We continued our way and now had arrived in
an area called the Western Ghats. It’s a spine of mountains with tea
estates and one of the finest wildlife parks in India. We snaked our way
through the eastern reaches of the park, right to the top and on
frequent occasions had beautiful views over the lowlands below us. We
passed some waterfalls and also spotted the first monkeys. Bye bye Tamil
Just after we passed the
top we crossed into Kerala and arrived in Kumily, a small town next to
the Periyar lake and wildlife reserve. Jackson had to report to the
police and show that his permits were all in order and not much later he
dropped us at our hotel. It was a beautiful place built on the slope of
a hill and although we were very close to town it was quite peaceful.
We enjoyed our first Kerala fish curry, a vegetable korma, fried rice
and the local variation on naan. After that we spent some time at the
pool and relaxed.
At 4:45pm Jackson picked us
up again, I had booked a massage and Paul wanted to have his haircut.
Kumily is one of the main entrance points to Kerala when you come from
Tamil Nadu. It’s a small but bustling city full of shops, restaurants
and homestays. It’s clearly aimed at tourists and somehow it brought
memories back of Ubud in Bali as it breathed a very similar atmosphere.
Before having my massage we
stopped at a spice shop where we bought several massalas (spice mixes)
but then it was time to relax and enjoy my Punnagathi Kishi, an Ayurvada
massage with oils and a mixture of herbs and spices. Dressed in nothing
else but a loincloth first my head and neck got full attention after
which I had to lay down on my stomach on the massage table and generous
amounts of oil were poured over me. The massage was extremely relaxing
and certainly felt good after the long car drive. After the gentle
massage very hot pads filled with herbs and spices were tapped on my
back, they were very hot indeed but once cooling down a bit the herbs
and spices were rubbed over my body. Then it was time to turn around to
give to front the same treatment, that was after I was woken up from the
half asleep state I was in by then.
Totally refreshed and
relaxed I returned to the front room were Paul and Jackson were already
waiting for me. Paul had had a haircut and a very good job was done on
that, not bad for a job that cost just over a Euro….
We finished of the evening
together with Jackson at a small but lovely restaurant. The food (Paul
had chosen a butter chicken massala whilst I had gone for grilled
shrimps) was excellent but even better was the conversation with
Jackson. We talked a lot of the differences between Indian and Western
cultures. Jackson, who was born from a British father and Indian mother,
knew a lot about it. His daughter and grandchildren live now in
Australia and since he has visited her couple of times he experienced
first hand how totally different the cultures are. It was a fabulous
evening. Good food, a couple of beers and excellent company, what else
could we wish for.
Next morning was another
early rise. At a quarter to six we got our wakeup all, had a nice shower
and headed to the wildlife park for a boat ride over lake Periyar. It’s
a manmade lake, formed by a dam, which is used to generate hydro
The boat was full of exited Indians and for sure their enthusiastic talking must have been heard from miles away.
The boat ride was
beautiful; the landscape with the low hanging layers of mist was
absolutely stunning. We did not get close to much wildlife but have been
able to see plenty of kingfisher, snakebirds, deer, wild boar,
mongooses, and some Indian bison’s. Two hours flew by like nothing and
before we realized we were back at the landing pier.
Time for breakfast Indian
style, after that we had some time to relax at our terrace and then it
was time for our next tour, a visit to spice and herb garden. There we
were shown lots of local spices and herbs and were explained how they
grew, their use for cooking but also the medical use of them. It was a
very interesting tour, of course Paul knew most of the flowers we were
shown but I had not expected anything else from him. It was an
absolutely interesting tour, and it prepared us well for the large-scale
plantations that we will be driving through the next day.
In the afternoon we walked
through town and browsed through the numerous shops. There were plenty
of them but as we had already completed our spice shopping there was not
much else that we needed.
Jackson had joined us for
the walk and we decided to go for a light afternoon refreshment so we
ended up at the only bar in town. In he garden three little huts were
placed where he enjoyed a couple of beers and each other’s company.
Jackson told us a lot about the Anglo-Indian community, they do not
belong to any cast in India but are well organized and represented in
politics, both locally and national. Also he told is that Kerala is the
only state in India which has an almost 100% literacy and no beggars on
the street, a great achievement which should be an example for the rest
of India. We really enjoyed the conversations with Jackson. At one point
he also told us his first name was LLewelyn, a typical Welch name
(pronounced as luwellen), so from that point on we called him by his
Back at the hotel I went
for a little nap and Paul enjoyed watching the monkeys from the balcony.
