Tag Archive | Kerala

Enchanting South India – A route to rediscovery

“To traverse beyond the limitations of my mind, I travel to look upon the journey within myself.” With these thoughts, I set off on an adventure of a lifetime. A voyage to the mysterious beauties that unravel the most amazing parts of my country. A travelogue to capture the ‘Incredible India’ down South.

My visit to Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala had begun. I had heard from my friends, people didn’t speak anything else but their local languages out there. That made me equally foreign to these lands as anyone else who came from any other country.  To me, this was a challenge, and a trip that would be monumental after I had completed it. With solitude on my side I had decided to explore over 17 superb locations in 15 days. Most importantly, I was going to discover the beautiful culture South India had to offer and document each and every location as a journal on my blog. With a Vernian, inspiration l had to ensure this journey went  down in my books as the best one!

It all started with Chennai. From my helpful twitter friends to the conductors and everyone else warmly responding to my requests, helping me out wherever I went in little or broken English they spoke in. Yet always willfully extending their support without any intent but to help me out. With a sultry atmosphere, one I hadn’t anticipated, I started my journey by heading off to the Marina Beach. The warm, humid air in Chennai bore resemblance to the weather that I was used to during the summers in Mumbai. But, in winter, this humidity came to me as a surprise particularly when it was about 20-22 degrees centigrade back home… Nonetheless my objective was to start off with a beautiful array of sunrise shots to tell a story of this marvel in Chennai! The experience of going to Marina beach, travelling amongst the locals in the train was something I could relate to. Very similar to our Mumbai Locals… Gave me content in the fact that our cities, despite the cultural difference, had a lot in common.

The Marina Beach, Chennai

The Marina Beach, Chennai

Rest of Tamil Nadu was a quest for my spiritual journey across the fortresses and temples of the most majestic kinds in the country! From a  mysterious yet wonderful experience in Kancheepuram, to  satisfying and peaceful tryst with Lord Shiva in Thrichy, every temple had a story of its own. The most appealing temple was of course Thanjavur, unique in its own way and its rustic feel gave a  nice ambience to the story it had to showcase. Different from all the other temples in the state, it had a charm in its own. Ruled by various dynasties from the Cholas to the Nayakas and the Marathas, it gave a completely versatile feel to itself. The grandeur it had was read between the brightness it shone despite the sun setting down upon its face.  Abode to one of the biggest Nandi Statues, the  Brihadeeswara Temple was  an enchanting destination.

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Then there was Rameshwaram. The same island where existed the famous temple of Lord Rama, the mighty king from Ramayana. This was the same location where an army of millions of apes (vanar-sena) built a bridge made out of floating stones engraved with Lord Rama’s name itself. This bridge built to take the army across the borders of India to the Golden empire of Lanka and wage an epic battle of great proportions upon the demons of this kingdom.

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Something you can’t forget in Hindu mythology. A battle that spoke to us of the triumph of good over evil! A battle that till today is considered as a conquest of moral right over plain wrong. It was quite  an experience, one that I would never forget.

While Tamil Nadu has its own share of spirituality I also enjoyed the beauty, nature and wildlife at the most amazing waterfalls ever… I sat in a small canoe or sort of a paddle boat to take the streams of Hogennakalu Waterfalls. A noteworthy place with  perennially flowing streams of waterfalls. Off the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, one can easily reach this place from Salem by bus and literally take a boat towards the Karnataka border on the disputed Cauvery river. With an aquarium and a crocodile rehabilitation center to its attraction, this place certainly is thronged by children, youngsters and elders alike.

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Finally Tamil Nadu ended with a short visit to the mystical land of Kanyakumari, popularly known for Triveni Sangam, meeting point of the three oceans that surround the peninsular region of our Incredible India. One that envisages the true feeling of being in touch with the spiritual side of yourself. Known for The Swami Vivekananda memorial rock . A place where the great leader attained enlightenment of sort and  found bliss within himself. Visiting the most beautiful temples in our country to being  overwhelmed by a sense of spirituality my journey across the state of Tamil Nadu truly gave me an understanding of oneness to myself.

Tamil Nadu certainly took a lot of my time and energy due to constant traveling in state transport buses in this rugged sojourn of mine. Whereas, my stay in Pondicherry was one of great relaxation and unwind. A visit that made me realize how time stood still and made me feel like a recluse of sorts in a land of the unknown.

