As I write this post, I remember all the things I thought of India and how my recent visit to Kerala made me realize how wrong I was.
You see, before I left my country to join eight writers and photographers from different countries who were asked to witness the beauty of God’s Own Country, all I knew of India is what I saw in bollywood movies – bad traffic, dirty food, among others.
But now, a few days after my unforgettable trip… my perception has completely changed, at least for the place I visited. Today, I’d like to share five things that made me fall in love with Kerala, India.
The people I met in Kerala, India were nothing short of hospitable and warm. They made sure we enjoyed every moment in their homeland.
I’m sure you’ll say this is because they knew we were visitors of the Kerala Tourism department, but you’re wrong. I’m talking about the people in the streets, in stores, the students who were on their way home from school, the locals who were doing some shopping, among others.
Friendly Guards At Turtle By The Beach Resort
These people smiled, waved, asked where were from and if we’re enjoying our trip so far. They stop what they were doing to tell us about their culture, education, language, history, and more…
A local vendor selling some drums at the beach
I had an lengthy chat with a local vendor when we stayed in Spice Village, Thekaddy. He told me a lot about his family and their nation in general – how marriages are now shifting from being arranged to freewill, closeness of their families, etc.
I stayed there for about an hour and a half listening to him passionately talk about Kerala (and not bugging me to buy his merchandise). If not for the clouds seemingly wanting to pour down heavy rain, I would’ve stayed longer. But I had to go to eat and rest, so I bid him good bye and good night.
A local standing beside the street
I can go on and on about them wonderful human beings, but let’s stop at that and proceed to number two.
The culture in Kerala, India is so different from what I grew up with, but that’s one of the reasons I had such a good time touring the place. Wherever I look was a wonderful story waiting to be told, a new learning that demands to be shared.
When we were in the bus on our way to our first destination, I asked our guide, “Why are the men wearing skirts?! My guy friends would probably cringe at the idea.”
A local at the Padmanabhapuram Palace wearing a ‘Mundu’
My guide said that this rectangular piece of cotton cloth with free ends called ‘mundu’ is the traditional wear of Kerala. It is worn by men because India is very humid.
I was satisfied with his answer and asked another one, “What do you call the long dress worn by women?”
He replied, “Now that is what you call a ‘Saree’.” He further explained that a Saree is a 5-meter long cotton or silk garment elaborately draped around the body.
“What? 5 meters?” I asked. He nodded and smiled. To feed my curiosity, I bought one and asked the sales lady to teach me how to put it on. She so willingly agreed and showed me the steps.
I got lost at the third step but told her to keep going. It was so sophisticated but the end result looked really nice! Too bad I don’t have a decent photo to show you guys. But it was such a wonderful experience to see myself dressed that way.
Most of the people in Kerala are very spiritual, and that’s not exactly a bad thing. If you know me well enough, you know that I admire those who are loyal to their faith because being faithful to any belief isn’t easy.
But you know what I like most about their spirituality?
It’s their big respect for others who believe in something else. Majority of the populace in Kerala believe in Hinduism, Buddhism, or Christianity. For years, they have lived peacefully and have treated one another based on who they are not what religion they have or don’t have.
A Catholic church we saw on our way to Munnar
During one of our stays in Thekaddy, the hotel I was staying at served grilled beef. One woman (I assumed she was a Hindu) asked if she could have some grilled fish instead. The chef explained that for the night, they only served beef. The woman politely declined and checked the other meals.
No hassle, no drama. Just respect.
A local climbing a coconut tree like a boss
Have you ever heard of Responsible Tourism?
One of the things that made me appreciate Kerala more is their drive for responsible tourism. While others are busy making their cities pleasing for tourists, displacing locals in the process (I’m talking to you, Boracay Island); Kerala is doing the best they can to attract foreign visitors WHILE making sure that locals are the ones who benefit the most.
When we rode on a raftboat to tour Kerala’s backwaters, we met a few locals who showed us how to fish, climb a coconut tree, wove some rags, etc – just the things they do on a daily basis to earn money and put food on their tables.
This is how locals create ropes
A local creating mats. She can create up to 40 pieces per day.
I asked our guide what they got in return, and was told that they get paid to show us around. A news I was very delighted to hear.
More on tourism… Kerala is called God’s Own Country for many reasons. For me, that’s because they have so many scenic places to offer, aside from the epic resorts we stayed at.
Did you know that in Kerala, you’ll see temples, thousands of hectares of Tea Plantation, spice plantations, martial arts shows, cultural shows, etc? We also saw wild elephants during our Trekking. Lucky enough, we were near a place where you can actually ride them. Yes, while others displayed their new cars, my ride was an elephant. Beat that! :)
A majestic view during our houseboat tour
Dancing Hall at the Padmanabhapuram Palace
Sunset at Kuvalom Beach, Kerala
Sunrise at Kumarakom Lake Resort, Kerala
King and his men meet here (Padmanabhapuram Palace)
Padmanabhapuram Palace Entrance
Peeping hole for maids to see the dancing hall
Traditional Kerala Plate of Food
When someone talks about India, it’s impossible to not mention their creative use of spices. I remember when I walked in an Indian restaurant here in my city a few months back, the owner talked about how Filipinos are missing out when it comes to food. She said most of our meals are only seasoned with vinegar, soy sauce, and salt. I smiled and told her she was right.
Seeing that I agreed, she boasted that she used 13 spices for my dish, all exported from India. Yes, 1 – 3… 13! No wonder it was so flavorful and delicious. :)
Perhaps the most deserving dish to be mentioned in this post is Fish Curry and Roti. My tour buddies devoured them as soon as they were served in the table. When not present, they were requested to the chefs over and over.
Roti with Fish Curry, chicken, and friend chicken
I had so many… “Wow”, “Hmmm”, “Yummmm” during the trip. Although my palettes do not scream for Indian food, I had such a wonderful time getting to know the Indian culture while eating some Rotti. :)
Have you ever had a moment where you wished your eyes was a camera so you can capture a beautiful sight? That’s what I kept on wishing for when I stayed there. I invite YOU to see Kerala for yourself. Set a goal and thank me later. :)