In the evening the three of us went out for dinner again, once again
that turned out to be a lovely evening which all of us enjoyed a lot. A
wonderful seafood mixed grill, a beer or two, nice company. This is what
holidays should be about. You might have noticed that since our arrival
in Kerala our adventures have totally changed, now that we have left
the bustling cities of Tamil Nadu it seems we are enjoying a more laid
back holiday. It is extremely green over here and we are thoroughly
enjoying the sights, sounds and smells that nature has to offer.
We had enjoyed our little
sleep-in that LLewelyn had kindly granted us. We did not have to leave
until 9 ‘clock. A ‘sleep-inn’ until 7:00, shower, breakfast Indian
style, a bit of relaxing at our terrace whilst we watched the monkeys
and listened to the choir singing in a nearby Roman Catholic church, and
we were ready to hit the road again. It had been raining during the
night and thick layers of mist covered the landscape.
As soon as we left Kumily
we found ourselves surrounded by cardamom plantations, every little
suitable plot of land was planted with cardamom plants. In between we
could see pepper plants grow. It was a beautiful ride, everywhere that
we passed by we could see the most beautiful flowers; hedges of trumpet
plants, bougainvillea, morning glories, Christmas roses, marigolds, just
to name a few. It was like driving thorough a gigantic garden. A bit
further on Coffee was grown, another example of how almost every plot of
land has been used for agriculture. We were short of eyes to take in
everything and enjoy the beauty that surrounded us. No wonder Kerala is
called God’s own country and we had only seen a small part so far.
Then just as we came around
another corner the landscape changed dramatically. Tea, tea, and even
more tea… We had never seen anything like this before. As far as the
eyes could see (and beyond) the slopes of the hills were covered with
tea plants. India is the largest tea producer in the world and although
Kerala is not India’s main center of tea plantations (These are Assam
and Darjeeling) we could not help bet being impressed by what we saw. It
still was another 40km or so to Munnar, our destination for today but
LLewelyn told us the plantations stretched all the way to Munnar and
The road was narrow and
meandered a way through the hills and around every corner we enjoyed to
most beautiful views. I have not seen Paul many times shaking his head
with an open mouth because of pure astonishment but this was certainly
one of those occasions. His cup of Sainsburry’s red label will never
taste the same.
We had a short stop at a
beautiful waterfall and a beautiful viewpoint and after that we
continued our way through the landscape, Paul still shaking his head.
Finally we arrived in Munnar, which is situated at the confluence of
three rivers at a height of 1800 meters. It certainly was a lot cooler
here, a relief from the heat in Tamil Nadu.
We had expected to have a
hotel close to the center but could not have been more wrong. Uphill it
went again and then on a very narrow road that followed the slope of a
steep hill with tea growing at both sides of us. The road was so narrow
we pleaded to LLewelyn to drive carefully as it was a long way down. We
wondered how things would be handled in the case of oncoming traffic, as
the road was hardly wide enough for one car… After about 4 kilometers
we arrived at our destination, the Tea valley resort. A brightly orange
painted group of buildings built on the slope, overlooking the tea
plantations and the valley deep below it. Paul started to shake his head
now more vividly.
Checking in was done fast
and easy, we could not wait to see our room, oh well, more the view from
the terrace in front of it. We were not disappointed… Hardly have we
been at a place with a more breathtaking view than this, it took us
minutes of oohhs and aahhs before we could get a grip on ourselves
Lunch was enjoyed at the
restaurant where we revived memories of today’s trip. It came to no
surprises that the food was heavily infused with cardamom, lots of fresh
herbs and spices were used and although the chicken contained more
bones than meat we did not complain. In the mean time it had started
raining. Clouds slowly descended down the hills and the valley
disappeared whilst we were looking. The rain became heavier and heavier
so we retreated to our room, ordered two beers and relaxed (again). It
kept on raining the rest of the afternoon, which was a good excuse for
an afternoon nap.
We woke up after 7pm, still
in time for dinner. It was a buffet, not bad but not that good either.
As beers were only provided as room service we went back to our room and
at our terrace we met one of the neighbors. A couple of beers, a nice
chat ad before we knew it it was way beyond midnight.
In the morning sun was
shining again. We had breakfast together with our neighbors, a really
nice couple who lived in Mumbai. LLewelyn was already waiting for us so
we headed towards the tea museum. The road towards Munnar was as
breathtaking as the day before, Hill slopes fully covered with tea
plants wherever it was possible to grow them, what a fantastic sight.
Both of us were simply gasping all the way.
Today however we were out
of luck, the tea museum was enjoying it’s weekly day of rest and so we
found ourselves before closed doors. Oh well, one can’t have it all.
