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10 Reviews

Country: India / World Region: Indian Subcontinent

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      14.01.2012 14:59
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      We loved it - absolutely loved it

      How to capture a week in Kerala without stretching to the world's longest review? Well it's a tried and tested technique of mine to force myself to stick to an alphabet structure. We were in Kerala - visiting Kochi, Munnar, Thekkady and the backwaters around Allepey in November 2011. Here's my A to Z.

      A is for Ayurveda

      Having an Ayurvedic massage in the hill town of Munnar was one of the most painful and uncomfortable experiences I've had in India - only slightly preferable to diarrhoea or a railway station toilet. However the general principles of Ayurveda are sound - and a lot less reliant on mumbo jumbo, mathematical improbability and faith than its more popular and better known cousin, homeopathy. Ayurveda is an Indian system of traditional herbal and mineral healthcare which is also popular in Sri Lanka. We spent a painful hour being beaten up by an Ayurvedic masseur and masseuse in a small centre and it took me about three days to shake off the aches and pains. It's entirely possible that my chakras were beautifully realigned but I felt like I'd done 9 rounds with Mohammed Ali.

      B isfor Beena's Homestay

      When planning my trips to India - or anywhere else for that matter - I'm quite reliant on the recommendations of the tripadvisor website. The top tip I picked up for accommodation in Kerala's major city Cochin (or Kochi) was Beena's Homestay. Beena and her husband let spotlessly clean but simple rooms in their home, feed you 'til you think you'll burst each evening, and offer a lovely alternative to budget hotels. Yes, of course a full review will follow but for now, let's just say this is the best bargain in southern India and a chance to stay with some of the nicest, kindest people you'll ever meet.

      C is for Cardamoms

      I adore the taste of cardamoms - I put them in rather a lot of my cooking. They're one of those 'crossover' spices that can be used in sweet or savoury dishes, are ludicrously cheap and grow like weeds all over the hills of Kerala. I'd hazard a guess that most people wouldn't have a clue how they grow but if you go to Kerala you'll be told at least once a day and people will stop and point out cardamom plants by the road side. They grow on plants that look a bit like palms and are found on stringy growths near the base of the stem that look a bit like the aerial roots on orchids. I read somewhere that cardamom is the third most expensive spice in the world but that sounds ridiculous, especially since they grow like weeds all over the Kerala countryside.

      D is for driving and drivers

      The mountains of Kerala have horribly bad roads. If you ask whether they drive on the right or the left side of the road, the answer is neither; they drive wherever the pot holes are less deep. The tracks through the tea plantations around Munnar are shocking even in a four-wheel drive Jeep. Doing hair pin bends in reverse in a vehicle with the threads sticking out of the sidewalls of the tyres is for the brave or foolish.

      E is for Elephants

      Elephants are the state animal of Kerala and they have three thousand five hundred wild ones wandering around as well as massively more tamed beasts who work in the logging industry and tourism. We had a short ride in Thekkady and it was by far the best elephant ride I've had due to the lovely Nelly we had (her name was Lakshmi) and mostly due to the type of saddle used in Kerala. Unlike the more popular basket-style frames that are used in the tourists traps of Rajastan where you sit sideways in a metal cage that lurches from side to side, or the strange forward facing metal 'sofa' type seats in Thailand, the Keralans let you sit astride the elephant with a leg down either side and your feet on a metal bar with lots of padding between you and the elephant. It helps to be of above average height as short people and children can slip around if they can't reach the foot bars. Being astride the elephant offers some 'interesting' differences from the other seating types - most notably that when the elephant farts (which they do a lot - high fibre diet and all that) you can feel the entire elephant vibrate.

      F is for Fishing and Fish

      Kerala is a coastal state and they have the most fabulous fish which is typically presented as a spicy 'Kerala fish fry'. Whilst I normally eat strictly vegetarian food in India to avoid the risk of tummy upsets, I ate fish throughout Kerala, even up in the mountains and on the backwaters and I even had the odd prawn a couple of times on the coast. Cochin is famous for its use of so-called 'Chinese fishing nets' - an historic form of fishing in which large stretched nets are dipped into the water and then raised out again by the use of counterweights. For a small fee the fisherman are more than happy to demonstrate their highly photogenic technique. The fish market beside the fishing nets offers even more good photo opportunities and a chance to get a really fresh lunch of dinner.

      G is for Green and Gods Own Country

      Kerala is green, very green. Why? Because it rains all the time up in the mountains and quite often down by the coast as well. It's astonishingly lush. The state slogan is 'God's Own Country' because it's a majority Christian state but in reality most of the time God has to share it with the Communists who until very recently dominated local politics. The Communist Party of India seems to rub along surprisingly well with the Church which is more than can be said in any of the other Communist strongholds or ex-strongholds around the world. My guess is that if you're a Christian and your choice of political parties is a bunch of Hindu or Muslim groups, your enemies enemy might just be your friend.

      H is for Hill Stations

      Throughout India when the weather gets hot, those who can afford to head for the hills. With altitude comes respite from the heat and for Kerala the most famous of the Hill Stations is Munnar though Wikipedia lists 16 different Kerala Hill Stations. Munnar is the least overtly 'British' hill station that we've visited and it's not actually a terribly attractive place. However it does have lots of great scenery, some interesting and some ridiculously bizarre attractions and it's certainly a lot cooler than down by the sea.

      I is for Irritating Sales People

      OK, it's fair to say that this applies to most of India and not just Kerala. There is little more annoying that being followed round a shop by someone trying to be helpful but most of the time just stating the 'bleedin' obvious'. If your eye should glance a moment to long in one direction, they'll be there telling you what it is, whether you're interested or not. I always feel like they think I'm going to shop lift. The fact that you express absolutely no interest and sometimes even state explicitly that you don't care what the price is you wouldn't give house room to the ugly macramé elephant will not come between the irritating sales person and his or her determination to sell you things that you don't want.

      J is for Jewtown

      Jewtown is the district of Kochi in the direct vicinity of the Paradesi Synagogue, an area which was once inhabited by the wealthy, historic Jewish community but is now mostly filled with shops run or owned by Kashmiri traders. The Paradesi Jews are a dying community with no prospect to make it beyond the middle of the 21st century because they've been so exclusive about not marrying outside their community and the only remaining woman of child bearing age refuses to wed her cousins. We were there on a Friday, the worst possible day if you want to see the Synagogue because it's closed but the best day to do a bit of shopping because nobody goes there when the Synagogue isn't open. We spent a lovely few hours eating, drinking and chatting to the most relaxed bunch of low-hassle shop keepers in the sub-continent. I have a weakness for Kashmiris and their stores because they always have the best stock and as a rule are utterly charming.

