A Wanderlust’s Journey To God’s own Country

This blog is about books then why I have posted an article about my dream vacation on this? Surprising! Isn’t it? Well, if you know the reason behind it then you will not find it out of place at all. Not wanting to keep you guessing the reason any longer, let me enlighten you by the fact that the seed for this vacation was sowed by a Phantom comic long back when I was a kid. I am a bibliophile and an avid reader since my childhood. Those days, Phantom comics were very popular among kids in India and I was (and still am) also a great fan of those comics. The publishers, Indrajaal comics, had published a series of three books where the kids of phantoms were shown playing and enjoying in their tree house. The pictures and my imagination of living a life on a tree were mesmerising and I yearned to live in a tree house even after several years of reading those books.

I am also a wanderlust by nature. Travelling to new destination and exploring them is an essential part of my life. And this wanderlust within me used to wonder at times – Is it really possible to live on the trees? And when I came to know while making an itinerary with my family for our Kerala trip that there are many tree house resorts in Munnar where one can enjoy living in one of those, I could not help jumping with joy over my sofa. Immediately a tree house stay got added in the itinerary of our trip to God’s own country. The idea was to start on the morning of 25th December 2015 from Delhi, my home town.

Kochi:

The flight was early in the morning at 6:00 am that got us to Kochi at about 9:00 am. It was a nice and comfortable journey that we did via Indigo Airlines . Kerala has a mixed population of people who believe in different religions and being the Christmas morning, one could see happy and smiling faces everywhere with galore of bakeries and other shops selling all sizes of cakes. Kochi city is full of bakeries and you can easily find one after every three or five minutes of drive.

Kochi is a nice city with some lovely churches and sea beaches to see. We saw the Dutch Palace also called Mattancherry Palace and Jewish Synagogue. From there we headed to see St Francis Church, Dutch cemetary and Fort Kochi (for Chinese fishing nets). All these places are close to each other. There is also a museum where one can see old paintings and other items of the bygone era. We were damn tired after visiting all the paces and requested our cab driver (we had booked the cab for the entire duration of our trip) to take us to a hyegenic restaurant where we can have authentic South Indian food. He took us to a place that seemed to be very popular and was full of people even in the night. The Thali was finished so we ordered idli, uttapam and sweet lime with soda. It was a pretty big restaurant but the bill was very less as compared to what we are used to pay in Delhi. The food was also yummy but who was bothered about the food? I was waiting for the next day to start my journey to my dream place Munnar (well the secret was my tree house stay).

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Munnar:

While on the way to Munnar by the cab, we came across several lovely waterfalls and tea gardens. On our way, we visited a spice plantation area. It was a nice and different experience. There was a guide (paid) who explained everything very meticulously. After buying some exotic spices from the shop at the Spice garden (several medicinal herbs and other natural and Ayurvedic products were also available) we continued our journey to Munnar. It was about 1:00 pm and all of us were dead hungry. So we halted at a local restaurant and ordered South Indian Thali. The food was ok but at least relieved us from our stomach cramps we were getting due to hunger. The hotel we had booked through Yatra was a bit far away as we had booked a tree house in a plantation forest. These tree houses are generally located away from the town or city center. We went for an elephant ride but abandoned the idea after seeing the elephants and considering their agony. On the way, our friendly cab driver took the additional responsibility of a tourist guide voluntarily. He showed very proudly the hotel (located in Munnar city center) where Rohit Shetty, Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone had stayed along with their crew members for one month while shooting for the movie: “Chennai Express.” Our resort “Seven Springs” was a little far away from the town and by the time we reached it, the sun was already on its way to set. When we finally stepped at the place, all of us got speechless after seeing the place that was blessed with immense natural beauty. It was green everywhere with a little mist covering the sky. After completing all the formalities of checking in, when we reached the tree house, I was dumbstruck for a moment. It seemed really like a dream come true to stay in a tree house in the midst of greenery while admiring nature’s beauty. A large tree house with separate living room, bed room and a wash room all well equipped with modern facilities like AC, TV and Geaser, nestled between nature’s beauty and built on the top of a tree: the feeling was simply out of the world and can not be explained via words. The dinner was served right in our tree house. The friendly staff showed superb hospitality throughout our stay. I was living my dream and had some of the best times of my life staying on the tree in the house.

It was the most tranquil palace with bird singing early morning. Next day I was woken by the singing of birds (Malabar whistling thrush) and rustling of leaves. What an experience it was. The day was reserved for sightseeing and for relishing Kathakali & Kalari Pattu.

