In continuation of my earlier post – Kerala Solved http://wp.me/p29z7S-4h , I am now writing on my personal experiences and recommendations for the region 5 – Trivandrum – Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Poovar, Varkala, Ponmudi.
Alleppey to Trivandrum was the last leg of our journey on this holiday and we decided to take a train for the same, but if you want you can drive down as well (the travel time is about 2 – 3 hours).
Trivandrum is the capital city of Kerala and the feel of this place is like that of any other city. When we reached Trivandrum, we had been in Kerala for 5 – 6 days already and had gotten used to the beautiful lush green landscapes. Trivandrum, in a way, kind of prepared us for our return back home. 😦
We reached Trivandrum by mid – morning and checked in into our guest house cum home-stay called, The Hibiscus Court. It is an extremely professionally run guest house with an awesome location – it’s right in the city centre and near all the tourist sites in this city.
We decided to start our day with a visit to the famous Shree Padmanabha Swami Temple. This is one of the most famous Lord Vishnu Temples in Kerala where Lord Vishnu is enshrined in the Anananthasayanam posture (i.e in eternal sleep of yognidra), lying on Sri Anantha, the hooded snake. Also, everyone visiting the temple needs to wear a dhoti and yes, even women. While men have to change, for the women they just tie a cloth like a skirt over the clothes that you are already wearing. Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple and they are very particular about it.
This is a beautiful temple but unfortunately I couldn’t appreciate it much as I was just not able to get a hang of where I could go and where I couldn’t go. Also people in the temple just kept on pushing stuff at us saying its mandatory to buy this for a visit to the temple etc etc. Well we didn’t buy anything and nor did we pay for the extra close darshan. When we finally managed to reach the inner sanctum and saw the beautiful statue, we were not able to see it properly either due to the crowds behind us (you are not allowed to stand for very long and completely appreciate the statue).
Post this, we decided to head towards the beach and relax. We first went to the Shankhumugham Beach. This is beautiful white sandy beach, very close to the Trivandrum airport and has some options of water sports and restaurants. We hung around here for a bit and then headed towards Kovalam.
Kovalam actually means a grove of coconut trees and just like its name, it offers a view of beaches and endless sights of coconut trees. There are 3 beautiful beaches here and they are all close by. You can either laze around here or shop around. There are markets very close to the beach but I felt they catered more to the foreign tourists who visit Kovalam. We first decided to just laze around and enjoy the sights of the beautiful windy beach and then to check out the local shops for sea shells.
Towards evening we decided to head back to Trivandrum to sample the local banana chips right off a hand cart. You can read more on this at http://wp.me/p29z7S-7k.
For our second day in Trivandrum we decided to visit the Padmanabhapuram Palace and then the southern most tip of India, Kanyakumari.
The Palace is on the way to Kanyakumari and though surrounded entirely by the State of Tamil Nadu, it is still part of Kerala (the land and Palace belongs to the Government of Kerala).
This is a wooden palace, inside a granite fortress and at the base of Veli Hills. The Palace has delicate carvings and beautiful lattice-work all over and you can see the full palace and gardens, the old style wooden furniture, chinese vases, royal kitchens, brass lamps etc. It’s worth a visit.
Kanyakumari is at the geographical end of the Indian mainland and also sees the confluence of the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. The moment you reach Kanyakumari the first thing you notice is sea shells, as it’s all around you. Everyone is selling sea shells here in shops, stalls and even on the road.
We first decided to roam around and explore the mainland Kanyakumari. We checked out all the shops selling shells (and bought quite a few gifts) and visited the local markets.
We then tried to spot the point where you can actually see the confluence. I could actually make out 2 oceans very clearly and the third one is a slightly tough one. You can see a green and a blue and a slight grey merging. I couldn’t identify which ocean was blue and which one was green, but based on the color of the sea that I see in Mumbai, I am sure that grey is the Arabian sea.
We then took the free ferry to visit the two rocky islets just off the shore, the Vivekanada Memorial and the tall statue of Tamil saint-poet.
You can also visit The Gandhi Memorial, which has been built on the spot where the urn containing Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes was kept for public viewing before immersion.
But the highlight of our trip was the sun set. It was very moving because you are seeing a beautiful sunset standing at the very last point of land in your country with the sun setting at the point where three different oceans are merging. It was a beautiful and memorable sight.
Post the sunset, we returned to Trivandrum.
Our next day was our last day in Kerala and we had first decided to visit Varkala. But we woke up late and couldn’t leave on time. So we just decided to roam around Trivandrum and see the The Kerala Government Secretariat and other government buildings, and then shop for souvenirs at the SMS Institute.
Though we didn’t have time, but if you do, you should also visit the following –
- Poovar – Poovar by itself is a small village but its known for its resort with the beautiful beaches and floating cottages.
- Varkala – Varkala is a beach town close to Trivandrum and has a beautiful rocky beach. It is the only place in southern Kerala where cliffs are found adjacent to the Arabian Sea.
- Ponmudi – This is hill station near Trivandrum and offers a scenic drive. It serves as a base for trekking and hiking and also has some tea gardens.
To summarise, the must see and do things on this route are –
- Shop at the SMS Institute for local souvenirs made of wood, coir shell, brass, sandal wood, trinkets, jewellery etc at reasonable prices.
- Enjoy water sports on the beaches
- Try the local banana, tapioca and jack fruit chips.
- Try the local Kerala breakfast spread – Idli, dosa, masala dosa, vellayappam, uppuma, puttu.
- Try a local multi-course vegetarian meal which has many courses and includes rice, 10 to 15 vegetarian curries / vegetables, banana chips, crispy pappad, pickles, bananas, rasam, buttermilk, one or two varieties of payasam.
- Definitely try the payasam (rice desert)
- Shop for shell souvenirs in Kanyakumari.