Fancy a trip through verdant environs, staying at uber luxurious resorts, savoring local cuisines, experiencing exciting adventures on land and water, soaking in the culture and heritage of a vibrant land and filling your camera with innumerable digital memories, all in the company of a knowledgeable guide and several hospitable hosts … with the only regret being that the days went by too soon?
Well that is exactly what the Kerala Travel Mart (KTM) treats its media and buyers to, as it very successfully renders them spellbound and makes them fall in love with this tiny slice of India, the state of Kerala, whose successful tourism holds a slice which is inversely proportional to its size, compared to that of the rest of the country.
As mentioned in previous story on The 11th edition – the KTM2022 , this edition of the KTM which was deferred from its reserved date due to Covid, finally took place accompanied by the much awaited Fam trips for the media and buyers. It is on these tours that one actually gets the true feel of Kerala and its varied and vibrant offerings to its tourists.
So get on the bus with me as I take you on a merry ride (no pun intended) of central Kerala, to vicariously experience my wonderful trip of this bit of this land.
What does little birdie say, In her nest at peep of day?
Let me fly, says little birdie, Mother, let me fly away.
Birdie, rest a little longer, Till thy little wings are stronger,
So she rests a little longer, Then she flies away.
Well unlike the birdie in Alfred Tennyson’s poem, this birdie was not so obedient and defied her mother (hubby) and flew away (took the train to Kochi) despite her weak wings (weird, random neuropathy issues). For when Kerala calls, Keral’ine Radhakrishnan does not decline and despite a decline in her wellbeing, she rushes to be with her favorite destination, which also happens to be her first long trip in 2 painfully long years!!!
So despite being battered by new found new’merous medical issues, I made up my mind to go on this trip and by God’s grace I returned home intact 😎 because that’s what Kerala does to you. It rejuvenates your traumatized soul and body and you emerge from the experience in a refreshed and happier avatar. It is not for nothing that this land has been conferred the epithet – God’s own country!
And that also takes on a more literal meaning when you see pictures like these, where all the Gods are side by side in perfect harmony, unlike human beings who are still fighting over religion. This picture made me feel that there is still hope for our country. Kerala is one state where celebrations and festivities cut across all communal barriers. When you see a mosque built by a Hindu ruler, Hindu devotees visiting a mosque before a pilgrimage, churches complacently dotting the landscape, confident of not being vandalized and so many other instances of religious accord, one feels a deep sense of solace and relief that maybe the dream of a truly secular nation is not impossible to achieve.
I have made a special mention of this because it touched me deeply and instantly rekindled the fading spark of hope in me.
Pre event Fam trips –
In order to optimally showcase the features that Kerala has to offer, there were 6 Fam trips that were organized for the media, prior to the exhibition. Glimpses of North, South and Central Kerala were curated so as to span varied topography, destinations and wellness experiences and the guests chose their tours according to their preference. Each group was accompanied by a specialized tour assistant who would escort the group throughout the trip.
My experiences –
I was so enamored by my earlier experience in 2018, that I repeated my previous circuit of Kochi – Marari – Kumarakom – Thekkady – Munnar – Kochi, with Munnar being the added destination this time. However the stay was in different resorts than last time, so it still was novel enough for me.
The next few days were spent on the Fam trip and my OCD for chronological narration compels me to briefly list the itinerary here, even at the risk of making it sound like a school essay but I am willing to take that chance, keeping in mind that my readers will most likely benefit from the information of a tried and tested circuit 😀
Now don’t groan but more detailed narrations of each resort are also available on individual posts which I will link here. Did you think I would let you off so lightly? 🤨
April 30th, Day 1 – Stay at Tribute Royale, Kochi
May 1st, Day 2 – Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, Abad Turtle Beach – Marari, Thanneermukkom bridge, CGH Earth’s Coconut Lagoon
May 2nd, Day 3 – Coconut Lagoon, Village cruise, Aveda Resort
May 3rd, Day 4 – Spice Routes cruise, Pattumala church, Vazhiyoram restaurant, CGH Earth’s Spice Village, Kumily, Carmelia Haven resort – Thekkady
May 4th, Day 5 – Carmelia Haven resort, Harrison’s Malayalam Tea Estate, Lockhart tea factory, Mountain Club resort, Botanical garden Munnar, Hotel Clouds Valley – Munnar.
