Our first stop in Kerala - Athirapalli Falls! We stayed in a resort that overlooked the waterfalls and was located in the heart of the forest. We enjoyed the view from our treehouse, drank a billion cups of chai and fresh coconut water, and took tons of pictures.
We had typical Kerala food during our stay here. Pictured above:
Idiyappam (steamed rice noodles)
Koon Ularthiyathu (dried mushroom and coconut fry)
Vegetable Paal Curry (vegetables cooked in coconut milk)
Our tree house nestled in the woods!
Below are a few shots of the inside and the amazing view we woke up to:
Our next stop in Kerala - Alappuzha or Alappy for an overnight stay on a boathouse! Kerala's tourism industry is huge and we met people from all over the world who had come to see Kerala's beauty from a houseboat. A crew of just two men drove the boat and also cooked us breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two days. The peace and calm was an unparalleled experience...
I was most amused by the Kerala lifestyle that we witnessed while going through the town on our houseboat. The families living along the river had such simple and fulfilling lifestyles: they wake up and bathe in the river, wash their clothes, sit down to fish in their backyards, then cook lunch and dinner with their catch of the day. Whatever extra seafood they catch is sold in the city.
Seafood is the Kerala specialty, which I unfortunately did not experience, since I'm vegetarian. I saw the above fish go from the sea on to this plate for lunch - and was told it was delicious. To be honest, this photo scares the hell out of me...
After lunch, we jumped on to a smaller canoe to traverse the smaller waterways of the river, with little houses lined along the coast the entire way. Right from coffee and fresh prawns to toddy (naturally fermented alcohol from the sap of a coconut tree), many small shops conducted business right from the edge of the water to passengers traveling via boat. We stopped for coffee and a coconut water at a "Coffee Hut" along the way (see below):
Since there were no roads in this town, most households owned small boats to get around and run their errands: buy groceries, visit relatives, enter the city, etc. Many boats were designated for public transportation, such as school boats. Instead of bus stops, there were boat stops, where local folks waited every morning to go to work, school, or just cross over to the other bank.
Admiring the view one last time before checking out of our houseboat.
Our last stop - Munnar! Rolling hills of tea plantations, mist, and cool weather. We visited a tea estate and learned how green, white, and black teas are plucked and processed.
Thousands of bags of tea leaves are plucked by hand every single day by plantation workers:
They are then slowly dried and oxidized over time to achieve the dark brown color:
Then ground into a paste:
400 tons of tea processed at Munnar every year:
After visiting the tea estates, we took an elephant safari through the forest. Made friends with Sri Kutty, the cutest elephant ever! At the end of the ride, we fed her some pineapples and corn kernels:
In the afternoon, we headed to Top Station - a viewpoint that used to be a major transshipment delivery point for tea out of Munnar. Along the way, we encountered a grandma who was chilling out while selling fruits to tourists, a woman who was grilling corn on the cob by manually lighting a fire, and a group of Muslim women waiting for the bus.
Tourist location street shops selling wooden bangles:
On our last day, we stopped by a cultural arts center to watch Kathakali (classical dance form) and Kaliripayattu (martial arts form), two of Kerala's most renowned traditions.