On the map Kerala looks as a long thing strip of land along the southwestern coast of Indian peninsula. Once you get to Kerala you realize that it was in fact not as small a place as you thought earlier.
If you are flying into Kerela for the first time, it may appear through the window that your plane is landing in a thick jungle territory. The green skyline of this state appear so dense from the sky. That is because of the high density of coconut trees for which the state is popular for. The word Kerala literally means – The Land of Coconut Trees.
The language spoken is Malayalam, which is a mysterious blend of two diametrically opposite languages – Tamil and Sanskrit. The people of the state is called Malayali , and popularly outside the state as Mallu with an element of satire in it.
Kerala is distinctively unique compared to its larger neighbor states. Catholicism and Communism have its deep roots in Kerala’s society. If you are all out to research the origin of Islam in India, start with a small town in central Kerala. This first mosque in India was built in Kodungallur in AD 629 when Islam was at the best only a couple of decades old. It is a few places on earth where four major religions – Islam, Christianity Judaism and Hinduism – met, flourished and coexisted peacefully for centuries. That reflects on the moorings of Kerala society and its attitudes.
The sate boasts of 100% literacy. Female population outnumbers that of male. The society is more equitable. Beef is no taboo on a dining table. Yes , you guessed it Hindus do eat beef in Kerala though cow is treated as a holy animal in most part of India. An average malayali is proud of the achievements of Kerala including the militant like trade unionism that drove away the industrialization of the state.
This hyper activism on political front is the hallmark of Kerala. Calling for strike at the drop of a hat for any mundane reason has achieved the status of performing art in Kerala. That means your Kerala travel checklist has one more important point to be ticked off. Check out with the local media if there is any call of strike (typically declared the previous day as a knee-jerk to some incident elsewhere on earth!). Everything come s to a standstill, including the public transportation system. The standard exemptions are for marriage parties, funeral and milk delivery. Milk, because a Keralite can not survive the day without their usual dose of Chai at regular intervals!
At the end of your Kerala trip you would have ample reasons to believe that Kerala indeed the God’s Own Country. The only doubt probably haunt you could be – Is God too a communist in Kerala! ?
Mansoon hits Kerala cost first, before its sweeps its way up through the Indian subcontinent. The first rain falls on the first day of June. That is the norm. The variation could be a day or two on either side. Right from the coast to the planes to the hilly western Ghats of Kerala get drenched in one grand stroke. This continues for a couple of months. Then comes Onam, the festival of Kerala. The rain has already washed the land squeaky clean; rivers and lakes are full to the brim; the freshly grown vegetation adds another layer of green to the already green landscape; the climate is pleasant and bright – in general post monsoon Kerala spots a festive mood.
Though summers are sticky and hot – thanks to the warm sea breeze – winter months are never freezing cold. In other words Kerala exhibits a typical tropical climate.
On tourism attractions Kerala’s offerings range from its exotic performing arts (strikes not included!) to temple festivals complete with participation of many dozens of caparisoned elephants to cruise on houseboats in backwaters to wild life sanctuaries to ayurvedic spas with rejuvenation treatments to pristine beaches. The list is probably complete when one adds many dozens of cultural, heritage and religious monuments.
The real attraction of Kerala tour lies in its attitude. People are friendly, curious and helpful. One can travel the state in a casual way and safely. Though the quality of roads could not be described as the best, the whole state is interconnected with a crisscrossing network of roads. State run and private buses compete to woo passengers. The railway practically runs through the full length of Kerala, offering good rail connectivity within and other cities of India. This tiny state has three airports with international and domestic connections.
And lastly it is not an expensive affair to travel in Kerala. You can piggy back on the cheaper public transport system aimed at the so-called common man. Stay in economical lodges. The food is of course cheep.
Thanks to its longish topography, traveling from north to south of Kerala is an overnight affair. Sure, there are day time trains and buses connecting the northern towns of Kerala with southern ones. However traveling east-west (from coast to the hilly western border) can take anything from one hour to three hours by road.
Group your itinerary according to the regions in Kerala. Select a base town for each of these groups. An appropriate base town is never too far from a place you are planning to visit. Administratively Kerala is divided into 14 districts. There are from south to north – Thiruvananthapuram ( Trivandrum), Kollam (Quilon), Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha (Allepey), Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam, Thrissur (Trichur), Palakkad (Palghat), Malappuram, Kozhikode (Calicut), Wayanad, Kannur (Cannanore) and Kasaragod.
Most of the district headquarters of Kerala are popular tourist bases too for one or other attractions in that region.
Unlike a conventional circular itinerary, a sequential travel plan seems more suitable in Kerala’s context.