May 5th, Day 6 – Macofa chocolate factory, Hotel Abad Atrium – Kochi, Grand Hyatt Kochi
May 6th, Day 7 – KTM 2022 at Sagara and Samudrika, Networking dinner at Le Meridien
Check out this quick encapsulation of my entire trip –
April 30th, Day 1 –
I arrived in the wee hours of the April 30th morning and was escorted to the Tribute Royale, Kochi where they were kind enough to permit a really early check-in. I practically spent the entire day lolling in the comfortable bed and tanking up on the sleep that I knew I would not be getting for the next 5 days 😀
Click here for more details on Tribute Royale, Kochi.
May 1st, Day 2 –
The next morning our group of media persons connected with our guide Mr Shyam and we embarked on our 5 day exploration of central Kerala.
The day began with a quick tour of Fort Kochi and Mattancherry, then onward to Abad Turtle Beach, Marari for lunch, a short halt at Thanneermukkom bridge and then a 2 night stay at CGH Earth’s Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom.
I have seen the iconic Chinese fishing nets on every trip to Fort Kochi but still my fascination for them does not seem to diminish. I mean, how many angles can you click the same old fishing nets in … but yet I put my camera through a few moments of Deja Vu and captured yet another round of Fort Kochi. But do not worry, I will not subject you to the entire album. But I must include the rare sight of an egret admonishing a heron😉
We also visited the Francis Xavier church, the Dutch Palace/museum and the synagogue at Matancherry. Sadly, there are only a handful of Jews left in Kochi today. I really want to repost my earlier picture with Rabbi Yonatan whom I had the pleasure of meeting in 2019 and also the late Sarah Cohen, just a week before she passed away at the age of 96.
This Kochi video also gives you a quick glimpse of some of the interesting sights.
Kochi done and dusted, we set off towards Mararikulam, a calm little fishing village in the district of Alappuzha (Alleppy). The village gets its name from the Mararikulam Mahadevar temple, which is dedicated to Lord Shiva, who is also known as Marari and who is revered as the chief deity of the village.
The coast is dotted with beach side resorts of all ranges and the warm white sands are a great place to sink your feet in and gaze at the Arabian sea. We had our lunch at Abad Turtle Beach Resort where I had stayed on my previous tour in 2018. You can read more about Abad Turtle Beach Resort here
After lunch we headed to our destination, the CGH Earth’s Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom. En route we paused for a while to gaze at the very interesting Thaneermukkom bridge and bund.
It was a revelation to us that the great Vembanad lake was divided into 2 parts, one with brackish sea water and the other with fresh water. This large bund was constructed to separate the two. Every 6 months the salt water is released into the fresh water side after the harvest and then closed again during the new harvest. The bund also regulates the flow of water when it is released. A bridge lies atop the bund, facilitating the movement of traffic across the lake.
This region is well known for its clams and freshly shelled ones are sold in packages at really attractive prices but unfortunately we could not buy any since we were travelling. Being a shellfish lover it was hard for me to Keep Calm and not eat Clam 😎
You can also find people fishing in these waters and we were surprised to see a high end cart selling artisanal teas.
We reached Coconut Lagoon in time to catch the cultural performance of the evening and of course dinner, which at every CGH property, is a splendid and most satisfying affair.
May 2nd, Day 3 –
The day began really early so that we could catch the really early birds 😎 But more about our bird watching, sunset cruise and other ways that we entertained ourselves at Coconut Lagoon, coming shortly.
