Category Archives: India

Kerala, India

Going Green in Munnar – Kerala, India

Story and photos by Dave Stamboulis

Kerala, India

Traveling across India one becomes quite fond of the endless cups of chai, sweet servings of tea to be found in every rail and bus terminal, street corner, and just about anywhere a vendor can set up a stove. Chai is the national drink of India and pulse of the country, something that unites every local and visitor. It is one thing to partake in a cup of chai or two, but even more satisfying is to make a journey to the origin of all that tea, to the lush green plantations that drape the Western Ghat Mountains of southern India, where the hill station of Munnar offers charms aplenty.

Munnar, a city in Kerala, India was once the summer capital of the British in southern India, and it is easy to see why. The small hill station sits on a plateau in the Kannan Devan Hills up at 1500 meters, where the temperature is always comfortable, there is abundant rainfall, and the entire area is composed of an artist’s palette of every shade of green imaginable, covered in endless tea and cardamom spice plantations. The British started plantations here in the late 1800’s, finding the mix of cool weather, rainfall, and quality soil making for perfect growing conditions. Later on, Tata, the world’s largest tea company took control of much of the area, and these days Munnar has become a tourist paradise due to its cool weather, misty mountain panoramas and rapturous seas of green.

Kerala, India

There is plenty to do in Munnar, ranging from the obligatory visit to the Tata Tea Museum at the Nallathani Estate (which gives excellent displays of the entire history of tea growing in the region), to hiring a tuk tuk and heading up to Top Station, a viewpoint up at 1700 meters taking in magnificent panoramas of the Western Ghats and the adjacent Tamil Nadu State, along with the never ending verdant tea views. There are pristine wildlife sanctuaries at nearby Eravikulam, Parambikulam, and further afield, the Periyar Tiger Reserve, where one can see local fauna like Nilgiri tahr, gaur, and sloth bears, and for more nature, the Matupetty dam and lake area is particularly scenic.

tea in Kerala, India

Additionally, there are many spice gardens open for visitation around Munnar, as the area is the source of an array of spices used both in Indian cuisine as well as in Kerala’s famed Ayurvedic medicine. Cardamom is the biggest crop here, with paths crisscrossing dense forests of the tall plant.

Kerala, India

And of course there is the tea, miles and miles of it, in every shade of green, changing colors throughout the day, often bathed in mist in the early morning, and then glowing with the day’s first sunlight. While most of the tea plantations here are off limits in terms of visiting or wandering through, there are plenty of spots along the roads that give dramatic panoramas and vistas, and actually one can do even better that a visit with a stay at one of the many boutique colonial plantation bungalow resorts that have sprung up in the area.

The Windermere Estate Plantation and Retreat (http://www.windermeremunnar.com) is a perfect place to relax and base oneself in Munnar, located just a ten minute drive from town

Kerala, India

and yet completely secluded, quiet, and surrounded by plantations and beautiful views. The plantation perches on the edge of a cardamom and pepper estate that is also home to plentiful bird life, and if running around in the hills is not one’s forte, it is just as easy to lounge around on the hammocks that dot the peaceful gardens here and completely forget that one is in India.

Tea workers in Kerala, India

The green hills of Munnar were recently featured in the Academy Award winning film The Life of Pi, and the gorgeous setting has become quite popular in the Indian film industry as well, and it doesn’t take more than a short visit to convince anyone why it should be otherwise. Cool, wet green is far more evocative of England’s Lake District than it is of India, and yet here it is, only 100 kilometers from the international airport at Kochi, and a highly worthwhile stop on anyone’s southern Indian itinerary.

Kerala, India

Go: For more information, visit http://www.munnar.com/

Stay: Windermere Estate
Munnar-Bison Valley Road
Pothamedu,Munnar 685612
T:+914865230512 / 693 / 978

Eat: Rapsy Restaurant Main Bazaar Munnar T:+914865230456

Incredible India

Vagobond Travel Museum – Incredible India!

INCREDIBLE INDIA

Incredible India

This  week’s Vagobond Travel Museum is dedicated to a country I’ve never been to but would love to visit someday. We’ve had some great articles and guest stories recently from Incredible India and here they are for you.

Discovering India Through Cultural Tours

Dealing with Travel Problems in India

Top India Destinations for 2013

The Best Hotel in the World – Oberoi Udaivilas

Tips for Great Indian Travel

Kangra Tea and Lord Shiva’s House

Dharbanga – Home of the Ramayana

Incredible India photo montage by Alison Domzalski cc Image via Flickr.

Indian Culture Tours

Discovering India Through Cultural Tours

Discovering India Through Cultural Tours

Guest Story and Photos by Geeta Patel

India has always fascinated tourists from all corners of the world with its beauty and culture. Be it historical remains of the 5000 year old Indus Valley civilization, the greenery of the Western Ghat mountains in the south, the Northern Himalayas or the colorful forts and handicrafts of Rajasthan – every corner of India has its own uniqueness to lure international travelers toward the country. Discovering India through cultural tours is one of the best ways to learn about this amazing country.

Indian Culture ToursIndia is known for its unity in diversity. Multi-ethnic origins, different kinds of climate, habitats, living styles, and languages all make this country an amalgam of varieties. So much so that if a person wants to know how people in different climates and lands live, he or she needs to travel across all parts of this enchanting country.

India is considered among the world’s best holiday destinations, since an exposure to diverse cultures and languages  gives tourists an eye opening experience, but also opens up many myths and mysteries about this ancient land of gold, elephants, and snake charmers.

Indian CulturesNevertheless, arts and crafts, architecture, music, dance, religions, and languages all reflect the culture and its rainbow in this country. A tour to Rajasthan gives a deep insight with it’s magnificent forts and the Rajasthani women clad in brightly colored clothes and wearing tons of jewelry. Not to mention, men wearing huge turbans who drive tourists to the divine lodges of ancient secrets.

The Taj Mahal, symbol of eternal love and the Red Fort wearing the glory of Mughal empire are just two of thousands of historical sites. Coming down to the Southern parts of India, every city is associated with its own cultural peculiarity. Mahabalipuram is a port city, the Kamakshi Amman temple and the Varadaraja Perumal temples in Kanchipuram are considered as must visit destinations for cultural travelers. For travelers who like the idea of a pilgrimage, South India offers an unforgettable pious experience.

Not only that, but the places, art and handicrafts of India are also a great attraction for the travelers who love to explore beauty of art on clothes and jewelry. India has ruled the silk industry since ancient times.

Indian Travel Resources
India Eyewitness Travel Guide
India
Rough Guide to India 2011
Eat Pray Love

All of this comes from long perceived ideas about India among foreigners especially those from Europe and developed countries, but the real India does not appear as quite the same jungle of magic now, when they land here.

Indian WomanWhat they see and are often shocked by are high rise sky scrapers, beautiful roads, multinational companies fighting for a space in Indian market and a good number of westernized, well educated people discussing global scenarios and politics. So, today, apart from the ancient heritage India boasts, of cultural concern is India’s interaction with modern world.

So, today, when a traveler reaches India, he or she not only enjoys elephant rides but also travels across the Thar desert of Rajasthan by the royal train—Palace on Wheels and can look into the dense Nilgiri forests of South India by plane. Women of India

The potpourri of culture in India offers a complete world apart from mysteries and adventures together with food for the soul and mind.

Geeta Patel brings us this guest post about taking cultural tours in India.