries. It’s also home to Kuthira Malika (or Puthen Malika) Palace, adorned with carved horses and displaying collections related to the Travancore royal family, whose regional capital was here from the 18th–20th centuries.
We wanted to visit the Anantha Padmanabhaswamy Temple.The temple is built in an intricate fusion of the indigenous Kerala style and the Tamil style (kovil) of architecture associated with the temples located in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, featuring high walls, and a 16th-century Gopuram.
The Principal Deity Maha Vishnu-Adi Narayana is enshrined in the "Anantha Shayanam" posture, the eternal yogic sleep on the serpent Adisheshan. Sree Padmanabhaswamy is the tutelary deity of the royal family of Travancore. The titular Maharaja of Travancore Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma is the trustee of the temple. In line with the Temple Entry Proclamation, only those who profess the Hindu faith are permitted entry to the temple and devotees have to strictly follow the dress code. The name of the city of Thiruvananthapuram in Malayalam translates to "The City of Lord Ananta", referring to the deity of Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Other Places of Interest at or near Trivandrum are :
The Napier Museum and Zoo - The museum houses a rare collection of archaeological and historic artefacts, bronze idols, ancient ornaments, a temple chariot and ivory carvings. It also contains the Sree Chitra Art Gallery, which contains works from Raja Ravi Varma and Nicholas Roerich, as well as examples of Mughal and Tanjore art.
The Museum grounds also hold the famous Trivandrum Zoo, which is one of the oldest zoological gardens in India
Kuthira Malika Kuthiramalika is a palace built by Swathi Thirunal Rama Varma on the south-eastern side of Padmanabhaswamy temple, Thiruvananthapuram.
Where to Stay at Trivandrum
Hilton Garden Inn, Trivandrum (well located near city center and close to attractions)
Due to the short duration of time for the trip we decided to keep other noteworthy places such as Cochin, Thekady, Kovalam and Varkala for another trip.
Camera Gear for Kerala
As this was primarily a family vacation I decided to travel light
Canon 5D IV , Canon 70-200 F2.8 L IS II, Canon 17-40mm F4 l and Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4 . In hindsight this was just right for most shooting occasions I encountered during this trip. The Wide Angle lens allowed me to shoot landscapes and the the expanses of the backwaters of Kerala. The telephoto zoom allowed me to zoom in interesting portions of the Landscape and and also shoot the occasional portrait. The standard focal length of the Zeiss Otus was ideal for taking tack sharp portraits of family members. Probably overkill for a family vacation but hey as a photographer I always want my best kit with me just in case.
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