Category Archives: Kerala

TGIF! Here’s A Shot!

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The Jewish Synagogue @ Kochi, Kerala, India

 

  • Paradesi* Synagogue, nestled in the quaint part of Kochi — The Jew Town. Also referred to as Cochin Jewish Synagogue or the Mattancherry Synagogue
  • It was constructed in 1567
  • The original synagogue was built in the 4th century in Kodungallur and later when the Jews moved to Cochin in the 14th century they built this synagogue
  • It is the oldest ‘active’ synagogue among the Commonwealth nation
  • It is one of seven synagogues of the Malabar Yehudan**
  • It was destroyed by the Portuguese (in 1662) and reconstructed by the Dutch after a couple of years
  • For service to be conducted 10 men are required and due to the dwindling number of Jews in Kochi, it is difficult to complete a minyan***

The Synagogue houses:

  • The 19th century glass chandeliers dangling from the ceiling were imported from Belgium
  • The floor of the synagogue is made of hand painted blue willow patterned floor tiles brought from Canton, China in the 18th century by Ezekiel Rahabi
  • The teak Ark houses four scrolls of Torah (the first five books of Old Testament) encased in silver and gold
  • Two gold crowns presented to the Jewish Community by the Kings of Kochi and Travancore
  • Copper plates belonging to the 4th century with inscriptions in Malayalam describing the privileges granted to the community by the erstwhile Cochin king. It is written in kannadiyezhuthu script or mirror image writing
  • An oriental rug gifted to the Jews by the last Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie
  • A tablet from the 1344 synagogue in Kochangadi, Kochi is installed on the outer wall of the synagogue

 

*Spanish speaking Jews or White Jews (mixture of Jews from Kodungalloor, Middle East and Europe)
**prosperous trading community of Kerala & they had major hold on world wide spice trade
***quorum of ten men over the age of 13 required for traditional Jewish public worship

 

 

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HAPPY  TRAVELLING!
Monika Ohson / TravelerInMe

Thekkady, for the spice & wild

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After Munnar our next destination was Thekkady.

The drive to Thekkady from Munnar via Kumily is scenic. Woody forests and spice plantation now take over the usual tea plantation. A tip off … Do have a good breakfast before leaving Munnar or get something filling packed as you will barely find a place to stop and eat.

 

SPICE PLANTATION TOUR

Our first stop was at the The Periyar Spice & Ayurvedic Garden on the Thekkady-Kumily highway. Their designated guide took us through an educational guide of the spice and Ayurveda herb plantation in their garden. In the end …… we shopped 😀 Fresh spices and Ayurveda produce are a must buy when in Kerala! You can also opt for them as souvenirs because Kerala is known for its spices!

King of Spices “Black Pepper” is native to south India and is extensively cultivated there. It is the world’s most traded spice. Currently, Vietnam is the world’s largest producer.

Queen of Spices “Cardamom” is the world’s third-most expensive spice after Vanilla & Saffron. India was the largest producer till 2000, thereafter, the position went to Gautemala.

Immature cocoa pods have a variety of colors, but most often are green, red or purple and as they mature, their color tends towards yellow or orange. Kerala is the top producer of cocoa in India while Ivory Coast is the top contributor in the world.

The first cultivation of coffee in India happened in Chikmagalur (Karnataka). Though Kerala is the biggest coffee producer (esp Robusta variety). The coffee beans when immature, are green. When mature, they have a brown to yellow or reddish color.

We were told its made by ants ….. though I have a feel its a wasp mud nest.

The “Torch Ginger” plant. The showy flowers of the plant are used in decorative arrangements, while the flower buds are an important ingredient in the Malay (Peranakan) dish laksa.

 

BOAT RIDE @ PERIYAR WILDLIFE RESERVE

Once through the spicy trip, we headed straight for Periyar National Park & Wildlife Sanctuary notable as both an elephant and a tiger reserve. The park is situated in the Cardamom Hills and Pandalam Hills of the Southern Western Ghats and is a repository of rare, endemic and endangered flora and fauna. It also forms the major watershed of two important rivers of Kerala, the Periyar and Pamba.

