Sunday, November 04, 2007

Neyyar Dam, Trivandrum, Kerala

Neyyar Dam is the biggest of its kind in Thiruvananthapuram District of Kerala. A tall artificial waterfall, lion safari park, crocodile breeding & rehabilitation centers, deer park, a vast reservoir with Western Ghats hills and forests as background and a decently maintained park are the attractions at Neyyar Dam.

Sivananda Ashram is another place of interest at Neyyar Dam, where people from India and abroad reach for practicing yoga in a pacifying environment.

Neyyar Dam is 30 km from Thiruvananthapuram and is reachable by road only. Neyyar Dam has a small bus stop and a small township.

The forest beyond Neyyar Dam reservoir is known for its rich biodiversity. The main interest is medicinal plants dispersed in isolation over endless forests. There too are quite a few exotic animals like Giant Malabar Squirrel.

A casual visit to this place is fun experience for the whole family. You may take a walk over the reservoir. On one side, you see a vast stretch of water. On the other, you see water falling to a depth of more than a hundred feet. The panoramic view of the garden in front of the dam is also a sight worth the seeing.

The main activity, apart from enjoying the beauty of the garden specially designed for picnic is boating in the reservoir. There are quite a few motorboats operated by KTDC (Kerala Tourism Development Corporation), which take you on a ride through the vast lake and by the side of lion safari park. If you are lucky, you can see lions wandering in the forest.

Steve Irvin Crocodile Rehabilitation and Research Center and a Deer Rehabilitation center are new additions. It is Rs.5 per person for entering the crocodile rehabilitation center. A few crocs and nothing more, I feel dejected for buying the ticket.

Apart from a KTDC restaurant, there are no other refreshment facilities. It will be better if you bring your food packed. There is also a gate pass (for vehicles only) of Rs.5 a motorcycle, to the picnic area.

Route: Trivandrum – Kattakada – Neyyar Dam: Total distance about 30 km. KSRTC has frequent bus services connecting Trivandrum-Kattakada and Kattakada-Neyyar Dam.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Aruvikkara Dam: the Foster Child of Kerala Tourism

 Aruvikkara Dam, Trivandrum, Kerala

It may be its location. It may be its lack of coldness. Aruvikkara Dam once enjoyed its status as a good picnic spot, but now is a bushy land that no one wants to take a second look at.

A temple near the dam still attracts people, as the belief is that feeding the fish here with rice and flower is remedy for warts (yes that skin condition).

There is literally no option for a snack or refreshment, except for a DTPC restaurant. The surroundings of which too have wild bushes. I fear snakes and didn't get the courage to go walk to near the door of the restaurant.

I've been to Aruvikkara on Wednesday morning, running some errands. I had my camera with me and a quickly snapped some shots on the run. The immediate thought was to get away from the location as fast as possible, that is the amount of bush and thorn that has grown into the areas once preserved as a decent picnic spot. However, I shoot a few snaps, which turn out to be decent photographs. I wonder now why I didn't take more photos.

Reaching the place is equally difficult. You need to be extremely cautious on the road to this location. The road is full of potholes. Luckily I ride a two-wheeler and I could somehow maneuver through the sides of the potholes. Still it was tough task not hurting my backbone.

It will not be too much of an exaggeration to carry a bag, so that you will not lose your vertebrae on the road.

If you want road adventure, the most dangerous of them all, welcome to Aruvikkara Dam.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Grand Kerala Shopping Festival in December

Shopping fever will grip Kerala this Christmas and yearend – thanks to the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival under the aegis of Government of Kerala, aimed at promotion of trading activity and to cash in on the festival mood.

The Shopping Festival will be on from December 1, 2007 till January 15, 2008. The shopping festival coincides with the biggest tourism season of the state is expected to attract people from India and abroad.

Government has announced prizes worth Rs.10 Crores (Rs. 100m ~US$ 2.5 m), in the form of luxury cars, consumer durables, holiday packages, etc. There will be special entertainment and sales events in all 14 districts of the state.

Any purchase of Rs.1000 will entitle the customer for a free scratch-card and a lucky draw card, which could win you instant prizes. It can also entitle you to win the mega prizes.

Retail stores, consumer durables showrooms, lifestyle stores, jewelry stores, hotels, resorts, restaurants, spas, Ayurvedic resorts and treatment centers, participate in Grand Kerala Shopping Festival.

Any merchant establishment in the state can register their business for the festival to get advertisement and technical support. Merchants can register their business under three categories and registration fee is Rs.20,000, Rs.10,000 and Rs.5000. On registering, the business gets scratch-cum-lucky-draw cards. Additional cards can be bought at a rate of Rs 15, with minimum purchase of 50 cards or in multiples of 50. Merchants also have special prize schemes, independent of the consumer prize schemes.

