So you think you know India? Crowded, polluted and heaving with holy cows? Well, think again!
In February, I had the chance to visit the southern state of Kerala and boy, was I in for a surprise!
Kerala is different from other parts of India! How? Glad you asked:
1.Where are the cows?
I mean, seriously, where are they? A few years ago, I went to the Indian states of Rajasthan and Delhi where roaming cows in the city centre are as common as pedestrians or rickshaws. Everybody gets out of the way to accommodate them and seeing these peaceful, hairy animals chewing on bits of plastic along the road is a very common sight.
Not in Kerala though. Streets are generally a lot cleaner and cows seem to belong in a field.
Why the difference?
As you probably know, India is mainly a Hindu country in which cows are revered as holy creatures.
Kerala however has much more of a mixed population, religious wise. While the majority is Hindu, there are also a significant number of Muslims and Christians. Which brings us to the next point.
2.A unique mix of faiths
There’s a place in India where religion co-exists: Kerala! It is a unique mix of faiths where Hindus, Christians & Muslims live together peacefully. In Trivandrum and Kochi, I witnessed Christian churches next to Hindu temples, next to veiled Muslim women. Now there’s something the world can take an example of!
3.Never knew India could be so green!
Again, Kerala is very different from the desert and dusty landscapes of Rajasthan! From the lush tea plantations around Munnar to the green hills of the Western Ghats… there are plenty of hiking opportunities to immerse yourself in Kerala’s beautiful landscapes! I walked the “Pappathi Shola” or “Butterfly trek”, camped in the Western Ghats and kayaked along the backwaters, all surrounded by gorgeous nature!
4. Where are the crowds?
If you’ve been to New Delhi or Mumbai, you know you have to fight your way through the crowds to obtain a spot on the overcrowded streets. Again, not in Kerala! From the peaceful Western Ghats to the green paradise that is Wayanad, you’ll feel very much off-the-beaten trail. Even the main cities like Trivandrum and Kochi are pretty quiet!
5. Eco-tourism in India
Sustainable tourism wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about India, but I must admit, Kerala has definitely jumped on the eco-tourism bandwagon.
There is lots of wildlife to spot without facing the hordes of tourists you might see in the more popular safari destinations. Take the Periyar Tiger Reserve for example: I spent a lovely afternoon navigating the lake and even had the chance to spot an elephant family who stopped for a drink at the lake banks. The next morning I took an early morning walk in the forest that is home to abundant bird life, wild boars and sambar deers.
In Wayanad, I had the chance to visit an NGO that promotes sustainable employment for rural communities, using the local resources like bamboo. And in Kumarakom, along the famous backwaters, you can experience what local village life is like: weaving, net fishing, coir making, …
Have you been to Kerala? What image do you have of India?
I was a guest of Kerala Tourism as part of the Kerala Blog Express. All opinions are my own.