      K is for Kathikali

      If you only take away one piece of advice from this review let it be this - life is too short and too precious to watch Kathikali dancing. It's the most ridiculous form of dance I've seen anywhere in the world and also the most boring (though the Catalan 'Sardana' comes close). We went to a demonstration the first time we went to Kerala and vowed never to do it again. Our driver - the man who bullied us into Ayurvedic massage - worked out very quickly that whilst we were probably the most laid-back and amenable clients he'd ever had, when we said 'NO KATHIKALI' we meant it.

      L is for the Lack of Beggars

      I know, bizarre, but we didn't see a single beggar in Kerala. It might be something to do with the state having the highest level of education and literacy anywhere in India and a pretty good level of income, and no doubt being on the coast with direct flights to the Middle East means a lot of money comes into the state from families sending a son or two to the Gulf to earn money.

      M is for moustaches

      Every good Keralan man has a moustache. To be more precise, every good Keralan man has the SAME moustache. It's an excellent bushy thing that goes all across the top of the lip and droops a bit down either side.

      N is for the Nilgiri Tahr

      The Nilgiri Tahr is a goat that lives in Eravikulam National Park, quite possibly the lamest national park in India and they have some pretty daft one. Despite the park being massive, you're only allowed to walk along one piece of tarmac path which is about half a mile long. So we waited over an hour to get the bus from the ticket office to the park, paid ten times more than the locals, walked half a mile, saw a goat, walked back, waited an hour for another bus and then went back to Munnar. The goat was nice enough - I suspect it was fed in the same spot every day to ensure people got to see one - and it must have been a deaf goat to put up with dozens of Indians shouting "Oy, look! It's a goat, let's shout at it"

      O is for Orange Pekoe

      The mountainsides of Kerala are coated in tea bushes which look like fuzzy green corduroy. We visited the Kolukkumalai tea estate and were shown around the factory which produces the highest altitude organic tea in the world. The standard quality grade is known as BOP or Broken Orange Pekoe. OK, it's a tenuous 'O is for' but it's the only one I could think of.

      P is for Pancakes

      Beena's husband at the homestay in Cochin makes the most fabulous Kerala pancakes. We had them on the rice barge we stayed on on the backwaters but didn't realise just how wonderful they could be. Sudi's fresh hot pancakes stuffed with sweet coconut paste were so good that I ate four - I think my husband ate six. If there had been more I think we'd have eaten those too.

      Q is for Quiet Places

      In a very loud country, it's hard to find quiet places and the most typical sound is that of car horns blaring. We stayed in four different place in Kerala and every one was quiet and peaceful. I slept like a log.

      R is for Roman Catholicism

      You can almost always tell the religion of a driver in India by looking at what's dangling off his rear view mirror or sitting on the dashboard. Our driver Shijo asked us on the first morning in his broken English "Madame is Arsey?" - Yes, I thought to myself, perhaps she is but that's not the way to go about getting a good tip. Then the penny dropped - Arsey - RC - Roman Catholic. So not quite so insulting after all. The strange thing about Kerala Roman Catholicism is that even the new churches (we saw one built only a few years ago) have all their icons looking distinctly European. I've seen churches in Tamil Nadu where they've changed the skin colour to make the saints look a little more 'local' but oddly in Kerala they don't seem to do that. And we saw a LOT of churches.

      S is for Spices

      Kerala is the spice state of India, benefiting from lots of sun and rain and a superb climate for things to grow. We visited a spice garden near Munnar and even small towns have spice shops, with the larger cities groaning under the weight of little packets of chillies, cardamoms, pepper, cinnamon and spice mixes like garam masala.

      T is for Thekkady

      Thekkady is another high altitude town and the jumping off point for the Periyar wildlife park, lake and tiger reserve. We didn't see any of these - I think our driver was stressed about us being put in a crazy hotel over an hour's drive from the town and he wanted to get there before it got dark (because he didn't know where he was going). There are some fabulous luxury hotels, lots of elephant-things to do and plenty of shops. But that's about it.

      U is for Unionisation

      I already mentioned under G that the communists have run Kerala for many years and consequently a lot of the workers are in unions. One Kashmiri shop keeper told us about his uncle who came to visit and refused to ever return after being royally ripped off by the porterage charges at the airport. He told us that in Kerala you can't haggle about prices for services as much as elsewhere because drivers, porters, dhobiwalas, etc have formed unions and won't undercut each other. We certainly found that a lot of tuk tuk drivers weren't open for negotiation - if you wouldn't pay their price, they wouldn't take you. Fortunately not all were so inflexible but it's good to know roughly what you should pay and then stick to your guns, even if it means having to ask 2 or 3 drivers before you get one that'll take your price.

      V is for Vasco da Gama

      St Francis Church in Cochin is also known as the Vasco da Gama church. I was surprised to learn that I could see Vasco da Gama's tomb because I had a sneaky suspicion I'd seen it before - in Lisbon. Sure enough, poor old Vasco was buried in St Francis, the oldest church in India after he die in 1524 on his third trip to India. Then a few years later his body was taken back to Lisbon and put in a beautiful tomb in the church next to the Jeronimos Monastery.

      W is for Water

      There's a lot of water in Kerala - the coast, the backwaters with their islands of reclaimed lands, waterfalls throughout the mountains and rather a lot of rain.

      X is for Ex-pat houses

      Throughout the mountains we saw lots of enormous fancy houses, often set in large garden plots. Very rarely was there much evidence that anyone actually lived there. We asked Beena in Cochin what this was all about and she explained that most of these houses were built with money sent back to the families by relatives working in the Gulf. She told us that if you build a big house with your money, you can pretty much guarantee good marriage offers for all your daughters. It seems a shame that the best houses are mostly just for show. Ironically, you see similar behaviour in the countryside of Portugal where relatives go to Brazil and send back money to build big villas. In contrast to the grandeur of the ex-pat houses, I saw one little house, not much bigger than a garage with a neatly painted little sign that said 'Lal Bhawan'. My Hindi is pretty poor but I'm pretty sure that means 'precious palace'.

      Y is for Yes

      If someone asks you if you want to go to Kerala - well that's the answer "Yes, of course"

      Z is for ZigZags

      Yes, another tenuous one but the mountains do have a lot of hair-pin bends.
      So that's your lot. What are you waiting for? Kerala is one of the least hasslesome states of India, the people are friendly but not pushy, the food is excellent and inexpensive and the scenery is spectacular. There aren't too many states where you can spend time on the beach, time on a converted rice-barge floating around on the backwaters, and get to high altitude and see fabulous mountains and hang out with elephants.

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        10.04.2010 15:29
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        Never ever forget Kerala from your "Wish I was there" list of tourist spots in India.

        KERALA -A LAND OF COCONUT TREES

        **About Kerala**
        Kerala is really one of those places in India that one should not skip from its holiday destinations. It is situated at the southwestern tip of India with its unique geographical features. It is one of the thirteen paradises in the world. It believes that in heaven coconut and banana trees are there, that's why Kerala is being referred to as god's own country. And indeed it is.

