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Kerala, in memories, for the time being

I remember growing up watching documentaries based on Kerala, the word itself created waves of emotions in the little me, for reasons unknown. Growing up in the country’s capital with concrete buildings all around, the backwaters, beaches and the swaying palm trees of Kerala seemed a distant dream but at the same time, I felt a very strong inner calling to God’s Own Country, an almost unquenchable thirst until I finally set foot on a land that topped my bucket list for as long as I remember. Recently, after seeing a video by the state tourism board I was on a nostalgia trip.

Kerala’s heady blend of history, architecture, tropical weather, and layered landscapes can soothe the weariest of souls. But its status as one of India’s most popular tourist destinations means that well-known locations like Alleppey, Fort Kochi and Munnar need some valiant wading through crowds. So, I pinned Palakkad on the map for a tryst with a more serene part of the state.

The memory is etched so vividly in my memory. I landed at the Coimbatore Airport to head towards Palakkad in the north of Kerala. The sun was setting, and my car moved from Tamil Nadu towards a landscape that started to transform with denser green and darker hues of crimson adorning the sky. It was a perfect introduction to Kerala for me. I fell instantly in love with the land, the views around, the architecture, and above all the calm that the region has to offer. For a slow traveler like me, Palakkad served as the perfect ground, it boasts of neither a coastline nor hills draped in tea plantations. What it does have is vast expanses of verdant plains interspersed with low hills, rivers, hill streams, and forests.

The breathtaking landscape of Palakkad

The gateway to Kerala from the north is a 40km break in the mountains, known as the Palakkad Gap, which offers access from neighbouring Tamil Nadu. This natural chasm played a key role in trade relations between the eastern and western coasts of peninsular India. Deriving its name from the Malayalam words pala (an evergreen tropical tree) and kadu (forest), this was once a stunning stretch of land, covered in the sweet-scented flowers of the pala tree. An abiding amalgam of Tamil and Malayalam culture exists here. The temples, slow-paced market areas and the fulfilling aroma of banana chips made my trip to Palakkad a memorable one. Keeping my stride slow and thoughtful had been a whole new way to explore this Kerala town—something I hoped to repeat on future trips.

The view of backwaters from The Raviz Ashtamudi

And then my next trip to Kerala ensured that my expectations are well taken care of. Despite being in Kollam, a city on the Malabar coast, I was away from the hustle-bustle and enjoyed the dreamy backwaters in what I would like to call a rather peaceful and soulful sojourn. The view from my room’s balcony of the resort I stayed in can easily beat a Bollywood movie’s setting with a church at distance, the Ashtamudi lake giving the perfect backdrop for motorboats (public transport mode in the region), the sun setting down and to complete the picture a cup of filter coffee accompanied me. Though it was a post-monsoon visit, the skies decided to open up that night making the entire setting look even more exotic. While a lot of travelers would like to go out and explore, I decided to keep it slow and admire the beauty I was presented with, capture it on celluloid and scribble down my thoughts in a journal. The staff ensured that I get my fix of coconut water at regular intervals to keep me hydrated in the humid weather while I would sit by the lake in the evenings and behold the natural magnificence of God’s Own Country.

Sponsored by Kerala Tourism

Text and images by Supriya Aggarwal

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