Every once in a while, I get an opportunity to visit a destination that completely blows my mind. I’m not talking about just the physical beauty or the food or even the culture – it is more than that. I’m talking about an extra something – the human element.
Kerala is one such place for me.
If you have read my post about Alleppey’s backwaters, then you probably know that our trip to Kerala had a messed-up start. It all started when my phone screen cracked, after which one thing led to another and it ended up being a comedy of screw-ups.
What pulled us out of our situation was the patience of our autorickshaw (tuk tuk) driver and the kindness of a cafe owner in Alleppey. That was just the start. For the next few days we were the humility and helpfulness of the locals completely won our hearts.
Here’s the thing – I haven’t been to any place in the world where people aren’t nice. However, some places that are highly sought after holiday destinations are where the locals are wary of tourists. Not their fault but ours! Kerala is different.
Kerala isn’t exactly an under-the-radar kind of a place where the people haven’t been exposed to tourism. It is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in Asia, thanks to its unmatched beauty and lush landscapes. Yet, it lacked the typical money hungry travel businessmen who did not want to waste a moment in squeezing out money from the travelers.
We all have heard of Kerala’s coastline, palm trees, coconuts, forests and tea plantation covered hills. My favorite part about Kerala is its network of canals that connect several villages with rivers, lakes and lagoons. Yep, the backwaters of Kerala.
As I saw on a government run ferry in Alleppey town, I noticed it had 90 percent locals and 10 percent international travelers. Most of the travelers had their own houseboats but we were some of the few that wanted a local experience.
Most of the people on our ferry appeared to be returning back home – schoolchildren, office-goers, and just some people who probably went to Alleppey town to run some errands. In the entire process of getting the ferry tickets to waiting and boarding, we did not encounter even a single pushy seller who wanted our money.
We got off at one of the many canal-side villages and transitioned from ferry to a canoe. As we cruised at a slow pace over the narrow canals of Kerala, we truly understood the magical beauty that Kerala is famous for.
It was rhythm of the sound of birds with the music of water, the smell of vegetation combined with the dampness of the surroundings, the touch of breeze on my face along with gentle water droplets on my arms. The most obvious aspect was right in front of our eyes. It was the sight of Mother Nature truly spreading out all her wings thanks to the generous rainwater and the sun Gods.
Here, Mother Nature is nurtured, respected and loved. There is a celebration of life in every form. Kerala is truly Human by Nature. Before you go further, watch this video by Kerala Tourism which is a part of their Human by Nature campaign.
We spent most our day with a local family that had invited us for lunch. In all honesty, it was an experience that was organized by some locals along with a family from one of the villages along the canals.
We sat outside their “perfect house” together in the shade of a tree. Yes, the house is everything that I ever wish for. It was along one of the narrow canals. The house had its own garden with plenty of big trees – mango trees, banana trees, jackfruit trees and many more that I did not recognise.
We walked along the canals and saw paddy fields. After every few minutes, a narrow shikara (wooden canoe) would pass us by and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of good natured envy for their enriched life. There were people selling fish on these boats, one man was even selling freshly picked fruits and another one with flowers.
After walking around for a while, we sat with the same family and ate rice with fish on banana leaves. The food tasted better than what I ate in any restaurant in Kerala. It was more than just the taste, but it was the entire experience.
We went back to the canals again on our canoe and saw some of the most amazing sights. As the sun went down, our day with the locals ended and it was time to go back to Alleppey town.
Kerala surely won my heart with its people, beauty and nature. Let it win yours too! Go visit this God’s own country and support local businesses.