At the main entrance of the reserve you will need to buy the entry tickets. The vehicles are allowed up to a point and from there you are on foot! A lovely shaded walk amidst massive, tall, old trees for a few minutes and you are at the boating ticket counter.

The lovely wooded /shaded walk to the Periyar boat ride section. Most of the tress are very old & massive!

One of the outlets for snacks and sanctuary souvenirs

On entering the boat ride area its wise to get the tickets first and thereafter enjoy the place — be careful of the monkeys while enjoying their antics, the interesting cut outs from tree trunks, have some light snacks / basic food or seat yourself in the waiting area till your ride slot comes.

The ticket has mention of your boat and once seated you are given life jackets to wear. There will be instructions to maintain silence or soft whispers and not to get up from your seat and run to the windows (which also means try to get a window seat if you are into photography)

 

Statue depicting the Periyar Tiger Reserve

View from the waiting area of the Periyar Reserve

Here & there you will find interesting wildlife sculpture crafted from tree trunks

View of the reserve (building) from the boat

Ours was the last slot of the boat ride, 3:30 pm. We were lucky to get a small boat (must be a 18-seater) and I did get a window seat 😀 The ride began and our boat had one forest ranger behind the steer and another as a guide.

The boat ride in Periyar Sanctuary

Inside view of our boat

Its mesmerizing seeing the wild landscape of Periyar. The different shades of nature, wildlife and the tranquility of the river! Now if you are lucky you can spot a herd of wild elephants (attraction of the ride) and not so common birds/animals. Unfortunately, no elephant sighting was seen on our boat ride day…… though folks on the ride a day ago did! As usual, the best time for sighting of wildlife is summer 🙂

 

Gaur or Indian Bison and flock of Cormorants from the boat window

Sambar Deer

Gaur or Indian Bison

The Indian Cormorant. You will often find them standing in the sun with their wings spread out to dry (they have less preen oil than other birds)

A flock of Indian cormorants swimming across

If you do not sight much wildlife ….. you can sit back and enjoy the bounty of nature!

The surrounding forest comprise of tropical evergreen and moist deciduous trees like  teak, rosewoods, sandalwood, jacarandas, mangoes, jamun, tamarind, banyans, sacred fig etc. Also more than 150+ varieties of grass grow here. If you happen to opt for a program that takes you inside the forest you may spot many animals and birds besides the flora that you may not see from the boat ride.

 

The trees made a delightful sight with different colored / hued leaves

White necked or Wooly necked Stork

The unforgettable part of the Periyar landscape are these submerged trees, said to be alive for 120+ yrs

 

Some quick tips / pointers to help you plan a trip to Thekkady:

  • Please ensure that you do online reservation /  booking for the boating as well as eco tourism program(s). There are only a few tickets sold at the counter as main reservation is online (https://www.periyarfoundation.online/)
  • In case you are unable to do so, you need to be there really early to stand for more than an hour in the queue to get your tickets (as was in our case; online booking could not be done due to some technical glitch. But we were lucky as the tourist season had just begun so not too crowded)
  • Also please note and remember that only 2 tickets are issued per person. So if you are 6 people, 3 need to be standing in the line 🙂
  • It is wise not to carry food item in your hand once inside the reserve as langurs / monkeys roam freely and they are known for snatching food and drink items
  • There is a small grilled canteen in the campus where you will get some basic food items and snacks (nothing fancy)
  • There is a waiting hall with seating where you can relax till your boat ride time comes
  • There are stay options within the reserve and if you plan to indulge in their eco tourism program it would be a wonderful idea to stay there
  • The Eco Tourism programs offered by the Periyar Tiger Reserve are Nature Walk; Cloud Walk; Green Walk; Border Trekking; Bamboo Rafting; The Bamboo Grove; Jungle Inn; Bullock Cart Discoveries; Jungle Scout; Tiger Trail
  • They have their retail outlet where you can buy souvenir items like t-shirts, caps, hoodies etc

my suggestion: to really enjoy the treasures of the reserve you must stay for at least 2 days and indulge in more than one of their Eco Tourism programs.

