Friday, 31 October 2014

Long drive to Delhi - 14 : Thrissur, Kerala

From Munnar we decided to go to Thrissur rather than to return back to Kochi. Hilly route had lush green cover so soothing to eyes though Ghat section is little tough due to heavy traffic, narrow road & potholes. On reaching Thrissur we found it to be a pleasant mix of ancient & modern cultures & architecture very appealing. Neat, clean & looking prosperous, much better than most Indian cities.

Thrissur or Thichur is said to have original name as Thirusivapperoor. Some say that Thrissur is shortened form of 'Thiru Shiva Perur' or Place of Lord Shiva & another version is that it is derived from 'Thri Shiva Perure' or Place of Three Shiva Temples - Vadakkumnathan Temple, Kottapuram Temple & Poonkunnam Temple.

Some Christian writers claim that Thomas the Apostle landed in Muziris near Thrissur in AD 51-52. Country's first mosque started in AD 629. Thrissur has had Jews, Arabs, Romans, Portuguese, Dutch & English. As of now Hindu population is around 50%. Interesting to note that it has sent Congress 6 times & CPI 9 times to Lok Sabha.

City is 75 km north-east of Kochi & has an average altitude of 3 mtr. The temperature ranges from 22 to 33 degrees annually. Average annual rainfall is over 3000 mm. Hotels to suit all budgets are available having variety of cuisine. Nice town to spend a couple of days. Some photos:

Satellite photo shows hilly terrain & lush green surroundings. It was almost six hours of enjoyable drive. Of course Ghat section has its own twists & turns
Exciting drive - dense green jungle, lonely road & signs warning you about wildlife!
Town Hall & Public Library - neat, clean & quiet 
A lovely view from the window of the KTDC Hotel room
Shakthan Thampuran Palace now a museum managed by ASI
Two such guns guard the entrance of the Palace

Entrance to Our Lady of Lourdes Syro-Malabar Church

Our Lady of Lourdes Syro-Malabar Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral Church undergoing renovation

Our Lady of Dolours Syro-Malabar Catholic Basilica is in the middle of the town. This is Asia's highest Church though could not be properly caught on the mobile. On the day of visit the hall was full with people standing along the walls & kids sitting on the floor even

Inside the Basilica complex

Inside the Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple 

Thiruvambadi Sri Krishna Temple is the largest Krishna Temple in Kerala

Vadakkunnthan Temple
City of beautiful & well maintained temples

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Long drive to Delhi - 13 : Munnar, Kerala

From Fort Kochi we decided to go up to Munnar via NH 49 covering a distance of 130 km. Kothamangalam was about 60 km but had heavy traffic & thereafter hight started increasing & road started narrowing. Almost took 6 hrs to reach Munnar as the road moves like a snake through dense green jungle. But the lush green surroundings are pleasure to watch.

To get out of city on to a highway is cumbersome exercise as sign boards which are in local lingo are of no help. Then you have to look for an auto driver, student or office goer who can understand Hindi or English for guidance. GPS in mobile phone comes in handy in such a situation. At times however, we had problem with GPS specially if traffic policeman suddenly decides to make a city road one-way-only! Then there is the problem of change in spelling of names of places - like Cochin becomes Kochi! Pronunciation of South Indian names by Ms. GPS are sometimes not understood & seem funny!

We always kept stock of biscuits, namkeen, honey, sprouted moong dal, lemon & fruits in car as quality dhabas are less on these roads & one is not sure to find a good one when you are in need of it. Of course good filter 'kappee' can be had easily in most of southern India.

Munnar town is situated on Kannan Devan hills in district Idukki, Kerala at an elevation of 1600 mtr. Winter temperature may go down to 5 & in summer temperature may go up to 25, cool place indeed. Munnar town is located at the confluence of three rivers Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni & Kundaly. Nearest railhead is Ernakulam approx 140 km & nearest airport is Cochin approx 105 km. Plenty of hotels & resorts to suit your budget. Enjoyable hill station. Some photos: 

On way up to Munnar - such single lane old fashioned bridges are common 

View of Munnar town from hill top

Red flags, hammer & sickle signs can be seen along the road side

During & after monsoon many waterfalls are seen

Same waterfall as seen on the other side of the bridge

Hills & tea bushes. Munnar has more than 50 large tea estates mostly owned by Tata group