Pondicherry Beach

Pondicherry Beach

Highlight of Pondicherry was tasting delicious food of various cultures dished out at the most amazing restaurants in town. From Chettinad food at the Apache Restaurant to french delicacies at the Le Café, Pondicherry was all about living life with the luxury similar to the tastes of most of the Europeans around. Spending three magical days exploring various parts of Pondicherry on a rented motorbike, places like the French Colony, the museum, Auroville and a lot of shopping streets across various parts of the town gave me the feeling of belongingness to that place. Sipping beer at the beach restaurant at night, listening to the roaring waves in a calm that gave most frenzied thoughts a form of tranquil made me realize what we miss in our caught-in-a-rut kind of a life.

Chettinad Food at Apache

Chettinad Food at Apache

Lastly, being in Kerala, God’s own country was like being in heaven itself. A boat ride in the backwaters of Kerala got me close to nature and  made me believe in what their lifestyle stood for… Very quiet, peaceful and serene… The melodious sound of birds chirping in the background and a real feeling of standstill, told me a lot about how people  loved and lived life in this paradise.

Kerala Backwaters

Kerala Backwaters

One of the most memorable trips within Kerala would be my infamous boat ride from Kottayam to Alaphuzza. It’s listed as one of the recommended things to do by Lonely Planet Magazine. From the start it was memorable especially after gorging on the sumptuous Malabari Parota with Kadala Curry.

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

What a way to start off a journey across the Venice of Kerala. Going to Venice has always been my dream… Until I get there, I have to make do with this one! A notable thing we did on our way back was to stop by at the very famous RBLOCK Island. We ate some  good food and had local coconut palm beer, also known as Toddy… This Island was manmade by over 5000 villagers led by Mr. Baker. This was done in order to get more land to cultivate Paddy… A fantastic place for you to take  a pitstop and eat some  delicious food.

Lastly, I couldn’t ask for anything better than finishing my trip with a visit to Fort Kochi, a place that will be etched in my memories for its diversity and remarkable beauty, especially with its blend of cultures and religions. The Jew Street and the Paradesi Jewish Synagogue… gave me a mesmerizing  feel of being in a place of some rarity. You will  find a very different setting out here and experience a different feeling while walking on this street. The Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. Then there are the Chinese Fishing Nets, with magnificent fixed installations for an unusual form of fishing makes for  great photographs.

Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets

The end of my expedition. Travelling around, wandering like a nomad for 15 days. A feeling of bittersweet, told me that my journey was over, just like the setting sun when I left Fort Kochi. Indeed at the end of that 15th day I felt like Phileas Fogg, whose surmounting adventure had successfully come to a fulfilling end. One that I will cherish forever until I come back to soak it in yet again…

P.S This is my writing sample to Glimpse‘s ‘Correspondent Program for Fall 2011‘, Also the shortened version of it is my submission to WorldNomads Travel Writing Scholarship for 2011 which can be read here

© Copyright 2011 Srinivas Kulkarni. All rights reserved

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Kumarakom Backwaters – Canoe Ride To Bliss…

So after settling down in Kumarakom, I decided to make sure that I didn’t lose out on it’s true beauty… the backwaters especially in the bid to chill out and relax at homestay that I was in.. I could do that after I had taken the tour of a few places in Kerala.. Especially now, since Kodaikanal was out of the picture… I also found out that Thekady, Munnar will have to wait for an exclusive trip to Kerala next time around as they required a full 2-3 days stay in those places… So all I had to do now was chill out in the nearby places…

 

 

 

 

 

 

So as I explored a few places on my way to the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, I got some really nice shots inside the Kumarakom village… Some really great surroundings and some really nice places that I enjoyed exploring… It was early in the morning at 7:30 AM… Very quiet, peaceful and serene… You could feel the fresh air, breathe it.. rather, hear the melodious sound of birds chirping in the background and a real feeling that time stood still… That is exactly what it felt like :)

When I reached the Bird Sanctuary, I asked the person incharge, the guy who gives the tickets there if I could also get to do a country boat / canoe ride across the backwaters… I was also told that there aren’t many birds inside the sanctuary.. Pollution via Houseboats being the main reason and a lot of them prefer staying in the backwaters for obvious reasons… access to their food… So I chose to take the backwater ride instead of walking all the way inside the sanctuary…