 

Sunset captured on our return from the boat ride

Some landscapes have a distinguishing charm ….. Periyar is one of them!

 

Read more about my Kerala Trip…..

Kerala on your mind? Here’s my #KeralaNotings
Trivia: Kerala Trip Take Offs
Alleppey Backwaters: The Kettuvallam Sojourn
Munnar, a piece of heaven on earth!

 

….and, if you like what you just read, do ‘like it’ & ‘share it’. Non WordPress users please ‘rate’ it to express your appreciation 🙂 Also do not forget to ‘follow the blog’ to remain updated about newer posts ❤ 

 

HAPPY  TRAVELLING!
Monika Ohson / TravelerInMe

Munnar, a piece of heaven on earth!

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“Never pass up an opportunity to enjoy nature’s beauty – its the handwriting of God!”

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From the first few glimpses of Munnar

Munnar for me is synonymous with color blue (skies), green (plantation) and white (clouds) ❤ Dreamy, right!! ‘Moonu Aar’ literally means three rivers as it lies in the confluence of river Mudhirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala.

We headed from Alleppey to Munnar by road and my heart started playing a happy tune as soon as we started uphill. The balmy air was now a cool breeze and I greedily took in my dose of Vitamin H (Hills). In fact Munnar is blessed with almost every shade of green.

 

Our first stop was at the Cheeyappara waterfall which cascades down in seven steps making it a pretty sight. The sad part, we tourists. Plastic bottles and snack wrappers had been dumped by some and it was an ugly sight at the bottom of the falls. I really don’t understand why we cannot do a simple thing — keep our surroundings clean! Come to think about it, it actually tells about the person we actually are — bitter truth!

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The layered Cheeyappara waterfall

Our next stop was the Valara waterfall of river Deviyar, originating from the Western Ghats. I loved the untamed beautiful view of the falls surrounded by thick green forest. Its actually a chain of falls and has a closer access from Munnar. The Thottiyar Hydroelectric Project of Kerala Electricity Board is very close to these falls.

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The Valara Waterfall amidst thick forest

Both of these water falls are on the Kochi – Madurai Highway, around 40 kms from Munnar and also known for trekking. They were the first glimpses of what I call a piece of heaven, Munnar ❤

 

This beautiful hill station of Kerala is situated on the Kanan Devan Hills and known for its beautiful tea estates and tea cultivation. The first plantation started way back in the 17th century on 50 acres land and now, wherever you look all you will see is miles and miles of unending tea plantations.

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Aren’t they lucky having homes surrounded by greenery 🙂

 

It was evening by the time we reached our lovely home stay nestled in the valley of Sooryanelli Hills, 18 kms from Munnar.. We checked in and after a rejuvenating cup of tea headed to the Anayirangal Dam. As soon as we took the turn into the road that led to the dam we were stopped by some forest rangers and asked to head back. The reason being some 6-8 wild elephants that were spotted on the opposite side of the road. We clicked them from a far before heading back with mixed feelings — happy to see the wild elephants but disappointed that we were unable to go to the dam. However we managed to enjoy its scenic beauty from the top.

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A view of the Anayirangal Dam from the top

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Unexpected sighting of wild elephants

 

The next day we headed to the Eravikulam National Park in the Rajamalai hills. It is advised to book your tickets online and reach the place well in advance to avoid ‘misses’ in the huge tourist rush. Also you are not allowed to carry any eatables to the park (strict checking is done) so leave all of it in your car. You can carry water though. Since rains are unpredictable here, carrying an umbrella will not hurt. The buses of the park take you uphill till a designated drop off point and from there you are on your own to enjoy the verdant beauty of this place. The park has an eating joint, their eco shop ‘Tahr Shop’ and an amenity center.

