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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Munnar, Kerala, India




Travel Dates 12th-14th May 2011.
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

I was pleased to see my name being held up by the man from the Angamaly Elite Palazzo hotel, booked via Agoda, when I passed through customs at the Kochi Airport. There is nothing worse than wondering where your "greeter" is in a foreign airport and it is always good to see him quickly. I chose the Elite Palazzo after a lot of reading on different sites on the web. I wasn't disappointed. I didn't just rely on the automatic booking; as with all my bookings I emailed them to confirm the shuttle and other services.



The ride in the free hotel shuttle from the airport, after they waited for me to use the cash machine, was a fraction further than I expected but the hotel was top class. Sadly for them I was one of the few customers that day. The heat of May is the slowest time of the season in Kerala. The fish was good in the restaurant and the beer in the bar was cheap, cold and delicious. One of those "didn't touch the sides" beers on a very hot afternoon.



While I was drinking that beer I noticed a crowd outside a shop opposite the hotel. Apparently elections had been held several weeks ago and the following day was to be "election counting" day and all of the states where counting was to occur would be dry during that day, so all over those states the thirsty people - or those who expected to be - were stocking up to be sure they could either celebrate or drown their sorrows. There seemed to be a very large number of very thirsty people; it took hours for the crowd to disappear.

As it transpired the next day the count was close for Kerala so quite a lot of both celebrating and commiserating occurred. We passed several wildly cheering communist groups at various times that day. It didn't seem to bother them that they had lost the main battle, they were happy that they had won some local seats. The other party supporters weren't quite as excited in the streets.

After my beer I took a walk around the local streets. I reminded myself to watch carefully every foot-step; it was too easy to either step in something squishy or thin air over a hole in the street, just like northern India. Possibly the first real difference I noted was that the large concrete squares forming the footpath were actually a cover for deep and malodorous drains running under those paths; a bit disconcerting when one of the covers was missing if you were not watching.

The next morning, on time, my driver and car arrived. Once again I owe thanks to the regulars on Indiamike for their suggestions and advice in planning the Indian section of my trip. The car, driver and remaining accommodation on my short visit were all based on their good advice.

Sajiv was an excellent driver and doubled as interpreter and as an information source providing answers to my multitude of questions as we drove along. His English was reasonable and we soon worked out a few minor communication difficulties. He had a better knowledge of the Kochi district than Munnar. We encountered this tower on the road from the airport to Munnar. He told me who it was dedicated to, but I’m afraid I neglected to note it. I must admit I was more interested in the art and architecture than the ancient deity or person. The waterfall was a little further along the road.



The waterfalls had become a regular roadside stop for local travellers, with a comfort station and semi-permanent shops and stalls beside the road.



One of the first things I noticed on the drive was the high number of Christian temples and shrines in comparison with Hindu or Muslim temples or mosques. Wiki shows Kerala to be about 55% Hindu, 25% Muslim and 20% Christian. Maybe that is true for the entire state, but it is hard to believe for the district between Kochi and Munnar which seems to be predominantly Christian. Although I saw Hindu temples and occasional Mosque minarets they were vastly outnumbered by Christian churches and shrines. Unlike some other parts of India there appears to be local harmony despite the various very different beliefs.



After a few scenic hours on the road from Angamaly to Munnar we arrived at Royal Mist homestay, my home for the next two days. I will write a review shortly, but it won’t be significantly different to those you will find giving it top marks on Tripadvisor. I had to seek their approval to stay because they have a "no bachelors"rule. I convinced Anil and Jeeva, my lovely hosts, that I was married and OK despite travelling alone. There are three rooms; one was vacant and the other was occupied by an English couple who spent half their time in the UK and most of the rest at their other home in Goa; a very interesting and pleasant couple to chat to on the verandah.




Munnar is not a place to see temples and ancient sites; it is a place to relax and take it easy. To be honest I chose the district more for its cooler climate during Kerala’s hot May than for its attractions. It was 40C down in Kochi but there was no need for air-conditioning up in Munnar. I found it an interesting interlude. I wandered through the small town and its market; refrigeration is a modern novelty that seems to be taking a while to catch on with the fishmongers.




When I asked about a good place for lunch Sajiv thought I needed some luxury, so he took me to the most expensive hotel in town; although not expensive by Australian standards. The food was excellent, but I was the only diner and felt a little lonely. I clarified my actual needs later and ate in the same places the locals ate for lunch. Anil and Jeeva provided excellent breakfasts and dinners.



The Munnar district is all about tea and spices. I did the obligatory tour of a spice farm, with an excellent explanation of the history, cultivation and uses of various spices. I was tempted to say something when the guide enthused over the "insulin plant" but kept my big mouth shut for a change. I had not heard of it before so I will do some research first before putting my foot in my mouth on that subject. Watch my diabetes blog for later comment on that. The tours are cheap, provided you survive the hard sell for various products after it. The first picture is the path bordered by many different herb and spice plants, the second is a hive of native bees, vital to the health of the farm.



Tea was the reason for Munnar changing from a remote region of aboriginal tribes to a major area of British development. I found my tour of the Tea Museum well worth the time. The movie on the history of the region and the hard, rugged early days of the tea plantations was very interesting, as was the demonstration of the machinery in the production area.

The British developed the plantations from scratch, negotiating with the local rulers and tribes for the land and workers and then setting up a paternalistic social system for the plantation workers, including schools and hospitals; infrastructure such as roads, railways and dams for water and electricity; and even their local currency. Over time the local people took control of the plantations and continue to run them today. The massive TATA company in India started here.




I did not include photos for privacy reasons, but I also found the craft factory set up for people with a disability both interesting and educational. Be sure to include it in your programme if you visit the district.

Munnar was a very relaxed and enjoyable couple of days.

Cheers, Alan, Australia

4 comments:

  1. interesting post and photos. we're excited to see munnar in few days time and looking forward to it! cheers! j

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  2. Kerala is a place with many good destinations to visit and enjoy the vacation. India Tourism provides many opportunities to see all the natural beauty in India. In Kerala Tourism tourist will get all the opportunities to see the Kerala destinations like backwaters, houseboats, temples, etc.

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  3. Anonymous6:38 pm

    Thanks for sharing your travels. I have enjoyed your tales of Burma and now India. It just occurred to me that you wouldn't even know how many people read your "ramblings" unless we tell you! Keep it up.
    Marg (Melbourne)

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  4. Thanks for the feedback Marg.

    ReplyDelete