        **Climate**
        I visited kerala in the month of February which is quite a pleasant time to visit. The period between October to April are considered best as the temperature of kerala. But I feel, whether it's summer, monsoon or winter one would surely consider an experience in itself in every season.

        **To Stay/Shopping**
        I stayed in Ernakulam in kochi. All hotels in that city are easily affordable. As it was the peak season, but I still easily got one room costing £22 per day for a/c room which was not so big deal to spend nights. Nearby there are a lot of hotels ranging from hotels near the sea to hotels having their own scenic beauty.
        Near the hotel there was a big market to go out for food or for shopping. Kerala is basically famous for its spices and herbs, silk saris, gold jewelleries, handicrafts, jute bags and for clothes. One can buy these at a good price. But surely do bargain before buying.

        **Food and People**
        The typical vegetarian kerala food called 'Sadya' includes a spread of rice and many different vegetables and cereals (almost everything prepared has coconut added in it), being served on banana leaf makes the whole thing so colourful and mouth watering. It's a kind of buffet provided at cheap rates. The traditional way to eat this buffet kind of stuff is by digging the finger as well as hand in the spread of rice, mixing them together and then eating. Except the 'Sadya' one more dish that I had found in each n every restaurant of kerala was 'Biryani'(rice cooked along with meat, spices and onions). Local non vegetarian people must prefer this dish in their meal. And the delicious fresh fish or seafood prepared with a variety of spices and sauces is just unforgettable and worth trying.
        People here are quite friendly and guidable (until or unless they understand your language). It has the highest literacy rate in India. There one can find Christian and Muslim communities all around. And local men here wear 'lungis' (a kind of sarong).
        Local people here speak Malayalam and Tamil.

        **Places To Visit**

        -MUNNAR - A Hillstation in Kerala-
        Temperature here remains low as it is above the sea level and covered by mountains all over. It has its breath taking beauty in itself.
        To reach there from kochi, I took a deluxe car that picked me up around 6 30 in the morning and dropped me back the following evening. It was worth £37 per person with the one night accommodation including meals and all site seeing tour.
        The main highlights of this place are lush green tea gardens and tea museums, charming 'Kundala' lake, Muttupatty Dam where speed boats are also available to ride through the dam, 'Top Station' from where one can get a spectacular view over the Western Ghats.
        A salubrious climate and its dense forests make this place very cool and calm that one can relax and enjoy meditating.
        And not to forget to bring the yummy home made chocolates from there. Its so delicious and comes in different flavors.


        -SEVEN HOUR BACKWATER-
        Though I was having 2 options one was to hire a houseboat and to relax while staying inside it whole time and second was this seven hour backwater. I found seven hour backwater more interesting and worth experiencing.
        So next day I booked for a seven hour backwater cruise. I would highly recommend this because one would really experience the culture of kerala in itself, the soothing lush surroundings for which people plans for kerala and the traditional way of making things that I will tell you next.
        So the cruise starts at 8a.m from Main Boat Jetty, Ernakulam and comes back at 5:30 p.m. This cruise was worth £8 per person including lunch and pick and drop facility. The car takes you on 30 minutes journey to reach a nearby village on the way to Alleppey from where it starts. The first part is of 4 hour backwater cruise on a house boat through the wide canals and lagoons and the second part, after lunch, is of 3 hour village cruise on a country boat through the little canal of different villages. The cruise always accompanies by 2 boatmen with a knowledgeable guide who gives local information and names of different island come on the way. In between the 2 parts of the cruise, we had our traditional kerala food(less spicy) that use to serve in marriages over there and it was quite delicious. While wandering in the country boats we got the chance to see different spice plants like pepper, coffee, cloves, nutmeg etc and birds like kingfisher, bee-eaters, cormorants etc. That is very rare to see in India. Then on one island we saw how the calcium being extracted from mussel shell. And we saw the traditional way of coir making in a village. We had 30 minutes walk around villages under coconut palm trees too and the children of the villages ran towards us and asked for pens and coins. So its better to take some with you before going backwaters or visiting villages.
        This 7 hour backwater is what I would call a visit in kerala. This cruise thing was really fantastic I must say. I had a great experience.

        -COSTA MALABARI-
        This place is basically a beach village -a calm and secluded beach near Kannur. This town is known mostly for its weaving industry and cashew trade with an excellent beach at Costa Malabari and incredible 'theyyam possession performances'. Trains are easily available from kochi to reach kannur (6 hour journey). After reaching there we accommodated in a Three Heritage bungalows with well furnished rooms. One bungalow right on a cliff overlooking the sea and the other two situates five minutes pleasant walk through the coconut groves to the beach. This beach has its own natural charms. The main thing because of which I went there was 'the theyyam performance'
        This performance is kerala's popular ritualistic art form. It is performed in conjunction with harvest celebrations. From October to may, the performance takes place at different temples in kannur. The people at costa malabari help to find out the venues. Co-incidentally that day it was held in nearby temple and I really enjoyed the performance. It made my trip very fulfilling.

        -FORT KOCHI-
        Next day I went to Fort kochi- a small community in itself. I took ferry from Ernakulam and reached there in 30minutes. Fort kochi is basically a natural harbor and one of the most important trade centre of South. One can found a unique blend of European, Dutch and Portugal lifestyle here. This place was different from main city Kochi. It was not polluted and populated, very good place to chill out.
        A few interesting things for site seeing are Chinese fishing nets along the Vasco Da Gama Square, Princess Street, St.Francis Church, VOC Gate, Bastion Bungalow and many other old houses. Apart from these architectural splendors, arrays of restaurants serving fresh seafood are also popular among tourists.
        Some places I liked most there are --

        Chinese Fishing Net : The Chinese fishing nets constructed out of teak wood and bamboo poles work on the principle of balance. A net is usually owned by 5-10 people who may let it out. The sight of catch being brought in and the nets being lowered back into the sea, is one not to be missed. The best place to watch the nets is from Vasco Da Gama square.

        Princess Street : It is one of the earliest street laid out in fort kochi. A good place for hangout. It still retains its old world charm with its European style living quarters and the houses along its sides.

        St. Francis Church : This church being considered as India's oldest Church. Today it is governed by the Church of South India. Vasco Da Gama who died in Kochi was buried here before his remains were returned to Portugal 14 years later.

        So all in all I had my great vacation so far. There is still a lot in kerala to explore. For me it was a wonderful experience and I don't think I could see any other place that could top it.

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          25.09.2008 16:13
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          India's finest

          Kerala is an Indian state on the S E seaboard of india, overlooking the arabian sea.
          It is a narrow, lush corridor, that is squeezed between the mighty mountains of the western ghats, and the arabian sea.