There was a long list of places to see including Mattupetty Dam and Lake, Echo point, Kundala Lake, Top Station and Eravikulam National Park. Throughout Munnar, you may enjoy the sights of tea plantations and our friendly driver cum guide enlightened us by the fact that majority of the gardens are owned by the Tatas.

After sightseeing for the whole day, we reached the place to watch Kathakali recital and Kalari Pattu. We had some time left for the show to begin after buying the tickets and that was spent beautifully watching the artists getting ready with their special makeup for the Kathakali recital. I have watched Kathakali innumerable times on TV but watching it live was simply out of the world. And what should I say about Kalari Pattu? It’s simply awesome.You need to see it to believe it (You all must have got an idea about it after watching the movie Baghi. If you haven’t watched the movie yet, book your tickets for this weekend. Trust me you’ll love it.)

By the time we reached our resort, it was already past nine. We had to order the food on phone as the restaurant at the resort took orders only till 8:00 pm. But the staff accommodates every request of the tourists and when we requested for some omelettes over the usual dal and shahi paneer, they graciously obliged us.

Next day was our last day in Munnar, so I got up early and went for a morning walk in the forest. By the time I returned, tea was ready and was served in the garden below. Having sips of hot tea amidst spectacular surroundings of natural beauty is an experience that must be experienced, not read.

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Periyar/Thekkadi:

Munnar was wonderful. But we had to leave, get along with our trip plan and move on. So, after having a sumptuous breakfast comprising of hot idli, dosa, samber and steaming filter coffee, we moved out for Thekkady. We had a plan already in place and to materialize it, we had to hurry.

The whole route from Munnar to Thekkady goes through the mountains. When we reached Thekkady, it was about 12:00 noon. We had already booked our tickets online for the Tiger reserve and so had to rush after freshening up and a quick lunch.

We took a boat ride across the lake and tried our luck with spotting wild life. It was an hour and half long boat ride and we were lucky to spot some wild animals during the ride. Many people also opt for bamboo rafting and nature’s walk but we decided to stick with the boat ride.

When we came back to our resort, it was about 7:00 in the evening. We had some tea and snacks and around 8 PM we went for dinner at the restaurant. We kept it light with some dal, curry and rice.

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Alleppey:

Thekkady was fun but now was arriving my second dream experience: the houseboat stay and ride in the backwaters. We had booked the houseboat for a full day and a night’s stay. The very friendly travel ……. Had come all the way from Kochi to welcome us to the boat. The first step into the boat and I felt as if I have entered a dreamland. It was awesome. The full boat was booked for us that had two bedrooms, both with attached bath, one living room and kitchen. Upstairs there was sun deck with a vast area to enjoy the nature at its galore. After freshening up, when we reached the dining table, a smile flashed on everyone’s lips. We were overjoyed to see pomfrets being served along with an elaborate menu. The food was delicious. Moreover when you eat while on a boat, riding on the calm and beautiful backwaters of Kerala and enjoying the beauty of the nature all around you, you feel as if you have stepped into a magical world unknown to us otherwise. After lunch we admired the beauty of the backwaters while enjoying our ride through the countryside of small villages of Kerala.

At around 4:00 pm we went upstairs on the deck to admire nature’s beauty from the top of the boat. Evening 6:00 pm, sun was turning golden to orange and we were served tea and some snacks (biscuits and pakoras). It was mesmerising to watch the sunset from the boat.

At about 7:00 pm, the house boat was anchored and we were invited by a small fish shop at the shore to buy some lobsters. The price was huge (Rs. 2000 per Kg) but we bought some considering the size of those.

By the time we got back to our living room, it was already 8:00 pm. The staff told us that satellite TV connection is not available, so we settled for a DVD of a Hindi movie. After the movie got over, an elaborate diner was served but the show was stolen by the lobsters and chettinad chicken.

Finalising the plan for next day to watch sunrise from the deck, we all went to sleep. Next day, watching sunrise was an experience that I will cherish throughout my life. All I can say is happiness is having morning tea watching sunrise on a houseboat at Allepey.

Our trip was coming to an end and after having breakfast, we headed towards Kochi again to catch our flight back to Delhi.

When we reached Kochi, it was about 1:00 pm and we had the whole day in hand as the flight was at night. The driver asked us to visit Lulu mall which is the largest mall in Kerala. The mall is nice and was decorated for Christmas and New Year. When in a mall, how can someone resist shopping? So after shopping for some stuff, we finally started for the airport.

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It was past midnight when we reached Delhi and all of us were damn tired. But the pleasure and joys of having an experience of a lifetime were reflected by our smiles. A dream vacation that had incepted from a book, finally got turned into a reality.

Thinking about my experiences that I had during my dream vacation, I cuddled in my bed to dream about the trip and relive the unforgettable moments.

 

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