29 bloggers, 15 days in Kerala | SunStar

29 bloggers, 15 days in Kerala

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29 bloggers, 15 days in Kerala

Friday, April 21, 2017

KERALA. India is known for its spices. Here’s a spice store in Fort Kochi. (Claire Marie Algarme)

FOR four years now, the Kerala Tourism Office has been bringing bloggers from all over the world to explore the beauty of their place through the Kerala Blog Express (KBE). It is an online contest that considers the quality of the blog of the participating blogger, the social media reach, and the number of votes in its site.

From thousands of applicants and hundreds who were up for voting, I was fortunate to be one of the 29 bloggers from 28 countries that made it to the KBE Season 4 where we had 15 days to explore and enjoy the state of Kerala, India, dubbed as “god’s own country.” Legend has it that one of the Hindu gods threw an axe at the sea and there emerged Kerala, filled with the richness and abundance of natural resources.

My trip of a lifetime began last March 19 as I flew on SilkAir from Cebu to Singapore to Cochin International Airport, the first airport in the world to be fully powered by solar energy. SilkAir also flies from Singapore to Thiruvananthapuram or Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. It also flies from Singapore to Davao to Cebu and back to Singapore. Another route is the Singapore to Cebu to Kalibo and back to Singapore one.

The day after I arrived was the start of the 15-day expedition, with no less than Tourism Minister Kadakampally Surendran welcoming us and sending us off to the KBE bus. The bus took us to 11 destinations – Cochin, Alappuzha, Kumarakom, Thekkady, Munnar, Thrissur, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur, Kasaragod, and Thiruvananthapuram – located throughout the length of the Kerala state, exposing us to the diversity it can offer.

Rich historical sites. Because of its natural harbor, Cochin or Kochi is the commercial capital of Kerala. It is regarded as the “Queen of the Arabian Sea” where traders from Europe dock for the spices thus, making the city a historical attraction as well. One of the notable explorers who made it to this part of the globe was Portuguese nobleman Vasco da Gama.

Picturesque backwaters. The backwaters of Alappuzha – canals and rivers that merge to the lakes, lagoons, and the sea – are the most picturesque spots in Kerala. We explored the place aboard a traditional houseboat with interiors that seemed like a hotel room.

Breathtaking mountains and hill stations. Hills and mountains with slopes that were filled with lovely, green manicured tea plantations left me breathless as we traversed the winding roads to Thekkady, Munnar and Wayanad.

Amazing wildlife. The Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary in Thekkadywas one of my favorite spots. The morning mist at the lake was a scene that seemed to jump out from a mystery movie or adventure book. Although we didn’t see any tiger, being there in the vicinity where they freely roam was enough to feel the energy of the wildlife.

Beautiful beaches. Pelicans dotting the shoreline as sea waves meet the morning mist was a picture that had a relaxing effect on me. Kerala, which literally means land of coconuts, has an abundance of these palm trees, which are found everywhere in the region.

Colorful cultural performances. Kathakali, koodiyattam, ottamthullal, poothanthira, and shadow play are some of the cultural performances in Kerala, some of which are declared by Unesco as intangible cultural heritage. Colorful make-ups, elaborate costumes, distinct facial expressions, and animated gestures tell the story of Ramayana and other Indian narratives.

Delectable cuisine. Puttu, appam, koottu, and sambar are some of the food we enjoyed during our stay there. Some of their names I cannot even remember nor pronounce, but they definitely tasted good. The most impressive meal we had was the sadya, which is a banquet served on a banana leaf. They are not like our boodle because the meal is served individually.

Kerala has truly surprised me in many ways. The nature, the history, the culture, and the people – they were simply awesome. Many say that it is not the India that a lot of people expect and may be different from the rest of the country still, it is very much part of India. It blends the cultural richness of its country while exudes a unique quality that is solely Kerala.

All photos are by this author. Claire Marie Algarme blogs at http://firsttimetravels.com. Follow her as @firsttimetravel on Twitter and Instagram and like her Facebook page First-time Travels.

Published in the SunStar Bacolod newspaper on April 21, 2017.

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