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Love in the Backwaters

Love in the Backwaters
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On one of my annual vacations, I happened to visit Kerala, the southern state of India filled with excitement and serenity. And I must confess that it indeed felt like visiting a paradise. Far from the usual hustle and bustle of any big city of northern India, Kerala is comparatively much laid-back and incredibly peaceful. Yes, it is still developing, but it boasts of lush green mountains, spectacular waterfalls, sandy beaches and not to forget the backwaters that one could sail through without wanting to leave ever.

No matter how much I narrate about his southern paradise it amounts to not an iota to what it actually is. Such is the beauty of Kerala and its backwaters that it just can’t be trapped in words unless visited personally. Kerala is no doubt synonymous with magnificent backwaters, fabulous houseboats and exotic greenery in and around the backwaters, but it also has Periyar Tiger Reserve for all trekking lovers.

In my seven-day trip, I explored numerous different aspects to this verdant hideaway – the historic and bustling port of Fort Kochi, Trivendrum, Periyar, Munnar, Alleppey Beach, Kovalam and of course the most popular highlight of Kerela; houseboat cruise through the backwaters. The houseboats come in a huge variety of sizes, prices, designs and space, so you must select from a number of options available to you to suit your needs.

Also, when in Kerala, it is advisable that you don’t miss out the opportunity to visit hill station Munnar and its exotic tea gardens too. A tangle of lagoon, lakes, backwaters, canals and rivers, are set of inland from the Arabian coastline and stretches parallel to the sea spreading along the entire state of Kerala. With their own freshwater ecosystem and lined by rural communities dependent on the waterways for their livelihoods, this undiscovered area has immense potential of offering the tourists a picture of a lifetime showcasing much more than just the beaches.

Perched on the edge of famous Alleppy beach, I found my accommodation at Raheem Residency; a hotel with absolute tranquillity and luxury nothing less than a five star hotel. I stayed at the Raheem Residency, built by British colonialists in 1868. It faces the sea and is based squarely among a selection of bars and restaurants on the waterfront promenade. In the mornings, I would wake with a view of the sea outside my hotel window waiting to embrace me with open arms. Shirodhara massage offered at the hotel was a kind of spa I never wanted to miss. A spa with milk and warm oil poured onto one’s forehead for an hour. Yes, it does sound like a Chinese water hassle, however it is interestingly quite relaxing and instantly leaves one in a hypnotic state of mind.

Alleppey town centre is a great place to pick up some souvenirs and mementos. There are market stalls selling spices, furniture, statues, handicrafts, silk sarees and silk umbrellas; a conventional item belonging to the region. Besides, the temple of Mullackal Rajarajeswari located on the main street must be surely visited after sunset, when it comes alive through lights of candles and diyas as people offer their prayers.

I spent a day on houseboat exploring the congregation and network of canals and rivers, dotted with temples, churches, museums and houses, along with kids playing water sports. Leave the huge resorts that keep you isolated from everyday life. With the close encounter with backwaters; you get a deep insight into daily lives of locals.

Visitors have enough opportunities of being pampered during their stay in Kerela. The resorts and hotels have interesting activities to engage you well that includes spa, meditations, parlour, yoga sessions, kayak trips and above all the boat tours, if delving deeper into the watery labyrinth is your interest. The houseboats would serve you mouth watering delicacies famous in Kerala. These are served by a flaming stone fountain of oil next to the lakeshore consisting of delicious homemade delicacies like seafood curries along with most important Kerala’s delight; Appams (a kind of rice) and the coconut pancake.

On my visit to Athirapally waterfalls, a breathtaking tourist spot in the rainforest around 40 miles from the main city of Kochi, I am once again awestruck and spellbound. However, while I meditate and begin to find inner-self in the majestic waterfalls, I realize, I have even more to explore! So, I move on to see Kochi fort and the Marine Drive; a picturesque promenade in Kochi. It is built facing the backwaters, where both the locals and tourists spend time.

In contrast to the backwaters, Fort Kochi on the Malabar Coast, is a bustling hub with shopkeepers selling street foods and spice stalls, along with the mesmerising sight of fisherman using huge Chinese nets which swoop into the water in large arks. This was undoubtedly my first taste of coastal life that didn’t involve waterways, but had original beaches and open water. And my vote for the best spot goes to Alleppey - a pretty coastal city - offering even more of the traditional break, with the Arabian Sea lapping at long stretches of golden sands. It is also a gateway to the backwaters, consisting of boat tours in traditional vessels.

Tourists generally arrive for beaches and sunshine, but Kerala also offers the chance to try out some Ayuverdic massages, the ancient Indian traditional medicine that dates back thousands of years. Obviously, I too wanted to eradicate all instances of stress from my system through these massages thereby returning home as a different personality. If you are keen on a close rendezvous with bounties of nature, you ought to board a houseboat  sailing along the palm fringed backwaters to carefully observe marvellous sights of the countryside unveiling before you. Some of the sights available on cruise include lush paddy fields, churches, plethora of coconut groves, Chinese fishing nets, temples, lotuses, ducks, migratory birds, aquatic plants and water lilies. All these enthralling sceneries are capable enough to be etched in your mind forever just the way it’s imprinted and fresh in my mind till today!
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