Instead we were brought to the Mattupatty dam, which also turned out to
be a major point of attraction for local tourists. Small stalls selling
all sorts of things we certainly could do without but were of great
interest for the locals. It was fun watching them browsing the kitsch
that was being sold. The environment once again was breathtaking.
Next stop was echo point,
another site surrounded by merchandise stalls. It was possible to take
an elephant ride over here but as we had already done that before we
opted not to.
On the way back to Munnar
we stopped at th Kerala Forest Development Cooperation’s floriculture
centre, that was beautifully taken care off. It goes without saying that
Paul knew most of the flowers but at the times I tried to impress and
told Paul the name (only after I read the name on the sign) Paul just
nodded his head and told me the Latin name. One never wins this game
Lunch in town was fabulous,
Beef strips with grated coconut in Kerala style, a wonderful south
Indian chicken curry, and all the usual side dishes. Yummie!!
On the way back to the
hotel we were hold up as the harvested tea was just being collected. The
catch per person was being weighed, then thrown on a big pile in the
middle of the very narrow road and then put in bags and stored on a
tractor. I could not have wished for a better photo opportunity.
By now it was almost 4pm
and it started raining again. Thick layers of clouds came rolling over
the hills towards us, another magnificent sight. The layers of hills
further towards the horizon became lighter and lighter, it was pure
magic. Being at almost 2000 meters height in the hill stations of the
Western Ghats we had more or less expected rain in the afternoon and
that was exactly what we got. Not that it bothered us, it was just part
of the experience. Also it was a good opportunity get our travel story
up to date, relax and repack a bit.
Like the morning before the
rain had stopped. As soon as we woke up we opened the door to our
terrace to let in the breathtaking view. The hills in the distance were
still covered by mist tat would be burned away by the sun in the next
couple of hours. We did not have time to watch that spectacle though. It
was only 06:15am and we had a long way ahead of us. Next destination
was Pallakad and the trip to there would almost take us 6 hours.
The first part of the trip
gave us more breathtaking views of the tea plantations around us. The
roads were still meandering and slowly we continued our way to the
plains. As soon as we left the higher regions the tea plantations
vanished and were replaced by cardamom, pepper and coffee. Once we
arrived at the plains we passed trough numerous villages and small
towns. It was much busier over here, and so was the traffic. We took the
ring road around Thrissur and witnessed a terrible accident over there.
With the way the traffic is in India we were really surprised we did
not see more of them but somehow everybody seems to find it’s way
through the chaotic traffic. One just drives where there is space on the
road, overtaking left, right or just in front of a bend of the road is
common practice an you really need nerves of steel to take part of this.
Fortunately there was a 4-lane highway the most part from Thrissur to
Pallakad so thing got more sedate, sedate in an Indian
Of course we did not come
empty handed as we had lots of presents for him from our aunt, family
and good friends. It certainly made our luggage lots lighter. Father
Philip had been expecting us and was excited about our visit. He had an
extensive lunch prepared for us by his helper. Fried fish, vegetable
curry and other local specialties, it tasted wonderful.
Father Philip is an
enthusiastic and warm man. First we were shown the church, which he
lives next to. It’s a small and simply decorated church; the people from
his community caringly prepare the floral decorations. Bright colors
are being used and Jesus on the crucifix is placed in front of a large
wall painting, which so well captured the hilly area we had travelled
There was more to be shown
but for that a ride into the hills was required. Father Phillip drove us
there in his jeep. First we passed a man made lake and a big dam, after
that we entered a nature reserve. With the father being a well-known
person we were waved through the gate and then we went steep uphill. We
enjoyed some breathtaking views again over the lower plains and the
lake. Higher up we were in the middle of tea plantations again. We made a
short stop at a tea factory where father Philip bought tea and cardamom
for the Vorage family and us, a wonderful gesture. He told us that
though tea was planted here it was still part of the nature reserve and
in the evenings elephants, wild boar and deer frequently visited the
We arrived at another small
community where the second church was located where Father Philip
instructs the congregation thee times a week. Over here a community of
100-150 people attends the masses, most of them work at the tea
plantations and live in the area with their families. Opposite the
church was St. Mary’s hospital where three sisters worked. We were
friendly invited by them for a cup of tea and local delicacies.
After we said goodbye to
the sisters we made a short walk to enjoy some of the views. A leech bit
both LLewelyn and myself. I was lucky and noticed it straight away and
got rid of it, poor LLewelyn noticed it much later after which the leech
had already been feasting on him.
On the way down we were
extremely lucky and spotted a wild elephant close by the road. Back at
St. Thomas church we enjoyed another cup of tea with Father Philip and
had a nice conversation with him.
