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Kerala - Southern India

By Ben Williams , 28 June 2018

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Kerala

For my first visit to India, I eschewed the majestic cities of northern India, preferring the tranquillity of Kerala. My wife and I agreed as we steppedoff the plane in Cochin that this land, frozen in a bygone age, is truly ‘God’s own country’.

Fort Cochin is a delightful place to explore, full of character left by the Portuguese, Dutch, British and Chinese traders and colonists over the centuries.You will be confronted by the Chinese fishing nets as soon as you arrive in the old town centre, before going on to discover a 400 year old synagogue, Anglican churches and Dutch mansions, many converted to excellent boutique hotels.

One of the main reasons for choosing Kerala was to explore the backwaters, staying on board one of the converted traditional rice boats. The whole region is covered by a lattice of canals and rivers, which form the highways for local fishermen. Communities are still dotted along the side of the waterways and we were taken ashore for some fascinating interactions. Back on the boat we enjoyed one of life’s simple pleasures, watching the world go by as the crew prepare fish straight from the lake with simple spices, the curries as good as you would taste anywhere in the country. To extend our backwater exploration we stayed in a resort hotel to relax among the birds and butterflies of the nature reserve – and to enjoy more of the fresh fish.

For the early European visitors the main draw of Kerala was the hills of the Western Ghats and their prime commodity: spices. We headed to Thekkady to explore some of the plantations and our driver took great pleasure in pointing out pepper, cardamom, clove, cinnamon and nutmeg as we wound our way up. Thekkady remains one of the world’s spice capitals and we enjoyed a walk in town in the evening to stock up our own spice rack direct from the farmers. We were sure to take a day to watch the elephants frolicking in the Periyar nature reserve, a fantastically preserved natural habitat.

Staying in the hills we couldn’t leave Kerala without tasting the key legacy of the British in Kerala. Tea is still grown in huge quantities around Munnar. Sampling the freshly brewed leaves with the Ghats in the background felt a world away from a standard cuppa in a London office.

Returning to the Malabar coast we had to end our holiday in a fine beach resort, partaking in a bit of Ayurvedic relaxation. Strong tides make swimming difficult in much of Kerala but the palm-fringed beaches more than make up for it.

The abiding memory of our stay in Kerala was the warmth of the local people, especially our driver and local guides who really brought the experience to life as they do with all Kirker Holidays.

I am really looking forward to discussing your next holiday to India; please call me on 020 7593 2287.

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