You may be visiting Kerala is not the first thing one will come to mind. When you’re first to think about India. It does not have the undisputed charm of the Taj Mahal.
Nor that I don’t know what New Delhi has, nor the eager propaganda of Varanasi and in general, of the north of the country. He didn’t know much about Kerala. Truth be told, he didn’t even know how to locate it on the map.
I confess that I was surprised when I realized that it was so far south of India. Almost next to that small country called Sri Lanka. I had never been to these latitudes and my heart was pounding just thinking about it.
The first photos I saw of Kerala were photos of coconut palms, and they were all painted green and blue. Seriously, it made me think more somewhere in the Caribbean than in the chaotic country we take for granted.
GETTING TO KERALA
I arrived at the Kochi, Kerala airport two days after my departure from Spain. Even though I was exhausted, excitement and curiosity kept me awake.
The plane landed in the morning. Through the window, I see trees and many solar panels on both sides of the track. Hours later I learn that Kochi is the first international airport in the world to run on solar energy.
Outside, a man was waiting for me holding several blank signs bearing the India Magical Trip logo. The names of the whole group arriving that day were written in black letters. This is for me is unique experience during visiting Kerala.
When I saw someone come to pick me at the airport with my name play card.
I had to wait aside while the cars arrived that would take us to the first hotel. I approach another girl whose features make me think she is from the Caribbean. But her outfit and completely covered hair let me know that she is not.
With her perfect English, she tells me that she is also one of the members of the group. And that she is from Kenya (Africa) and that was the detonator that led us to an I like you, I want to be your friend, what do you do, tell me your story.
I want to share the room with you to continue talking. And that’s how I started a friendship with her. To whom, I would share incredible moments for the rest of the trip.
Strenuous programming awaited us, but I knew that the challenge itself was going to be to bring me a strong memory, something as marked as the stamp and visa in my passport.
KERALA “GOD’S OWN COUNTRY”
Kerala is known for its somewhat different practices and traditions from other states in India. Its geographical location has attracted explorers and people from other lands for centuries.
Many came to exchange spices and tea, and due to the monsoons coming in the direction of the African coasts. They had to wait several weeks and even months before returning home.
During that time they not only exchanged merchandise but stayed at local houses. And there was also a cultural and belief exchange. Portuguese, French, English …
All left a mark that is reflected today. In the architecture, the Catholic churches that one sees on the edge of the road. The European customs that mix with ancient traditions. Its typical food reflects much of its years of colonization, is this – along with Goa. The only two states in the country where it is allowed to eat beef.
It is possible to see on the same street a Catholic church, a mosque, a Buddhist temple and a Hindu one. Something you will not see in the north of the country.
This is why he calls it “God’s own country land”. Referring to these centuries of exchanges that left the footprints of different religions.
KERALA – ANOTHER SIDE OF INDIA
India has a very chaotic image in everyone’s mind. This country fascinates as much as it scares. Many, despite the curiosity that arouses them, flatly refuse to go for everything they hear and see.
But to my surprise, Kerala is another face of India. Kerala is one of the richest states in India. They have a better quality of life, more access to education. A literacy rate well above the national average (men and women). And it is considered one of the safest states in the country.
I write this article weeks after having lived the experience and having visited the north of the country. And honestly, Kerala is cleaner, poverty is less visible, people are less “heavy”, more welcoming, you don’t feel like they want to scam you every two minutes, it’s very different.
By comparing my two experiences traveling around the country. I can assure you that the north, so special with all its cultural and historical richness. Perhaps more difficult for the inexperienced traveler to experience.
That is why I recommend Kerala to anyone who wants to go to India. But still does not dare due to fear or inexperience traveling.
Be sure to read these facts and tips for traveling to Kerala
CRUISE ON A FLOATING BOAT – THE BACKWATERS OF KERALA
One of the most remarkable experiences offered by the state of Kerala is without a doubt sailing on a houseboat. It is a slow-moving barge used for pleasure trips, and they are a new version of the Kettuvallam.
The original Kettuvallam were used to transport tons of rice and spices, then were modified and adapted for tourism. They have rooms, bathrooms, kitchen, living room, and some even have Wifi and air conditioning.
What’s truly magical about a houseboat ride is the breathtaking view of rural Kerala intact and otherwise inaccessible while navigating through it.
The stillness, the landscapes, the sound of nature. It is an incredible experience.
A VISIT TO A LOCAL COMMUNITY
One of the missions of the Kerala Tourism Office is to use tourism as a tool to eradicate poverty, increase education, and emphasize the empowerment of women.
Kerala has the highest education rate in the country and is betting on Responsible Tourism to provide additional income for many farmers and artisans. On several occasions we were able to see how they work with the coconut fiber, creating rugs, traditional mattresses and decorative objects for the houses.
The coconut is present throughout Kerala and from them not only the fruit is obtained but they take advantage of each part. The ends to make the coconut ropes are formed by friction between the fibers which are made with the hands.
This rope is a set of 3 or more ends that are made with the help of a manual or mechanical machine.