Unfortunately we had to
carry on, the people at the home stay had already called twice as they
were expecting us for dinner. By now it was raining heavily and
therefore it was not easy to find the way. LLewelyn had to ask
directions several times but then the phone rang again and it was agreed
to meet at a junction and we were led the last part to the home stay.
On arrival another surprise
awaited us, the home stay was located in a 200-year-old country house
with beautiful small courtyards. It breathed a lot of atmosphere. The
owner welcomed us and together we enjoyed our late dinner and some
beers. Our bedroom was cozy as well and in spite of being in separate
beds we slept very good.
Next morning we had breakfast together with
the owner again after which we said goodbye and were on the road again.
We had another long drive ahead of us and as we had passed most of the
road already we enjoyed listening to our iPods and dozed away a bit.
Mid afternoon we arrived in
Kumarakom where we stayed at the Backwater Ripples resort. Once again a
beautiful place where it was good to relax. We enjoyed a late lunch and
wondered around the resort. Today was Diwaly, the festival of lights
and although it is not celebrated in Kerala as much as in the rest of
India everywhere small oil lamps were placed which created a magic
In the evening we went to
the charcoal restaurant where we enjoyed a fabulous mixed seafood grill.
As all the other people in the resort had opted for the buffet in the
restaurant we had the place for ourselves. After dinner we sat out at
the lakeshore and witnessed some of the fireworks that were lit in order
to celebrate Divaly. Nice to be seen but nothing compared to two years
ago when we witnessed Divaley in Jaisalmer, Rhajastan. Still it was a
very romantic evening and both of us enjoyed the atmosphere and each
other’s company. With no one around we were able to relax the
tranquility of the evening.
What better way to start a
day than have an ajurvedic massage… I had booked myself for treatment at
the Vedasparsh Ayurvedic center at 8am. The treatment started of with
one hour of an Abyangam revjuvenation massage. My entire body, including
the head and face was massaged with traditional techniques whilst
medicated oils were used. The massage was much, much better than the
last one I had. Soft music was playing in the background and I had to
lie down on a traditional wooden Ayurvedic massage table. It was shaped
in a special way so the richly used oil did not pour on the floor. This
time I had no chance to fall asleep as the massage was very thorough and
pointing at several pressure points on the body. It was supposed to
increase the blood and lymphatic circulation along with perspiration and
I could certainly feel the effects. After the massage I underwent a
Sirodhara treatment that was more focused on relaxation. Whilst my eyes
were covered with a wet cloth warm oil was gently poured over my
forehead for about 30 minutes. With the soft music in the background I
certainly became even more relaxed than I already felt. It was a great
experience followed by a quick shower. Then an herbal paste was used to
remove excess oil from my body. Still I could smell the spices for hours
Totally refreshed I went to
see Paul again and have breakfast together. Not much later we checked
out of the resort and had a short drive to the jetty where we boarded
our houseboat. It looked as beautiful as on the pictures we had seen and
we were convinced of two romantic days ahead. The boat owner welcomed
us and we had a brandy together, that in spite of the fact that it was
just noon. After that we said goodbye to him and LLewelyn and we were
ready to sail off.
We left the channel and
headed to a large lake. There lunch was served whilst we enjoyed the
surroundings. It started to rain heavily now but as we were in a
sheltered area we could not be bothered. The monsoon this year seems to
linger on a bit longer than usual but with only showers in the afternoon
we were not that worried. After lunch rain stopped and we sailed on
passed the shorelines. More houseboats were on a similar course and
every time we passed or encountered one the passengers were
enthusiastically waving at us.
We passed some small
villages and it was great to see the locals during their daily routines.
It was a fabulous ride, to be honest we had done a lot of driving the
last couple of days and were a bit fed up with that. Being on a
houseboat was a welcome change, so much more peaceful than spending
hours in a car.
By the time it was 6pm we
moored on the side of a small channel, time to prepare for the evening.
Things also progress in India and almost everybody is carrying a mobile
phone and so did our shipper. We decided to make good use of the phone
and asked him to order some beers in a nearby village. That was
delivered about 30 minutes later. It started raining again but we could
not have cared less. The beer tasted well and we were enjoying the
Dinner was served a bit
later and after that we enjoyed a nice evening with both the
crewmembers. It was so peaceful and quiet, what else could we have
wished for…. An early night perhaps?
An early night most of the
times means an early morning, and so it was, the both of us were right
awake by 6am. It was the perfect moment to get of as the channel where
we were moored was covered in thick layers of mist, what a beautiful way
to start the day. Breakfast was being served and shortly after we were
sailing on the backwaters of Kerala again.
