Of all the others, writing the Kerala book for Lonely Planet Guidebooks has been one of those ‘dream come true’ moments in my writing career so far! Apart from the fact that I was out to scope the entire state for Indian travellers, it was yet another chance to get back to one of my favourite destinations. The intense greenery, the local food and an easygoing vibe have always been hard to resist. Lately, my inbox and Whatsapp has been flooding with messages for suggestions for stay and sightseeing suggestions in the state. While this is not a comprehensive list, here are the top reasons why I STILL love the state, after having been there a gazillion times.
1. Theyyam: It was a village off Bekal, in North Kerala, where I first saw an elaborately dressed Theyyam artiste swaying to the sound of drums in a local temple. I was quickly given a plastic chair (opposed to everyone who sat on the floor), as I was a special guest. Soon, a pod of coconut water was thrust in my hands with a broad smile. Both the heartfelt hospitality and the profound energy around the ritualistic dance were unforgettable. Theyyam performances go on till late March regularly and are fixed as per local calendars. Stay at www.gitanjaliheritage.comwith Mr. Nair to get the best assistance in seeing this. You can also follow www.theyyamcalendar.com for checking dates for performances in the important temples.
2. Kochi Muziris Biennale: An art experience layered with variety and without the icy presence of high browed intellectuals, it was great to see Fort Kochi draped in moods from different parts of the world. Last year’s Biennale promised a new (and controversial) view of art from world over – this year promises the same. So walk the mossy walled streets of Fort Kochi and wake up to the sound of the fishermen tugging at the large Chinese fishing nets at the town square.
3. Chateau Woods- Clumpy tea bushes covered hills, and more hills and some more stacked behind them was the refreshing sight from my window. One of the most soothing trips of this year, I loved my 2nd floor room at Chateau Woods close to Kalpetta (Wayanad), especially its floor to ceiling window to ensure that I woke up to this view. Thick greenery, quiet and great food lulled me into many short naps as I finished a book and truly relaxed after many months. www.cwoods.in
4. Balaramapuram – The unassuming village off Trivandrum is home to the Kerala sari. It’s here that the King first introduced the art of weaving with the help of Tamil weavers from the adjoining state. Though the town was extremely unglamorous with all the trappings of a small busy pit stop on a highway, I loved walking into homes of the Tamil families who still create magic on their looms.
5. Fringe Ford – It cannot be a better wildlife experience when an elephant and an Indian Gaur are sipping cool water from a stream and you are only a few feet away from them – in the verandah – snug in your chair – your hand around a warm cup of coffee. And when you leave to go to your bedroom, which is even closer to your former spot, you catch a glistening pair of eyes behind the foliage of a copse. The deer are shy but regular visitors. That was Fringe Ford for me. www.fringeford.com