The morning was fruitfully spent on the Aymaman village tour which is a ‘hop on hop off’ land and water experience, as the boat takes us through various halts and the local guide leads us to where the villagers showcase their skills like coir making from coconut husk, weaving with coconut palms, fishing and the one that I waited most eagerly for, the toddy tapping. One can also join in these activities and learn the ropes (literally speaking, in the case of coir) 😎
One can also harass the boatman by making him click pictures of you doing a Titanic or something to that effect 😂
Aymanam village is the outcome of the Responsible tourism project initiated in 2018 and also bears the distinction of being featured in the Conde Nast Traveller, as one of the 30 must visit places in the world. It is also famed for being the setting of the award winning book ‘God of Small Things’ by Arundhati Roy.
Apart from interacting with the villagers and learning a thing or two from them, this stretch of water is also a great place for bird watching, considering its proximity to the Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary. Speaking of birds, it is not the ones in the air that fascinated us but also those who were our companions on water. Here a quack there a quack everywhere a quack quack … well this place would have given stiff competition to Old MacDonald’s farm 😏Watching ducks do their thing, can be a most engrossing and amusing experience and I am sure I could wasted a lot of time doing just that.
But then my ears pricked up at the mention of something that I always yearn for, the sweet sap of the coconut flower. So off we sailed towards the toddy stop where unfortunately the toddy tapper was unavailable to demonstrate the process. However, the toddy Gods were in a benevolent mood and we were at least able to share a couple of cups of the sweet nectar between us.
Sail done, we hopped back to land where lunch awaited us at Aveda Kumarakom, a boutique luxury resort with a grand and traditionally done up entrance and welcoming staff. The highlight of this place is the 150 meter long swimming pool with premium pool side cottages on either side.
Lunch was served with this greatly riveting and inviting blue in view and it was difficult to decide where to pay attention to. But I think the fish won 😉
The rest of the time was spent in sightseeing and further entertainment at Coconut Lagoon but before calling it a day, I must tell you about this very popular roadside eatery that is famous for its seafood. People are said to stand in long queues to get into this popular Kilikkoodu Toddy Parlor (Fun and irrelevant fact 😀 – Kilikkoodu means bird’s nest).
We were unable to obtain permission to click pictures of the inside but the outside provided me enough to please me, with this sign that read Toody. So I pondered awhile over the age old question Too’dy or not Too’dy and decided that for Today, Too’dy it was, with the Toddy I had sampled earlier on the village tour.
May 3rd, Day 4 –
We checked out of Coconut Lagoon after breakfast. En route at Kainakary South, a village in Alappuzha district, we had the pleasure of experiencing a a surprise and unplanned short cruise on one of the luxury houseboats owned by Spice Routes.
Cruise done, we then made our way to Thekkady, our next destination.
En route we stopped at the famous Pattumala church. This magnificent structure rises up from amongst the tea draped hills of Pattumala, which translates to Silken hills. This Roman Catholic church is a very famous pilgrimage site and is dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health (Mother Mary). Apart from this, its stunning form makes for outstanding pictures and of course the camera was all excited.
Our tête-à-tête with God done, we continued on in God’s own country, to eventually stop for lunch at a wayside restaurant called Vazhiyoram, which actually translates to Wayside (what are the chances 😎).
Here they serve simple and homely traditional meals and the light food was well relished after the pigging out that happened in Coconut Lagoon 😉
But of course, that state of affairs did not last long (and yeah nobody is complaining 😎) and we realized that we were not done yet with eating, drinking and making merry, when to my utter delight we soon found ourselves at CGH Earth’s Spice Village resort. This fortuitous halt was arranged at the last minute to fill in the time and ‘fill in ourselves’ before the Kalaripayatu show that was scheduled for the evening.
My elation will be best understood if you read my blog on Spice Village resort, where I had the good fortune of staying during my previous KTM. Paradise, is how I had described it and even now it was exactly how I remembered.
So it was tea at Spice Village, complete with their signature healthy bakes and delicious savories.