Slowly the sun burned the
layers of mist away and while that happened a beautiful landscape
unfolded before our eyes. The channels were covered with waterhyacynths,
and we were manoeuvring between them. Children were going to school, a
good opportunity to hand out some pens for which we got we got big
smiles in return. On the shoreline we saw women doing the laundry, men
fishing, small boats passed by, as well as plenty of houseboats were we
were greeted with enthusiastic waving.
It was time to cross the
lake, we passed several resorts, including the backwater ripples where
we had stayed one night. Both of us put our Pods on and enjoyed or
music. Happiness is the road from Marillion gave me some moments of
Goosebumps and ultimate happiness. I must have sat in the sun with a big
smile on my face and looking at Paul he was in a similar state of mind.
Totally relaxed, totally happy, it was fantastic see the world pass by
and do nothing at all, what a wonderful feeling.
With all that water around
us we could not resist a swim of course. The water was quite warm and it
was a welcome refresher from the heat of the day.
At one point the shipper
asked me if I wanted to ride the boat, oh well, if he thinks it’s safe
why not, another experience for my memories. Paul said I looked really
professional but I had my doubts 😉 Once we crossed the lake we arrived
at the channels of Allapy, a small town. The boat was moored on the
side and lunch was being served. As usual it tasted very well.
I can go on and on about
how relaxing and wonderful this trip was but that would either make you
jealous or bored, and neither is my intention. But it is relaxing and
certainly we enjoyed every moment of it. A trip on a houseboat through
the backwaters is one thing certainly not to be missed.
Early evening we moored at
the shore and the boat was made ready for thee night. To make the day
even better we witnessed a stunning sunset. Slowly but surely the sun
disappeared behind the palm trees and then night fell.
As soon as the night had
fallen it was invasion of the insects. Thousands of them were flying and
crawling around, it was a horrible feeling. Everywhere we could feel
them and although the deet protected us against mosquito bites it did
not temper the enthusiasm of the other flying creatures… We had to black
out the boat in order to get rid of the majority of them before we
could have dinner. Fortunately at that time a short but intense shower
occurred so most of them did not return.
6:30 the next morning we
were fully awake, had showered and were enjoying our first cup of chai
(tea) for the day. We were enjoying the magnificent views over the
backwaters for the last couple of moments. After breakfast we sailed
back to the backwater ripples resort where we met LLewelyn again, loaded
the car and hit the road once more.
Dinner…. King prawns
covered in massala and then grilled, fish steamed in a banana leaf,
naan, and… beer. Heaven had descended on earth, the perfect ending of a
more than perfect day. We relaxed even more, Paul was reading a book (as
by now he had run out of them, fortunately we had loaded some on the
iPad) and I worked on our travel story. The day starts early in India
but it also ends early. Not surprisingly we called it a day at a time
that most of you will refer to children bedtime.
We arrived in Cochin around 1pm and after
we had checked in at the hotel and had lunch we decided to go for a
little treat. I had my goatee trimmed and shaped again and both of us
enjoyed a relaxing facial. I don’t know how any layers of cream and oil
were used but it certainly felt good. The facial ended with a face-mask
and once that was washed of we looked years younger, well, sort off…
After lunch I found a sunny
spot and enjoyed an afternoon nap. Once I woke up we were crossing the
lake again and as an added bonus I had gained some colour. There was so
much to be seen. We stopped close to a stall where fresh king prawns
were being sold. Sounded like dinner to us so we could not resist to buy
some which our cook would prepare for us later on the evening.
By 4pm LLewelyn picked us
up as we were going to the old part of Cochin and visit his cousin
Clarence, wife Marlene and their beautiful daughter Candy who was
enjoying her last weeks of being single as she was going to be married
by the end of the month. We received a very warm welcome and it did not
take long before we were in a lively conversation. We had some good
laughs together and it did not take long until we felt we knew them for
much longer. It was the most heartwarming experience. In the evening
there was a small ceremony that we witnessed. On the month of October a
statue of the holy mother is brought to several houses for prayers and
tonight LLewelyn ‘s cousin’s house was selected for the honor. Marlene
had prepared some floral decorations and made sure all candles were
burning. It was a short ceremony with some prayers whilst a whole group
of devotees was waiting outside in the pouring rain.
After the ceremony was
finished dinner was being served, wonderful Indian home cooking prepared
with much care and love. Needles to say it tasted wonderful but even
better was the company we were in and the conversations about all kinds
of topics we had.
As LLewelyn had enjoyed a
couple of drinks as well he stayed with his family but they had arranged
an auto rickshaw for us that brought us back to our hotel for a god
night of sleep. Although the houseboat had been nice the bed was to
small for us, and the mattress to thin and very hard, so it was great to
sleep in a comfortable king size bed again.
