Thursday, November 4, 2010

Kerala calling!

Kerala is called God's Own Country. Is there any truth in this metaphor or has it only been a well-sold promotional campaign - is what I always wondered, considering mountains (read - especially Himalayas) is where I thought they preferred living in. Atleast that's what I understood from the myriad Indian mythological tales that I loved reading as a kid.

I used to see pictures, videos, people talking about their experiences of Kerala and to add more drama to the images that used to constantly conjure up in my imagination, there were snapshots of the backwaters shown in songs like 'Jiya Jale' from Dil Se. Cant help it - have always been a little filmy, if not much ;)

I knew my chance will come soon as well but had never imagined that a friend's hen party will take me to Kerala for the first time. And to say the least, WHAT A TRIP!!!

A tropical land gifted with nature’s bounty that makes living a dream by offering the vast amount of spectacular landscapes; a food paradise (especially for non-vegetarians like me); lush green and bright blue colours; quaint and exotic cluster of small islands on the Vembanad backwaters replete with meandering lagoons, coconut trees, endless rows of paddy fields lining the horizons; cruising along the backwaters watching the sunset, umpteen rejuvenation therapies to choose from - these are just a few of my best memories from my trip to Kumarakom - the backwater hub of India - my first in Kerala, of course.

While there are umpteen homestays, resorts and hotels to choose from, we simply loved our experience at the Backwater Ripples Resort. To add a little more fun to our short weekend trip, we ventured out looking around for spa resorts and couldn't help but settle at The Zuri (regarded as one of the best spa destinations in the world). Though the original Kerala Ayurvedic message is what I wanted to try out, a personal recommendation is - don't hesitate to go for the Thai spa treatments - they are divine as well :)

I always love getting a sneak peek into the local way of living in all my trips and as a rule, was happy that we managed it here as well. Considering it was a 3-day trip, the fastest way to discover the local culture was to explore the food. Gastronomically, Kerala offers a delightful spread of delicacies influenced by the Syrian Christian taste buds.While we tried the Malabari cuisine much early in the trip across restaurants in the big hotels but our bestmeal was at this small restaurant called Ashadom which served us the most authentic local cuisine we could have asked for. I knew I was at the right place - because as I stepped in, the signboards shouting "Appam - Duck Roast", "Crab Roast", "Prawns - Fry/Roast" left me drooling. That's it, there was no looking back. We hogged, slurped, clicked pictures of everything in that restaurant like Chinese tourists, got big smiles from the uncles in mundus running the restaurants. Basically, we embarassed ourselves, all in the name of food but we didn't mind it. It was that moment which just gave a new meaning to this trip - where even a vegetarian got officially converted into a fishetarian. Oh wait - you know what we finally ate - here is the list - Beef Olathu, Prawn Roast, Karimeen Fry, Mussels fry, Naadan fish curry, Sambar, Mor curry and endless servings of rice..Burp!!!

Going back to Kerala is definitely on the cards and this time, I want a relaxed trip - something on the lines of cycling through the inner roads under the shadow of tall graceful coconut palms, sipping tender coconut or fresh madhura kallu (sweet toddy extracted from the coconut palm) with exotic karimeen pollichathu (baked fresh water fish), spicy pickles or kappa (cassava) and furthermore, explore the coastal stretch of Kerala (till Kanyakumari).

But till then, couldn't wait to share my first memories of this enormously gorgeous "country" that mesmerised me with its charm.

A must do on every traveller's list!

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