If you’re wondering where to go in India in June? It’s easy. Kerala, God’s Own Country.
But firstly I must say that if you are going to India in June, it is monsoon season. And the rain really buckets down hard, but it also makes the place incredibly green.
As an international guest speaker at the ICTT India conference, I was privileged to be invited on a tour of Kerala.
I told the 400 strong audience how my mother was in fact born in India. Bombay in the 1950s. Yet whilst I had travelled there with Mum in the early ’80s I was less than one year old, so have no living memory of “Incredible India”.
Most of what I had braced myself for on arrival, didn’t happen. I wasn’t overwhelmed by the sheer number of Indian people, there was no overbearing smell and I wasn’t confronted by poverty. Whilst no doubt this may occur in a huge metropolis like Mumbai or Calcutta, I flew into the “small city” of Trivandrum, with less than 2 million people and the place that Mahatma Gandhi called “the evergreen city of India.”
It is the capital city of Kerala which John Lennon famously referred to as God’s Own Country on a Beatles tour. Kerala has since adopted this as their state tourism slogan!
Firstly we stayed at the The Leela palace atop the cliffs above the Arabian Sea.
It was indeed how my Indian friends had described; “very very nice!” Now I am not a frequent 5 star hotel traveller but this was one of the fanciest hotels I’ve stayed at.
It was opulent and beautiful but as soon as you step outside the gates you do feel a bit guilty since many local people are living on less than $3 per day.
The hotel’s infinity pools were the highlight for me. Whenever I swam I had the cliff top pool to myself and could watch the local Indian fishing boats and also some game fishermen balancing on the cliff with a line in the rough seas below.
Surfing Kovalam Beach
I never expected there would good quality surf at Kovalam. Although looking at its position on the map, I don’t know why I thought that. The 3-4 foot swell was considered “high seas”. It took a little while for any one to paddle out and even longer to find where you could hire a surfboard. But by the time I scooted back to The Leela to get my boardies, the event organisers caught me in my hotel room and insisted I return the conference hall for the thank you ceremony, so unfortunately I never got wet.
Kerala back waters
After a decent 5 hour drive out of Kovalam, we’d already had a prang on the Indian roads – an experience on its own. Our driver was rear-ended and was offered $10 for all the damages — and the local police insisted this was a deal worth taking!
We took a beautiful houseboat courtesy of Lake View Houseboats across the Kerala back waters. Ours was fully enclose with air-conditioning which is apparently “a must” if you plan to sleep onboard because the mozzies can be brutal!
Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom
We drove the houseboat and stayed at the beautiful Coconut Lagoon in Kumarakom. There were outdoor (but private) showers, a nice pool, bird sanctuary, yoga, massages and a gym. We were entertained by the (same) Ottam Thullal dancer from the ICTT conference but it was a much more intimate show and we got the chance to interact with him a lot more.
Cricket the locals
Whilst we were waiting for our turn on the elephant we went down and played cricket with some of the locals. There was a real game on main oval but we had a hit on the sidelines.
Elephants in Thekkady
They picked out the biggest elephant for us to ride and we walked through the jungle and out past the cricketers. Riding and then washing these enormous creatures was a blast.
And to finish off we did the elephant shower! The entire elephant experience cost $15.
We travelled up the mountains along windy roads, through rain and mist, and could barely see 2 metres in front of the car. I think it took about 5 hours to travel 140km, but it was fun! During the moments the rain cleared, it was beautiful – the tea hills reminded me of a Dilmah Tea advert.
I also got an Ayurveda massage which are very popular in India!
We also travelled to Munnar and Kumily. And to finish the tour we drove to Cochin and flew out that night. Thanks to my travelling team of Selina Power, Suresh Babu and Nisha Jha. Here is Nisha’s recount of the trip – Images from God’s Own Country and also (embarrassingly) Kerala adventures and stupid Adam.
I already look forward to my next trip to India!