Totally refreshed we were
ready for another day. Just after 9 the local guide joined us once more
and we headed again towards the old city of Cochin.
First stop was a
launderette where use amounts of clothing were washed by hand, dried and
then ironed. All was manual labor and I thought Paul got a seizure
after seeing the amounts of laundry that had to be done, in comparison
our weekly load is modest, very modest. Fields of clothes were drying in
the sun and each single piece was coded to identify the owner.
Next stop was the Dutch
cemetery that was founded in 1724. It was amazing to see some of my own
country’s history so far away from home. We drove on through the narrow
streets of old Cochin, better known as fort Cochin, to the waterside to
see the Chinese fishing nets.
Huge nets were lowered into
the water and were balanced out with huge rocks as counterweights. In
total they had a weight of almost 1000 kg and it took a minimum of 5 men
to operate the net. We were not under the impression that a lot of fish
was being caught and raven were eagerly waiting to steal part of the
catch. Every day the nets are lowered and raised between 150 and 200
Not much further fishermen
had set up many stalls and were selling fresh fish, prawns and other
seafood that they had caught earlier that day. It was a lively
environment and we enjoyed it a lot to stroll around in this area.
Of course a guided tour
could not be complete without a visit to an arts emporium, shopping time
with other words… First we browsed through the large collection of
furniture, wall decorations and big statues. All was well made but ehh,
not our thing. Neither were the carpets and it took us quite some effort
not to be drawn into a carpet making demonstrations and extensive
display of carpets. Seen it, done it, got the T-shirt… Next department
please. Now here were some beautiful pashima’s on display. Indian style
shawls made of Kashmir and pure silk. Very beautiful, feather light and
wrinkle free. Not cheap though but as we had not seen similar quality
until now and our time in India was running out we bought some for
ourselves and some presents as well.
Finished shopping we
continued the tour to the Jewish synagogue. In former times there used
to live a huge Jewish community in Cochin (most of them traders) but now
there are only 5 families left with 9 members in total. Every Friday
the Sabbath is being celebrated in the synagogue.
On our way back to the car
my eye fell on a beautiful leather briefcase. I had already been looking
for one for a while but had found nothing yet that totally pleased me.
This one certainly did, beautifully crafted and at a fraction of the
price of what I would have paid at home for a briefcase of similar
Next place on our
sightseeing tour was the Dutch museum. Some more history… Although it is
called the Dutch museum it is actually built by the Portuguese as a
gift for the ruling Maharaja. A gift that was meant to make up for some
temples that had been destroyed in the area. Many years later the Dutch
conquered the maharaja, destroyed much of the buildings and took
control of the remainders that is now known as the Dutch museum.
Although the place looked like nothing special from the outside the
inside was a different story. Beautifully crafted timber ceilings, most
detailed fresco’s on the wall, it was amazing. The museum hosted a large
collection of paintings and ceremonial items used in the time of the
Maharaja’s. Very interesting to spend some time.
Last stop of our tour was
the St. Francis church. The remainders of Vasco de Gamma were buried
here. As with a lot of buildings in this area they have changed
ownership during the years. Portuguese, Dutch, British and then Indian.
Because of that a lot of different influences were to be seen. On one
side there were a lot of Dutch tombs from the 18th
century onwards, it took me some time to decipher the old Dutch
inscriptions. Quite a few of the tombs were for young children who died
in a short time frame, most likely due to a cholera epidemic. Te other
side of the church was reserved for Portuguese tombs, all from an
We said farewell to our
guide and headed back to Clarence and his family. Marlene had prepared a
wonderful lunch with pork vindaloo and beef roast, typical
Anglo-Indian dishes. This time we had brought our laptop and iPad so we
could show some pictures of our house and garden in both winter and
spring. As these seasons are not known in India all were amazed by the
beauty and Marlene was especially impressed by the variety of flowers
We spent another nice
afternoon with the family and time flew by far to quick. Of course one
of the topics was the upcoming wedding of Candy and her fiancée Duke.
Although it’s a relatively small wedding for Indian standards the guest
list still had 500 people on it. Spontaneously 2 people were added to
the list but we had to apologize, as it was totally impossible for us to
be back in India by The 29th of November, something that was regretted both by us as well as our friendly hosts.
By 5pm LLewelyn and
Clarence brought us to the Cochin Cultural Center for a Kathakali show,
the traditional Kerala Dance art. Whilst we were enjoying the show the
rest of the family visited church. The actual performance did not start
until 6:30 but an hour before both actors entered the small stage to
begin their transformation. Make-up was carefully added to their faces
and slowly but surely the characters of the play took form.
