Friday, February 7, 2014

Visit to God's Own Country and Spa of South India

Three Day Trip to Kerala and Thenkasi


  • Trip to India is not complete if you don't travel in the train.  Safest mode of transportation in India.
  • Always carry a blankets (light weight) or sleeping bags when you travel by train.
  • Kerala is the most beautiful place I have been.  You don't have to take the expensive house boat to enjoy, you can stay in one of the backwater villages and take day trips.
  • Road trip is long and tiring, so plan accordingly.  
  • Thenkasi is a very beautiful place with a lot of greenery, go with the flow and enjoy the waterfalls.
  • Visiting temples in Kerala or closer to Kerala border is a pain.  Always be prepared to deal with BS.

Alleppey Village Docking
This trip doesn't have any exciting stories but logs about my planning process and the trip.  This is a family trip with my parents, kids and their friends (Nikhila and Tejas) to Kerala and Courtallam in the first week August 2013.  It was almost end of the monsoon season in Kerala, we were little concerned about making the trip there and getting stuck in the rain.  Decided to get the train tickets to Alleppey and paid Rs.1000 advance for the house boat - a friend of mine recently told me of the difference between house boat and boat house ;-).  The plan was to monitor the weather, if it became terribly bad, we could cancel the trip and all we would lose was about Rs.2000 for the family of it didn't sound like a bad plan.  But we were very lucky that the weather in Alleppey was better and not much rain, we were all set to go.

Security @Central Station, Chennai

From the train
The Chennai Central Train station was easily manageable with their electronic train/platform information.  Not sure what the purpose of having metal detectors in the train station because the police who was sitting there never bother to monitor the alarm the detectors made - may be they would do random checks.  I am not sure whether they could do individual checks with the number of people traveling by train.  One thing with the train station was that after certain section, the platform was not well lit but with the number of people there, there is no worry about security.

The Train

Even though the outside of the train look dirty, the inside was reasonably clean in the II Class compartment and the train left on time. As soon as my kids joined, Tejas got his energy and started singing at 11 pm that made the other guy in our compartment get irritated with Tejas singing at that time but it didn't bother Tejas at all...;-)
Kerala is truly a God's country - it's very beautiful with a lot of backwater, green farmlands, coconut and green trees.  The view from the train is very beautiful and couldn't find a lot high story buildings and got the feel that most parts of Kerala are untouched by the stupidity going around in Tamil Nadu of converting form lands into housing flats.

The House Boat

Alleppey train station as well as the town are small and the owner of the house boat was there to take me to the boat.  The house boat had 4 bed rooms with good size and a nice dining/hangout area.  Two guys were working in the kitchen and one guy was maneuvering the boat.  The quality of the furniture and overall deco of the house boat was really good, but I could see that it's not being maintained properly when we started lifting the cushions and looking under the furniture for the ear ring that Shabina had dropped.

My mother wanted to maneuver the boat, so she was allowed to do it and she found out within 5 minutes that it's not an easy task.  We were sitting around reading books, taking pictures and talking while Tejas was busy playing the video games in his game controller.  There're small stretches of land in the backwaters where they were having the paddy fields and a lot of coconut trees. The lunch was typical Kerala food with the choice of rice, sambar, dhal, beans and avial.

The Ride to Tiruvandrum

It was cloudy most of the time and it rained about 30 minutes in evening and immediately after that it's sunny.  The back waters was a large area and felt like we're in the sea, we were able to see Kumarakkam and other town in the afternoon from the house boat before anchoring the boat in a village.  I was told that there're more 15,000 house boats in that area.  On the way to the village we noticed people washing cloths and vessels, kids swimming, etc. in the backwater. The coconut trees in that village were short and we could easily pluck coconuts without climbing the tree.

Morning scenery: Vegetables being transported
The morning scenery in the village was very beautiful with a number of small boats ferrying vegetables and people in the village.  It's very nice to sit and look around the village waking up slowly and getting into the daily routine.  After having breakfast, we headed back to Alleppey where I had arranged for another car to pick us up to go to Tiruvandrum before heading out to Curtlalum.