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An expanse of tea plantation

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Unspoiled beauty of the park

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Rising Mist & Clouds and Hills all around ……. Awesome!

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The wild montane grassland adds to its beauty

One of the main attraction of the park is the endangered Nilgiri Tahr or Nilgiri Ibex that’s endemic to this part of the Western Ghat. The park closes between Feb – April every year during their calving season. These Tahrs are closely related to the Himalayan and Arabian Tahr though they are considered to be more related to the sheep family. A happy fact is that the national park has the largest (and growing) numbers of these Tahrs.

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The endangered and endemic Nilgiri Tahr. Seen here are the female Tahr.

The park is also known for some rare and exotic flora, one of the much sought after is the Kurichi or Neelakurinji. It blooms once in 12 years and covers the hills with its beautiful lavender-blue hue (next bloom will be in 2018). Kurinji is endemic to this part of the Western Ghats.

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Kurichi or Neelakurinji Pic Courtsey: Google Search

 

The Kanan Devan Hills Planation’s (KDHP) Tea Museum in Munnar is India’s first ever tea museum and here you can have a journey through the tea history of this place. The documentary film on Kanan Devan Tea Planation is a good watch and there is a retail outlet within the building that sells the plantation’s produce and some tea accessories too. You can also buy some tea wood (for making furniture or as a decor) and some do some shopping from Tata’s Srishti Welfare Centre (1.5 kms from the museum)

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The KDHP Tea Museum

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‘Srishti’ for some souvenir/shpping

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110 years old tea wood on sale

 

We made a quick stop at the Carmelagiri Elephant Park en route to Mattupetty but did not opt for any ride. I leave it to individuals to decide whether they would like to indulge in it 🙂  The park offers various options which range from a 1 hour ride and even half day or full day elephant ride.

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Elephant Park for rides

 

The KFDC Floriculture Centre or Mattupetty Rose Garden is a stop before the dam. You will love the varied hues and types of flowers in the well maintained / landscaped garden.

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Mattupetty Rose Garden or KFDC Floriculture Centre

 

The sight at the Mattupetty Dam left us spellbound. We have often read the description of beautiful places and here I was seeing them in a glance …… clear blue skies & water; mountains, trees et al in all shades of green; fluffy white clouds; clean cool air!

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Mattupetty dam

If you go further down the dam you reach the Echo Point. With so many tourists around its more of a cacophony of echos. I was lost in the beauty of the place and all I did beside soaking it all in was go click! click!

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Echo Point

 

If you value spending idyllic time with nature, this is one of the must visit place. Every time of the day had something beautiful to offer, like the sunset (below) which left us mesmerized. You can spend time taking leisurely strolls up / down the winding paths surrounded by tea gardens on both sides. We usually do a 1 or 2 day stay at Munnar along with other places in our itinerary. But what I realized and thus suggest, is a sole trip to Munnar for atleast 3 full day stay. Now this is highly dependent on kind of traveler you are!

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The colors of sunset

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Plantation workers

 

There are some places that leave an indelible mark in your heart, Munnar is one such place for me. I have already decided my next visit to this picture perfect place ❤ If you have not been then yet, you know where to go this year 🙂

 

Read more about my Kerala Trip…..

Kerala on your mind? Here’s my #KeralaNotings
Trivia: Kerala Trip Take Offs
Alleppey Backwaters: The Kettuvallam Sojourn
Thekkady, for the spice & wild

 

….and, if you like what you just read, do ‘like it’ & ‘share it’. Non WordPress users please ‘rate’ it to express your appreciation 🙂 Also do not forget to ‘follow the blog’ to remain updated about newer posts ❤ 

 

HAPPY  TRAVELLING!
Monika Ohson / TravelerInMe