Kathakali is an ancient and
very complex dance art which takes about 14 years to master. Every face
muscle is being controlled and used as well as the eyes to form 9 of
the basic facial expressions. Hand gestures are being used for the
Alphabet in Kathalaki language. As said it takes 14 years for the actors
to master the art but we are convinced that it takes equal time for the
audience to understand exactly what was going on. For us it was way
over our head. The first part of the show was a demonstration of the 9
basic facial expressions and some of the hand gestures.
The second part of the show
was an excerpt of the full story, which is performed over several
nights. 30 minutes was good enough for us to get an impression and Paul
even managed not to fall asleep this time. It’s an impressing art to
see, especially the control over the facial muscles are worth observing
but for most westerners this expert is more than enough as, in spite of
the narrator’s introduction and a printed version of the storyline, it
is difficult to follow the plot.
After the show LLewelyn and
Clarence picked us up and we went back to the house for a pre dinner
drink. Paul and I had invited the family for a dinner in a restaurant of
heir choice. Frank their nephew who was staying with them had also
arrived earlier the day and he joined us as well. Of course we kept on
talking too much so we really had to get going by 9pm. The restaurant
was well choosen and we enjoyed a mixture of south Indian dishes. We had
such a good time together that he hardly realized time was going by so
The waiters were getting a
bit anxious to close the restaurant and go home so we paid the bill and
left. At the Jackson family’s house it was time to say goodbye. The last
two days had been absolutely amazing and we can hardly express what a
fantastic welcome we had received by this lovely family. Certainly
moments we will cherish forever. Leaving them felt lie leaving old
friends and we certainly hope to get back here one time. Farewell with
the ladies was done in Dutch fashion (three kisses on the cheeks) and
from the men we got a warm hug. Then it was time to go but we kept
waving until they were out of sight.
It had been a long but very
fulfilling day and we arrived at the hotel just after midnight, which
for India standards is like in the middle of the night. Tired but
extremely happy we felt in a deep, deep sleep.
Next morning it was time to
pack again, it was time to go to our next destination Kollum, Although
it’s only 110km away from Cochin it took us over 4 hours over a very
busy highway to get there. The highway we had been driving on was
extremely busy as it’s one of the main highways connecting to north of
Kerala to the south.
We checked in at our 5 star
luxury hotel at the beach. The reception and room were perfect, at
closer inspection the rest was a bit run down. The rooftop swimming pool
was empty and the restaurant with a view… oh well, the view was still
there but the restaurant had closed down. There was an infinity pool at
the beachfront but that was not very inviting either. We had a drink in
the Marco Polo bar and lunch at the restaurant at ground floor. After
that we decided for an afternoon nap.
Early evening me met
LLewelyn again and went for a stroll through the small city of Kollum.
Lots of shops and stalls were setup for evening shopping. It was a busy
and entertaining city and it was much fun to look at the activities.
The three of us decided it
was time to join the local community for a drink and looked for a bar.
The first one we saw did not look very inviting at all so we moved on to
the second bar. Lots of people (men only) were drinking mainly booze,
it was a bit of a grotty place but Paul and I enjoyed it a lot as this
is certainly a place which will not see many tourists. Neither did we
feel unsafe at all so we would have not had a problem staying there for a
drink and see how the locals entertained themselves. LLewelyn was less
comfortable bringing us to this place, something that one of the waiters
had noticed. He recommended a different place that would be more
suitable for the white skins…
The ‘more suitable’ place
was located in a hotel used for local businessmen. It was a bit better
but still pretty dark and loud. We found ourselves a table and enjoyed
some beers. It was good fun and although LLewelyn was still shaking his
head we were having a good time and felt totally safe in this place.
Paul went out for a cigarette and when he came back he told us he could
not believe it he was encountered with an indecent proposal… hmmm,
thought these things don’t happen in India… We were just laughing about
the whole situation and it was great fun observing the local people
(once again, men only, it appears women don’t go to these places.
By the time we left the
bar, which actually was not that late, at 9pm the streets were more
almost deserted. The big crowds had gone and there were few people left,
most of them tidying up and closing their stores. Back at the hotel we
still read a bit and then went to bed with a wonderful view from the 7th floor over the Arabian sea.
Next morning we drove to
Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. It was only 70 kilometers and took us
just over an hour and a half. We checked in at our hotel after which we
had some time to relax and have lunch. At 14:30 we met our local guide
and we started the sightseeing of Trivandrum. Our guide explained that
we had chosen a bad day for this, one of Kerala’s ministers had passed
away and Kerala had declared today a public holiday, due to which most
places we were supposed to visit were closed.
