Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jews Town, Cochin.

So? What do you do when you have time to kill and you are in city of Cochin? Quite obviously you would visit some of the neighbouring islands in Cochin, unless you are a Gold freak and want to check out the zillion gold shops in and around MG Road. After a little bit of deliberation we decided to visit Jews Town in Mattancherry Island and if time permits also check out Fort Kochi. We would have visited Bugatty Island, except that the only attraction there, the Bugatty Palace is now a star Hotel.

So, what's the best way to reach Mattancherry from Marine Drive? The ferry of course. I mean how often do you get to travel in a ferry? A Rs.3.50 paise ticket and you reach Mattancherry in about 20 mins - downstream. There are two main attractions in Mattacherry - the Mattancherry Palace and the Jews Synagogue, both of which are closed on Fridays and unfortunately for us it was indeed Friday. :(

Anyways, we decided to walk around Jews Town. Apart from the Synagogue there's a Jews Cemetery and a Jews Street. Jews street you'd find to be dotted with hundreds of antique shops. Out here you'd find anything and everything antique - right from meaningless photographs to even a Snakeboat. Its a shoppers paradise. A couple of khadi clothes shop you'd find with rock bottom prices. A little further down the street and you'll see the Jews Cemetery. Well, nothing much to look at (its a cemetery after all), just a little cultural significance. Jews street is the ideal place to spend a lazy afternoon.

Must-Do: Check out the bohemian stores and the antique dealers. Synagogue and the Mattanchery Palace.
Must-Don't: Visiting on a Friday.

My Rating: 5/10*

*Rating might go up had we visited the Synagogue and the Mattancherry Palace.

Bekal Fort, Kasargod.

Much has been heard about the Bekal Fort in Kasargod. One could even see Arvind Swamy desperately seeking Manisha Koirala in "Bombay" in this very locales. We decided to check out the place for ourselves even though we were in Kannur and Bekal was in Kasargod. But thankfully, Bekal is not that far from Kannur. It took us not more than 2 and a half hours to reach Bekal in a private bus, thanks to bus driver's Formula1 skills.

The ride to Kanhangad was pretty scenic with lots of streams/rivers all through our journey. After getting down at Kanhangad, we took another bus to Bekal, which was another 20 min ride from there. Once we reach Bekal, to our surprise we found it relatively less crowded like most places we visited in Kannur. At first look, it looks as if the fort stood the test of times. But once in, you'd realise that nothing much remains of the fort except the strong exterial fort walls. The best part about the fort is its Observation Tower. Atop this observation tower, the phrase "as far as the eye can see" is an understatement. Out here you could light years of land, sea and the sky.

The fort is so strategically located that its covered on three sides by water and one side by absolute greenery. There is an unusual quietness and serenity about this place that makes you not want to leave this place. The distant but loud sound of the unending waves soothes your mind and body unlike anything else in this world. You would never have enough of this place. The more time you spend here, the more you would want not to leave.

To our surprise, we found that large parts of the fort especially the walk-ways circumventing the walls of the fort has been reinforced over the years with lacerite. What is commendable about this reinforcement is that it does not spoil the aesthetics of the place.

The only disappointment about this fort is that, Bekal was never a palace. It was used only for defence purpose. Hence, you are deprived of few architectural splendors here. But apparently the fort was built in such a way to defend the fiercest enemies.

Once you have completed a tour of the fort, you can take one of the exits from the fort to the beach right below. The tide here is quite ferocious and even the season swimmer stands no match to the intimidating waters. The roaring waves here magically transforms you into an all together different world.

Bekal Fort has it all. Its the perfect holiday location. You never know how time flies here. So make sure you keep an entire day aside while visiting Bekal. And once you visit Bekal, you'll know why you promised yourself a second visit, like we did.

Getting-there: Any bus going towards Kanhangad.
Must-Do: Soak-In the sights, sounds, sand, surf and the sun of Bekal. Use the blended-in dumpsters.
Must-Don't: Be adventurous and think about a swim in the waters.
Could-Avoid: Taking pictures, as they will be etched in your minds till your last breath.

My Rating: 8/10

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Payyambalam Beach, Kannur

Situated about 4 kms from Kannur Railway station, Payyambalam beach is a local favourite. Every evening this beach is dotted with all kinds of people: kids playing under the watchful eyes of their parents, evening-walkers, day-dreaming strollers, relaxed local residents, soaking wet tourists, adventurous dumb-wits challenging the waves, et al.

