This week´s post is an interview with my mum Sheila McNeaney. My parents recently returned from a trip to Kerala in February 2010, so I thought it would be useful to share their up to date tips and advice on planning an itinerary for a short six day trip to Kerala. Hopefully this will help you plan your own short (or long) trip to Kerala.
What was your itinerary in Kerala?
After visiting Goa we took the overnight train to Alleppey and spent 5 nights in Kerala: 2 nights at Green Palms Homes homestay near Alleppey, 2 nights in Kumily (near Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary) and 1 night in Cochin.
How did you get around and did it feel too rushed?
Our trip didn´t feel too rushed. We initially wanted to include Munnar as well but that would have been too much. It helped that we travelled by hired car and driver which saved on travel time. We didn´t hire a driver for the whole time: we took a taxi from Alleppey train station to the homestay and then we just arranged a taxi with our accommodation to take us to the next destination when we were ready. This made things really flexible. Taxis are very easy to organise.
How much did it cost to hire a car and driver?
The taxi from Alleppey train station to the Green Palms homestay cost 400 rupees, and then we had to take a short canoe trip across the river to reach the house.
Thomas arranged an an a/c car to take us from the homestay to Kumily. It took 4 hours with one stop and cost 2200 rupees. It was a lovely drive with stunning views and unusually for India the driver was very sensible and safe!
The taxi from Kumily – Ernakulum/Cochin cost 3100 rupees and took 4.5 hours.
What was your favourite place in Kerala?
Green Palms homestay. The house was full but despite the number of guests we really enjoyed the peace and quiet there. The family were so friendly and welcoming, and it had such a relaxed atmosphere. We found the rooms comfortable and the home-cooked food was delicious.
One of our favourite experiences was taking a trip on a small motor boat out into the backwaters. It was so peaceful watching the world go by, and we stopped at the perfect spot to watch the sunset. Another great trip was the 6.30am bird watching walk where we spotted many unusual birds.
We really enjoyed our time in Kumily too though. We did a one hour boat trip on the lake which was lovely, although we didn´t see any big animals and at 450 rupees it was a bit overpriced. We also enjoyed an interesting trip to a tea factory and plantation.
What was your favourite hotel?
For comfort and facilities I would say Chrissie´s Hotel in Kumily. It doesn´t look like much from the front but when you go inside you come to a lovely garden at the back. It´s a tranquil place on a quiet street off the main road although it´s still very central to town.
The rooms were large with a comfy bed and a balcony with fantastic views of the forest. You have to be careful not to leave anything on the balcony though or the monkeys might get it! They have their own rooftop restaurant which is also very good with delicious Italian food. We thought the room was good value at about 2000 rupees a night.
Why didn´t you take a houseboat trip?
The main reason was time but we felt we got to see the backwaters well enough by staying at the homestay and taking a small boat trip around the smaller canals and lake. We saw many houseboats in the backwaters. There are now around 1000 in the Alleppey area and Thomas at the homestay told us that they are causing a lot of pollution problems to the local people.
How was Keralan food?
The food was lovely – it´s not too spicy, uses fresh ingredients and there were lots of options. It can be difficult to buy beer though as only big hotels have a licence to sell it. If you ask around though you can usually find a place to buy it.
What was your worst experience?
We didn´t have any bad experiences in Kerala but the overnight train journey from Goa to Kerala wasn´t any fun. We accidently booked the sleeper class instead of AC2 (which had been recommended to us as the best class to travel in), and it wasn´t very comfortable at all. It was crowded, noisy, the toilets were awful, there were no blankets so it got chilly at night (you must bring your own in sleeper class), and as there was no a/c it got very hot during the day. It was cheap though – only 375 rupees per person.
On the way back to Goa thankfully we took a flight via Bangalore with Indian Airlines and this cost 6400 rupees per person.
Would you recommend Kerala to others? Do you have any tips for people planning a trip there?
Yes we´d definitely recommend Kerala to friends, in fact I already have. My main advice would be to have plenty of time – don´t think that you can see it all in a few days. It´s such a relaxing place that it´s good to take your time and enjoy it. We would have liked to spend more time in Kerala, especially to explore Fort Cochin.
I would also say that although houseboats are nice they aren’t very good for the environment and are an expensive way to see the backwaters. We´d recommend staying at a homestay and exploring on a small boat or canoe.
Finally, if you are looking for a comfortable place to stay, don´t rule out accommodation listed in the Budget section of the guidebooks – some of them in Kumily looked really nice.
If you’ve recently returned from a trip to Kerala and would like to be interviewed for this site and share your tips then please get in touch.