          Its area is approx 38,864 sq km.
          Its language is malayalam
          the capital is Trivuvananthapuram (or trivandrum)

          The state was formed in 1956 as an amalgamation of Travancore, Kochi, and Malabar.

          The state is made up of roughly 60% hindu's, 20% muslim, and christian. There had always been a small jewish community in Kochi, dating back to 587BC, but this population is now very small.
          However, Kochi does have a spectacular synagogue.


          Its main crops are rice, mango, cashew and COCONUTS.
          India's finest

          Kerala has been a travelllers paradise for many centuries. From ancient times people travelled to kerala to trade spices. It was not only the place to buy, but also a stopoff point for spices being sent from Indonesia.
          Sandalwood and sadly, ivory was also a big trading export for Kerala.
          There is a sector in Kochi where spices are still traded, and I have to say the smell is unbelieveable. Cardamon, cinamon, turmeric, cloves, plus so many more. It is the ultimate in smell-O-vision. Try the cardamon tea.

          As a result of so many years trading with everyone from the Phoenicians, to the Portugese, Chinese, and Romans, to name but a few, Kerala has a very cosmopolitan feeling. Many Kealans also travel, and many of them work in the oil rich Gulf states.

          The Portugese acquired Kerala, and there are still some fine examples of Portugese Imperial architecture. Go see the Bolgatty Palace in Kochi, on Bolgatty island, is a fine example, and you can stay there.

          The cuisine of kerala is shaped by its home grown commodities.
          Generally Keralan food is quite hot, esp with the use of pepper, but cooled by coconut, either grated in or with coconut milk.
          As a sea board state, seafood plays a large part of the diet. Fantastic barbequed prawns in chilli, or masala kingfish, mmmmmh.
          Meat is available, but the vegatarian food id so good, you won't be too fussed about meat.

          We visited kerala for our honeymoon.
          Previously I had only been to North India, which was HARD WORK, but kerala is a different world.
          Beautiful palm lined beaches- we stayed in Kovalam, which is a real hub, but do venture further afield.
          Kovalam has become very touristy since I was there. Many package companies travel there from the UK.
          It has 3 gorgeous beaches, but beware, swimming in the sea there is really only for good swimmers. All along the beach are various restaurants, and hotels.
          You can choose between the cheapest dormitory rooms, to the finest five star resorts ( The Taj resort is fab).
          You can shop, have clothes made by tailors, chill on the beach, and eat to your hearts content. Its a great first experience.

          Go to Trivandrum, the capital, see the Zoo, which apparently has been vastly upgraded.
          the Sri Chitra Art Gallery is well worth a visit, to see a good selection of classic indian artwork, as well as a good selection of modern indian art.


          We travelled the backwaters in a rice boat, which was extraordinary. We caught a train from Trivandrum to Kollam, stayed there overnight. I have to say, when I was there, it wasn't that nice a place to stay, but that was a few years back, so I am sure it has improved.
          We then took our cruise up to Alappuzha and just soooo beautiful.
          Visit Cochin, my husbands favourite city in the world. Travel between the islands of cochin on ferries, visit the Matencherry palace, Spice quarter, the fishing nets, and the jewish synagogue.
          The shopping is brill, you can get clothes made up for you at the tailors shops in town, for a fraction of the cost you pay at home. The spices are well worth bringing home.
          Its also a realtively cheap destination, and depending where you stay it can be budget or 5 *. Great food, and a huge choice, for all tastes.

          You can take a trip up to the Periyar wildlife reserve, to see many birds, and mammals in the wild, esp elephants, bison and monkeys. You are unlikely to see a tiger here though.
          Take a trip onto the lake.
          There is so much more to Kerala than this, so go, explore and see what it's all about
          Visit Kerala, its well worth it

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          08.04.2008 15:40
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          Beautifull place to visit

          Kerala is one of the states in India and its situated at the south of India. one thing i can assure is this place is one of greenest.
          Kerala is another place where you as a tourist will love to go.
          Kerala Shares border with Tamil Nadu & Karnataka. The language which is commonly spoken over here is Malayalam, people from here are known as keralites or Malyalees. Another name for this place Land of Cocounut, some say this is the meaning of kerala in Malyalam Language.

          The climate in kerala is more of a tropical climate, and in this 4-5 months rainy.

          In Kerala these things you will see Cocunut trees, Banana trees, men in 'lungis' its a dress which is weared by Mens, you will find most of the people wearing it.

          Kerala has got the highest literacy rate in India.
          The tourist spot to visits in Kerala are
          Trivundaram, Ponumdi, Neyyar dam & lake, Wild life santuary,Kovalam beach resort, Mineral springs, Hindu Pilgrim centre, Allepy, Kottayam, Idukki, Thekkady, Munnar and many more.

          In kerala most of the residences are made in a typical style house mostly seen in drawings. The roof are made of red clay tiles.

          People over here are friendly, and the food is just too good, the common feats over here is Sadya, which is on a banana leaf and you have to use your fingers to eat it. it contains of Payasam the dessert, Sambar, Rasam, Olan, Kaalan, Khichadi are there in this dish. This treat is for vegeterians, but for all you Non-veg lovers you have delicious food, sea food, biryani you all will like to have it.

          I did heard a lot about kerala's beauty before i visited the place, but once i visited the place i totally agreed to everything whatever is said about this place.

          I went to Kanyakumari the end of south india, there is a famous temple Suchindrum in which if you have to enter then you have to wear Dhoti which is compulsory to wear if you want to enter the temple, so there are many shops near by the temple selling dhotis so you can but them and wear & go in Temple.

          I also went to Thiruvalluvar which is on the islands of kanyakumari. you need to take a ferry boat to go to this place from Kanyakumari. Also visited swami vivekanand rock memorial where swami ji used to come and meditate. You should alo see the sunrise & sunset it is beautifull at this place.

          The most famous beach over here is Kovalam where you will find most of the tourist & the other is Shanmugham. Also over here is Ananthapadmanabhaswamy temple which is also beautifull.

          Also do take the boat ride at Alleppy, and i can assure you all that you will enjoy this boat ride. Allepy is also called 'Venice of the East' because this palce is similar to Venice.

          Guruvayur has the temple of Lord Krishna which again is a place viisited by most of the people.
          Munnar is also one of the place to ben necause its has the highest point above sea-level in south india. The home made choclates over here are so yummy it just brings water to your mouth. aslo you can see some tea plantations & Rubber plantations and you can walk in these plantations.

          I have visited this place once but just for a span of 4 days, but i would really like to visit this place again but for a much longer stay then this as this place has so much more to offer.

          Hope if any of you plan to visit india then do visit Kerala also you will like it.

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            05.01.2008 03:44
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            One of the places you must visit if you plan to see some of the heavans on earth

            Kerala is one of the sought after International tourist destinations in Asia.

            Kerala has a unique geographical features that has and is attracting tourist from across the globe.

