Southern India & Maldives with Sally
Date: November 2008
Trip Location: The State of Kerala in Southern India and the Maldives
Places Visited: Coimbatore, Cochin, Alleoey, Kovalam and Poovar as well as 7 resorts in the South Male Atoll in the Maldives.
Overall Impression: We were there during the monsoon season so everything was very green and lush. Colour is everywhere with the children walking along the street in brightly coloured clothes, and the women in saris in a kaleidoscope of colours. The Maldives – a Paradise of Tropical Islands with swaying palm trees and pure white beaches surrounded by crystalline lagoons of varying shades of blue. The Islands are very low lying with the highest point approximately 8 ft above sea level. Ring shaped reef structures form the atolls providing a natural defense against wind and wave action. There are more than 2000 tropical islands with only about 200 inhabited. About 100 islands have been developed into exotic resorts offering secluded serenity, soothing spas, wonderful swimming, snorkelling, scuba diving and fishing and the weather is ideal year round.
Favourite Place: The Chinese fishing nets in Cochin suspended in mid air over the water in an area of about 20 meters with a whole stretch of the coast covered in these nets.
Favourite Tour: The overnight trip on a houseboat in Alleppey – the land of backwaters. You tour along a river full of canals, lakes and coves. The population’s whole life takes place on the water. The people sail, fish, swim and bathe here. They do their washing and their washing up. They are so adapted to the water, that you can see people talking for an hour while they are up to their necks in water.
Favourite Hotel: The 5 star luxury Leela Kempinski in Kovalam. It is located on a rock face and has panoramic views of the coastline and stunning infinity pools overlooking the Arabian Sea.
Best Local Tour: Dance drama of Kerala “Kathakali” in Cochin.
Favourite Restaurant: The Taj Exotica restaurant “24 degrees”.
Local Foods to Try: Chai, Indian style tea with spices such as cardamom and ginger and containing more milk and sugar than tea. The vegetarian spicy dishes Palak Paneer (spinach and cottage cheese), Aloo Gobi (potato and cauliflower), Chana Masala (chickpeas in a spice mix), Raita Rogan Josh (stew with onions and tomatoes), Tandoori dishes such as mutton, chicken or pork, marinated in yoghurt and spices and cooked in a clay oven.
Best Time to Travel: November to March
What to Bring: Loose-fitting, hardwearing and easily washed lightweight clothing. More conservative clothing is recommended when visiting more remote areas. It can be cool in the mornings and evenings so bring a jacket.
Things to Buy: Saris, pashminas and gold jewelry
Best Places to Shop: The large stores in the centre of the cities for clothing and the small markets for spices and Indian handicrafts.
Travel Tips: An Indian visa is mandatory and must be obtained before leaving Canada. Banks are in most cities and currency can be changed at all major hotels as well as the main airports. ATM machines are also available in many places. It is advisable to have small denominations of Indian rupees for tipping. Hire a driver guide to take you sightseeing and also from city to city if you are not flying; I would recommend making the arrangements prior to leaving Canada. Make a point of visiting a Yuravedic spa for a herbal massage and oil therapy treatments.