First we drove through one
of the better areas of Trivandrum where a lot of Art Deco style houses
were to be seen. Also we saw several government buildings, most of them
housed in old colonial buildings. First stop was the art museum, which
was also close today, but we had a nice stroll in it’s surroundings and
the botanical garden.
After that we went to see the summer palace of one of the former kings.
Kerala knows a mixture of
religions, 54% is Hindu, 2 Percent Muslim, 19 Percent Christian and 1%
without religion. Unlike in other states of India the people from the
different religions live in harmony with each other. A good example is
that one square a Hindu temple, A Muslim mosque and a Christian church
can be found.
Next stop was the fort, the
oldest part of the city. Although only parts of the walls are nowadays
to be seen there was enough to be explored. First was the Sri
Anandapadmanabhasvami temple. Yet another beautiful temple and this one
has recently become world news as a big treasure of offerings had been
discovered worth 22,3 billion dollars in gold! In 6 secret chambers of
the temple collection of antique jewelry, antique gold coins, diamonds,
rare stones, golden crown, and gold vessels had been found making it the
richest Hindu temple in India. Needless to say security was high and we
were only allowed to make pictures from a distance.
Located next to the temple
was the Puttan Malika palace, residence of the Maharajas of Travancore
who moved here in 1790. As the palace was private property it was not
closed so we could have a look inside at the wonderful collection of
royal possessions. The building is a wooden built structure and each of
the 20 rooms we visited had a different style of roof, most of them of
teak or rosewood and with impressive carvings. Especially the rooms at
the first floor were delightful. A music room and meeting room had a
nice view over the garden, though from the outside people could not see
who were in it.
The last stop of the day
was a tailor. With Paul getting his new job I had promised him a new
suit and so a tailor had to be visited. Paul selected a nice woolen
fabric after which measurements were taken. Paul was just a big shocked
when his waist was being measured, a result of the good Indian food
perhaps? Tomorrow late afternoon we have to go back for the first
fitting after which the completed suit (and an additional jacket Paul
wanted) could be picked up. As we will be in a beach resort not to far
away from Trivandrum it’ll be an easy taxi ride.
This was our last evening
with LLewelyn and we wanted to give him a good send off. Unfortunately
all the bars were closed (once again) due to the public holiday, which
crossed our plans a bit. We had dinner in a simple restaurant but the
food was absolutely delicious. Paul had prepared a nice thank you letter
for LLewelyn, which was handed over as ‘the list of complaints’. It
also contained a tip for him and he was visibly pleased. It was a shame
we could not have shared a couple of drinks together as we had wished
him a better send off then just a meal in a restaurant. Oh well, this is
Kerala and we have to stick to the rules. Apparently they are followed
more strictly than in Tamil Nadu where creativity was used to avoid the
rules. Although it still was early we said goodnight to LLewelyn and
returned to our room. There I worked once again on the travel story
whilst Paul read a book.
A good night of sleep,
breakfast and once again we were on the road, this time to our final
destination, Poovar Island Resort. A last glimpse of Trivandrum and we
were on the way. We passed through little villages and large coconut
plantations. It was a beautiful ride.
LLewelyn made a stop at
Kovallum beach where we witnessed fishermen deploying and retrieving
their nets. It was very interesting to see and another good photo
opportunity. We walked a short stretch over the beach and saw the
Kovallum lighthouse. There were a lot of restaurants located over here
and I remember staying here for one night 12 years ago when I was on my
way from the Maldives to Nepal.
We arrived at Poovar resort
around 11 O’clock. Well, not the resort particularly but the jetty from
where we were brought by a small boat to the resort. It was time for
our final goodbyes to LLewelyn. He had become a great friend the last
two and a half week and we had spent some great moments together. A
final photo, a hug and then we sailed out of sight.
Rain was pouring down by
now whilst we sailed over the backwaters. It did not take to long for us
to reach the resort and we could already see the floating cottages
where we would stay. Hopefully the weather would be better the next two
days so we could get some tan.
We checked in at the resort
and were brought to our floating bungalow, a beautiful bungalow with a
wonderful view over the estuary and the beach behind it. I booked a
massage for the afternoon and we relaxed a bit before lunch. Rain had
become less by now so things were looking good.
And things were good the
last couple of days. We did nothing but relaxed at the pool, I had my
daily Ayurveda massage, we enjoyed the good food and some kingfishers.
The most hard part was working on our tans by the side of the pool.
Needless to say we were
extremely relaxed by the time we were ready to go home. This was the
perfect ending of a perfect holiday. We were now ready to go home though
things went slightly different than planned…
Go to the unplanned bonus of our trip, Dubai