            Kerala is the south west tip of India, enclosed by the Arabian Sea on the west and Western Ghats on the east.

            This coastline state of India stretches to about 600 Kilo Meters of clean beaches, serene backwaters, green paddy fields, swaying coconut lagoons, dense green jungles and hill stations.

            Kerala's rich and uique art forms and a highly literate society has always been a part of its Unique selling point.

            Kerala! the charming, seductive, serene, exotic and blessed land is no wonder called "God's Own Country".

            As Jose says (joseyown@providence.usa.com) "When life gets your heart tiring, think of KERALA, and here the nature will heal you".

            In the following linked pages, I attempt to give you some facts and useful information about Kerala.

            All information may not be up-to-the-date, but will be useful for sure.

            I have also included a discussion forum and a chat page to make this website and your experience visiting it more lively.

            Thank you,
            Agni Sharman

            For latest, accurate and up-to-date information on Kerala Tourism please contact

            Department of Tourism, Government of Kerala
            Park View, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India - 695 033
            Phone: +91-471-2321132 Fax: +91-471-2322279

            Tourist Information toll free No:1-800-425-4747
            www.Fly2Kerla.com

            Package Tours available for Kerala from around the world : http://www.simplymalayalees.com/forum_topics.asp?FID=8

            A list HOTELs, and other places in Kerala that you can choose from for your stay: http://www.simplymalayalees.com/forum_topics.asp?FID=7

            Cab, Taxi, Motobike Rentals in and for Kerala : http://www.simplymalayalees.com/forum_topics.asp?FID=9

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            16.04.2002 20:44
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            ’’’’Land of God ...Land of Backwaters’’’’ KERALA IN GENERAL ---------------- Nostalgic Background Though this is review after a long time and probably the right time for my review. This machine world which we are living is filled with the daily activities which we on a normal course makes our mind and body so crazy that at one point of time our mind really stops working. My review on Kerala in general will not be a geography lesson but my 15day Journey to this Mystique land I got a wonderful opportunity to mix up Business and pleasure together as I had a meeting in Kochi with one of my client as also, my friend invited me to his house warming function, which I wouldn’t want to miss it. So all was set and we booked an AI ticket to Cochin, we were set to leave on 10th of June but my machine mind gave me a brilliant idea (For a change). That we would go on a car which would be like a good Kerala tour and we could enjoy this monsoon in a nice manner. Journey begins… Began our quest (Can I say that !!!) to a land through the newly built fast moving express highway, the rains falling and the speed of our car increasing every minute, we reached the Bandipur Forest, in Karnataka which is a conjunction of 3 forest of 3 different states. This is were the well known Sandalwood smuggler VEER (UP) AN stays. (I wonder how does he stays here , man this forest is so dense). From here you have 2 roads one going to Ooty and other to the state of Kerala. We took a halt at the Forest Office before entering the forest so that we would get an idea about the journey ahead of us (Whether it is safe). Me George of the Jungle ..!!! (No Way) As I said earlier this is a conjunction of three forests Bandipur (Karnataka), Madhumalia (Tamil Nadu) and Wynad Wildlife Sanctuary in Kerala. Before we took off for this 4hr of extreme forest we took a cup of Tea at the N
            air’s Chaya kadia (Nair Tea Stall). This reminds me of a joke we used to say” When the American’s Landed on Moon, they found a Nair Chaya Stall waiting for them “. (No Offense I hope ). The forest officer gave us some guidance before entering this Forest Zone: 1. Don’t use horn while driving. 2. Don’t light any smoke or cigarattes. 3. Drive at a very average speed. 4. Animals might be crossing roads. 5. Don’t flash lights on the Animal. Man these advice did make me a bit scared but we were awaiting an adventure. So at around 11.30 in the night our car entered the forest and the pitch-dark night was making us more and more scared, driving through this absolutely narrow road was very exciting. Suddenly the truck in front of us stopped and we had to wait, no doubt we didn’t open our windows and after few minutes we could see large herd of elephants crossing the road. Man what a sight!!!. Always watch on both the sides you might see some animals, like Bison, stags, sambar and at one point you come across a small lake on the left-hand side, which is a place were animals come to have water (If you are lucky enough might see some wild cats). So after a 4hrs of journey we crossed these jungles only one question came in to my mind? ”How the hell does Veerapan Stay in such an environment were you cant see a person standing next to you.” My Native… We reached Kochi in round about 2 days with lot of stoppages. All the Malayalli(People in Kerala speak Malayalam) guys in their traditional white shirt and a white Vayshti(Dhoti) with a Bata bathroom slippers. I am from Palakkad but have never seen it. Palakkad shares the border with Tamil Nadu and Kerala and here people speak both languages. Always I have heard from my mom about the beauty of this village(It must have been a village long time back but now it is a full-grown township). I took o
            ne address from my mom and she told that they are our distant relatives and I could stay at their place. Man finding address in Kerala is a little tough job because 10 people will give you 10 different directions. But some how I got the address and it was indeed in the out skirts of Palakkad. I reached out at a house and an old man from his 70’s came out and I asked him whether he knew my mom. (though he spoke absolutely pure Tamil which, was hard to understand for me at least) but after 15 grueling min he got some idea about my mom. The house was a typical keralite house with a big warranda , bathrooms outside and pretty huge rooms with big pillars and I couldn’t believe a river flowing behind the house. Man I was waiting for this day. Though I never thought I would live like a king, these people really treat a guest like a god sent and I was pretty sure I had gained at least 5 kilos in the 3 days of stay with different delicious food being served after every 1hr. “It is so sad we people in cities have lost the warmth towards our neighbors, friends and even relatives. Here we are always looking to cut each other and go ahead.” Temples they built… After that nice stay at my relatives place of I moved to the Land of Temple, Guruvayur, also known as the Dwaraka of the South, is one of the most important pilgrimage centres in India. The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna and the idol is said to have been worshipped by Lord Brahma himself at Dwaraka. There are many other temples around Guruvayur. Lord Shiva’’’’’’’’’’’ ’’’’’’’’’’’R 17;’’’’’’’’’s temple at Mammiyur, the Parthasarathi temple is a temple of Venkatachalapati of Tirupati. Tamarayur Vishnu temple. These architectural wonders are really a treat to watch and
            the typical Mrudhangam being played at all the temples does gives you a trans-galatical journey which can be never matched by any modern trance music . Palace they built As I am running short of space let me give you in short other places I visited. Mattancherry Palace Jewish Synagogue St. Francis Church - Built in 1503 by Portuguese Franciscan friars, this is India’’’’’’’’’’’ ’’’’’’’’’’’R 17;’’’’’’’’’s oldest European-built church. Parishath Thampuran Museum Castaway… I was said that apart from the backwaters, beaches of Kerala are also well known. The 600km of coast which, Kerala has got is well divided by many sandy beaches. Kovalam is the most popular beach resort and man it did had lot of rush. Some of the other beaches you can visit are Kappad Beach & Alleppey Beach. Don’t miss the nice Ayurvedic mud treatment, which act as a great body refresher. There are some things, which are close to Kerala, and you can’t take away: 1. The 100% literacy rate 2. The Dhoti wearing guys(Even in the Cities of Cochin) 3. Beaches, Waterfalls & the Backwaters 4. Kathakali Dance 5. Coffee & Tea 6. Most important, (Ambi) Ambassador Car. (This is the most popular car with our Keralite Friends, You can find this everywhere and anywhere)

