We can say we travel to see vast and varied landscapes and to be enchanted by different cultures. but what we humans are really looking for are human connections. When we remember memories of past trips, we always remember unexpected stories of kindness from other people we meet along the way.
When Kerala Tourism contacted a unique campaign entitled “Human by Nature”, it was a good time for me to collect years of memories and capture unforgettable experiences.
Human stories of kindness from all over Kerala
Heritage Quarter Walk in Fort Kochi
Strolling the streets of Fort Kochi was like strolling through centuries of history. Since 13.-14. In the 19th century, Kochi was frequented by Dutch, Arab, Chinese, Portuguese and British traders. Even the hostel I stayed in was in an old building and felt comfortable. Fort Kochi’s Heritage Quarter is particularly charming and full of the joys of heritage at every turn.
Since there weren’t many people in the hostel in the off-season, one of the locals was happy to show me the lesser-known streets of Fort Kochi.
In earlier times Kochi was a multicultural hotspot where people of many different ethnicities, religions and nationalities lived together. The most diverse sights include the St. Francis Church, the Dutch cemetery, remains of Fort Immanuel (built in 1503 AD). Fort Kochi is also dotted with old colonial-style houses, most of which are in good condition and some of which have been converted into hotels. The prominent old colonial houses include the Vasco House, the Bastion Bungalow, the Koder House and the Bishop’s House.
Local cuisine of Kerala
In the touristy area of Fort Kochi I wasn’t sure if the restaurants and cafes would serve me authentic Kerala food. By luck, I came across a tiny restaurant near the hostel. Every day they served traditional Kerala food on a banana leaf that not only looked delicious but also looked lovely!
I got Idi-Appams, puttu with Kerala curry for lunch. I roamed Fort Kochi and only tried once to eat in one of the cafes. I thought the gentleman in little Dhaba was my best choice for local Kerala cuisine. It was exotic to try the pink water first, but when the locals told me about the health benefits, I was delighted.
On later trips to the Malabar Coast and Wayanad, I ate in local restaurants all the time. My most memorable example of human connection in Kerala is dining at a restaurant with a bench run by an old man on Link Road near Chundail in Wayanad. Since the old man didn’t have a common language to talk to, he made sure that I was well fed and only charged 40 rupees for a meal. As this was the only restaurant near the hostel, I spent a lot of time there and was happy to put a 100 rupee note in his pocket when I left!
Read: India’s French Colony: Pondicherry, a Photo Story
Sadhya is a traditional Kerala meal served on a banana leaf. In Kerala, it is customary for every important event or festival to be adorned with a serving of Sadhya.
Sadhya consists of more than 24 dishes, including cooked red rice, avial, koottukary, puliserri, olan, sambar, rasam, savory, cucumber, pachadi and payasam. Sadhya is a dazzling array of flavors that I will remember for a lifetime. On a trip to Wayanad, I was lucky enough to have Sadhya served by helpful local people.
Sadhya used to be served at festivals and people ate it in a common room by sitting on the floor. In modern times, Sadhya is also served in specialized restaurants and served on a banana leaf in the modern table and chair restaurants.
Exploring Mattancherry on a walking tour
Mattancherry is Kochi’s traditional trading area. For over 500 years there has been an influx of migrants, traders and invaders. Thanks to Johann (blogger and resident of Kochi) I was able to explore some unusual sights of Mattancherry.
Some of the ancient attractions in Mattancherry include the Calvathy Jamath Mosque, Mattancherry Palace and the Pardesi Synagogue. The Pardesi Synagogue in the Jewish City has beautiful Belgian chandeliers and hand-painted Cantonese tiles from China. The nearby streets are filled with cafes, antique shops, and spice shops.
Even today, Mattancherry reflects this ethnic and cultural diversity and is a strange mix of old and new. with traditional streets and shops jostling with quirky street art and lots of old structures converted into historic hotels.
Spices from Kerala
The spices of Kerala lured Europeans to the coast of India. The first European traders came to Cochin in the 16th century and began to compete for trade with Arab merchants.
Got an interest in Kerala spices on a spice plantation walk in Vythiri, Wayanad. The fresh breeze in the forest with the coffee growing and the aroma of the spices is wonderful.
When I was in Kozhikode, some helpful local people directed me to an authentic place to buy all of Kerala’s spices. I was able to buy cloves, cardamom, pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, nutmeg, cumin, and mace at very reasonable prices. My bag even smelled of spices 2 months after my Kerala trip!
Neelakasham Pachakadal Chuvanna Bhoomi
This is an unexpected addition to this post! It’s a road trip-based Kerala movie that literally translates as “Blue Sky, Green Sea, Red Earth”. I’ve seen this movie many times and it’s my first memory of Kerala before I even visited the state (with English subtitles, of course).
In this film, two friends set off from Kerala to Nagaland on their motorbikes. One of the man’s motives is to find his girlfriend who lives in Nagaland. You travel through different parts of India and the travel and incidents on the road make the film interesting. I especially like how the film ends: “It must start snowing in Tawang …”.
Sunset at Bekal Beach
One of the days in Kozhikode I decided to go to Kannur and try to make it near Mangalore to find a cheap homestay somewhere on the Malabar coast and relax on the beach! I somehow got to Kannur on a slow bus and got to the train station to catch a train to Kasaragod. Kasaragod turned out to be not the tropical paradise I dreamed of.
I quickly decided to take a bus to Bekal. Bekal also turned out to be a town where the beach wasn’t as close as I had imagined. After talking to an extremely helpful car guy, I ended up on the beach near Taj Bekal. It was magical to walk on the pristine beach in the mild evening light with cool sand in your feet.
It was a surreal sunset and I spent some time with my suitcase enjoying the colors after sunset. The car guy also helped me find cheap accommodation.
Human by nature – Video by Kerala Tourism
Find a hostel in Wayanad
I had come down from the bus in Kalpetta with sleepy eyes and found it very difficult to find reasonable accommodation. After wandering aimlessly with my backpack for more than 2 hours, I was lucky when a local decided to help me. He asked me to get on his bike and took me to a hostel on a hill near a small town called Chundail.
The hostel was a colonial house and overlooked Chembra peak. It was in the middle of a coffee estate and spice plantations. I would never have come here without the help of the local! It was just that I spent 2-3 days here enjoying the abundance of nature.
The spirit of Kerala in the slide show.
Organic and sustainable farm
George, a friend from Kerala, took me to his friend’s estate in Wayanad. The Golden Greens Estate is a sustainable and organic farm that extends over 5 hectares. It is the idea of Mr. Laiju, who also took us for a walk and explained how organic coffee and tea are grown.
I also met volunteers at this organic farm in Wayanad who came to learn more about sustainable farming. It was wonderful to learn about organic farming while keeping an eye on nature.
Note : This post is sponsored by Kerala Tourism as part of their ‘Human By Nature’ campaign. Opinions and words on this blog are always mine.
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