India… they say you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it but I guess the only way you could ever form your own opinion is by visiting it.
And as a South African, there are plenty of reasons why you could very easily pick a place like Kerala as your next holiday destination.
For a start, South Africans don’t need a VISA… well kinda don’t, you apply online in what takes only a few minutes and you don’t pay a cent and then the answer appears in a matter of hours. The flights are also cheap, you could literally trade in a Joburg to Cape Town (in season) flight for a trip to what many call ‘South India’s most serenely beautiful state’. And when you get there, your spending money will stretch further than you could ever imagine.
While currently writing this, I’m also eating an authentic Nadan Style fish curry with steamed rice and a Kerala Paratha which cost me a massive total of R29. That would of easily amounted to 10 times more back home. No jokes.
Also, you don’t need a travel adaptor which you would only truly appreciate if you’ve ever needed power while writing an article and found that your South African Macbook power cord is very, very unique with regards to the rest of the world and our three prong plug thingies.
Kerala also features a slender coastal strip which is shaped by its layered landscape: almost 600km of glorious Arabian Sea coast and beaches; a languid network of glistening backwaters; and the spice and tea-covered hills of the Western Ghats. Just setting foot on this swath of soul-quenching, palm-shaded green will slow your subcontinental stride to a blissed-out amble.
Kerala is a world away from the frenzy of elsewhere, as if India had passed through the Looking Glass and become an altogether more laid-back place.
Besides its famous backwaters, elegant houseboats, ayurvedic treatments and delicately spiced, taste-bud-tingling cuisine, Kerala is home to wild elephants, exotic birds and the odd tiger, while vibrant traditions such as Kathakali plays, temple festivals and snake-boat races frequently bring even the smallest villages to life. It’s hard to deny Kerala’s liberal use of the slogan ‘God’s Own Country’.
Well thats what the brochure says anyway…
But standing in the middle of Old Kochi, near the harbour area with the sun lightly stroking the complex gigantic larger than life fisherman nets – a technique passed down for centuries from Chinese traders – on the one side of me and a bustling city with sights and sounds and things that are completely foreign yet somehow feel familiar and comforting and beautiful on the other.
I realize that there is much more to Kerala than meets the eye.
The entire city is wrapped in massive rain trees breaking through the ground with their enormous tree trunks and their thousands of branches towering over all of the streets in a beautiful meeting of urban complexity and tranquil nature.
The streets are vibrant and filled with life. Scooters carrying 3 or 4 people at a time sweep past tuktuks and rickshaws and trucks carrying their cargo, fighting for street space against big blue buses and taxis and bicycles and cars and people.
Beyond the sound of honking, and bicycle bells, and generators, and squawking crows you can hear traditional Indian folk songs being played with sitars and drums showcasing music that has been developed over several eras, spanning millennia.
The buildings are a mixture of old and new, the history and the future of this place and every piece of architecture is filled with the most phenomenal details. Intricate details carved into doors, and windows and fences and concrete. Details that have taken years to master and will forever remain timeless. Details that show the pride and joy of the people of this South Asia paradise.
There’s a church, next to a temple, next to a mosque, next to a synagogue… all standing together while being completely apart. Four different religions coinciding in one space, with people who have differences but are actually the same. There’s a lesson somewhere in this for all of us.
The air is thick with the smell of fresh fish and piping hot curries enlightening all my senses and making me long for another meal… even though I’ve just eaten. The cuisine in Kerala is unbelievable. Tasty, flavorsome and delivered in copious amounts. The food is made with purpose, an art of crafting the perfect recipe filled with love, passion and spices… a lot of incredible spices.
Locals around me want to take pictures, be in pictures and show me the best spots to take pictures. They are interested, and curious and helpful. They are friendly, and happy… and kind… so incredibly kind. You can see it in their faces, in their eyes, in their smiles and in their actions.
And in that one moment I look around and realize that I have never felt more at peace and more alive at exactly the same time.
They say you’ll either love India or you’ll hate it.
And even though I’ve only been here for less than an hour and haven’t even begun to scratch the surface of South India’s most serenely beautiful state.
I’ve already realized that without a shadow of a doubt, I am one million percent, absolutely in love with this place they call God’s own country.
Watch the video below to get an awesome idea of our trip in Kerala: