Kerala is beautiful, prosperous state on the west coast of India. It’s best known for its backwaters but it also has wonderful beaches, hill stations and wildlife areas. You could easily spend three weeks here, but we only had four days before we had to be in Bangalore to meet up with our friend Louise.
It took us four separate trains (including the toy train) to get from Ooty to Allepey. Allepey is used by most people as a base to explore the backwaters – a network of canals and lakes used for transportation and irrigation. There are a number of ways to visit the backwaters, including staying on a houseboat (expensive over Christmas), doing a boat cruise or taking the public ferries. We opted for a kayaking trip with Kerala Kayaking (http://keralakayaking.com/home/) which turned out to be an excellent decision as we got to explore the quieter canals and enjoy a lovely backwater sunrise before a delicious Kerala breakfast.
Allepey was really in the Christmas spirit with lots of decorations, a buzzing Christmas market and plenty of festive cheer. Our excellent hostel Artpackers (https://www.facebook.com/artpackerslife/) put together a Christmas Eve barbecue for us, although the South Africans naturally ended up doing most of the cooking, ably assisted by a Taiwanese lady with her epic travel chopsticks. Many travelers only use Allepey as a stopover en route to a houseboat but we really enjoyed the town, which has plenty of good restaurants and a decent (although not spectacular) beach.
From Allepey we were off to Fort Kochi for Christmas Day. Kochi was an important trading port for centuries and is full of interesting bits of history including the fascinating ‘Dutch’ palace (built by the Dutch for a Raj) and the famous Chinese fishing nets. Jeen Wilson homestay (https://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g297633-d6369161-Reviews-Jeen_Wilson_s_Homestay-Kochi_Cochin_Kerala.html) treated us to Christmas lunch complete with cake and homemade wine and we spend the evening wandering around the Christmas festivities along the vibey sea front. Staying in a homestay in Kochi is a must-do, they are cheap and plentiful and it’s a fantastic way to try some home cooking.
After another day of exploring Kochi, we spent a night at a cute B&B near the airport called Villa Romantica (http://www.thevillaromantica.in/) for our early morning flight to Bangalore.
Next stop: Hampi