We had so much difficulty finding a vegetarian place to eat our lunch before reaching Tiruvandrum and finally we were able to eat in a place just an hour from Tiruvandrum.  The whole drive took about 5 hours and we were thinking that we could make it in 3 hours, it was a very tiring drive.  The museum, private museum, outside the temple has a lot of nice things those are more than 300+ years old but both not displayed and maintained nicely - so sad to see that.

Pain In Tiruvandrum Temple

Getting into the temple was a major headache because of the rules about what you can wear and what you can't.  I understand that the men have to wear dhoti but the rule about not to have pants under the dhoti seems to be strange.  When I was wearing pants under my dhoti, I was asked to removed my pants and leave it outside.  Also, the girls are not allowed to wear salwar into the temple only allowed to wear sari or skirt, looks like that the gods have not kept with the changing times..;-)  The way the guys at the entrance of the temple behaved made us pissed off with the whole experience.

After waiting in the queue for more than an hour, we were able to get into the main room of the temple to get the dharsan, there was a priest throwing holy ash to the devotees and I was totally pissed off with the way he was treating the people as well as the holy ash.  My daughters were pissed off with the whole experience of going to the hindu temple with this experience ;-( and I don't blame them.

Ride to Thenkasi

Tiring Ride from Alleppey to Thenkasi
After the temple visit, we started our journey the Thenkasi and literally it was hell of a trip with a bumpy, windy road and bunch of people with travel sickness.  The plan was to stop to eat paratha (layered bread) in one of the famous places and go to the waterfalls in the night but with the condition of everyone in the car, we decided to just sleep and call it a night.

By the time we reached Thenkasi, it was about 10 pm and after having a cup of coffee, we made plans to wake up and leave around 9 am for the waterfalls.

Myth and Reality

The crowd at the main waterfalls was not bad and there may not be more than 200 people trying to take the bath in the falls but the way they were getting closer to the falls was really bad...lack of better words, it was stupid.  Luckily, there're different sections for men and women, otherwise the way the men were behaving to get to the falls would have created some nasty situation there :-0  There used to be a myth about the falls that after putting oil in your head (South Indians put oil in the head once a week before washing it off) and take bath in the falls, with the force of the water all of the oil would have gone without applying any special soap.  But what happened to me was that I went to take bath in the water falls without oil on my body but came out with a lot of oil after taking the bath ;-) It is because of the crowd and how they were pushing each other and screaming.
South Indian hospitality & lunch

On the way down, we bought some mango slices and sweet toddi on the roadside to enjoy.  The sweet toddi (padhaneer) was cooling and really tasted good.  Came back home to have lunch with our friend's (Vikki) family and after that we went to the close by temple in the hill.  It's funny that Tejas got scolding from the priest for not concentrating while praying and playing around.  The view from the hill was good and the whole area around Thenkasi is very beautiful and green, as good as the places in Kerala.


  1. Train travel in India is awesome.  You can have very comfortable and safe journey in the second class (reserved) compartments that costs almost nothing.
  2. Kerala is really the God's Country and if I visit next time, I would love to stay in the country side rather in the house boat because after sometime it gets boring in the boat.  The cost of the house boat experience is very expensive and it is a good experience that you should experience once.  We were trying to do too many things in three days and I would love to spend more time in Kerala and Thenkasi enjoying the great climate and natural beauty.
  3. The turn-off in this trip is how the politicians robbed the natural resources in Tamil Nadu and how people are indifferent to those horrible actions.  There was a river (Cheyyar) that goes near my home town Polur and now no one will know that there's a river flowing there in the future because they completely removed the sand and there are plants growing in the river bed.  I had read about the sand scandal but didn't expect to see the river bed disappear and returned from India with heavy feeling about this.  Still pissed about this.

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