My visit would not have been complete without saying Hi to the resident Malabar squirrel whom I had named Marrel during my earlier stay. So off I went on a search for my friend and this time too, he did not disappoint. After a bit of sulking where he would not show me his face, he finally relented and gave me one for the camera. So how did I know it was the same squirrel, you ask? Well you just have to take my word for it now, don’t you? 😀
After this little dose of nostalgia it was time to get to the Kalaripayatu show in the nearby village of Kumily. These are a few of my memories from my last trip to the comely Kumily as I called it.
The day had been long and fruitful but the serene Carmelia Haven resort awaited us in Thekkady, so that is where we headed to end our day.
Do you want to know what we did there? Well then you have to click here for more details on Carmelia Haven resort, Thekkady.
May 4th, Day 5 –
An early morning wake up call, had us following the in house guide who took us on the Carmelia property tour, where we clambered over hills decked in bright green cardamom and tea plantations. Our strenuous exercise was rewarded with a satisfying breakfast, after which we checked out and headed onward to Munnar.
The road to Munnar presents one of the most captivating of Indian landscapes, with rolling hills and dales adorned with rows and rows of bright green shrubs of tea creating mesmerizing patterns and compelling the camera to uncontrollably chase every scene, while confusing it with even better vistas as one drives along.
We stopped at the picturesque Harrison’s Malayalam Tea Estate and spent some time breathing in the crisp cool air and of course putting our already overworked cameras into hyperdrive 😀
We then made a quick stop at the Lockhart tea factory, where unfortunately we were unable to get a guided tour of the place but we satisfied ourselves at the Chokramudi viewpoint in the premises.
Lunch was organized at Mountain Club resort which true to its name, has charming cottages scattered on hilly terrain and a poolside dining area that offers stunning views, along with the delicious fare.
Please blame the mesmerizing vistas for the lack of food pictures! I just could not tear my camera away.
Lunch done, we hit the road again onward to Munnar and we captured our first view of this enchanting hill station, as we neared.
There are many activities to indulge in, in Munnar, including a tour of the Botanical gardens, tea estate tours, trekking, camping, waterfall hopping, visiting the Ervaikulam National Park which is home to the endangered Nilgiri Tahr goat.
These are pictures from my previous visit when I stayed at the village of Kanthaloor, 50 km away.
But this time I was here for too short a while and could not do much, so this has been added to the long list of places that I have to visit/return to.
The evening’s entertainment was a performance of Kathakali. The picture below is from my previous trip.
Hotel Clouds Valley was our home for that night and it was a very short stay indeed because we had to leave early the next morning for Kochi.
May 5th, Day 6 –
Well our whirlwind trip was coming to an end and we finally set out to Kochi, where the KTM2022 inaugural evening was organized at the Lulu Convention Centre of the Grand Hyatt Kochi.
En route we could not but help stopping at the Macofa chocolate factory, where the friendly staff briefed us about the various stages from cacao pod to what goes into our mouth. We also went out of control and bought chocolates 😎, which were then methodically wrapped individually by the staff. All this took a lot of time and we eventually made it to Kochi with just enough time to freshen up and rush to the Grand Hyatt Kochi.
The events of the evening can be found here – Inaugural of KTM2022 and dinner at Lulu Convention Centre, Grand Hyatt
My stay for the final 2 nights was at the centrally located and very comfortable Hotel Abad Atrium. Click here for more details about Abad Atrium, Kochi.
May 6th, Day 7 –
May 6th morning saw the formal inaugural of the actual exhibition of KTM2022 at Sagara and Samudrika and more details are available on my blog KTM 2022 at Sagara and Samudrika, Networking dinner at Le Meridien.
May 7th, Day 8 –
I had a whole day to spare before leaving Kochi, so I accepted the invitation from the Sanjeevanam Ayurvedic Hospital in Kochi, a wellness center which you can read about here – Sanjeevanam Ayurvedic Hospital – tour and consultation
Please Note –
On this trip I was hosted by the Kerala Travel Mart Society and partnering hotels, as a media invitee and I thank them for the hospitality. My narration is based on the inputs I received from various sources as well as my personal experiences.
May 1st to 8th, 2022