As we planned on staying in Kerala for 8 nights, time realy wasn’t on our side. Distances in Kerala are quite significant, which we didn’t expect at all, considering Google-Maps showing us 120-150 km routes. Because of the traffic and the narrow roads, 120 km could easily take up to 5 hours of your prescious time.
We landed in Trivandrum, as we were planning on spending New Years Eve on the beach, and we opted for Kovalam, because the surroundings and its red-white striped light house looked very charming.
Kovalam’s beach was nice, nothing more nothing less. The restaurants at the beach front were quite alright for indian circumstances. However when you moved further away from the back alleys of the shore, the surroundings got pretty odd. There wasn’t an ATM nearby. You’d find plenty of roadstalls selling the usual stuff, chewing pan, sodas and biscuits. On New Years Eve, we were part of the few younger folks walking through the sand of the beach. Bars and restaurants were busy with older people, mostly europeans.
There was nothing going on late at night. Selling alcoholic beverages was prohibited if the bar wouldn’t pay a pretty expensive authorization. Some bars would sell the booze under table and serve the wine, beer or spirits in coffee mugs. For half a bottle of red wine we paid 10 euros / dollars on NYE, which is insanely expensive for indian people. Of course we had to hide the bottle under the table, in case the cops would show up.
Kovalam had its charming side, because only after one day, the locals would start recognizing you, and you’d get in lovely conversations with them. Of course always having in mind to win you as a customer in their shop or restaurant. The weather was flawless, even at night we had t-shirt temperatures. The water of the sea was pretty warm and the palmtrees bordering the shore made Kovalam a pretty place.
One day we drove up to Varkara with a rental scooter, it took us 5 hours in total to do the roadtrip. Varkara looked different than Kovalam, less buildings, more greens. In the end I can’t tell you which beach I actually prefered. We enjoyed the scenery along the road while heading up north. But I guess the 5 hours driving weren’t worth it, to spend some hours on a beach.
Initially we planned on staying 2 nights in Kovalam, but we extended our stay for one more night, as we didn’t want to rush with the usual check-out and packing our backpacks after the night of NYE. Honestly 3 nights in Kovalam is too long, as there isn’t much to do in the area. You can do daytrips to Varkara, the center of Trivandrum which gives you the feel of a city-vibe, or driving down south to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial (which we didn’t do, as it would take another 5 hours of driving in total). The scooter rental rate was a bargain, as we only paid 300 rupees per day (4 euros/dollars).
Alleppey and its backwaters.
After driving up north to Varkala, we figured out that Alleppey would be quite a ride. The distance between both cities is around 160 km which takes up to 5 hours driving.
A local told us that you can reach Varkala by train, however the train only leaves in the early morning and only once a day. So we opted for a taxi, which would cost us only 40-50 euro/usd, hassslefree, with an A/C, and you can sleep in the back of the car. Easy!
Alleppey is well known for its charming canals and its bigger lake on the northern side. That’s what we saw and what we got. In Alleppey we visited the city center, however the town looked like any other indian city. Our pleasant part of Alleppey was definitely our stay the “Bamboo Lagoon Resort”. The Bamboo Lagoon had the feel of a guesthouse, as there weren’t more than 10 to 12 rooms for rental. We had the chance to get one of the 3 rooms of a cottage that were very close to the river’s edge, facing the backwaters. Opening the doors in the morning was very beautiful as you could witness the beauty of the house boats passing by, watching the local fishermen in their canoos, or just observing the neighbours taking “a shower” in the river. It definitely felt more like India, than Kovalam’s beaches.
There wasn’t much to do on the “island”, as you had to a 1 minute canoo-trip to reach mainland. For one day only it was very pleasant to saviour the quietness of the resort, spending an hour in a hammock and watching the boats passing by. You could book a boat from the hotel and do a canal trip through the back waters. The boat cost around 500 rupee an hour (5 euro/uds). It would lead you through different canals and offer you a scenic view of the neighbourhood.
Unluckily on our first day we were told that on the following day, violent riots could take place in the city as there was an issue with a nearby temple, where women were granted access to use the temple for the first time ever. The radical religious fanatics obviously didn’t like that, and the use of violence was expected. So the only way to get to Munnar was to leave in the early morning at 01:00 or 02:00 am, or we would have to stay a second night, and spend all day at the resort, as driving with a taxi or buses was prohibited for security reasons. We decided to leave at night.
However we were already pretty sure that we would stay one more night at the bamboo lagoon on our way back home to the airport.
Munnar was a contrasty destination in comparison to the backwaters and the beaches of Kerala’s coastal region. Munnar is a located in the mountainous area of Kerala. It looks very green and hilly and the temperatures tend to be much lower at night.
Our roadtrip to Munnar was quite an experience. In the end we can have a good laugh about it, however the behaviour of our driver was rather dangerous than hilarious. The taxi driver picked us up at 01:30 in front of the bamboo lagoon resort. We put our stuff in the trunk and our journey began. After a couple of minutes the cab was stopped by the local police. They asked where we were heading, as it wasn’t allowed to drive out because of the riots that would high-probably happen that day. We were allowed to move on.
On the road I noticed how the driving behaviour of our driver changed: accelerating, breaking, accelerating, breaking.. and it went on like this. I instantly knew he was too tired to hold the road. After having hit the sidewalk numerous times, the driver decided to have a break and sleep for 30 minutes. Later on he told us, that he hadn’t slept for almost 24 hours.
We arrived in Munnar just before 07:00am. We stayed at the “Kaivalyam Wellness Retreat” for one night only. Before checking in we didn’t know that the resort had a fully-packed schedule with activities for their guests: free yoga classes, free tea tasting, early morning visits of the tea plantations, and many many more. They even gave free cooking classes 3 times a week. Obviously the cooking classes didn’t take place when we were visiting… as for myself, I’m always missing the best parts while traveling. Bummer!
The Kaivalyam Retreat was most definitely a beautiful place. Surrounded by endless trees, different kind of plantations (black tea, cardomon), it felt so refreshing breathing in the mountain air with all those scents outside of your room.
After having checked in, being led to our room, taking a shower… we notice the beautiful tree houses outside of our window. The lovely owner of the hotel, was so kind to give us a kind of upgrade, and let us move into one of the few tree houses that were available. Spending the night in a tree house was already worth the 5 hours we drove in a taxi to reach Munnar.
We were looking forward to discover the mighty green hills that we found on Google. Sadly during our visit, most of the tuk-tuk drivers were off work, because of the on-going strike all across Kerala. So it wasn’t possible to get to those greeny landscapes, as they were located 15 kilometers away from our resort.
Nevertheless, we were enjoying our 30 hours in Munnar. The 07:00 am yoga class was fun. It was interesting to witness the indian point of view about yoga, its flow, and how they practice it. We were executing all the asanas on traditional matt, rather a rug, and it kinda felt like I was doing yoga for the first time.
This was pretty much our Kerala trip.
So during a whole week, 7 days, we managed to visit 4 different cities: Kovalam, Varkara, Alleppey and Munnar (and we made it back to Alleppey and Kovalam on our last 2 days). Obviously we couldn’t experience all the parts of that beautiful state. But we experienced enough, to agree that it’s worth doing the drip. The whole trip changed my view of India, as it wasn’t actually that fun the first time I visited the country.
If you’re a fan of Bali or Srilanka, you will love Kerala.
Namaste to all the lovely people that crossed our path on this trip, … we met too many lovely ones!