Not many brownie points for this beach. Being in the heart of the city, its a "little" crowded, and waters muddy and salty as hell. But must watch the sunset here though. Nothing can go wrong with beaches and sunsets.

Getting-there: Auto rickshaw from anywhere in the city.
Pros: Right in the heart of the city. Good place to relax.
Cons: May be a bit crowded. Too many tall buildings facing the beach, spoils the aesthetics of the place.

My Rating: 5/10

Friday, June 26, 2009

Pazhassi Dam, Kannur

I should have taken my R&D on Pazhassi Dam a little more seriously. This place is strictly a picnic place. And a picnic is no fun with just two people, ain't it?
Well.. so there's this Pazhassi Dam over the Pazhassi River and threes a small park, some greenery, a curious stalker and that's about it.
But what makes the whole 37 kms travel from Kannur worthwhile is this one picture Ive taken of the greenery of this place. Its only when I got back to Bangalore and copied the picture onto my laptop did I truly see the beauty of the picture. Not surprisingly, it is now my desktop picture.

The up-side about this place is its Dead Silence. Nowhere in the whole wide world will you find a more calmer place. Its so quiet out here that you begin to wonder if you have gone deaf. From time to time, you need to make a make a sound to ensure that you are indeed not deaf.

On the down-side, you would have enough of the place after a while and wish to back to the more feel-good mad rush of the city.

But then, if you are in Kannur with enough time at your disposal you could stop by this place and experience what is called "deafening silence".

Getting-there: Take a bus from Kannur to Mattannur. And another one from there to the Dam(the frequency of which is one bus every 2 or 3 hrs).
Must-Do: Take Pictures.
Must-Don't: Visit here, if you are fighting against time and Littering of course.
Tips: Better to go in a group. Ideal place for Frisbees and cricket, find out the bus timings for the return journey.
Warning: The place doesnot have a proper washroom!!!
My Rating: 5/10

Muzhapilangad Beach, Kannur

Muzhapilangad beach situated 16 kms from Kannur is a must-visit for all beach enthusiasts. Muzhapilangad is no ordinary run-of-the-mill beach though. Its the only drive-in beach in kerala where you could actually drive a good 4 kms in the sand beach. The beach sand here is very hard which enables you to drive your vehicle at crazy speeds. So, if sand sculpting is your thing, you are at the wrong place. Add to that, the water here is so shallow, you could walk a quarter of mile into sea and come back without wetting your T-shirt.

The beach is frequented by:

  • Formula1 wannabes
  • L-boarders
  • Hand-holding couples
  • Health-freaks
  • Dejected souls
  • Camera-wielding Tourists

Like most tourist places in Kerala, this beach too is very well maintained. An Ice-cream vendor assured us, that every evening couple of KTDC workers pick-up trash from the beach. We decided to trust the guy after we failed to spot any trash around and handed-over our ice-creams covers to him reiterating him to pass it on to the workers.

Apparently, there are water-sports available here. But we couldn't spot any. May be because it was the off-season. The Europeans and the Americans come here in the winters. And for good reason too. A couple of days is all you need to get a complete tan.

All in all, a great place.

Getting-there: You could take any bus going from Kannur to Thalassery.
Must-Do: Collect Shells, drive a car along the water, walk into the sea, watch the sunset.
Must-Don't: Littering.
Caution: Stepping on crabs.

My Rating: 7/10

Thursday, June 25, 2009

St. Angelo Fort, Kannur

If you ever visit Kannur, you cannot miss out going to St. Angelo Fort for two reasons:
1. Its right in the heart of the city. About 3 kms from the Railway Station and
2. Its a experience you'll never forget in your life!!!

Getting to St.Angelo fort is easy, but getting back is kind of tricky. From anywhere in the city you can hop into an auto rickshaw and get to the fort, but you'll have to wait for other visitors of fort coming in autos to go back to the city. The fort is kind of secluded and nestled on one side by Kannur Cantonment and the other side by the vast Arabian Sea.
Firstly, St. Angelo's doesn't qualify to be called a fort IMO. Its more of a watch-point for enemy ships. You can get more info here:

Whatever remains of the centuries old fort is currently very well maintained. The landscape inside the Fort is as enthralling as the view from beyond it. There's nothing much to see inside the fort. But its so quiet and peaceful, that it would take a bulldozer to take you out of this place. As go further and further into the fort, the sound of the waves hitting the rocks pulls you closer to the waters. There's no real beach at the Fort, but something like a mini-cliff. At first the waves look harmless and inviting. One closer look and you would take back your words faster than you got that thought in your head. The cliff is secured by huge stacked-up boulders. Sitting here and staring into the sea, till where the sea and the sky meet, you never realise how time flies.

