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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78. Missing the Styx

@Malampuzha, Kerala, India.

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I was just in the first standard of my first of the five schools where I have tried my luck when I first visited Malampuzha, and the second journey there was a school trip which happened in the fourth standard, the last year of the same school – the school was Vimala English Medium School, Perumbavoor; and yes Malampuzha has been a hot destination for a long time, which is why we visited the place again as a family trip just three or four years after this. So what has changed about this hot excursion destination from schools? Except for the beginning of the first amusement park in 1996 in the form of Fantasy Park, and the whole thing being made better for the tourists every year, nothing much. Yes, the place has gone better even as there have been more amusement parks all over the state and also more tourist destinations near other dams and reserviors. The place’s uniqueness might seem gone, but there is a certain amount of variety that runs through this place, and there is no doubt that it shall remain different from the others with the element of nostalgia associated with it.

While talking about the journey one can’t cease talking about Indian Coffee House, as it is that place where we always stop, if there is the presence of that restaurant chain at the place we travel through. I would recommend the Poori Masala there, and mostly it is what I have, even as that world is more extensive. The Vegetable Cutlet might also impress a good number of the customers. Tea is always there in my list whatever I have, that is for sure. There is something about the place, and may be it is the trust, the faith that one has on a place which is not that much of a vampire of the stomach as you think about the other places providing food. Angamali and Chalakudi also have the same food chain, on the same side of the road. Once Pattikad is reached, the same destination or food is on the other side of the road, just after the town. They usually open between 7:15 AM and 7:30 AM as I have noticed. It was good to have breakfast there, as there was no time to think once Trichur was behind. The great road supported by the eighty rupees of awesomeness (toll) was over, and slowly the potholes began to take over, and soon there were less roads and more the lack of it, to quite a shocking extent.

The shortest route from Cochin might be through Kaloor-Palarivattam-Edappally-Kalamassery-Aluva-Angamali-Koratty-Chalakudi-Potta-Trichur-Pattikkad-Vadakkanchery-Palakkad-Malampuzha, even as the fastest might be taking the Vallarpadam Terminal Road from Cochin and getting to Kalamassery joining the other vehicles to Aluva on the National Highway 47. The roads would be great in the beginning and all the way to Trichur, but later they were highly destructive to the vehicles, and considering the traffic which was on that road, it was quite shocking to see such a pathetic state of the path. Even the bigger trucks and buses were having a tough time, and the scooters and motor-bikes were taking the zigzag paths. It was to that pandemonium that we entered, and survived. There is no survival of the fittest here, but the survival of the luckiest. One of the trucks travelling on the front almost tried to lose their water tanks on us, but that Final Destination moment was luckily averted and the tanks fell into the potholes and stayed there as if they belonged there and caused further traffic blocks.

The first thing about Malampuzha has undoubtedly the largest reservior in Keala. Located about ten or eleven kilometres from the town of Palakkad, this dam is one of the most visited tourist places in the Central Kerala (even as it would qualify as North too) for the last twenty years or so, as I can remember the rush which was here during my childhood. It might have reduced a bit due to the large number of tourist attractions coming up everywhere, and Fort Cochin, Kumarakom Backwaters have clearly overtaken this place as the favourite as the central area of Kerala is concerned, and not to forget the good number of malls which has come alive. If you look at any tourist package to Kerala, it might be difficult to see this place there, but I would say that it is a must, as long as one can take the roads which lead there. May be the journeys are mostly joined with an Idukki-Cheruthoni dam visit which is linked to Munnar as well as the Mattupetti Dam. But the fact remains that Malampuzha Dam is the real tourist destination which features a dam, as there is the freedom to take as many photos as one wishes to, while in most of the other dams, photography is prohibited, and so why would one think twice about choosing the right tourist place with a dam?

It has the very beautiful hills of the Western Ghats in the background of the reservior which gives a beautiful shot for your camera from one side, while the other side has its own collection of hills as well as the gardens which are separated by the water which flows from the shutters of the dam and linked by two hanging bridges which is surely the first of its kind that I had walked through, followed by the ones in Singapore. Otherwise, one can take the ropeway to see the whole place around, and it is one of the first of its kind in Kerala, creating more interest in the tourists, even as there haven’t been much foreign tourists around when we visited. The dam is built across the Malampuzha River, a tributary of Kerala’s second longest river, Bharathappuzha. Due to the incredible beauty that surrounds the dam, and the climate of this season, this is very much suitable for a visit lasting the full day inside, followed by a journey to Fantasy Park and the Palakkad Fort along with the town the next day. You can use a full day with the dam and the garden as it is quite immense and it is better to take your time and enjoy.

Around the structure and reservior of the dam, we can see the beautiful, well-maintained gardens and the boating facilities, all of which can be observed from the top of the dam or the ropeway. The other tourist attractions in the Malampuzha Garden includes a fish-shaped aquarium which I remember clearly from the old times, and the gigantic Yakshi (the female vampire vampire-like image belonging to this part of the world) which I can recollect too. There is also the swimming pool, snake park and the rock garden as I can remember. But the last visit was more about the dam, the reservoir and the beauty of nature which was around. The sculptures, gardens and even a wind mill came as extra additions. Well, you can visit the place for just the natural beauty itself, and there is no reason why one shouldn’t visit here, and as the road problems are concerned, one can take a luxury bus or a bigger car and travel in the early morning – the best choice to avoid the possible horror that the roads can give you. You can come here from the Tamil Nadu side too – as a journey from Coimbatore as it is very close and is the nearest airport while Palakkad Junction is the nearest railway station.

Diving out —>
TeNy