Kerala Trip in September: Questions and Suggestions

#1 Aug 28th, 2016, 16:03
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#1
I have offer for 1,20,000/ ₹79,200 or ten days in Kerala by local Travel agency. This is including all travel by Airconditioned car from Hotel in Cochin to Airport in Kochi 10 days after.

Our agency to make Cochin Crowne Plaza ☛ Munnar ☛ Thekkady ☛ Kumarakom ☛ Allepey ☛ Mararikulam ☛ Kochi Airport trip for us.

I have three questions.

1. Since we contacted with travel agency, they recommend one driver. Someone suggested we inspect bonded and security certificate for agency and driver. My question, how can we safety check the driver ?

2. Four days in ten are in family-style home-stays. Is this like Ryokans in Japan. Ryokan are traditional japanese guest houses. My question is, are home stay mean live in some family house as guest ?

3. It is suggested that in September have to be careful about mosquito and if not all places are hotel international chains, we selected rooms with moquito net covering beds ! Can we request, and is this possible ?


We get our visas, last week from Embassy. ANA, my airline has some problems and AirIndia local partner has two stops, so we take Singapore Airlines+Silk which flies to Kochi.

Maybe we will have good second experience as first.

Any additional suggestions for these places.

Thank You !
#2 Sep 3rd, 2016, 22:35
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#2
Quote:
Originally Posted by miyu View Post I have offer for 1,20,000/ ₹79,200 or ten days in Kerala by local Travel agency. This is including all travel by Airconditioned car from Hotel in Cochin to Airport in Kochi 10 days after.

Our agency to make Cochin Crowne Plaza ☛ Munnar ☛ Thekkady ☛ Kumarakom ☛ Allepey ☛ Mararikulam ☛ Kochi Airport trip for us.

I have three questions.

1. Since we contacted with travel agency, they recommend one driver. Someone suggested we inspect bonded and security certificate for agency and driver. My question, how can we safety check the driver ?

2. Four days in ten are in family-style home-stays. Is this like Ryokans in Japan. Ryokan are traditional japanese guest houses. My question is, are home stay mean live in some family house as guest ?

3. It is suggested that in September have to be careful about mosquito and if not all places are hotel international chains, we selected rooms with moquito net covering beds ! Can we request, and is this possible ?


We get our visas, last week from Embassy. ANA, my airline has some problems and AirIndia local partner has two stops, so we take Singapore Airlines+Silk which flies to Kochi.

Maybe we will have good second experience as first.

Any additional suggestions for these places.

Thank You !
1. You can do some research and get some info about the Tour Agency that you are planning to use in Kerala and here is a list of tour operators that are registered with Kerala Tourism Organization:
https://www.keralatourism.org/accredited-centres/

But I am not aware of any bond or security certificate issued to individual drivers that are employed full time or are working on contract with the tour company and you have to assume and take a chance that an old and reputable tour company will only employ qualified and safe drivers for their customers.

Travel anywhere is a bit of an adventure and it is more so when you are traveling in India and I hope your second trip in India will be delightful and safe

2. Kerala Homestays vs Japenese Ryokans
I have stayed in Kerala hotels and Homestays and by far I loved the Homestay experience in Alleppey. I have not stayed in a Ryokan (or visited Japan) but just reading about Ryokans I get the impression that Ryokans are Inns in Japan that are mostly run by the owners and the stay focus is on providing a traditional Japanese home experience by providing Futon beds and Tatami mats instead of Western styled beds.

Kerala Homestays are not hotels or Inns but more like a bed and breakfast place. Usually what is a Homestay was not originally built for the purpose of renting and running an accomodation business. Kerala Homestay are real homes where the owners and their children live 24 hours a day and the owners decide to rent a small part of their home to visitors to make an extra income.

Usually in a Homestay you will eat with your hosts and if you are interested you might even be able to enter the kitchen (with permission from the host of course) and be able to observe the food being prepared for you and the host family.

