God’s Own Country – Kerala

I love traveling! It doesn’t matter whether the destination is at, above or below sea level. As you know, I work for a corporate house as well getting long leaves is a herculean task. I try to utilize all the long weekends and convert them into holidays. Trust me, it’s not that difficult when you plan in advance and have great set of friends to accompany you. I had 4 of them with me.

Last year, we eyed on 15th August (Independence Day Holiday in India) long weekend and planned a 5 day trip to Kerala – God’s own country.

Flight tickets – Check

Accommodation – Check

Intercity Transfers – Check

After a few morning hiccups and winning over a hefty traffic jam on the way to Pune airport, we   on-boarded a morning flight from Pune to Kochi. We landed at the beautiful Kochi Airport to find our pre-booked cab waiting for us at the airport.

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Kochi Airport

It was a neat, a bit old but well maintained Toyota Innova(my fav car for longer roadtrips). I am always hungry to taste local food while traveling; the cabbie took us to a local restaurant in Kochi to enjoy some delicious local Kerala food.

We commenced our voyage to Munnar aka Kashmir of the south. En route Munnar our eyes could not stop peeping outside the car window without blinking. Mesmerized by the beauty of Valara waterfalls we got out of the cabs to click some memories. Valara falls, where the water cascades from an altitude of about 1000 mts, which itself was a treat to eyes and the camera lens. Munnar is known for magnificent waterfalls, we could not visit all (remember lack of leaves for this poor corporate junkie) here is a brilliant article which gives a great insight. http://www.munnar.com/waterfalls-in-munnar.htm#waterfalls.

Where to Stay? – We stayed in Hotel Munnar black forest www.munnarblackforest.com. It’s a budget hotel located on Kochi Munnar road. Rooms are not that great neither the food is. We do not recommend this hotel and search for better options. Munnar is full of better stay options.

Places to visit in Munnar – This gorgeous hill station in Western Ghats is located at 1600mts above sea level. The height and the climate make it apt for tea plantations. We witnessed the whole of mountains covered with tea estates till horizon. The green leafy carpet and the aura of tea plantations surely make it an #instagram paradise. We even managed to gate crash an estate on the way to breathe tea and some perfect clicks.

  • Munnar Tea Museum – As they say,” tea doesn’t ask silly questions, it understands.” When you have such a huge yield of tea, it needs to be processed, packed and marketed as well. This tea museum imparts you enough knowledge on how a tea leaf is converted and marketed as the tea which we use in our households. Established in 2005 previously owned by Tata’s and now by Kanan Devan Hills Plantations Company (P) Ltd. (KDHP), this museum has so many historic machinery and models still preserved in good shape. They show a short film which depicts the history of Munnar and its lovely tea plantations. After the film, it also offers a tour to the factory in which you can see and learn the technicalities involved in processing your favorite beverage to come out of morning blues every day. You can taste and buy some tea varieties e.g ginger, masala, green and white tea.

Baith jata hun wahan, Chai bann rahi ho Jahan.

  • Mattupetty Dam – This dam is built near the confluence of mountain streams of Muthirappuzha, Chanduvarai and Kundale Rivers. It is used to generate electricity using hydel power. The large amount of water favors wild animals and birds to flourish. There are a few small shops to buys some local stuff like cardamom, masala and some munchies.

Places to visit in Alappuzha – This laid back heaven in south India is also known as Alleppey and Venice of the East. Well known for the backwaters, canals, lagoons and houseboats.

  • Backwaters – Shikara(boat) ride across the backwaters is a must do and you may book the ride right from the boarding point at the river side. Ask locals or hotel reception for guidance. Avoid hiring the boat through any agent as you might strike a cheaper deal at the boarding point. There are public boat buses which run across this city of Venice … oops; Alleppey.

While on the boat tour cruising on the backwaters; close your eyes, spread yours arms wide and feel the wind pass through your body. The water is clean, calm and serene. One can write books on the breathtaking beauty of this lake city. It surely is a honeymooner’s paradise, a painter’s painting, a poet’s lyrics and a musician’s beats. The song which kept on playing in my head during this trip, as Godsmack brilliantly sung, “I need serenity and a place where I can hide.”

Link to the song:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2A4Km5PTu5o

Alleppey also has a beach which is usually crowded and not very clean.

Stay in Alleppey – This being  an important tourist destination you can find many stay options from budget homestays to exotic 5 stars. Houseboat can also be a unique idea to stay which serve you great food, comfortable bedrooms and tidy western toilets while sailing across the backwaters. We stayed in a mid-ranged 3 star resort called Pagoda Resort which can be booked here www.pagodaresorts.com. The rooms are comfortable and food is to be relished forever (we were there at the time of kerala food festival). In Pagoda resort, you must gift yourself a kerala ayurvedic massage therapy, to help you forget the worldly affairs, work pressure, targets and let you meet your better and relaxed self. We opted for the relaxing Shirodhara and I vouch for it totally.