It is not immediately known if there are any tax benefits for purchases during this Shopping Festival period.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Kallara Rock Top Temple Kerala

Have some adventure climbing this rock, over which Kallara Ayiravilli temple is perched. Just about a 50ft or so high, these rocks are slipping too.

From the temple courtyard, you can get a panoramic view of Kallara, a small town in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala.

To reach there: About 45-minute drive from Thiruvananthapuram, on Kollam route, via MC road. Take an eastward deviation at Karette, to a not so perfect road to reach Kallara.

No, this place is not in the map of Kerala tourism and I don't feel this place will catch up, but still I was there and I liked the place, and still I have not posted here for a long time, here is something to enliven Kerala Traveller.

kallara rock temple kerala

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Picking Cardamom from Munnar Plantation

On first sight it seems tea is the only crop at Munnar. But there are several other crops including cardamom, strawberry and several rare fruits. There are also several locations in Munnar that are not actively promoted as tourist spots. Having an insider friend at places like Munnar Hill Station helps, because we were able to see places that will otherwise be shut before us and enjoy doing things about which we are completely ignorant.

On this trip we were taken to a cardamom plantation, right at the harvesting days. The women who were at work at the cardamom plantation told us how to identify ripe and unripe fruits and methods of collecting them. The inflorescence appears towards the base of the plants and one has to sit down to collect the fruits.

Though not a highly skilled of challenging task, being able to actually collect 'queen of spices' is a real experience that a visitor like me would never like to forget.

Drying plucked cardamom in special chamber is another technology. Firewood is burned outside a chamber and heat transmitted to inside the chamber with the help of big perforated iron pipes.

Just one instance, there are also several fruits like 'seemakathiri', which has seeds like that of passion fruit and tastes great, but not like any other fruit I have eaten till date. When plucked from tree, it feels like straight out of refrigerator. I think people here hardly require fridge or other items, except maybe to prepare ice-cream.

This is also place to find great strawberry. Strawberry juice, they say is ideal combination for booze.

Munnar, the Misty Hill Station of Kerala

Stumbling across a post at Kerala Journal, I thought I should rekindle my lovely blog that I call Kerala Traveler.

I will post about my second trip to Munnar hill station Kerala. It happened a few months back in September, 2006. My diary was lost on the return journey, which had many significant names.

I think Munnar Hill Station is the only hill station in Kerala that can be said to be a misty hill station. There is a hill station in Thiruvananthapuram (Ponmudi Hill Station), which can't be termed misty.

Yeah, I like mist. The mist that covers the whole area and leaves us chilled.

A few of my friends and I decided to celebrate Onam at Munnar, with our close friend Sekar, whose house is adjacent to a tea estate owned by TATA Tea. We have several friends from Munnar. These are guys and gals who come to different colleges in Thiruvanthapuram for higher studies.

The main aim of this trip was to see NEELAKURINJI, a special flower that blooms once in 12 years. It is a wonderful sight to see whole hills turning purple. The flowers bloom in abundance. On a distant look one will feel the hill is covered with a purple blue blanket.

It was real great to see the flowers, but we were devoid of a standard camera to arrest all the beauty of this flower.

Raja Malai, the place of Eravikulam National Park is the place to watch Neelakurinji. People visiting Munnar this season are double-lucky. They can see at hands reach the famous Neelakurinji flowers and Nilgiri Tahr, a very rare species of antelope.

Almost all the visitors to Munnar Hill Station are people from Kerala itself. We failed to find any one from outside the state to this picturesque and most pleasant hill station in central Kerala.

The aim of my first visit was to see Nilgiri Tahr, second one to see Neelakurinji. It was really not a pleasure seeing neelakurinji close. It was like a relief. I took the decision to once see neelakurinji in bloom when it last bloomed while I was a school kid. Yeah, I took the decision to visit Munnar when the blue flower is in full bloom while I was 12 years old.

On seeing the flowers and being able to touch the flowers and to smell the scent-less flower (or was it nausea), I felt like I have achieved something. At the moment I also have got the strong feeling that everything I dreamt of is achievable in my life. My visit to Munnar Hill Station took a metaphysical turn. It always will be.

Just like our first visit to this place, this time too we got accommodation (and food) at my friend Sekar's home. Thank you Sekar, your papa and sis. Tell your mamma I missed her.
Having a friend at a place like Munnar Hill Station has many other advantages too. I will write about the adventures at Munnar on another post.