79. Thy Tourist Village

@Kumbalangi, Kerala, India.

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There has been not many places that I have known for this long a time, but Kumbalangi certainly remains one of them. I remember going there with my parents in a boat, as it was more of an island without a bridge rather than just another remote village. There was quite a long time spent looking at the backwaters waiting for the boat. I would wonder if that had given birth to some creativity which I kept for myself. I used to be afraid of the time spent on the boat, and always believed in death by water kept ready by the Grim Reaper himself. But the fact remains that I have traveled there more when there was no bridge, and less when there came that bridge. Thus are the games which fate plays on us. There is no doubt that the place has gotten better, but the fact remains that I myself has no longer the interest nor the need; but I did visit the place a few months ago contradicting my thoughts about not going.

It is located about fourty to fifty kilometres from the Cochin International Airport, and about fifteen kilometres from the Ernakulam South Railway Station. Yes, the place is well connected and there are more than one routes to reach there. There is an older road from the other side of the island, but it is quite a long one which is not recommended due to possible rise in the water levels and the condition of the roads. The first one may be the most commonly used and the most crowded path which goes through Edappally, Palarivattam and Kaloor, going through M.G. Road, and the another one is the same road which takes a small deviation which goes through Ernakulam Jetty and passes near the High Court and these two roads join together later as if they are made for each other. Both routes have lots of city service private buses and Thiru-Kochi buses of Kerala State Road Transport Corporation along with AC and non-AC low-floor buses of Volvo and Ashok Leyland make every fifteen minutes or twenty minutes apart from each other making this the most desirable route if travelling by public transport.

The two were the roads which we used to take when I was a kid, during those journeys to Kumbalangi in the city service private buses which remained the only choice at that time. The second one can be joined by a road which takes right turn from Kalamassery – the Vallarpadam Terminal Road which has the least amount of traffic and has the better roads except for small areas which should have some potholes and unexpected rising of terrain. The next one has a number of busy junctions on the way which goes through Edappally, Vyttila and Marad joining the other road on the new bridge to Thoppumpady, a route having tolls, but not too much to be spent – not that crowded except for those big junctions. Just be aware of the Vyttila junction which might be the busiest interjunction around despite the size of the roads. This road can also be joined from Thrikkakara and Kakkanad if a left turn was taken from Kalamassery towards the HMT junction. It is a clear one road from the airport to Aluva though, as the other possible routes towards the Perumbavoor side are more of the unreliable ones.

You can visit Kumbalangi when you go to Fort Cochin or Mattanchery, taking a deviation from Thoppumpady. The first thing you notice is surely the backwaters and the Chinese fishing nets which are located around – just like a visit to Fort Kochi. Kumbalangi is actually more of a cheaper alternative to Fort Kochi and Mattanchery even as there is not much of a history out there, with Saint Francis Church, Santa Cruz Basilica, Dutch Palace or the Jewish Synagogue, and the development also might seem less. But Kumbalangi Integrated Tourism Village project has been transforming the village and the visit is going to be totally worth the money. The island also has its smaller but beautiful churches, that is for sure – a good number of them on the sides of the main road itself. They are symbols of faith and belief which has disappearing from the world at high speed. I have known most of those churches for quite a long time and did attend mass at more than half of them. There is that beauty in simplicity and serenity out there.

Kumbalangi is the first Model Tourism Village in India, and thus has undergone quite a transformation which has not ceased yet. There is financial assistance from the state government, and the procedure has seen increase in the number of tourists who come to the place, but there is not too much rush till now. It is indeed blessed with natural beauty which has not been seen or explored much. There are smaller roads and not many bigger shops and restaurants are around, but that doesn’t take away anything. It is the ideal destination for everyone who wishes to keep away from the crowd and enjoy peace and calmness with nature supported by whatever joy the backwaters bring. There are many interesting and cheap packages for the same. It will be good if you add the place to the list when you travel to Fort Cochin and Mattanchery, as that should make a good combination. May be you can go through Kumbalangi and reach Fort Cochin through the other side of the island thus going through the centre of the island.

If you do go to Kumbalangi, there is Kallanchery which you can visit. There is also a resort of three acres, surrounded by the awesomeness of backwaters there, called Kallenchery Retreat which is a very beautiful place to spend time – it is Kallenchery Retreat (http://www.kallancheryretreat.com/) and you can check that website for more details. There are not many places like that around. Check this website and you will know about a miraculous church which you won’t want to miss – situated at Kannamaly at the end of the island (http://kannamaly.com/news/kannamali-church/) and the festival there is very famous as people from all parts of Kerala comes there for blessings. I hope none of you will miss that church and it will be even better if you are there for the feast. It also has a history as the first church there goes back to 1745. It is also the native village of our honourable minister of food and agriculture, K.V. Thomas who has also written a book about the place, Ente Kumbalangi. When you visit South India, take your time and have a look at one of the most beautiful backwater villages of South Asia at a cheap rate and a lot of happiness.

I would like to leave you with these images of Kerala Backwaters. (Check Kerala Tourism’s latest campaign on the most fascinating waterworld on Earth @ http://greatbackwaters.com/)

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TeNy

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74. Myth with a Dam

@Bhoothathankettu, Kerala, India.