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              02.02.2001 21:30
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              The backwater cruise through the narrow canals that criss-cross a typical Kerala Village,rich with green paddy fields and verdant coconut trees and is a thrilling experience. The boat cruise takes you to small islets tucked away amidst those waters where you get glimpses of village at the best of its serenity and innocence.The total length of the backwater stretches over 1500 km, with a network of 44 rivers, lagoons and lakes from north to south Kerala.The boats cross shallow, palm-fringed lakes studded with cantilevered Chinese fishing nets, and travel along narrow, shady canals where coir (coconut fibre), copra (dried coconut meat ) and cashews are loaded on to boats. Along the way are small settlements where people live on narrow bits of reclaimed land. Although surrounded by water, locals house their cattle as well as cultivate small vegetable gardens within these quaint surroundings. Prawn and fish, including the prized karimeen, are also farmed. There are numerous backwater routes to choose from. Vessels ranging from local ferries, to chauffeur-driven speedboats run by the KTDC, to customised kettuvallom cruises offered by numerous agencies as well as up market hotels such as the Malabar in Kochi. The KTDC office at the bus station organises additional backwater tours, including a popular village tour that leaves daily at 9 am. Departure is made from KTDC. The ride costs Rs 300. They offer a 15 per cent discount if you buy your tickets directly from KTDC. One of the most popular excursions is the full-day journey between Kollam and Alappuzha; you can cover part or the entire route in a day, returning to your original point of departure by bus during the evening, or, more comfortably, staying the night at either end. All sorts of private owners offer their services, but the basic choice lies between the boat run by the Alappuzha Tourism Development Co-op (ATDC) and the District Tourism Promotion Council (DTPC), which run one boat daily on alternate da
              ys from Monday through Saturday. From December to May, they lay on two boats per day. The double-decker boats depart at 10.30 am. You can buy your tickets from the jetties, or from ATDC/DTPC counters in Alappuzha and Kollam for Rs 150. Both companies make around five stops during the 8 hours 30 min journey, including one for lunch and another at the renowned Mata Amritanandamayi Mission at Amritapuri. Although it is by far the most popular backwater trip, many tourists find the Alappuzha-Kollam route overlong and at times uncomfortable, with crowded decks and intense sun. You can skip the tourist scene completely by catching local ferries. Though a lot slower, you'll get a more intimate experience of life on the water. They can be hired either on a day basis (Rs 3,500 per boat) or overnight (Rs 5,000), allowing you to make the Kollam-Alappuzha trip over two days, mooring in the backwaters overnight. Food can be provided (including a cook) for an extra Rs 400 per person. The DTPC also hires four-seat speedboats for Rs 300 per hour, and six-seaters for Rs 200 per hour. Between a group of people, this can be an economical proposition that allows you to plan your own itinerary. In Alappuzha, the tourist boats are moored across the North Canal from the boat jetty. Go directly to the boats if you don't want to deal with an intermediary tout. A one-way trip to Kottayam costs about Rs 500. Alternatively, there are boat operators like Penguin Tourist Boat Service (Tel: 0477-261522) on Boat Jetty road, who have a long list of suggested trips from Alappuzha. Vembanad Tourist Services (Tel: 0477-251395) and Blue Lagoon (Tel: 0477-260103), both in Alappuzha, also have boats for hire.