Realising that we cannot be spending the whole day watching the sea, we finally decided to move-on. It was now that we had realised, we had neither had breakfast nor lunch and it was already well past lunch-time. In our eagerness to get to the fort, the very thought about having food or carrying it, never crossed our minds. The sudden realization about the lack of food made us more hungry and stomach-grumbling louder.

And then, as if God-sent we found a street-vendor right there in the middle of the fort. With him we found a couple of jars. The jars were with filled with salted-water, with sliced green chillies and coriander leaves. One of the jars had pineapple slices and the other had mango slices. We decided the go for the pineapple slices. Now, I swear to God, the pineapple slices dipped in saltwater with chilly and coriander was the bestest thing I ever ate in whole goddamned life!!!!
After devouring about 4 or 5 slices, we were ready to bade farewell to St. Angelo Fort, with a pledge to come back here someday...
  • Try the pineapple dipped in salted-water.
  • Sea-gazing.
  • No littering.
Soak-in the sun, sea and the wind.

My Rating: 7.5/10

the run-up to our sojourn in God's Own Country...

Picking a holiday destination is not easy. More so if it happens to be your honeymoon. My first choice was Lakshwadeep. But a little bit of research with a dropped-jaw I realised that Lakswadeep is closed from May to August. Andaman and Nicobar seemed to far (conisdering that I was getting married in Kerala) and too expensive and too time-consuming.
Hence I modestly settled down with Kerala. In fact, it seemed a golden opportunity to explore the land where I was born. Though, I was born in Kerala, I never really got a chance to see places in Kerala. Our annual visits usually consisted of visiting family and long-lost friends.
But again, there was a problem of plenty. Kerala in itself is so beautiful, we needed to decide which part of kerala. The usual suspects were Munnar, Kovalam, Kollam, Kumarkoan, Idduki, Wayanad et al. But then, on a honeymoon trip theres' no point visiting places that were crowded. You know what I mean... We needed a place that was quite, serene, preferably devoid of people and one closest to Mother Nature. And did I mention, the destination had to have a beach???
With that in mind I embarked on a journey to find isolated and deserted beeches on If you are planning to visit Kerala, this website is a must-read. And soon enough I started finding what I was looking for. I stumbled upon several "unexplored" beeches in Northen Kerala. Now I know "unexplored" was probably over-rated, but I decided to take my chance.
Pretty soon I had decent list of beeches in and around Kannur district. I had decided I will pretty much stick to one district, considering the tremendous number of attractions each district in Kerala provided.

So here's was the tentative list I prepared:

1. Bekal Fort
2. Muzhapilangad Beach
3. Payyambalam Beach
4. Meenkunnu Beach
5. Kizhunna Beach
6. Pazhassi Dam
7. St.Angelo Fort
8. Gundert Bungalow
9. Pythal Mala (65 kms from Kannur)
10. Ezhimala Beach (55 kms from Kannur)

Bekal Fort which is in Kasargod district was included in the list, as it was a long-standing dream of my wife to visit the place. Cant say No to the wifey!!! Ever!! :-)

Closer towards to the date of honeymoon it was realised we had to be only 4 days than the earlier 7 days. Hence, there was more cutting and chopping and modifying of the list.

Day1. We had taken a late-night train from Ernakulam to Kannur and landed there at about 8 in the morning. Thanks to a and KTDC combine travel book we got to call a few hotels the day before and decided on PalmGrove Heritage Hotel. At Rs. 600 a night, we got what we were looking for - budget hotel. We must accept we were a little apprehensive about the quality of the hotel, so booked it for just one night initially.
Sometimes, you can never imagine how lucky you can get. As we walked into the hotel we realised we had taken the right decision to come here.
To our relief:
The hotel was just 2 kms from the Railway station.
The hotel was neat and quiet away from the craziness of the city and looked like an old heritage bunglow.
The hotel had furniture and painting from the old world and magically transported you to a different era.
The hotel was 2 kms away from Payyambalam beach.

Oh.. yeah we were THE only guests in the entire hotel for those 4 days :)