The bird sanctuary guy, set me up with a local boat rider ‘Raju’ and that is where my journey inside the blissful backwaters began… This is far more better than sitting inside a houseboat and enjoying the beauty around you… This is really real and much more up-close and personal to nature… What’s more, you are not contributing in any form of ecological disturbance, plus you are helping these boatmen, rowers with their daily bread and butter… Since it was season time, their rate was 250 bucks for a ride for say an hour or so… But it is truly worth it as the guy will give you details on the birds you see as well as make sure that you get enough time to take great snaps of your surroundings… So here is the journey that I took…

 

My Boat & Raju, the boatman

My Boat & Raju, the boatman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So this is my boatman, Raju… He worked with Taj, yes, the Vivant, by Taj in Kumarakom for 18 years and just a few years ago, he retired from there and started boating… That’s what he does now…

 

Here I go...

Here I go...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here we set sail to reach the Vembannad lake from this river that we were in… He was gently rowing the boat to make sure that he also keeps an eye on any birds that come our way and that I could get some snaps of them…

 

 

Spotted a Houseboat

Spotted a Houseboat

 

 

Raju tells me that there are 200 houseboats alone in Kumarakom… This is the season time and most of the houseboats get great tourists and visitors to visit them. You can find a lot of info here : http://www.welcome2kumarakom.com

 

 

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think that was the first bird I spotted… Sadly my basic kit-lens of the Canon 1000D allowed me only this much focus/zoom… If you guys do come here with a DSLR, it would really best to have a better lens with you… especially since, by the time you reach close to them and try clicking a snap, they fly away….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we head further into the river, approaching Vembannad lake, we find a local fisherman set out to his daily job… Yes, imagine, that is his routine and his life.. to earn his bread and butter everyday… Such is life…

 

That is the lakeside resort and hotel, Coconut Lagoon… fancy name, fancy cottages and really exquisite hotel :) Must cost a bomb though I’m guessing…

 

 

Egress Bird

Egress Bird

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raju tells me that is the Egress bird… And Once I come back and google it.. he is absolutely right… Not that I was testing him or anything, I just forgot the spelling / name of the bird… so did a little R&D when I came back… He sure knows his birds, in fact is honest when he doesn’t and says that this bird came here last year…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s the Cromaran bird.. Very common one found in the Backwaters of Kumarakom and elsewhere in Kerala. One thing about this bird that really looks beautiful, is when it spreads it’s wings and sits!!! It’s a spectacle to watch… :)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All these floating plantations, I’m told by Raju, will be clean when monsoon hits Kerala.. They will just vanish… Kaput!!!

 

After an hour long boat ride in the backwaters, I truly felt relaxed… This is the closest you get to Nature and trust me guys, is a very beautiful and relaxing feeling especially when you have to think of nothing… and I mean the Jerry Seinfeld Nothing… :P

 

What do you think about this journey??

 

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Welcome to Kumarakom

So Kanyakumari was finally over… A feeling of satisfaction that I got was marvellous… With the end of Kanyakumari, I also ended the Tamil Nadu leg of #SriniOnTour… Felt really great after achieving these locations in a span of 10 days.. What a marvellous experience it had been and so had been the learning throughout this tour so far… It’s a common fact that travelling gives you great perspective, it does, more than that this particular trip had certainly given me a lot more patience and resilience to push yourself harder… Especially when that backpack of mine kept getting heavier… I wondered to myself, why did I even carry my heavy jacket and the blanket… They were seemingly useless as there wasn’t even a hint of cold throughout my experience up until now…

 

Yes, that is what is the keyword… until now… As soon as I left Nagercoil from where I got a bus to Trivandrum, the entire scenario changed… As soon as I left Kanyakumari district and entered Kerala it felt totally surreal!!! The cold breeze blowing in your face, it was cloudy and started drizzling as well… Greenery all besides you, all you could see is a lot of trees, banana plantations, rice / paddy farms… It was truly brilliant…

 

 