The downside of the Homestay is that compared to a hotel you will have somewhat less privacy and in a Homestay you will also have to have your meals at set times and not like a hotel stay where you could go out and eat whenever you got hungry

3. Yes, there are mosquitoes at night unfortunately and it will be wise to use a mosquito net and also hide under a bed cover and make it as difficult as possible for mosquitoes to find you
#3 Sep 6th, 2016, 09:16
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#3
Quote:
Originally Posted by torontomm View Post 1. You can do some research and get some info about the Tour Agency that you are planning to use in Kerala and here is a list of tour operators that are registered with Kerala Tourism Organization:
https://www.keralatourism.org/accredited-centres/

But I am not aware of any bond or security certificate issued to individual drivers that are employed full time or are working on contract with the tour company and you have to assume and take a chance that an old and reputable tour company will only employ qualified and safe drivers for their customers.

Travel anywhere is a bit of an adventure and it is more so when you are traveling in India and I hope your second trip in India will be delightful and safe

2. Kerala Homestays vs Japenese Ryokans
I have stayed in Kerala hotels and Homestays and by far I loved the Homestay experience in Alleppey. I have not stayed in a Ryokan (or visited Japan) but just reading about Ryokans I get the impression that Ryokans are Inns in Japan that are mostly run by the owners and the stay focus is on providing a traditional Japanese home experience by providing Futon beds and Tatami mats instead of Western styled beds.

Kerala Homestays are not hotels or Inns but more like a bed and breakfast place. Usually what is a Homestay was not originally built for the purpose of renting and running an accomodation business. Kerala Homestay are real homes where the owners and their children live 24 hours a day and the owners decide to rent a small part of their home to visitors to make an extra income.

Usually in a Homestay you will eat with your hosts and if you are interested you might even be able to enter the kitchen (with permission from the host of course) and be able to observe the food being prepared for you and the host family.

The downside of the Homestay is that compared to a hotel you will have somewhat less privacy and in a Homestay you will also have to have your meals at set times and not like a hotel stay where you could go out and eat whenever you got hungry

3. Yes, there are mosquitoes at night unfortunately and it will be wise to use a mosquito net and also hide under a bed cover and make it as difficult as possible for mosquitoes to find you
Thank You for very helpful suggestions. We are now in India since Sunday.

1. We checked the reputation of the travel company. They were recommended by many.

2. Our homestays will begin tomorrow.

3. No mosquito nets needed according to the consiglieri.

Thank You very much.
#4 Sep 8th, 2016, 07:11
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#4

Our Journey begins with Cochin.

We arrived in Kochi, Kerala, After flying ANA and SilkAir. I had applied for visa from the Embassy agent in Tokyo for 1200 / ₹ 770 for six month.

The airport is very small. Brochure I found says airport it fully solar. The immigration and custom was simple and quick. The weather in Kochi was similar to Tokyo 30 ℃

Two gentlemen were waiting outside and comfortably drive us to Crowne Plaza. In the morning we visited the Churches in Fort Cochin. The car for us in this trip is better than during Rajasthan/Agra trip.

When we drove to places in the city, we notice very many green trees of coconut and bananas. The city has signs advertising sale for Oman festival for sprees and gold and kitchen equipment.



Sorry no photographs as it says:

Quote:
1kera-3.jpg: Upload of file failed.
#5 Sep 8th, 2016, 07:33
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#5
There have been some issues with picture uploads today. I would have loved to have seen your photos. I hope it gets sorted soon.

Send us your detailed thoughts and experiences! We will travel with you.
#6 Sep 8th, 2016, 19:55
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Originally Posted by ViShVa View Post Send us your detailed thoughts and experiences! We will travel with you.
I will try. Here is first two days impression.

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The immigration officer gifted one small booklet for tourists.

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The Church of ancient Santa Cruz, a Cathedral and Basilica.

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A orphaned goat in the street.

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Newspaper in the lobby of the hotel.

