As with every Kerala Travel Mart the organisers arrange pre and post tours for select media and tour operators and this year was no different feels Chandragupta Amritkar.
Traditionally held in September, this year Kerala Travel Mart 2022 (KTM) and the famed pre-KTM tours were held in May (Covid being the culprit). The organisers had planned six pre tours spread over 5 nights & 6 Days for both domestic and International media. I opted for Cochin - Marari- Kumarakom- Thekkady- Munnar- Cochin sector.
Arriving into Kochi, the vehicle picked me up from the airport and we proceeded to our hotel Tribute Royale. Located on highway, as you enter the property you are impressed by the huge lobby. The rooms are quite spacious with the restaurant serving quite a few traditional dishes. They have a very nice swimming pool is located on 2nd floor.
“We are a nice luxury hotel with most amenities provided in a 5* hotel. Thanks to the quality of food that entices ones taste buds our restaurants have won awards and appreciation. Post covid we have organised several weddings and are looking to boost our corporate events,” said Anoop Peter, GM, Tribute Royal.
Over dinner I met my co-travellers from media and all of us gelled well throughout the trip.
The next day morning our coach arrived with a specialised (and certainly knowledgeable that we understood over the next 5 days) tour guide Shyam and the driver Abil. While there remained a confusion on the hotels that we will be staying at various destinations with only last minute confirmations, the whole tour was enjoyable.
Our tour started with sightseeing in Kochi – that used to be the world spice trade center for several centuries (thanks to its excellent ports). We proceeded to old Kochi comprising of Willingdon Island, Fort Kochi, Mattancherry etc. Shyam informed us that the area is an interesting mix of culture and architecture mainly influenced by Arabs, Chinese, Portuguese and British. One can see the colonial buildings across the streets. There are quite a few antique shops for the shopoholics.
Some must visit attractions include the Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi, Mattancherry Palace(It's a Portuguese double storied palace with mural covering around 300 sq ft of its walls depicting the story of Indian epics- the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It has portraits and displays of the Rajas of Kochi and their weapons), Pardesi Synagogue, Jew Town (In 1524 the king of Kochi gave shelter to the Jews from Kodungallore by allocating them land in Mattancherry next to his palace. Today it’s called the Jew Town), fort Kochi beach, clock tower, the spice market.
From here we proceeded to Marari for lunch at the enticing beachfront resort - Abad Turtle Beach Resort. After spending some time at the beach proceeded for a night halt at Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom. One needs to take a small but scenic boat ride through Vembanad Lake to reach the resort.
Coconut Lagoon – a cgh earth experience – makes guests literally live on an island in heritage bungalows and two-storey mansion villas. A backwater destination in itself, Coconut Lagoon showcases old Kerala homes constructed in ‘Tharavadu’ style.
The wooden bungalows have high ceilings with antique furniture and a partially open bathroom but without TV. “Our aim is to encourage outdoor exploration of our beautiful resort. We have bird watching as the Vembanad lake area abounds in many species of birds. Theres also a butterfly garden, an Ayurveda Centre. We have our very own sacred grove in the property. Our sunset cruise with flute accompaniment is quite popular. Even the villas that you are staying were built from the remnants of old mansions – tharavads and were brought here in sections and reassembled by skilled craftspeople,” said Samboo.G, GM, Coconut Lagoon. Unfortunately we did not have time to relish most of the facilities. In near future we plan to experience and cover a few of the cgh resorts.
We also had a half-day tour of Village Life Experience organised by the Responsible Tourism Mission, Kumarakom. It’s a ride through the canals in a country boat. We took a stroll to see villagers engaged in traditional work especially women.
We also had an opportunity of visiting a 1000 year old mosque – the Thazhathangady Juma Masjid near the town of Kottayam. It is a beauty. The St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church, Kottayam, dedicated to mother Mary built in 1579 is a must visit. One can relish the innovative paintings, mural, and architecture.
We relished a backwater cruise organised by Spice Roots director Jobin Akkarakalam before proceeding on the long journey to Thekkady. For hi-tea we stopped at another cgh property Spice village. It’s again beautifully located. At Thekkady we went to Kalaripayattu show an Indian martial art that originated in Kerala. For night we stayed at a beautiful resort Carmelia Haven Thekkady nestled in nature. Morning we had a nature walk and after proceeded to Munnar taking us through the scenic routes with a stop at one of the beautiful tea gardens. Munnar has its own mystic charm. In the evening we went to a classical dance show at Punarjani theatre. The next day morning we left for Kochi to attend the inaugural session of KTM.
The organisers had booked me in a nice heritage property - Waterfront Granary from the Bloom group. And what a property it is - nestled amidst Mattancherry's ancient bazaar it sits ensconced in an 1877 granary with waterfront channel on one side and opens out onto the bazaar road on the other. The rooms are quite spacious and many provide a nice view. The hotel has a private dock and its own ferry (which I used to when I went for the expo). Breakfast was provided fresh on the table and I enjoyed the idlis and dosas. The staff was ever smiling and helpful. The hotel also has a museum with unique pieces of artefacts and antiques.
After attending KTM expo, I had to proceed to cover another event ATM, Dubai.