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                22.01.2001 03:20
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                Sunshine, a different culture and a spot of yoga – that’s why I went to India. But before I launch myself into this opinion I must first explain the role that Hercules plays in it!! Yes, we’re talking about Hercules, he of Greek mythology, muscular hero of children’s stories and the favourite ‘fighting figure’ of my nine year old nephew! This Hercules stands one foot high and is distinctly battle scarred from his regular fights with other members of the toy cupboard army that is my nephew’s pride and joy! I was telling him about my trip, during one of the aforementioned battles and pointed out the fact that Hercules looked rather worse for wear and could do with a holiday to let his scars heal. My nephew agreed and decided that I should take him to India, so that was how my packing came to include Hercules!! KERALA is the southern most state on the west coast of India, sitting just below Goa. On the cover of the photo album I compiled after this trip, I’ve written “Kerala – land of sun, wonderful sights, sounds, smells, colours, coconuts and many smiles” and this just about sums it up! Kerala is fast becoming the next ‘hot spot’ of Indian holiday destinations, behind Goa, but at the moment it is still unspoilt and is not one of the poverty stricken states. I went there in March, which is the end of their summer season, just heading for the monsoon period and it was a lovely time to be there – perfect temperature. I actually went there on a yoga holiday and although, later on, I will dwell briefly on this aspect for those of you who are interested, my opinion will mainly concentrate on Kerala as a holiday destination for a lovely experience of India. RESORT I stayed in Kovalam, one of the main resorts in Kerala, though still with a very local feel to it. Accommodation ranges from some rather nice hotels with swimming pools and all sorts of fac
                ilities, to cheap rooms for rent. I was somewhere in the middle, part of a private home with my own room and en suite bathroom, wonderful gardens, in the middle of coconut palms and brilliant coloured flora! A wonderful winding path leads to the beach, 5 minutes away, past lots of little shops – all catering for tourist trade of course (see ‘shopping paragraph'!). Kovalam has a fantastic long sandy beach, upon which the fierce waves of the Arabian Sea crash! Yes the Arabian Sea in this area is fierce, with a very strong current and there are warning flags and lifeguards dotted along the beach. I do love swimming in the sea so braved it a couple of times – getting in and out is the worst – when you finally manage to struggle out, you find your swimming attire filled with all sorts of small stones trapped in uncomfortable places!!! You can hire a sunbed and umbrella for the day from the many lads, offering their services (so to speak) along the beach! This is what I did on my first day but apart from contending with the sea, the other bone of contention is the peddlers trying to sell you their wares. Now I have to say that these wares – sarongs, wonderful fresh fruit, etc, are well worth purchasing at an incredibly cheap price, but you only need so many! And never promise to buy later if you don’t really mean it, because your promise will never be forgotten. I decided to make use of the facilities of one of the hotels along the seafront – for a reasonable sum, you can hire a sunbed, umbrella and towel and laze by the pool, with the beach right in front of you, read those books you’ve been saving for your hol, order the odd fresh coconut juice served in its shell, lie back and listen to the music of the sea. Now talking of music, there is a wonderful event every morning – the local fishermen bringing in their nets! They take the nets out by boat, drop them in strategic positions an
                d the following morning, haul them in by hand! The bringing in of the nets, reminded me of the tug of war competitions I used to take part in when I was a Young Farmer!! They haul in the ropes, hand over hand, digging their heels into the sand as they move backwards and as each man reaches the growing coil of rope, he runs round to join the front line again! As the nets start to appear, the excitement rises and the singing starts! The younger ones run into the sea to help the nets on their way in, beating their hands on the sea as they sing. Once the nets are in, everyone gathers round to inspect the day’s catch. The restaurant and hotel owners, along with other locals, haggle over the fish and off they go; housewives in wonderful coloured clothing, sway off with bowls full of fish balanced on their heads. It’s all over for another day and the men arrange the nets so that they can dry off ready for the boats to take them out again in the evening. For a change you can walk about half-hour (or jump in a rickshaw) and go to the next beach along, which is private and belongs to the Ashok Hotel. The sea is much calmer here, protected by a rocky headland and it’s quite fun to head out to sea on a small kayak (humming Hawaii Five-0 as you go!). SHOPPING PARAGRAPH!! There are so many bargains to be had!!! Beautiful cotton and silk sarongs, jewellery, bags, lovely cotton clothes (have your own made or copied while you’re there), wooden carvings, herbs and spices, incense … and the list goes on! Dotted amongst the shops, which are higgledy piggledy, some tidy, some scruffy, are some internet cafés (no need for withdrawal symptoms from dooyoo!!). Also plenty of chances to have a henna tattoo – bit of fun if you don’t want the permanent variety! And if you fancy a massage, there are opportunities to spend a marvellously relaxing hour being pampered with wonderful oils! FOOD AND DRINK! T
                he food is fantastic! And so cheap! The most popular food in this area is freshly caught fish (yes, we saw them being caught earlier!) and a multitude of vegetarian dishes, although there is meat around too. The fish is superb - you choose from the display and have it served either plain or with a choice of local sauces. You can wash it down with beer, wine or wonderful mixtures of juice such as fresh ginger and lemon. SIGHTSEEING Although I was very happy spending my days lazing and watching the local activities (and after all I did do my yoga every morning – still coming to that later!) I did also want to get out and about and see what else Kerala had to offer. This is so easy to do. Wherever you are staying, the owner of your accommodation will know a local driver of either a rickshaw or taxi! The rickshaws (three wheeled motorised variety) are great fun! I teamed up with another solo traveller for a trip into Trivandrum – the nearest large town and home to the airport. This is well worth a visit for a wonderful selection of museums, temples, street markets, material shops and just local life! THE TIP TRIP!! This is my affectionate name for a marvellous trip down to the southern most tip of India – Cape Comorin! This time by taxi - £8 each for two of us to hire Prem Kumar and his taxi for the whole day! Prem was excellent – his English was quite good and he gave us local information along the way and stopped when we wanted to take photos – and he soon got to know the photos we wanted – I’m looking at them now: man on a bike with a huge great fish hanging out of a crate on the back; shops selling big sacks of rice, dried chillies, spices etc; river scenes with children splashing around while their mothers pounded their washing on the rocks; more temples; banana and coconut plantations; paddy fields; and here’s one of a huge lake absolutely full of lilies (caption: eat your heart
                out Monet) with the Ghats – a beautiful mountain range – in the background; and the odd elephant trundling along the road. We passed through many small villages and every one stopped to wave and smile! We felt like royalty! They are such lovely people! En route to the south we stopped at the fantastic wooden palace of Padmanabhapuram – the most famous of its kind in India. It consists of 29 different palaces, all linked by small paths, gardens and courtyards. It is indeed amazing. The Tip itself is the meeting point of three seas: the Arabian Sea, the Bengal Sea and the Indian Ocean. You really can see them coming in from different directions and we had a paddle with the locals! There’s a boat trip across to an island which is home to another marvellous temple and also at the Tip is the Ghandi Foundation, where his ashes were scattered in the sea. For another lovely local experience, take to the backwaters of Kerala. You can hire a small houseboat for a couple of days but I just had a morning punt! It was so calm and peaceful – wonderful lush surroundings and small, simple houses scattered along the riverbanks and nestling amongst the trees. Children ran to the water’s edge – luckily we’d been forewarned and were able to throw coins and pens for them. If you’re planning a trip to India, do take a supply of cheap biros! SO WHAT ABOUT HERCULES you may be wondering, or had you forgotten about him! He went everywhere with me so that I could photograph him for an album for my nephew! He met all the locals, rode on the back of a wooden elephant, rode the waves on the kayak, drove a rickshaw, paddled at The Tip and even tried out some yoga positions!! And that, dear readers, leads me on nicely to the yoga aspect of my holiday …. FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE INTERESTED – THE YOGA ASPECT! What better place than India, to go for a spot of yoga –
                ; where it all started in about 150 BC! There are many types of yoga practised and the class that I joined each morning on the rooftop of my accommodation, amongst the tops of the coconut palms, was Sivanadran – lots of slow stretching and breathing – just the thing to wake you up in the mornings, followed by breakfast in the garden, of fresh fruits such as mango, banana and coconut, all grown locally! By the end of my two weeks I felt fantastic, had a good tan (oh it makes such a difference to the way I feel!) and felt a great warmth towards the lovely people of this beautiful state. I will definitely be going back! And a rejuvenated Hercules continues to win his battles and recount his adventures to the rest of the toy cupboard!

