Thinking of Kerala brings to mind clean sands, panoramic sea-foods and a million zillion coconut palms swaying to the breeze. From the earliest of history it has been the hub of the spice trade and is said to have attracted spice seekers from ancient Babylonians and Romans to medieval Arabs and colonial Europe. The story of Indian Spices is an ever-changing history of lands discovered or destroyed, favors sought or offered, treaties signed or broken, wars won or lost, and kingdoms built or brought down. (Ramachandran, Ammini. The Flavor of Kerala – Story of an Ancient Spice. Web. )
The Malabar Coast tops up all the expectations and stories with a dash of spices carefully crafted into some of the finger-lickiest, burrp-iest food around.
About an hour north of Trivandrum you’ll run into an unexpected wonder of Kerala, if one could call it that. With a 100 ft drop on one side to the beach and a maze of cafes, shops and rest houses on the other, an alley winds along and takes you on many little adventures.
The commanding views are gorgeous from up top. The sun sets right in front of you. The restaurants are beautiful. The food is scrumptious. There are many spas and Kerala Massage parlors. Surfing and paragliding thrive on the beach.
The evenings are lively with bands and music. The café fronts compete with each other for a fine display of the fresh catch of the day. Pick what catches your eye... haggle a bit on the price... have it cooked as you wish.
The Ponnumthuruthu Island has what the locals call a “golden temple” which can be reached via a boat ride from Nenduganda village. There are lagoons not too far away and the vast Paravur lake where the charm of the backwaters can be witnessed.
An hour south of Trivandrum is the other side of the spectrum of Kerala’s beaches. The famous and popular Kovalam Beach is sparkly and brightly lit. The two parts of the beach are at 90 degrees to each other. A paved promenade turns across from the fishermen’s side to the lighthouse side. Lined along this are preppy shacks, fine restaurants and shops with colorful curios and usual beach-ware. The seafood innate to Kerala, is delicious. It is displayed on shining ice-trays outside restaurants in the evenings. An expansive German bakery offers up a wide sea view and excellent cakes to accompany your freshly brewed Kerala coffee.
A short walk up to the Lighthouse perched on a hilltop presents an awe-inspiring 360 degree of the bustle of Kovalam and the lush coconut groves that surround it.
UcL Teaser: The morning attraction on the fishermen’s side (locally referred to as ‘Hawa Beach’) comes from teams of up to 20 fishermen pulling their massive nets from the night before. It is one of those delights of local life where the fisherman community co-operates to jointly make livelihood. It is often accompanied by some jolly singing of traditional work songs.
UcL Tips: Behind the frontline of restaurant fronts and glitzy shops are many Ayurvedic massage centers and luxurious bungalows.
As might be inferred from its popularity, everything in Kovalam is on the relatively expensive side. On the weekend, the Trivandrum city crowds throng to this place.