Kerala has always been my dream destination in India. While twice in the past my trips had to be cancelled, this time I fortunately made it.
Having arrived at the not-so-hustling-and-bustling Thiruvananthapuram airport, I made my way to the Country Club resort, about 14km away.
Located on a hill, it is scenic and well-landscaped and the rooms are done up with natural materials and fabrics. My room had a sea view, though the approach to the beach from the resort wasn’t the best. But the lush greenery made up for it, with coconut trees growing around like wild weed.
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Days flew past leaving me with fond memories – take a look!
After a sumptuous lunch and a restful afternoon, I walked down to the beach. Taking in the grey views amid lashing waves, I had a great time. After sunset, I returned to the resort; any darker, and I was told that there would be snakes lurking around!
Next morning, I woke up refreshed and decided to return to the beach. I was disappointed though, because the sea was rough and noisy. I couldn’t even catch the sun rise. The lack of good tea made the morning worse. As a Bengali, a good cup of Darjeeling tea is a must for me to go through the day. And try as I may, I just couldn’t get myself to drink Nilgiri tea. I immediately decided that coffee was much better.
After breakfast I headed to the 2000-year-old Swami Padmanabha Temple in Trivandrum. Constructed in Kerala and Dravidian architectural styles, it’s located inside the East Fort of the Padmanabhapuram Palace. The temple is an architectural masterpiece with its exquisite mural paintings and stone carvings. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, it’s among the 108 sacred Vishnu temples in India. For the uninitiated, this is the same temple which was in the news recently because of huge reserves of gold found here.
I thought of going to town next , so to speak, and I hit M.G. Road – a very common name for major roads in many Indian cities. Kerala is, thankfully, still untouched by mall culture and there’s one main shopping area called Statue. I spent some quality time there, walking around, taking in the sights and sounds of Trivandrum’s marketplace.
Early next morning I headed to Kanyakumari, about 200km away. Watching the sun rise at this beautiful place is a popular tourist attraction and I arrived at around 6am. There was a sizeable crowd waiting already. I sat on one of the boulders that line the shore, and as I got ready with my camera, the sun started peeping out.
To witness a sunrise from the edge of India was a lifelong dream and I was over the moon. But the journey was far from over. My next stop was the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. It is said that Swami Vivekananda meditated on the rock and the memorial was constructed in his memory.
There is usually a long queue to buy tickets for the boat ride to the memorial into the sea. After a short ride in a rusty boat and decked in dirty life jackets, which was a mood dampener, the expanse of the monument was awesome. In fact, such a huge rock jutting out of an ocean is a natural marvel in itself.
The memorial is immaculately clean and houses a Vivekananda statue, a meditation centre, a library and a shop, which sells books and brochures. It also has four decks where one can stand or sit and stare at the horizon over the ocean in complete peace and harmony.
Unfortunately, the beauty of this place as an isolated and unique monument is being destroyed by a construction coming up on an adjacent rock. It is not known whose statue is being built there but it certainly has ruined the magnificence of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. Moreover, there are constructions in progress at the shoreline, which may not be aesthetically harmonious or congruous. Businesses have ruined the romanticism of a bygone era.
I decided to visit the Wooden Palace, 63km from Trivandrum at Thuckalai on my way back. The Padmanabhapuram Palace is known as the Wooden Palace because it is made up entirely of teak wood. This was the seat of the erstwhile rulers of Travancore and is a glorious testimony to the traditional Kerala School of architecture. The ceilings, pillars and walls have exquisite designs and are carved meticulously.
Having had my tryst with history, I headed to the backwaters for my time with nature. Unfortunately, Kerala isn’t exactly the budget-traveller’s delight, especially since it is continuously hyped as an exclusive tourist hub. Poovar was the closest pit stop, around 16km from Trivandrum and coughed up Rs 2,000 for a two-hour boat ride.
Thankfully, I had an enthusiastic boatman for company who was more than up to the task of showing me the best of the backwaters. From deep and wide stretches to narrow and shallow areas, I truly enjoyed myself. The hectic day ended with a lavish bath and sumptuous dinner.
Before my trip ended, however, I was determined to catch a sunset and I was rewarded with a beautiful one at Kovallum Beach. I never realised how much time flew by, as I gazed at the flaming orb get swallowed by the sea.
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This post is a contribution by Ranjana Bhattacharya. Ranjana is a jewelry designer, traveler, an exponent in Russian language, and an erstwhile human resource manager. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.