In the tea garden. First tea sapling is said to have been planted in 1870 

Another view of the tea gardens

Insecticide being sprayed on tea bushes

Road spiralling through tea estates
Tea bushes are pruned & kept at table level so that picking up tea leaves is easier

Break in journey - enjoy the greenery 

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Long drive to Delhi - 12 - Around Fort Kochi, Kerala

Kochi or Cochin or 'Queen of Arabian Sea' is a part of Ernakulam district & a major port on south-west coast by the Arabian Sea. Average annual temperatures fluctuate between 22 to 32 degrees. This region enjoys summer as well as winter monsoon & as a result of which annual rainfall is over 3200 mm compared to 700 mm annually in Delhi. Fort Kochi is water bound area or one can say it is floating in 'backwaters'. Kochi is only 2600 km away from Delhi!

Kochi is well connected by rail, roads, air & sea routes. It has hotels, guest houses to fit in all types of budgets. Variety of food is available & people are friendly & easy to talk to. Hindi is understood. Wear light cotton clothes & be prepared for mosquitoes. Roads are narrow & congested & need patient driving. Enjoy speed boat rides in backwaters preferably in the mornings.

In ancient times Kochi was a trading centre of spices & was known to Greeks & Romans. Jews are said to have settled here in 12th century. Kochi was a fishing village granted to Portuguese in 1503 by Raja of Kochi in return for their help in fighting his enemies. They built Fort Emmanuel here. It remained in their possession for 160 years. In 1683 Dutch captured the Fort & remained there for 112 years. In 1795 British captured the Fort & of course they left in 1947. 

How does it feel - Firangis fighting between themselves on Indian soil for supremacy over Indians?

Fort Kochi, Kochi, Arabian Sea, Ernakulam & NH 47 - sea water enters in to the land or land extends in to the sea water?

Green routes - heading towards Kochi on NH 47. I would love to drive again only to view greenery!

Green routes - near Fort Kochi

Chinese Fishing Net near Fort Kochi 

Chinese fishing net. The net is submerged in the sea water with the help of bamboo tripod. Ropes having stones tied up hold the net at desired depth. Ropes are pulled down manually & the submerged net comes up with the catch
Memorial of the freedom struggle

Park in the night in Fort area 
Cafes & restaurants in Fort area. Enjoy international cuisine
Sea food dominates the menu here
An antique shop in equally antique Jew Town!

Old wholesale spice market on weekly off day. Kochi as spice trading centre was known to Romans & Greeks in ancient times. Then came Jews, Portuguese, Chinese, Dutch & English. Kochi absorbed them all.
One of the shops in wholesale spice market

Candles on sale near the gate of St Francis Church built in 1503. Said to be oldest European Church in India

Clock Tower of Pardesi Synagogue. Entrance of the Jew Temple is on left with an entry fee of Rs 10. It was built in 1344. Clock Tower is a subsequent addition
Bazaar in Jew Town, shops selling garments, trinkets & antiques 
Cathedral church in Fort Kochi
Dutch Cemetery
Backwaters near Fort Kochi
Island in backwaters

Monday, 27 October 2014

Long drive to Delhi - 11 : On way to Cochin

From Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram to Cochin or Kochi the distance is nearly 220 km but feels like 440 km! We took NH 47 which is a part of 620 km long highway connecting Salem to Coimbtore, Kochi, Trivandrum & Kanyakumari. This route is one of the busiest highways in India with large percentage of trucks. We took a break for the night in a Alleppy hotel.

In most of Kerala the roads are narrow & congested with heavy traffic. Most of the terrain is hilly & there are large number of bridges - narrow & old. Potholes & sudden intermittent rains stall your speed. State is thickly populated along the highways & patience in driving is called for. No one here likes to wear helmets or seat belts & overloaded vehicles are common sight.

But of course these roads have greenest scenery as well!

Nice view on NH 47, though you wish that it was a 'proper' highway

Water & greenery everywhere

Some buildings are close to highways 
Churches & Hammer & Sickle signs are common sight

Modern & old houses amidst the greenery
Onam festival decoration

In Kollam we headed for the beach. Clean India compaign has not reached there as yet!
Beautiful mermaid was waiting for us at the beach! With clean surroundings it would have been more impressive