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The Beautiful South India (Part 2): Beaches and Backwaters

Oh Kerala.

You had me at hello and left me craving more.

I’ve begun writing all the things I love about India on my way to Sri Lanka and already the thought of touchdown back in Chennai in a couple of weeks time has me giddy.

We arrived at Fort Kochi and headed straight at hostel, we’d decided to stay at the Vedanta Hostel which seems to have a few in Southern India, I was honestly just buzzing to be back in the hostel environment meeting fellow travellers and to get my tourist on, doing tours and seeing some traditional Kerelan dancing. This place unfortunately didn’t do much for my argument that ‘hostels are great’ after waking up with a series of strange bites and pillow of ants…

The town itself is a bustling old fort with mini markets and little hidden treasures including quirky street art and eateries. It’s also a multi cultural hub with temples and cathedrals side by side and plenty of Rickshaw drivers willing to take you where you want, or don’t want, to go. The street food down by the car ferry is also pretty damn good, even if they won’t tell you what it is! They make these balls which they said were ‘suet’ but tasted of amazing ginger pudding… oh god they were good!

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The Kathakali performance is definitely worth the visit and seen as Fort Kochi’s night life seems to be a bit lacking it fills the time nicely, there are two right in the fort practically next to each other and believe me before this experience I never knew the human face vibrate and move in the way these performers had it moving! I mean seriously it was like a gym session for the face and that is the main way they communicate as there is no singing or talking, it is all in those cheek muscles, no contouring necessary, Kim Kardashian would go green in envy at those cheek bones! Just one of the reasons I really enjoyed the show, plus they do a little taster before the performance explaining it all, thank god otherwise I may have just thought the guy was winking at me… or having a fit the entire performance.

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And just a little tip, getting there pre-show to watch the make-up being put on is actually just as entertaining. For us it was a good excuse to be out of our hostel a little longer, turns out our ‘host’ was  a little too friendly (or intoxicated)! The hostel itself was a little average but the people we met made the trip so entertaining and gave us some fresh stories to hear.

Honestly, Fort Kochi did not blow me away, I was excited to see the chinese fishing nets and taste some fresh fish but neither really impressed me.

Chinese fishing nets (not operated by chinese)

Chinese fishing nets (not operated by chinese)

Munnar day trips are available from Kochi, if like us you don’t have time to go for a few days… just please pick a better day trip than us. After driving 4 hours with the occasional stop off at a random waterfall, a short but nice tour of a spice plantation the formalities seemed to end, our tea plantation tour I’m sure consisted of us trespassing while our taxi driver stood guard and staring though a metal grid fence at a damn, yes that’s right a concrete slab was a highlight in the beautiful back country of Kerela. Munnar is beautiful and should be experienced face to face not through the window of a taxi by a makeshift tour guide. 

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Banana flowers at the spice plantation

In true style though, we still managed  to make the most of our day and while I wouldn’t say it was money well spent I was glad to see the tea plantations rolling out into the distance melting into mountains as the murky rain clouds rolled in. The bright sari’s in oranges and reds littered the sea of green, standing out from the small bushes as they carried wicker baskets full with trimmings on their heads as though they were but a feather. The sun still making its appearance through the quilt of cloud, laying rays of light upon the ever-changing and surprising landscapes.

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I’m so lucky to have these adventures, to have the biggest problem be the creepy guy that rented us the boat on the back waters in Alleppey, bringing us Avocado smoothies in an attempt to woo one of us(!). To be able to take one day at a time seems like such a simple luxury and and yet in 9 to 5 life we rush through wishing for the weekend, wishing our life, our time away.

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The Kerelan back waters taught me to slow down, just me and the girls, our driver, cook and  occasional visit from creepy perv, ‘no I don’t want to hear another story about how cool you are’ and the waters lapping at our boat, waving to people going about their daily lives in the sunshine drinking Sangria.

I could of spent days lazing on the our boat drifting under coconut trees, soaking in the sun and the serene waters we glided through, although there seemed to be hundreds of boats when we arrived the backwaters felt like ours, it was hard to imagine a say trip would ever be enough for anyone to take it all in. Moored up at night bobbing up and down on the ripples of other boats, hanging our legs off the side and feeding fish stale bread while 3 metres away some one washes their clothes next to where someone else takes a shower. You have to smile, we spend so much on fancy bathrooms while they’re happy with a river. 

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It’s funny though how things surprise you on the road I didn’t expect to find the beaches of the south as addictive as I they turned out to be. Varkala- my great love of Kerela – black sand beaches, cliff top sunsets, picturesque jungle like walks and some beautiful people and places to boot. Not to mention waking up every morning to yoga and humous for breakfast, such perfection for this weary little traveller.

Just one of Varkala's awe inspiring sunsets

Just one of Varkala’s awe-inspiring sunsets

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Now unabashedly I’m going to promote MK Gardens to you if you ever find yourself in Varkala, they’re all about the accommodating great atmosphere. My friend found himself a beautiful little homestay in a coconut grove north of the main beach and cliff top sellers, which I must admit would have had me jealous if I weren’t so totally in love with the decor, the owner, the beds at MK.

Home-stays however are a serious option in Kerela, there are some amazing families offering some basic but authentic indian home-stay. I turned up at my friend’s place to them being offered tea, obviously the English girls dream, and being asked if they wanted lunch cooked… living the dream. Plus after our ’20 minute’ (yeah right) cliff walk and yoga on the beach, we were offered coconuts from the tree we’d literally just watched a guy scale and pick, honestly not a cliche this perfection exists, I just never expected it to be in India. 

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Not even the heavy monsoon rains that swept over the town, dampened my spirits, or love for this place, nor intact did this incredibly scary tree I found myself face to burnt plastic doll face with in an, apparently, closed temple.

Nope not some kind of voodoo. Honestly

Nope not some kind of voodoo. Honestly

This petrifying display of impaled dolls is apparently what happens when someone wants to make a prayer to the Gods, in Varanasi they just use red ribbons, but obviously that just wasn’t enough for the temple dwellers of Varkala. Don’t worry though there was also beautiful entrance ways and butter lamp holders I managed to snap pictures of before being yelled at in Hindi and being chucked out… yep that’s my first time of being evicted from a place of worship.

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Finishing off the last night in India (round 1), turned out to be one of my best nights and that can only mean one thing… yup amazing food. In fact I’d go so far as to say some of the best I’d had, did you know banana curry is a thing!? Well it really is and you should really try it. Ok?
We were recommended this place by one of the girls hosts at her guesthouse, this genius of a lady cooks only for booked in groups at her house down a little back alley off the main road. You sit in the little porch area of her house next to her garden where a cow stands watch in her corner. Eating off of Banana leaves and served disgustingly large portions of food I fell into the best food coma of my life, beetroot Thoran , tofu curry, popadoms so many curds I lost count, if I close my eyes I can almost taste it…

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To book call Kumari on (+1)9387911309

Finishing off this post I’m now back in India, studying yoga in Mysore, with the biggest cheshire grin smile going on, heartbroken I won’t be making it back to Varkala as planned for christmas. I’m practically forcing everyone I meet to take a trip to Varkala, just promise me should you go, you’ll eat at Kumari’s and have a huge banana leaf full for me!

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