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India-Kerala - 2012


We have travelled to India several times and really wanted a change from Goa. Kerala and the backwaters, therefore, seemed an appealing option. Being unsure of what Kerala could offer, we decided to make it a two country trip and also return to Sri Lanka, which we last visited in 2003, before the Tsunami.

The planning of flights almost became a no-brain decision. We wanted to minimise the chaos of Indian airports and transfers and as there are no direct flights UK to Cochin or Trivandrum, decided to fly on Emirates. This proved to be a good choice for ease of transfer, connection timings and price. Surprisingly we also found that we could put the flights and hotels together through Kuoni at a lower cost than DIY.

We flew from LHR T3 on an Emirates A380, economy class. The seating seemed wider than usual and there was plenty of legroom. Cabin staff were very good, the food was fine and IFE good. The transfer at Dubai was painless, but I think the airport in Dubai has gone downhill from what it used to be.

The second leg from DXB to Trivandrum was on an A320 (under 4 hours) and once again cabin crew, food and entertainment were all good. Arrival at Trivandrum was slightly ahead of schedule and, wonder of wonders, we were through Indian immigration and customs in no time and were off to find our transport.

A word of advice is to change some money at the airport where limited facilities are available. We experienced difficulties and low limits on the few ATMs that we were able to find, both en-route to the hotel and in Kovalam.

2012-Kerala, Leela Pool
2012 Kerala view to Beach

2012 Kerala - Leela Pool

2012 Kerala - View to Beach

We booked a Kettuvallam (rice barge converted to houseboat) locally, for a private overnight tour on the backwaters and thank goodness. This was a real highlight and a welcome break from the hotel.

We had heard of good and bad experiences from others, but someone was smiling on us for our trip. We travelled for a couple of hours to meet the houseboat at Kollam (The backwaters stretch from the better known Alleppey all the way down) and what a surprise. Our boat had two en suite guest cabins with air conditioning and a crew of 3 captain, engineer and cook, all of whom worked as a most hospitable team and really made our stay a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

2012 Kerala Fishing Net
2012 Kerala Houseboat

2012 Kerala - Fishing Net

2012 Kerala - Our Houseboat

We cruised the backwaters with lunch and dinner taken on board good quality food and far, far too much to eat. It was a great window on both the wildlife and the people. Where the backwaters were very narrow, we transferred to a canoe to tour the outer part of a village.

The people were so friendly
and welcoming and the children absolutely fascinating. Not once did we experience any sellers or beggars, just a natural way of life. Sunset over the backwaters was stunning as was sunrise, observed from water level following an unexpectedly restful night, the following morning.

After breakfast (a simple affair of fruit, eggs, bread and, jams) we set off for the jetty where our transport was to meet us. Life on the backwaters, was once again, fascinating, but after a couple of hours we were at the jetty, with our transport waiting to take us back, via the madness of Keralan roads, to our hotel. The houseboat was an experience that we would not have missed.

2012 Kerala Backwater Sunset
2012 - Backwater Sunset, Kerala

2012 Kerala - Backwater Sunset

2012 Kerala - Backwater Sunset Nears

On our return to the hotel
we tended to laze by the pool, making the most of the excellent weather. Although we did venture down to the beaches and Kovalam village, this was more for a change of scenery than for the draw of these places.

Beware, however! The 1st day of every month is alcohol free in all bars and restaurants including hotels, which rather spoiled our final meal / night.

2012 Kerala - Houseboat Meal
2012 Evening, Kerala Houseboat

2012 Kerala - Houseboat Meal for 2

2012 Kerala - Evening on Houseboat

Next it was off the Colombo. Both the transfer and, surprisingly, the airport formalities were very quick. There is not much at Trivandrum airport, but drinks and snacks are available and the toilets were clean (no paper though).

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