It is rather ironic that I'm writing a travel post on Kerala. I'm a 'mallu', a.k.a. Keralite. (Not Keralan; I hate it when people don't use the right term. It's like someone referring to an English person as Englandan). And I never thought of Kerala as a travel destination. Anyway, distance makes the heart grow fonder and all that bollox. I now live in cold, wet and grey England and I miss Kerala. I miss it's constant sunshine, warm and furious monsoon rains, paddy fields, food etc. There are things I don't miss but they don't matter if you don't stay in the place long enough. I've never lived in Kerala very long but we visited every few months when I was younger. And, I never truly appreciated the place. Visiting Kerala was like a chore, sometimes even a necessary evil. Not anymore though. Living in England has taught me many things including the ability to appreciate what I left behind. Now, Ed and I have always try to get a visit in, every time we've fly to India. It has also meant I've provided Ed with a slightly non-touristy view of the place. With the blog and all, its fair I share my thoughts with you too.
Stay: Kerala has numerous posh hotels to choose from but for the authentic Keralite hospitality experience, you've got to stay in a homestay. We've used Mahindra Homestays a couple of times and have been very pleased with them. The site provides detailed information, reviews and photos to give you a sense of what you could be in for. It won't be a five star experience and you are unlikely to have a champagne and bubble bath opportunity. But, it is an interesting eye-opener to the little nuances of Keralite/Indian living. Welcome to the world of bucket baths!
Keralite Breakfast: I believe that Kerala serves up the best breakfast, ever. It isn't remotely like a milk & cereals or a fat fry-up or even the much loved continental posh nosh. Breakfast in Kerala is a proper meal, relatively labourious to make, delicately flavoured, nutritious and very satisfying. My favourite is iddiappam (aromatic rice noodles) with fresh coconut milk. I also love puttu and kadla ( see pic below), appam (a pancake of sorts) and stew, parotta et.al. Most local homestays serve Keralite breakfasts. If not, they are inexpensive to buy at local restaurants. Keep an eye out on my blog for recipes from my mum.
Fish: Keralite food isn't particularly spicy; the focus is on flavour instead. My favourite food whilst is Kerala is a good meen (fish) curry or varutha meen ( fried fish). Although river fish are just as popular, I'd recommend indulging in some good quality sea fish like pomfret or mackerel. I could live on fried pomfret. Again, watch this space for recipes.
Getting around: There are plenty of ways of travelling to Kerala. It is well connected by rail, road and air. Emirates fly direct from the UK to Cochin (Kozhikode) and Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram). Alternatively, most Indian airlines fly from Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai to Cochin and Trivandrum. Travelling around Kerala is inexpensive by train. You could also use a good bus company (Volvo buses come to mind) to travel to hill stations like Munnar. I have family all over the place and we sometimes hire a car with driver for a day or two. It costs around Rs.1000 for a day or 80 kilometres. However, if you do choose to travel via road, always be prepared for a potential fuel strike. Keeping a jerry can with some fuel may be a good idea as we once go caught out by running out of fuel during a strike. Particularly stressful if you have a flight to catch.
Have you liked my little tips so far? I'll share more on places to visit, cultural experiences and activities in part two. Ann x