It is a process that takes days and weeks but the result is fabulous.
Kerala means “land of coconuts” in Malayalam. The official language of Kerala and one of the 22 official languages of India. And yes, there are coconuts everywhere and it is one of the main ingredients in local food.
KERALA IS A LAND OF ART, RHYTHMS AND CULTURE
THEYYAM RITUAL DANCE
It is a form of worship in which the god manifests through the body of the dancer, to contact his devotees. The Theyyam became very popular because it was open to all castes.
Let us remember that in India there has been a system of caste and very strict social hierarchy for centuries, where those of the lowest castes could not enter the temples.
Theyyam dancers are always male (even though they play female characters) and have a very strict physical, mental and spiritual preparation that is normally learned from generation to generation.
The costumes they use in the Theyyam dance are flamboyant, full of color, with majestic hats and ornaments.
The Theyyam season begins between the 10th day of Thulam (mid- October to mid-November) and the 15th of Idavam (mid-May to mid- June ), according to the Malayalam calendar.
During the ritual, the Theyyam talks to people blesses them, gives them messages, and responds to their problems. Witnessing it was an experience that gave me very strong sensations. It is something that I did not know and had never witnessed in my life.
Theyyam dance in Kerala – The Theyyam at the time of giving blessings to members of their community
KATHAKALI, A MILLENNIAL DANCE
Kathakali is an ancient theater dance performed only by men (who also play female characters) typical of the Kerala region. In the Kathakali performance, dance, music and mime are mixed. And the only sound to be heard is that of the instruments.
The dancers interpret stories and legends with the body and facial movements. It’s amazing to see how different muscles of the face move. To achieve this they train for years, even from youth. Depending on the character to be played, makeup can take up to 5 hours.
In Kathakali the characters are differentiated by the color of the makeup and the headdresses. Those I witnessed were the red-faced (representing the devil) and the green-faced (the good or virtuous).
Kalarippayattu or Kalari is the oldest martial art in the world and originates from Kerala. We attended a demonstration and it was incredible to see the mysticism with which they make each movement.
They used reeds, then a shorter stick, then a kind of wooden dagger, then with a sword and shield and ended up jumping through a ring of fire.
It was wonderful. If you can ever witness a demonstration of the Kalari, don’t think twice and do it.
VAYALI, THE BAMBOO ORCHESTRA
This was one of my favorite moments on the entire trip. See live and direct an orchestra playing with instruments made of bamboo. They are the first bamboo band in India and their talent is admirable. Listening to them transported me, made me feel happy to be there, surrounded by so much talent.
TEA PLANTATIONS IN MUNNAR
During visiting Kerala to see Tea Plantation is another speechless experience.
I have never visited a tea plantation before, perhaps this is one of the landscapes that most impressed me during the trip. Munnar is located at the confluence of three mountain rivers: Muthirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala. The word “Munnar” means precisely three rivers in Malayalam.
It is located at a height of 1,600 meters above sea level. And therefore the temperature changes. It is not so hot and the humidity is left behind. It is one of the most beautiful landscapes that I saw in all of India, they are extensive tea plantations that are lost on the horizon like an infinite green carpet.
We also visited a Tea Factory and learned a lot about the harvesting of the leaf. And all the processes involved in making the tea then exported to hundreds of countries around the world.
How is the best in Kerala looking to you? we continue …
EAT ON A LEAF OF BANANA
In Kerala, for centuries the tradition is to eat on a banana leaf. A tradition that on special occasions is called Sadhya. Normally the rice and the breads are located in the lower central part, near the diner.
Above, to the left, yogurt, salt, chutneys and pickles, in the center some fried vegetables, banana, yucca or vadai (lentil biscuits).
As you eat, they offer you more food. At the end the sheet is folded and removed. A tradition that I loved.
THE NATURAL RESERVES OF KERALA
Kerala is green. It is mountainous. It’s humid. Is blue. It is nature in its purest form. One (of the many) reasons why I loved this state is because of the contact you can have with nature.
PERIYAR TIGER RESERVE
This sanctuary houses rich biodiversity with endemic species and is the oldest protected area in Kerala. We toured it on a boat that allowed us to see different animals and enjoy a very calm and different morning.
In this sanctuary, you can also do Bamboo Rafting (2400 Rupees the whole day or 1800 Rupees half a day). And other activities both day and night.
They are called “the Niagara of India” and it is the largest waterfall in Kerala. It is not only imposing but it is surrounded by a lush forest, That gives it a magical and spellbinding touch. The water is clean and perfect for a dip.
WAYANAD AND ITS OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES:
This district in the north of Kerala has more than two thousand square kilometers of green areas. We had the opportunity to zip line, paddle a bamboo boat (bamboo rafting).
And if we add to that the nights we spend in hotels with private pools and a view of the jungle…. Speechless!
It was difficult for me to condense the best of Kerala in a single post. But at least you can give yourself a broad idea of how this region is that. I fell in love with from the first minute.