Our top 5 things to do in Kerala – Boats, Trains and Automobiles.
Food, food and more yummy food. I’ll be honest the beaches weren’t fantastic. We spent time at Alleppy (or Alappuzha) and the beach was strewn with litter, dog mess (and other messes) and there was no shade from the very hot sun. We ended up sitting right next to a local fishing boat that provided the only shade for miles.
However I digress. What we did love was a beautiful open sided cafe called the Catamaran. Its about half way down Alleppy beach and well worth a visit. We ended lounging around there for a very long time, watching the beach dogs and local fishermen. They do fantastic shakes, juices and well done healthy food. The breakfast muesli and garlic prawn linguine were delicious and listening to some top tunes as the sun goes down really made the atmosphere perfect.
Its popular with locals and travellers a like and there is a decent Z hostel pretty much opposite. Big thank you to the super cool dudes who served us all day. This is not the only cafe though, there were multiple along the beach all looking busy and happening, so wherever you end up, go seek one of these out, it’ll be worth it.
Train train train. I’m really glad we got to do this despite the stress and confusion that came with it! We booked our tickets far far in advance because we wanted an overnight train from Goa to Kerala, a popular route. We booked ours through the government website which meant setting up a password etc. There are many other sites that offer to do it for you, however it seemed the safest option to do it ourselves. If you have any direct questions in regards to this let us know and we can (try) to talk you through it. We went posh, well posh ish with a 1st class AC bunk bed cabin. I know its not travelling with everyone else, but we did want to sleep a bit, its a 12 hour journey! The tickets were only around £20 so we didn’t mind the splurgh. After waiting with anticipation on the platform for over an hour, as it was running behind schedule, our massive train arrived!! It was very long, and we didn’t have a cabin or bunk number as the website had said these are displayed on the outside of the carriages. There was a board for them…but no sheet. So we frantically rushed to find the 1st class end and just jumped on. We firstly gate crashed this lovely lady’s cabin as she had 2 spare bunks so assumed they might be ours?! We were then ushered out by the conductor ( I assume) as no we are at the end of the carriage, silly English people! The cabin was fine, 2 bunk beds already laid out with sheets and blankets. The AC was on full blast though and we couldn’t turn it off, but blankets helped with that. Overall, we did sleep. It is an interesting sensation being lulled to sleep by the clunk clunk of the train on tracks. Then sleepily rolling to the side as we take a corner! I woke up in good time to watch the many towns and homes of Kerala fly past the window. We made it!
Boats boats boats. So, Kerala is famous for its vast waterways that stretch back behind the beaches and sea and make this state a green jungle paradise! There are numerous ways to go check them out and whichever you choose I’m sure it will be lovely. We however booked a random one night on a houseboat. It was done on booking.com and apart from the change of pier location which the owner texted through to me and meant a 30 minute taxi ride. It kind of all went to plan…. The boat turned up at this pier in the middle of nowhere only an hour later then they had said! We boarded with about 10 other people from different places and were shown our room on board. The best bit about this trip? The food. The staff on board, although communication wasn’t great and we had no idea what was happening most of the time, the food cooked by them was brilliant. Big lunch of fried fish, rice, poppadums, chutneys, potato curry and salad, onion pakora and cups of tea for a snack and then a big chicken curry, roti bread, pilau rice, dhal and salad again for dinner. Truly brilliant and in such a tiny boat kitchen!
The views were also stunning, no two houseboats a like, ferrying tourists from every nation including India around the great big lakes and waterways that are full of lilies in bloom, herons and cormorants drying themselves in the sun and big Chinese fishing nets that pepper the waterways throughout. At breakfast it was great to see all the fishermen in their boats making their way across the glassy waters in the hazy morning sun. A sight not to be missed if you can get out there.
Kochi Kochi Koo. A surprisingly great last stop. We hadn’t done much research in terms of what there was to see here but that was honestly part of what made our experience of Fort Kochi great. The homestay was lovely, the owner provided us with everything so Fort Beach Residency thank you. All we did was walk around from the hotel. And it was really nice. The ‘beach’ isn’t really a beach rather a walkway filled with little stalls, more much bigger fishing nets and markets selling fish straight from the boats. We could have sat at the waterside with a nice pineapple juice watching the men operate the big nets for hours. Its very mesmerising and everything caught is brought straight up to the walkway for people to buy, and there is usually a big queue! High demand for fish from the Chinese fishing nets! There are loads of lovely places to eat and stay and some of the quiet streets feel almost Mediterranean. Likely the Portuguese influence which is clear in a lot of the buildings and churches. For our last night the hotel recommended a trip to the theatre to watch the Keralan Dance known as Kathakali. Highly touristy but still a great watch, the make up and costumes were worth seeing alone. Generally we really loved Kochi, the people were lovely, you felt very safe walking around and there were great places to eat and stay, well worth a visit!
Explore, explore, explore! There were loads of things we didn’t do in Kerala as we just didn’t have time. Exploring the backwaters in a small canoe rather then a big houseboat. Visiting the tea fields. Seeing the national parks with tigers and elephants. Really loads. You could easily fill 2 weeks. But I think we would both say we felt the most comfortable here. Its a great place to get to if you ever find yourself in India!