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The story of Bhoothathankettu doesn’t begin nor end with our last trip to the place, a journey which happened about an year ago. It goes back to that childhood when Bhoothathankettu used to be one of the favourite tourist spots which we visited more than once, due to its easy accessiblity. It is just about ten kilometres away from the town of Kothamangalam and fifty kilometres away from the main city of Kochi. There was also the easy access from Perumbavoor, Angamaly and Aluva. It was still distant enough at that time, but closer than the rest. For some reasons, it had occupied the top of our most interesting places and the place which we should visit again and again. It used to be a place close to the heart. In the beginning, it was a small world and the travel restrictions were rightly there. Still, no matter how far we travelled, the significance of the place remained the same. So the place can claim to be the pioneer of the Travel Diaries of this world and beyond, not in an official manner, but as belonging to the mysterious ways the world works to halt a traveller and to make him go for a journey which is least expected by himself and the society.

Therefore, it has a powerful nostalgia associated with it for us. It was more like a satellite, a natural one which surrounded our world. It was our Saturn’s Titan or Jupiter’s Callisto, for that being Earth would be too predictable. We made some good visits there with Kothamangalam as the base, but the visits faded away until three visits were made in the last six years, not bad for a time when exploring new areas was the trend for one half, and watching movies later replaced the same. The first of the three visits was the reclaiming of childhood without knowing it, the second one being the same thing knowing it all, and the third one was the journey for the camera which was still not a planned one, the most spontaneous of them all, as if the forces of nature had a direct involvement in an unstoppable procedure. There is always more than what meets the eye as long as such a place is concerned, and we were the adventurers at times. The place is blemished in its history with only one accident, as on 20th February 2007, eighteen people on a school excursion drowned in Periyar at Thattekkad, not that far away from the location of the dam.

Along with the dam which stands there, there are huge blocks of unshaped stones are placed on both sides of the river Periyar, making it look like a natural dam built by some supernatural force. The name Bhoothathankettu, means “ghost fort”, “demon fort” or “monster fort”, not with a clear translation, as “bhootham” or “bhoothathan” can mean more than one thing, and the difference in traditions would make it almost impossible to make a perfect translation, and only transcreation is possible. The presence of something supernatural has to be attributed to the myths, which doesn’t really make an impact these days. The ghosts have become more and more gentle and friendly. But the name of the place does give a kick to the curiosity of the common man who hear about it for the first time. The rest has to be experienced in person. We feel the supernatural almost every day, but that still won’t tickle our reasoning ability even by an inch. We feel it in thunder, lightning, rain and everything we see each and every moment, but we fail to recognize them. So wretched is our state, as we feel them all, but fails to know that we feel; the touch of the other world hardly affects us, as we are so much attached to the scientific methods that we deny the existence of those souls.

In the world of Twilight vampires and all the good-looking monsters who keep on attaining more and more transformations towards the side of beauty, the interest might keep rising higher and higher. But what kind of interest would that be, when the creatures of darkness are no longer of their quality, and sometimes not even grey? Ultimately, that really shouldn’t count, whatever they say. As the curiosity doesn’t kill most of the cats these days, there is not that much worry associated with it. The lack of fear and the glorification as well as the beautification of the supernatural has done more bad than good in a world of confused people. The twists of fate happen just too often, and there is none when you need them. One has to wonder what is in them, but there is no right answer, as it is not something which should have happened, even as there might have been some predictions already. There are moments when one wishes for death, but this is not one of them, for this is just pleasure-seeking even in the most dreaded monsters of the world.

Thattekkad Bird Sanctuary and the Idamalayar Dam are also quite close to Bhoothathankettu. The bird sanctuary is actually quite close, and just a turn is necessary on the way back to Kothamangalam. It has a rich collection of birdlife and is a common tourist attraction even as it pales in comparison to Bhoothathankettu which has a high number of visitors on the holidays, both from inside and outside the state. A day trip to all three places; Thattekkad, Bhoothathankettu and Idamalayar is also a usual thing. Bhoothathankettu surely is good enough to be one of the most visited places in Ernakulam district as well as in Kerala – it is just not publicized enough. This has been more due to the lack of infrastructure as well as the absence of advertisements. But the situation has been getting better. Sometimes, its peace and tranquility is all that you need to make one visit. The fort of the demons is not the place you associated these qualities with. But who can deny such a thing when one has experienced this peace? Even if the demons had come back to haunt us, there is still enough in this little world to keep one interested.

It is a very scenic place right from the beginning, from the first step you take into the beauty of that place. You can walk on the side of the dam, not just on the dam. The walk with water flowing on the side, will refresh one faster than ever – free from the troubles of city life, work or student life. There is plain nature at its best, without too much interference from the humans. If it is not the weekend, this might be the perfect place to escape to. There are times when one fails to find the right place to escape into nature. But this might just work for most of the people. The sights of the hills and the greenery far away might even inspire one to explore more. There is also a park to support the whole thing, and it has been there as long back as I can remember it. There might have surely been changes made, and add-ons giving support, but the base thing has been there for a very long time. There should be enough entertainment for the children, and a good view of the dam is also possible from a point there. On the other side, there is the boating facility, and also the “erumadam” or the treehouses which are common at the tourist areas of Kerala. There is a good view from the top of it, and the beauty of the area is to be viewed from that point. It gets even better with the rain. Therefore, I wish you the moment.

Diving out —>

TeNy