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                  27.08.2000 00:17
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                  The world is getting smaller. Faster planes, cheap charter flights and boredom with the traditional holiday destinations are drawing increasing numbers to long haul destinations. Kerala, on India's southernmost tip is the latest spot to open up to mass tourism and judging by the number of repeat bookings for next year, its future as a winter sun holiday hot spot is assured. Kerala, while retaining the unique charm of India, differs from the rest of the sub-continent in a number of ways. Its population of 26 million has the highest literacy rate in India, the landscape is lush and fertile, supporting coconut, mango, papaya and all manner of exotic fruit. Its history is different too having been colonized by Chinese traders, Portuguese settlers and finally the British, resulting in a cultural amalgam unique in India. This is primarily a winter sun destination. The season runs from October to April when conditions are very hot and dry, with daytime temperatures peaking around 32 degrees followed by balmy nights when it rarely drops below 20 degrees. The sea is equally warm and away from the large cities is free of pollution. On a recent trip to Kerala, two main reasons to visit were offered. Firstly to enjoy a relaxing beach holiday and more interestingly to savor the experience of South India. The state capital, Trivandrum, is the arrival point for most visitors to the region who, tired and jet-lagged are duly whisked away to Kovalam Beach, a medium sized fishing village and developing tourist resort. Twenty years ago, the only white skin to be seen in Kovalam belonged to European hippies, attracted by both the relaxed way of life and the lush terrain, which coincidentally provided ideal conditions for the cultivation of cannabis arabica, the marijuana plant. Chilling out in an hazy atmosphere of sun, sea and spirituality proved irresistible for these sixties travellers, but today the hippies have moved on, to be replaced by more mainstream vis
                  itors. Some remnants remain, like the young American man sitting on a wall who managed to whisper his name - Dermot - before his eyes slowly slid away to a higher plane. Kovalam Beach is relatively small, yet quite charming. It is at its best at dawn when the last rays from one of India's largest lighthouses illuminate individual tourists limbering up with early morning yoga sessions, while local fishermen sing as they haul in last night's catch. This is a place for doing your own thing - a hassle free stroll, practicing tai chi - a martial art with the appearance of slow motion karate - or sipping spicy marsala tea, a hot drink which has the surprising effect of cooling you down. The soft, sandy beach does have some litter, though not enough to call it a problem - yet. Local fishermen supplement their income by offering boat trips to tourists on canoes constructed before your eyes from four poles lashed together with string at either end. What they lack in technology they make up for in expertise, as the two oarsmen dodge surfers riding huge breakers and perilous rocks to reward their passenger with some excellent snorkeling. Masks and flippers are provided to view the multicolored tropical fish darting amongst the rocks and the whole experience costs less than three pounds. Despite having recently elected a communist government, attitudes in Kerala remain traditionally conservative. Topless sunbathing causes deep offense although a few European women continue to seek that all over tan. In many cases this results in unwarranted attention from local men who stand and stare at the offending woman. Public nudity is also against the law and offenders risk police attention. Ruth Touhy from New Orleans has strong feelings on the subject. "When you think about it, it really is not something that the Indian women do, so why come and insult the local people. They are happy if you are in a one piece swimsuit or in a bikini, so there is no need to be to
                  pless" But most people who go to Kerala make an effort to avoid causing offense and instead to capture something of the culture, scenery, nature and variety of the region. The sights and smells flash before you like photographs: an elephant crossing a busy road, motorized rickshaw drivers weaving around thirty year old Ambassador taxis, the aroma of fresh ginger at a spice market, children trading smiles for a school pen, machete wielding sari clad women chopping ripe coconuts, the roar of breaking waves over a blood red sunset and people, people everywhere. These are the everyday images of Kerala. But in my view, its greatest attraction are the houseboats which ply their way along the lakes and rivers, known as the Backwaters. Each boat accommodates two couples and a four man crew, including an expert chef. The idea was pioneered by Tour India, a visionary local tour operator who was seeking to develop a form of tourism that would offer employment to the local economy. Craftsmen are hired to convert existing cargo boats into houseboats, the crews earn a good living, while each boat makes daily stops at villages to buy fresh food and supplies. The end result is a supremely relaxing break in considerable comfort, safe in the knowledge that both visitor and local alike are benefiting from the excursion. Tour India's next venture is to construct tree houses in coconut groves overlooking the lakes. Visitors are drawn into the treetops by a pulley system to share time with exotic birds, monkeys, wild boar and the occasional big cat. Expect to pay around $120 per night for full board in a treehouse with bedroom, living area and full bathroom facilities. Another way to immerse yourself into the culture of India is to take a train journey. I travelled from Trivandrum north to Cochin, a six hour journey, which meandered through Kerala at a snail's pace. Most of the locomotives are diesel, though steam buffs will be satisfied at the number of
                  steam locomotives still in service. Inside, a three class system operates. Six pounds buys a first class seat in a pleasantly cool air conditioned carriage; second class at one pound is stiflingly hot but great fun. Third class is unspeakable. The journey is broken by stewards who sell curried fried fruit, breads and fish, all served on fresh banana leaves. The journey takes us gently through coconut groves with sacred cows grazing in clearings and small groups of fanatic cricketers doing battle in the humidity with alarming competence. A legacy of the British colonial rulers, India's rail network is vast, though timetables are for guidance only. Wherever your destination, you will get there - eventually. The experience of Pamela Mulcair from Ireland, a seasoned traveller holidaying with her daughter is that India is a country where Western standards simply do not apply. "I think you have to adapt to Indian ways when you are in their country and if you are not prepared to do that then you are not going to be very happy here. You either decide to go with the Indian flow or you do not enjoy it at all." While Kerala is one of India's richest and most educated states, by our standards, its people remain very poor. It is impossible to ignore the poverty and many visitors make a point of emptying their suitcases at the end of the holiday to give away certain items. As it is illegal to bring rupees out of India, spare change is always appreciated. Medicines from first aid kits are gathered up as are unwanted clothes. Any tour rep or hotelier will happily distribute these items. Children are most in need of pens, jotters and calculators without which many cannot develop their secondary education. To use a couple of well worn phrases, it is no skin off our noses and a little goes a long way.

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                    25.07.2000 15:21
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                    If your idea of India is dust cows and beggars Kerala will surprise you. It is the long thin state south of Goa along the south west coast of India. It is probably the most prosperous part of India in that you see few beggars and there is nearly 100% literacy. Why visit Kerala ? Well it has something for everyone. The coast has good beaches eg at Kovalam, and is covered in coconut palms making the area very green and pleasant. Inland there are hills covered in tea and spice plantations where you might catch a glimpse of wildlife. I was lucky enough to see wild elephant near Moona and there is a wildlife park at Periya. If you like eating this is a good place – being the leading area for spice production they make full use of local produce. Much of the food is vegetarian but a lot of local fish is also used. Typical is a meal served on a metal tray consisting of rice plus a number of small dishes with a variety of pickles, vegetables etc. Fresh fruit is available all year. For a different way of travelling there are the backwaters – a series of rivers and creeks that parallel the coast. It is possible to hire boats to travel on them or just visit them. While Kerala lacks monuments of the status of say the Taj Mahal it has a long history and culture. It has its own language – Malayalam and a city like Kochi has not only Hindus and Moslems living in harmony but a large Christian community and the last remnants of a Jewish community that date back several thousand years. Trivandrum also has museums and sights. Non-believers are not allowed into Hindu temples in Kerala but there are many festivals, which take place outside and are free to all. There is one large one in Kochi in February, which is great if you like elephants and very loud fireworks. Almost as loud as local drum drama – Katakali. Being long and thin means distances between towns can be long but there is an efficient rail service and it is relatively easy to get
                    say into Tamil Nadu to visit the southern tip of India. For a change try Kerala – avoid the main monsoon period but whatever the time you will find a welcome.

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                  With the Arabian Sea in the west, the Western Ghats towering 500-2700 m in the east and networked by forty four rivers, Kerala enjoys unique geographical features that have made it one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Asia. An equable climate.