What do you like doing on a vacation? Get up early morning and do the regular touristy stuff? Cover as many places as you can in a tight schedule? Shop to your heart's content? Dig in to local delicacies and making it a gourmet vacation? Or just sit back and relax?
I opted for the last option when I went to Kollam recently. It's a bustling town which people usually overlook when they travel further ahead to Aleppy to experience the charm of the backwaters. Kollam is a district town which is bustling. As you travel from Thiruvananthapuram, you find pretty bungalows around you and lots and lots of lush greenery.
You can speedboat at the tranquil backwaters or take a houseboat cruise
I must admit I didn't know much about the place before I traveled there, and like any curious traveler, I did the obvious - I Googled the place and came up with some pretty exciting stuff. According to Wikitravel, Kollam has been mentioned in Greek literature from the first century, for the simple reason that it has been a thriving trading port for centuries.
Varakala is a tourist's delight
The surrounding region produces pepper (after which the city is named), cashews, coir and other agricultural products. Local communities include Christian, Muslim and Hindus. A historical Chinese population is known to exist, and the town's market is still named after them. So when here, don't miss out on the old harbour which is still bustling. There is also an old fort (doesn't make much sense to keep aside extra time for it as you can't enter it) and a few churches.
But Kollam is an idyllic retreat for those who love some solitude. I checked in at The Raviz, which is palatial and has opened its doors a few months back. The hotel is right on the backwaters. Laze on your bed all day and watch the ebb and flow of the backwater right from your room. I headed to the beach early morning. It is like a city beach anywhere, full of couples and families. The tide is strong so I wouldn't recommend swimming. Just sit on the beach and relax.
I headed back to the hotel and opted for a traditional Ayurvedic massage. The hotel has a physician who recommends what oil will suit you. In the evening, it was time for a sunset cruise on a lavish houseboat.
The day was wrapping up, and so was my stay in God's own country (Kerala tourism has indeed marketed the phrase well). I was heading out to Bengaluru the next day. Before that, I decided to go off track and soak in a small beachside town called Varakala. Virgin beauty, will remind you of Goa of the yesteryears. Kerala, like I said, is indeed idyllic.
Getting there: By air (Thiruvananthapuram is the nearest airport), by rail
When to go: Avoid summers
For more information log on to: www.keralatourism.org