When to Go – In Munnar the weather is pleasant throughout the year but if you do not like rains avoid going in Monsoon (June, July and October) season as it rains cats, dogs and sometimes elephants too. Whereas in Alleppey summers are hot and winters is the best season to explore. Or you may plan Alappuzha at the time of Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held on the Punnamada Lake, on the second Saturday of August every year (we missed it by a week).

What to eat – I strongly recommend eating local food which includes idli, rice, appam, uttapam, dosa, sambhar, rasam, etc. Kerala is known for sea food. One must also try variety of chips/ wafers which are a local delicacy. We enjoyed an authentic south Indian meal and various other food items served on a banana leaf at the very famous Sarvana Bhavan in Munnar.

After cruising about 450 kMs(excluding the air travel) through a few cities and villages, beautiful landscapes, mystic mountains, pleasant waterfalls, a soothing beach, a healing ayurvedic massage, lip smacking kerala food and mesmerizing backwaters we ended up this amazing journey to the God’s Own Country with some memories to be cherished for lifetime.

We can help you plan one such trip. Please write to us on info@yatripandit.com

Abhimanyu@yatripandit

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Falling in Love with Chinese Tea – Nanjing, China

Imagine the feeling when a road side Romeo gets to date the prettiest girl in town, I felt the same when my CEO asked me to accompany him to China for a week’s tour. Ahan !! Yatripundit ki pehli videsh yatra aur who bhi company ke kharche par (yatripundit’s 1st foreign trip and that too on company’s expenses), I could not have asked for it. Although, the country was China and the city was Nanjing, which isn’t a famous city as Beijing or Shanghai. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to the core.chinese-tea-image-courtesy-google-images

Passport – Check

Visa – Check

Flight Tickets – Check

Hotel Bookings – Check

Shopping – Check

Preparation to execute the tasks – Check

Checked in the hotel Crystal blue bay on a Sunday evening after changing flights at Delhi and Hong Kong (so ideally my 1st foreign landing was in Hong Kong). I always felt New Delhi airport was massive and beautiful but only till I Saw HK airport. It was Monstrous. This magnificent modern world wonder faces sea on one side and mountains on the other. It had trains running from 1 terminal to another, massive shopping areas, giant busses which had driver cabins on both ends, more than 150 airline offices. Since, our preceding flight got a bit delayed, we had to rush across the terminals and check-in gates but a huge thanks to the Airport staff for their support and helping us in boarding the Dragon Air flight to Nanjing, China.

Okay!! Coming back to Hotel Crystal blue bay, Nanjing. It’s a beautiful property in the city. Marvel flooring and off white color walls and pillars with Golden and Chandeliers was a perfect match. It also houses a games room, swimming pool, 2 restaurants (a Chinese and a continental). Rooms were spacious and had all comforts. There is a huge park besides and open area besides the hotel and evenings are pleasant. You will spot people practicing dance in small groups, skate boarding, chatting or just lazing around. There was a shopping mall on the other side of the hotel.

The only discomfort for a Non- Mandarin (Language in China) speaking person is even the front desk official were not able to converse in English.

Nanjing is a beautiful city with wide roads, brilliant infrastructure, designated market places, shopping malls, community centers, restaurants (Chinese, Mongolian, Thai, continental and 1 or 2 Indian as well) parks and brilliant public transport.  Public transport includes battery operated buses, rickshaw and metro rails.

The main city area is crowded and I discovered this while I visited Fuzimiao – A temple located in southern Nanjing City on banks of the Qinhuai River. Within the area are cultural attractions, arts, shopping, and entertainment. There is a market area surrounding the temple and you are expected to demonstrate the best of your bargaining skills with the shopkeepers. Usually shop keepers can speak English as this is a tourist area. I bought some souvenirs from this place including Chinese green tea, small umbrella, sunglasses and shawls. It’s always better be accompanied by a Chinese speaking mate, helps in finalizing the best stuffs in best rates. It’s been 3 months since I am back in India and I still treat myself with aromatic Chinese green tea often.

The Chinese tea is the easiest to cook. Just put some tea leaves in boiling water and leave to brew for a couple of minutes with lid closed. Your Chinese green tea is ready to be cherished.

I also recommend you to go for boating in Quihuai River.

Overall it was a great experience to visit Nanjing and I wish to explore more during my next visit to this beautiful Chinese city.

In my next post I will share Dos and Donts when in China which will be followed by A Vegetarian’s guide for visiting China.

-Lots of Love

Abhimanyu@Yatripandit

PS: Please click on the ads which appear on the website and help us earn some money to travel.     This blog is still very young and growing. If you like the story, do not shy away from reciprocating your love in form of likes comments and sharing on social media.