Rain trees ? These are very beautiful trees in parks in Cochin.

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Appam ? This was different from what I am used to seeing in Tokyo. Very flavorful and thicker than dosai ?


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Good: People were very friendly to us, and women dressed in very pretty dresses, and sarees. The people who look after our needs are always willing to do anything we suggested.


No so Good:Our Airline (ANA) twice change our schedule. Two minutes madam ! This two minutes is two minutes. One cup of coffee in Cafe ₹ 80, same coffee outside hotel in a vendor ₹ 10 only.
#7 Sep 8th, 2016, 20:03
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#7
Excellent pictures. Your last picture of the appam (1kera-4.jpg) did not load, so please try and re-upload it.
#8 Sep 8th, 2016, 20:08
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ViShVa View Post Excellent pictures. Your last picture of the appam (1kera-4.jpg) did not load, so please try and re-upload it.
I try to upload modified Appam, it failed just now
#9 Sep 8th, 2016, 20:16
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Haha! It looks like image uploads are playing up again. Try later, I look forward to seeing the appam picture and reading more of your trip report!
#10 Sep 9th, 2016, 17:52
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#10
Quote:
Originally Posted by ViShVa View Post Haha! It looks like image uploads are playing up again. Try later, I look forward to seeing the appam picture and reading more of your trip report!
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After Kochi, we drove to Thekkady, we will visit Lake Periyar from here. The drive to this town we see many spice cultivation fields like cardamom, pepper, tea gardens, turmeric and many more herbs. More of that later.

Thanks
#11 Sep 12th, 2016, 08:24
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#11

Tea gardens and wildlife

The drive from Cochin to Periyar was very comfortable. We were told by the travel company that Toyota Innova is good for long drives. We passed many tea gardens, waterfalls, spice plantations and sale shops.

The spice plantations tour was a disappointment. The guide took us to his family garden. While it had turmeric, ginger, black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, lime, lemongrass, and a few other, it was not very guided. It was expected that we might order some home made spices.

Along the drive we encountered some monkeys, elephants in a tea garden, geese and some birds. It was suggested by the locals that Tiger Reserve as well in the bird sanctuary, the chances of seeing tigers or lots of birds is not very good.

We observed the boat races in Komarakom, which involved many groups competing along the river near town of Kumarakom. This is the highlight of our trip so far.


The water fall on our way.

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Tea plantation with wild elephants.

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Black pepper plant !

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Monkeys. This is first time in South India we saw monkeys. In our first trip monkeys nearly everywhere.

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A vegetarian thali during Onam !

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The Boat race in Kottayam !

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The mother of the child, asked me if I was Chinese ?

No !

Mizoram ?

No !

Korea ?

No !

The child was surprised ! shocked ! I'm sure in villages of Japan a baby will have same expression - It was cute !

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Good: We observed lots of plantations and lush greenery, food is inexpensive (even the expensive), freshly prepared and very aromatic with spices.


Not Good: Pollutant, plastic garbage and stagnant water everywhere and many mosquitos. There are electric fences everywhere in the hills to prevent wild animals from destroying the fields, sometimes accidents happen.
#12 Sep 12th, 2016, 08:47
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#12
Korea? Mizoram? China?

Child's expression! Perfect!!!
#13 Sep 14th, 2016, 23:18
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#13

Happy Onam !

From Kumarakom we took a boat from the jetty to Alleppey we took a ferry boat along with our local guide. Our driver took the luggage to the houseboat company’s dock. It was going to be a pleasant weather whole time according to our weather app.

We had a two bedroom boat with a cook, and two boatmen. We gently cruise for six hours and then park in a small jetty where the company’s eight boats dock for the night. This houseboat ride comes close the pleasure of sailing in Hawaii’s Big Island.

It was very kind of our tour planner to give us experience of a local ferry and also a relaxed houseboat experience.

At night, we were able to hear nocturnal creatures and loud angry noises from one of the big boats with large group of people from europe.

