With our time in India ticking away, we wanted to do something special for our last big trip. Our first plan was Kashmir, but the February terrorist attacks made that seem less advisable so we shifted our sights south. Our first big trip back in 2017 was in Kerala, and we had always meant to return. This seemed the perfect chance to do so. Plus, Kerala would get us close to Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian peninsula, and a place Melissa was eager to see.
We started the trip with a return to Kochi, a charming seaside town with Chinese fishing
nets along the rocky beaches, easily walkable streets, and charming old architecture. It is also home to a Jewish community that dates back to 72 CE and has the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth nations, built in 1567. Our first visit to Kochi was on a Saturday so we couldn’t enter, but we made sure to time it better for this trip. Photography is not allowed inside, so we can only describe the large rectangular room with wooden benches along the walls, a floor of 18th century Chinese tiles, and Belgian chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. With its stately pulpit and the Torah kept safely behind a beautiful curtain, it truly felt like a place of peace and reverence, and it’s sad to think of this community dwindling.
We stayed in Heavenly Homestay, which provided a room with excellent air
conditioning. This is no small deal when temperatures are in the upper 90’s and the humidity levels are in the 80’s. In the afternoons, we wilted and were very grateful for a place to retreat. Our host suggested that we go see Kathakalli dancing, and Melissa was eager to go. Tom was less enthusiastic, but willing and ultimately very glad we went. We arrived at 5:00 to watch them put on their make-up, which seemed like a strange notion until we realized that the make-up application is truly a performance of its own. They used all natural pigments and transformed themselves while we watched. Then came a short demo of the amazing eye-dancing in which nothing moves but the eyes! This was followed by an explanation of the various mudras and expressions that tell the story, and finally a performance of a tale from the Mahabharata. It was great!
We had an amazing dinner at History, which has a fabulous menu that describes the history of each dish they serve. The environment was lovely (and air conditioned), and the food was great. We enjoyed it all very much, except for the strangely gelatinous chocolate dessert.
After a couple days in Kochi, we were ready to move on and headed for the train which was only running a couple hours late. Given that we were embarking on the third day of a lengthy trip, that’s not too bad. We enjoyed a relaxing 4 1/2 hour ride to Trivandrum where we got a taxi to the Leela Kovalam, a little heaven on earth. This hotel is completely open to the elements except in our individual rooms. We were grateful for our cool and comfy room and equally delighted by the lovely spaces and gorgeous views.
For our last night, Melissa thought we should ask about upgrading from our very nice room with a beach view to an even nicer club room with an ocean view. We expected to pay a hefty price for this bit of luxury and were happily stunned to be told that they would simply move us over. Never hurts to ask! In truth, we think our first room was nicer, but the view in our second room was unbeatable. A highlight of the evening was sitting on our deck, watching the most spectacular lightning storm over the ocean that just went on for hours.
Our morning walks were also a highlight. It was so hot and humid that we wanted to get whatever little physical activity we would have over early, so we took walks on the beach
before breakfast. One morning, we went to a tasty breakfast at German Bakery at the recommendation of our friends Ben and Christina. Every morning we watched teams of fishermen (yes, they were all men) pulling nets in from far off shore. For each net there were two teams of pullers, in what looked like a combination of tug-of-war and a bucket brigade, as they would pull this huge rope with one man’s job to coil the rope as it came ashore; when the pullers got to the back, they would peel off and head to the front and start over again. As the net got closer, the teams got closer together. Our fascination was heightened by the chanting they were doing as they pulled. One man told us that it was a very local tribal language, kind of a combination of Malayalam (the language spoken in Kerala) and Tamil (the language spoken just over the mountains in Tamil Nadu). It was fascinating, and one of the mornings, we saw them actually finish the process and haul the net ashore, with a catch of a bunch of what looked like sardines. All of that work for a few sardines!
After a few relaxing days, walking on the beach, watching the morning fishermen, reading our books, and generally reveling in our lack of agenda, it was again time to move on.
A three hour drive took us to Kanyakumari, a bustling little town filled with Indian tourists. The town has some impressive temples, a rocky monument to Swamy Vivekananda (who apparently swam to the rock to meditate), a towering monument to a philosopher poet, and a very nice Gandhi memorial, but mostly it offers the daily spectacle of watching the sun set over the ocean on one side of the town and rise again over the ocean on the other side of town.
Our room in the Hotel SeaView provided for a pleasant (if crazy hot) walk to Sunset Beach for the western view, where we joined several hundred others for the show, and had a perfect view of the harbor and ocean to the east. Leading up to our visit, rains and overcast skies were predicted, so we wondered if it would be worth the trip, but it was! The skies cleared, and the sunset and sunrise both made for quite a show!
On our final day of vacation, we headed back to Trivandrum for a glorious meal at the
beautiful Villa Maya before catching our flight home.
It was, like all of our Indian vacations, a trip to remember.