Five Reasons Why...

Five Reasons Why You Need to Put Kerala on Your Travel Bucket List ASAP

It’s no secret that I have a real affection for India. But it took 16 trips to this amazing country for me to finally visit the state of Kerala.

To the delight of many friends, I decided to change up my planned Eid travel schedule and spend it in Kerala. I based myself in Kochi for practical and personal reasons. The city (known as the Queen of the Arabian Sea) is central, boasts great hotels and is also the hometown of several good friends of mine.

With more than 300 languages spoken and a religiously diverse population (Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Jain…), a rich food culture and history everywhere you look, Kerala was surprising to me on so many levels.

I am hoping that this post will put Kerala and Kochi on your travel radar for the following reasons:

kerala bus

Colors everywhere in Kerala

  1. The Food

This is the natural place to start. A day into my recent trip to Kochi showed me everything I THOUGHT I knew about Kerala cuisine was wrong. The food here is extraordinary – and you will not meet a population as passionate about its food as the Keralites.

spread

Freshly cooked spread for lunch in Alleppey

One of the lushest places I have been to, Kerala boasts an enviable supply of fresh seafood as well as vegetables. Ancient traders also used Kochi as a center for the exotic spice trade and this is evident in the food. Pepper, cardamom, ginger and cloves were among the spices the traders headed to Kerala for. Also, Kerala is one of the few places in India where you can enjoy beef and you will see it on menus everywhere.

curry

A rich and decadent Kingfish Curry at Cassava at Kochi Marriott

There is an entire blog post (I promise) in the food of this state, from its firey beef fry (dry curry) to its decadent fish and seafood curries laden with coconut milk. All soaked up with appams, kallappams, or vellayappams  – rice flour pancakes which have soft, thick white spongy centres and crisp, lace-like edges. I was fortunate to stay at the Kochi Marriott and dine at their acclaimed Kerala restaurant, Cassava, this was my real introduction to the food of this place.

idly

Idly (made from rice flour and amped up with chilli and pepper) for breakfast

Like the rest of India, Kerala also loves it street foods. The most famous of which is the banana chip, which are sliced and fried on site then tossed in spices like pepper or chilli, or served as they are. Addictive!

banana

Banana chips in the maing

For true foodies (not just those who love Indian foods), this is an eye opening and delicious destination.

2. The Scenery

I’m sorry if I keep using this word – Lush – it’s because it most aptly describes Kerala. Thanks to the monsoon and its location, this is truly the green state. From tea plantations in the hills, to waterfalls surrounded by jungle and the verdant tidal basin canals, it’s as close to paradise as I have experienced.

water

So green

I visited during the monsoon, which while having its challenges, was a perfect time for me. Temperatures were cooler (although a little humid) but the famous waterfalls outside of Kochi were full to bursting.

houseboats

Waterways of Alleppey

Admittedly the rain can be confronting (one mildly alarming memory was being on a houseboat during a violent thunderstorm), but it’s amazing how people just get on with things.

beach

But, the best way to convince you to go is to stop typing and show you photos.

chasing waterfalls

Chasing waterfalls

3. The People

As I said before, Keralites are passionate about being from Kerala. They even call their state “God’s Own Country”. I’ve lived in the Middle East for 11 years and count many Keralites among my friends, and this warmth and openness extends to their homeland. You will find Keralaites overwhelmingly friendly.

driver

With Ranjit my driver in Kerala

This extended to the big, bad world of social media, where I received literally dozens of messages from people giving advice, offering help and generally appreciating my visit.

church

Faith is a part of daily life in Kerala

4. The History

Kochi, and much of Kerala, is like an open air museum. From the remnants of the ancient spice trade, to the influence of the Chinese (believed to have been introduced in Kochi by Chinese explorer Zheng He, from the court of the Kubla Khan to the Kochi shores between 1350 and 1450)  to the Portuguese influence in its architecture (Kochi was the first European settlement in India), the history of the city and the state is evident everywhere.

fishing

Chinese fishing nets in Kochi

portuguese

A mix of old houses built by the Portuguese, Dutch and British in colonial periods line the streets of Fort Kochi.

I was stunned to learn that Kochi has a rich Jewish history, with its own synagogue dating back to the 1500s. It is believed the Jews of Cochin can trace their ancestry to King Solomon. Visiting the beautifully preserved synagogue (no photos inside sadly), was a revelation. There are around 10 families remaining in the area and they still worship at the synagogue. You can do a short and incredibly informative tour of the temple.

Jew

Kochi has a rich Jewish heritage

5. The Houseboats

These are perhaps one of the best known things about Kerala. Present day houseboats are huge, slow moving exotic barges used for leisure trips, and are in fact reworked version of Kettuvallams of ancient times. The original Kettuvallams were used to carry tons of rice and spices. A standard Kettuvallam can hold up to 30 tons of product from Kuttanad to the Kochi port.

waters

You can rent them for a few hours  (a delicious freshly cooked lunch included) or a luxury version few days (with wifi, TV and . Idling around the tranquil backwaters of Alleppey is now one of my most treasured travel memories.

house

Plying the backwaters of Alleppey

A big surprise for me was the daily life on the canals. People live and work on these backwaters.

store

Buying fresh prawns for luch

You will see women doing their washing in the water, kids heading to school in canoes and small shops selling fresh fish and prawns to passing boats.

 

backwaters

Cruising in the canals

I hope these photos and my descriptions of my experiences has done this wonderful part of the world justice. My only remaining advice? Just go!

 

The details: 

How to get there: Kochi is a 4.5 hour flight from Doha. Qatar Airways flies twice a day

Where to stay: The Kochi Marriott is beautiful and centrally located hotel, with two terrific restaurants. It’s adjacent to the Lulu Mall (there is a shuttle between the hotel and the mall) and the brand spanking new Kochi Metro. Staff are kind, informed and very passionate about their city.

Must try: Cassava Restaurant at Kochi Marriott, with a menu of Kerala favorites like fish curry and beef fry.

Houseboats: I was looked after by Blue Lagoon Tours and Travel in Alleppey. Tel: +91 9895490990

For more informationKerala Tourism

8 replies »

  1. Wonderful photostory and the food looks very yummy, also thanks to your excellent photography. 💕 Wishing you a great weekend. 🙂
    Warm greetings from sunny ☀️ Norway 🇳🇴.
    The Fab Four Cley

  2. So proud to hear good words about Kerala and hometown Cochin, but there is yet more to explore in terms of food, culture and places hope u will visit “Gods own country’ again.

  3. Hello I am so happy I found your blog, I really found you by accident, while I was searching on Bing for something else, Nonetheless I am here now and would just like to say thank you for a tremendous post and a all round entertaining blog. Please do keep up the excellent work.

  4. I am so proud of that I am from Gods of country and you have shared very good about my kochi and other places but Unfortunately You missed many places I hope there some famous small scale hotels you can get tasty food.
    Next time try different when you visit kerala leave the luxury hotels and feel the richness in food in local shops and remember to visit another Districts there are lota of places after completing all these places only you will understand Kerala is Gods own country..
    Thank you for sharing about my kerala kochi and most welcome again…

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