Green Peace :P

Green Peace :P

So I headed to Trivandrum, from where I got an express bus to Allepy… which could drop me off to Kottayam… So my journey this time was a little tricky… Kanyakumari-Nagercoil-Trivandrum-Kottayam-Kumarakom… It took me around 8 hours to reach Kumarakom… Thankfully my accomodation had been taken care of. Once again Tweeple to the rescue!!! @whizkidd aka Rahul Srinivas called up his uncle Anil who has a great and I mean uberly great lakeside cottage homestay… That is where I got my accomodation… I reached there at 10:00 PM… Got off at Chakrampadi stand, which is really close from the cottage where I was to stay…

 

Road to my Cottage

Road to my Cottage

Now I settled down in the cottage and saw the view, couldn’t see much then, so decided to think of it in the morning… I got online, tweeted out to @whizkidd that I reached Kumarakom and thanked him for helping me out… The most unthinkable happened… had not happened till now… @kumarakom360 an official twitter handle for Kumarakom tweeted out to me!!! Welcoming me to Kumarakom… As appropriate as it may sound their website also is called http://www.welcome2kumarakom.com Can you beat that??? Brilliant job I must say… I checked out their website and found  a lot of details about the place… It’s certainly worth checking out…

 

I had made up my mind, there are certainly two things I wouldn’t miss doing in Kumarakom,

 

1. A boat ride / canoe ride in the Kumarakom Backwaters.

2. A boat ride to Allaphuza (Venice of Kerala) from Kottayam… (It’s listed as one of the must-dos by Lonely Planet Magazine)

 

So after a really rough ride from Kanyakumari to Kumarakom, I decided to crash and wake up early in the morning… WOW is the only word I have for the view I see outside my room… The Cabin by the lake was truly blissful… I think it’s time to end the really amazing crusade of hop-skip-jump and truly start enjoying my vacation in the peaceful and ever so lovely God’s Own Country… Just relax, unwind, not a lot of travelling but more of enjoying and letting the experience of being in the most blissful place sink in..

 

That's my cabin by the lake...

That's my cabin by the lake...

 

Anil Kumarar

Anil Kumarar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s Anil Kumarar… @whizkidd’s uncle.. In case you guys down here in Kumarakom, you can ask for Beach County that’s the name of the place, it’s right off the lake and  this lake facing cottage can be all yours… His contact no is +91- 9995626969

Early Morninng View

Early Morning View

Truly, it seems like a really blissful few days ahead… before I hit the grind once again…

 

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#SriniOnTour – South India Trip 2010 – A blogumentary

So this is what my #SriniOnTour looks like as of now… It’s certainly a different kind of vacation that I have ever taken. Yes, I have certainly blogged about most of my long weekend, on the spur of the moment type of trips. Certainly have always wanted opportunities like these to glorify my travelogue and make sure that I let loose the wild traveller within me. This journey however has much more significance than just one of those blogs or travelogues.

 

What I truly want to do with this blogumentary is to achieve some true respite and get my travel writing skills up one notch. We all have such vacations and in fact one of the reasons why I chose this vacation was to make sure that I expand my travel portfolio… I know of a lot of enthu, photographers, travel buffs reaching out to people with their creative art form and expressing a truly meaningful self…

 

What I wish to attain through this blogumentary is to document not just geographic locations, but also the true emotions behind every single photo I take, every single temple I visit. Document the theme that India down south represents. Something that we all know and have already discovered. But to me it’s more than just that. I need to really rediscover some of the elements that a lot of us forget many times. Every minute details of the trip will help me understand a lot of  things that are really help make me who I am…

 

With every blog that I post, I hope to tell a story that will build and develop itself. A story that will mean a lot more than what it seems. A story that we all hope for and expect to really make some sort of a difference to our lives.

 

My presentation on Slideshare got featured in the travel section by the editorial team of Slideshare. Now, it also has over 1000 views. I will be live blogging, tweeting, and updating my experience here. So do stay tuned. Also would love to hear feedback and tips from all of you guys about the trip. Tips, places of interest, expert comments are more than welcome :)

 

You may want to stay tuned to these links below as well Hope you find this interesting too.

http://facebook.com/srinistuff (Photo Journal)

http://bit.ly/sriniontoursouthindia (My Tour map for this trip)

http://everlater.com/srinistuff (My travel planner)

http://bit.ly/SriniOnTour (My Travel Map so far)

http://twitpic.com/photos/srinistuff (Travel Photos On the Go)

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