God's Own Country: Kerala, India

15 May 2016

Here begins our adventures in God's Own Country, also known as, Kerala, India!  First impression walking out of the airport....Are we in Goa?!  Our driver's name is Dev (short for some impossibly long name that I can't remember).  He says we are going to Munnar first, only a 4 hour drive from the airport. Let's hit the road!

The first stop is this beautiful waterfall or so it seems.  Unfortunately, God's Own Country has not discovered trash cans yet and this waterfall drops down to a pile of litter.  It made me very sad to see such natural beauty being destroyed by people! But onward, I haven't lost complete faith yet!
Roadside waterfall on the way to Munnar, Kerala
Our second stop on the way to Munnar is this lookout point.  However, my sister and I were too intrigued with the monkeys to see anything else.  We've been to India many times (Mumbai and Goa) but believe it our not this was our first experience with monkeys in India! It seemed as if they were waiting for tips as we took pictures. Such posers...
These monkeys had some gorgeous views!
Three little monkeys sitting on the wall and one was too tired to sit.
After we took enough pictures with the monkeys, we actually took a look at the view and it was amazing.  Finally starting to see "God's Own Country"! As we drove onward, here is a picture of our first glimpses of the tea plantations, which were my favorite part of this trip!  These plantations were gorgeous and unlike anything I have seen before. Pictures fail to capture the vibrant green that was on each and every mountain side.  I don't know how these workers hand pick all that tea but it is simply amazing!
Tea plantations in Kerala
 Here is another view from the car window of tea plantations.  At any given moment I could hold my camera up to a window and snap a picture without looking and end up with a photo like this.  Every where you look is a postcard setting and you have to force yourself to stop taking pictures.
Tea plantations in Kerala
We stayed in a mountain hotel. It was quite cold and not the most modern lodging but still an fun experience. The power went out mid shower so I made my sister tell me stories while I waited to wash out the shampoo, so that was fun! 
View of our hotel in the mountains in Munnar
In the morning, we woke up to a beautiful view of the forest and the scent eucalyptus filled the room from all the trees outside! 
View from our hotel room in Munnar, Kerala
Eucalyptus trees outside our balcony
They served a typical south Indian breakfast of idli, dosa, sambar, and coconut chutney. First of many similar breakfasts to come. I don't know why but idlis and dosas aren't my favorite Indian foods. I am probably just biased with my East Indian and Goan palate!
Typical South Indian breakfast
However, the food was not the center of attention during this breakfast.  The center of attention was the view from where we were eating.  I felt as if I were in a movie and the view behind the window was edited in with some amazing CGI.  The view was unreal and I felt as if I was dining in the sky. Again, photos don't do any justice, you just have to go!
View from breakfast
View from the dining room balcony
Here comes my other favorite part of Kerala...Lakshmi!!!  She was awesome!  This was our first elephant ride in India! She is 24 years old and very well-behaved.  Her handler told her to pose differently for each picture and she did it effortlessly. She is so smart and I want a pet elephant just like her!
Lakshmi
After meeting some amazing elephants, we headed to the coast. This is a popular freshwater fish in Kerala called Carimi that we had during our stay on the beach. Our hotel restaurant prepared it in a delicious masala and cooked it in a banana leaf.  It was spicy but I couldn't stop eating it because it was so yummy!
Local fish called Carimi
Our trip continued to Allepy for a night on a private houseboat.  This experience was not what I expected and I was a little disappointed.  I had this idea that we were going to be sailing through the jungle with lots of greenery and wildlife all around. Instead it was more like a houseboat highway with hundreds of other vacationers sailing alongside us. The idea of living on a houseboat is fun but the boat we were on didn't start the AC until 9 pm when we docked and it was safe to hook up the electricity. There was no hot water and the mosquitoes would have feasted on us if I had forgotten the bug spray. The food, on the other hand, was delicious and homemade and our driver and cook were locals who were as accommodating as possible. We got to choose our own fish for dinner when we made a quick stop at a small, local fish stall. They even heated some water on the stove so I could have a hot bath. Perhaps there are more luxurious houseboats that are available but the fact that some people working these houseboats throw their trash into the water was very saddening. They are ruining the landscape and tourism will sure enough cease if it continues! All the said, it was a relaxing experience, all you do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
Houseboat highway
Lounging on the boat
At night, houseboats dock like this one
Our perfectly cooked fish dinner
Another houseboat on the backwaters of Allepy, Kerala
Driving our houseboat like a PRO
Finally, our last major stop was at the end of India, literally.  There is no where left to go once you hit Kanyakumari. It is the southernmost point of peninsular India (the southernmost point of the Republic of India is Indira Point on Great Nicobar Island). We traveled by ferry to the small island with the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and all you see from there is ocean. It is the meeting point of the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. 
Kanyakumari
Thiruvalluvar Statue
The Thiruvalluvar Statue is a 133 feet tall stone sculpture of the Tamil poet and philosopher located on an island off the southernmost tip of India.
Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Vivekananda Rock memorial is a monument in VavathuraiKanyakumari, India. The memorial stands on one of two rocks located about 500 meters east off mainland of Vavathurai, Kanyankumari, India's southernmost tip. It was built in 1970 in honor of Swami Vivekananda who is said to have attained enlightenment on the rock.
Looking south from Vivekananda Rock Memorial (Meeting point of 3 bodies of water)
Kerala is a beautiful state and I cannot wait until my travels bring me back again! Please let me know if you have any questions about Kerala, I will be happy to answer them if I can!

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