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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Munnar, Ernakulam Trip

We did this 5 nights and 4 days trip to Guruvayur, Munnar and Ernakulam by train and cab combinations, from 25th Feb '14 Tue. evening to 1st Mar '14 Sun. morning.

We got down at Trichur on 26th morning, stayed at a hotel there and made a cab trip to Guruvayur temple for Thulabaram during the day. We stayed back at Trichur on 26th night. On 27th morning we left Trichur by cab to Munnar.


Here is a high level summary of the Munnar, Ernakulam trip.

25/Feb/14 (Tue):   Train: Yesvantpur Kochuveli Garib Rath: From Yesvantpur (21:00) to Trichur (06:40)
                              Stay: Hotel Peninsula, Trichur

26/Feb/14 (Wed):   Cab: Guruvayur temple, Chavakkad beach, and back (65 KM round-trip Map, Rs 700
                              Stay: Hotel Peninsula, Trichur

27/Feb/14 (Thu):   Cab: Trichur 07:30 to Kaivalyam Retreat Munnar 12:00 (170 KM one-way Map, Rs 3800)
                              Stay: Kaivalyam Retreat - Yoga and Holistic Health Resort, Munnar
                              Trek: 17:00 to 18:30 - Estate Walk (Down the hill via tea estate to a waterfall and bridge)

28/Feb/14 (Fri):    Trek: 09:30 to 11:45 - Plantation Walk (Down the hill via cardamom plantation to a river)
                              Cab: From Kaivalyam Retreat 18:00 to Ernakulam 21:45 (120 KM one-way Map, Rs 2800)
                              Stay: Hotel Woodlands, Ernakulam 

01/Mar/14 (Sat):    Visits: Marine Drive Walkway, Sealord Jetty Backwaters Boating, Broadway Shopping
                              Shopping: Cochin Bakery, Surabhi Kerala State Handicrafts
                              Train: Kochuveli Bangalore Express: From Ernakulam (20:40) to Bangalore (08:35)


Our stay at the Kaivalyam Retreat Munnar was the main highlight of this trip. It was great, and was not 1% lower than the expectations set by all those positive reviews on Trip Advisor. Kaivalyam is a Yoga and Holistic Health Resort. It is a no non-veg, no smoking, and no drinking place. It is located 7-8 KM before Munnar. So it is away from the town's traffic, noise, pollution etc. A right turn at Worker Recreation Center, Pallivasal, and the estate that is a little down the hill -- the last 1.5 KM can only be traveled by their 4 wheel drive jeep. They come and pick-up if you call 15-20 min. in advance.

During our stay at the guest house, we took short walks within their plantation, did a trek down the hill via the tea estates to a water fall and bridge, and then a long plantation walk through cardamom estates (not tea in this location!) and other plantations to a river down the hill. On the second day (28th noon) we had a standard 'Kerala-shock'. There was a sudden "hartaal" announced for 1st March early morning to late evening, and so, all vehicles were told to be off-road that day in the entire Idukki District - where Kaivalyam Munnar is also located. As per our plan we were suppose to stay at Kaivalyam on 28th night also and leave from there only around noon on 1st March to Ernakulam to catch the train on 1st night. Due to the unforeseen, sudden, "hartaal" announcement, that is always the way it is announced in Kerala, we had to cut-short and leave on 28th evening from Kaivalyam to Ernakulam. So, in that way, it was  not quite as peaceful a trip we had aimed for, though, our short, 1-night and 1.25 day, stay at Kaivalaym was truly fantastic.

We did a short local sight-seeing trip by a cab but none of those sports were interesting. Flower garden, Mattupetti dam, Shooting point, and Echo point. Flower garden did have some interesting plants and flowers.

Our unplanned last day stay at Ernakulam for 1 night and 1 day allowed us to make a visit to a couple of spots --- Marine drive walk way and Sealord Jetty Backwaters boating, and some mini shopping --- Cochin Bakery and Surabhi Kerala State Handicrafts. And then we left from Ernakulam to Bangalore by train.