The lunch prepared by the cook was traditional kerala cuisine, he made it mild in spices, but for dinner made it medium spicy. We were surprised as so many dishes were served in our meals. We are not used to so much of rice, and the particular cultivar of rice. We have tasted basmati rice, and italian Arborio, and a few other in South east asia. This rice was very filling.

From totapelly we went to Neerattupuram to witness another boat race. After the not so famous boat races, we drive to Marari Beach where we stay for two nights and two days of relaxation. In this place we were able to have full experience of Oman meal of over 25 different small dishes served in a banana leaf.


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This boat race was not as good as Kumarakom boat race, near Kottayam. In the area of the boat race, there were the mythical Oman festival gods who went around posing with eager locals. People gifted them some money.

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Because of the festival season, there are restrictions on sale of alcohol, and the government (who controls and sells liquor) shops had long lines. They do not sell sake or plum wine

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This woman is dominating posters even in Singapore Airport and Metro stations. She is beautiful.

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The stereotypical house boat. It is the iconic photograph that was in one poster in Travel Agency in Tokyo.

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The hotel where we stayed served us this special lunch with oman celebrations.

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Our house boat's interior.

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When we visited one old temple, the lady was surprised as the temple was on the road between Periyar to Komarakom. Maybe foreign tourists do not visit this wooden temple ?

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Good: There are so many churches in our drive around kerala, each we visit, has very warm and curious devotees. Our driver never suggest we visit some gift shops. Women and children in kerala are very curious people about East Asia. The car with driver give us some private space which is absent in Indian cities and towns we have visited so far. Some people mistake us for indian from North East region, and speak to us in hindi. We missed three dinners because we were not hungry, and each time guest relations called to inquire if we were visiting for dinner, or feeling O.K


Not Good: All hotels (even 5 star) have limited electrical facilities and delay in responding to request. I understand that this is most important festival season, and all locals and keralans come back to visit, so some trouble in high season. In Tokyo we have chikan (middle age men who touch and grope women in trains and crowded places) but they are always afraid of shouting. In malls, and visiting crowded temples and one ferry boat, men come to touch you from opposite side.
#14 Sep 20th, 2016, 02:31
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#14

End of our trip.

After touring a small set of places in Kerala, we returned to Tokyo happy that we were able to see some special events. Onam festival and boat races.

The women dressed in very fine pretty sarees and men wear white lungi for this festival.

Our driver and car was very helpful in taking us safely to all the places we wanted to see in the limited time we reserve for this vacation.

It was surprising for us to notice that all places of worship, not just hinduism temples but churches and one synagogue in Cochin insisted in removing shoes. This is I was told a local adaptation of customs into the new religion in kerala.

The Kathakali dance was not so good. We were able to see how they two men prepare to make up their faces, and then about half hour of staging of a dance and story using eyes and face expressions.

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An elderly gentleman kathakali dancer.

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We had some sweet steamed in banana leaf, which was very delicious.

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Our car had many gods and saints along with other religious symbols.

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Monkeys in the roadside.

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Special decoration with flowers.

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Good: The color and music was seen and heard everywhere we went. People are very pride of their spice plantation. All the persons who interact with us were very polite and kind. They agree to make changes to our requests for room and and also requests for making green tea from local teas.

Not Good: There are so many places in Kerala where people live on water which is standing with vegetation, this is not good as many mosquitos and insects are living there. Many hotels only have one connection per person for internet. We had more than two per person. My iPad and notebook along with my sister who had also an extra mobile phone. Many rooms have only one electrical outlet for charging and was very inconvenient.
#15 Sep 20th, 2016, 02:39
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#15
I really enjoyed your trip report, observations and lovely photos. I especially enjoyed the "Good" and "Not Good" parts! Thanks.

Have you seen 'Kabuki'? 'Kathakali' reminds me of that art form. Did you see any martial artists or 'kathak' dance? ('kathak' is different from 'kathakali'.)

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