Review: Highlights of Kaivalyam and this entire trip

     * Great guest house. Impressive stone building, sloped green roofs, large dining, mini library, lots of plants.
     * Nice room with high terracota tiled roof. We got a room in the upper level that had a terrace with sit-out.
     * Simple vegetarian traditional food, served on table, unlimited, breakfast included in the tariff itself.
     * No staffs here are after our money. I gave zero tips during this entire stay!
     * The calm surroundings with good vegetation, birds talking the sound of nature all the time.
     * Friendly owner of Kaivalyam, Harish and all the helpful cooks, jeep drivers, and other service staffs.
     * The package includes a free Yoga class you can join in the early morning.
     * No AC in the room. When we were there, outside the rooms was quite cool.
     * TV and telephone are available in the room, in case you like them. Bathroom have modern fixtures.
     * Cellphone as well as data work well.
     * They have a couple of stilted tree house cottage accommodations also. They are small rooms we hear.
     * Insects are always around in such a place of stay. A highlight, if you look forward to them.
     * Their pet cat was always swirling around our legs.
     * Staffs of Kaivalyam strive to keep the place litter-free.
     * Walk to the Chithirapuram bridge and Ramaswamy dam waterfall via the tea estates on our own was exciting.  
     * Tata tea factory, Kannan Devan tea factory etc. are in this area. You can stop by their factory outlets.
     * They arranged a friendly guide who took us in the plantation walk.
     * Great plantation walk and the peaceful silence near the water stream walked all the way down the hill slopes.
     * The guide showed us a lot of trees, plants and vegetation details during the entire walk
     * Pepper, Betel nut, real Eucalyptus, Guava, Vanilla, Cardamom, Coffee, Tea, Teak, Jack, Benzoin resin, etc.

Review: Lowlights of Kaivalyam and this entire trip

     * The road from Trichur to Munnar, especially the last 1.5 hours was very bad, bumpy and tiring.
     * Everything is expensive in Munnar, including the cab travel to reach there and to leave from there.
     * Kaivalyam room was hot on 28th Feb itself, due to the sloped roofs made of tin sheet.
     * During our local sight-seeing trip in Munnar, we did not see any spots to be greatly green or cool.
     * The tea powder sold in the local shops as if it is factory outlet are not tasting good.
     * Home made chocolates, like in Ooty, sold in the local shops are expensive, but nothing great about them.
     * Mattupetti dam is a small water dam spot with a boat jetty. People crowd this place but doesn't seem special.
     * Echo point is just a lake with a small slope of mound on the other side. It is not a hill-valley location.

Thanks for your time to read this travelogue. Do remember to leave your comments here.

Read on further... for more interesting travel destination details, and lots of pictures.

Trichur to Munnar

At Kaivalyam Retreat

Tea estate walk to Chithirapuram bridge and Ramaswamy dam waterfall

Plantation walk

Munnar local sight-seeing

Ernakulam visit

Trip Tips
  • Cost: A trip like this, what is described for Munnar & Ernakulam, would cost about Rs 27-28k for three. Trichur & Guruvayur would cost another Rs 5k for three.
  • Mode of travel: We felt that if we had used a bus transport from Trichur to Munnar and again from Munnar to Ernakulam, we could have saved a lot on cost. However, there are no good buses in this sector, and the time we need to lose waiting and traveling by bus may not be a good idea to plan on.
  • Season: It is always better to visit Munnar surrounding during Oct-Dec kind of time-frame. The greenery around the hill side will be amazing.We did not see much in end Feb. It was warm to hot in general. The morning weather was slightly better.
  • Days: Munnar is a highly hyped hill station. So week-ends and vacation times are highly crowded. So you might enjoy better peace if you go during week days. 
  • Places to see
    • The sight-seeing spots in Munnar were not very special. But having gone there you do not want to miss seeing those anyway. There is a tea museum with screening of some shows etc. that we could not go due to shortage of time as it was towards end of the day. 
    • There are several other spots to visit around Ernakulam including old forts and temples that we did not cover. It may be worth trying those too.

Here are our ratings on a scale of 5, 1 being low and 5 being high.
  • Drive from Trichur to Munnar -- 2/5
  • Kaivalyam Retreat, Munnar -- 4.5/5
  • Walk to Chithirapuram bridge and Ramaswamy dam waterfall -- 4/5
  • Plantation walk down cardamom estate hills and river side walk -- 4.5/5
  • Flower garden -- 3/5 
  • Mattupetti dam -- 2.5/5
  • Shooting point -- 1/5
  • Echo point -- 2/5
  • Mattupetti dam -- 2.5/5
  • Idukki district short-notice hartaal -- 1/5
  • Ernakulam Marine Drive Walkway -- 3.5/5
  • Ernakulam Sealord Jetty Backwaters Boating -- 3.5/5
  • Ernakulam local food (red jeera water, red rice, Kerala meals) -- 4/5
  • Ernakulam shopping at Cochin Bakery and Surabhi Handicrafts -- 4.5/5
  • Overall trip from Bangalore to Trichur, Guruvayur, Munnar, Ernakulam, and back -- 4.5/5
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