Poovar – A Dream Holiday Living on Water

Kerala Vacation Diary

I am a complete water baby. The only form of physical exercise I really enjoy is swimming and a vacation for me means being near water. Anything else is well… travel. And believe me when I say, there is loads of difference between travelling and vacationing! For starters, a vacation means most things are taken care of in advance. It also means, you don’t do a whole lot. The best time spent would be at the edge of a water body in a comfortable lounging chair, a book in hand and a cool drink to sip (endless refills please!) Does that not sound like bliss? A vacation also has to mean no phone and internet. If I were in my dream vacation paradise, does it matter that my facebook and instagram are not updated? I would rather count the sea shells or fishes than likes on my posts…!

Now that you have a fair idea, let me tell you about a beach destination I would love to spend a week lazying in – Poovar. Located just 40 km from Trivandrum, it is a stunning gloden that can only be called a beach lover’s paradise!

My Dream Vacation at Poovar

Location and Connectivity

Trivandrum International airport is connected to major cities in India and abroad which means you can find plenty of Domestic Airlines or International Airlines options making it easy to travel there. The road between Trivandrum and Poovar are fairly good and a ride of upto an hour and a half should easily get you to the island. While the resorts are accessible by road, you can also get into a boat and navigate the backwater canals to get to the place.

Lodging

I have always dreamt of living on the water and Poovar gives you just that. A floating resort has cottages connected by land from one side and surrounded by water on all the three sides. Imagine being lulled to sleep by the gentle splashing of sea waves and waking up to quaint little boats and azure sea water… delightful! When I go to my week long trip, this is where I am staying…

Poovar Floating Resort
Poovar Floating Resort

Things to Do

While doing nothing sounds like a great option for a vacation, doing it at a great spot is what vacations are all about. So, in Poovar, you can do nothing at the golden beach. When you get bored of doing nothing, there are a few leisure activities you can indulge in. On my dream vacation, this would be my itinerary.

Day 1, 3 and 5 – Be a beach bum

Since the aim of my vacation would be to do nothing, I would spend every alternate day on the beach! If you had a beach at gorgeous as this withing walking… err floating distance, you would do that too. The best part about the South beach is that it is accessible by boat only. You have a few vendors selling coconut and snacks but nothing intrusive. For photo enthusiasts, this beach offers some stunning sand and water shots. Just pitch a beach umbrella, a few beach chairs and carry a picnic hamper for a whole day of beachy fun!

Day 2 – Explore the Backwaters

A boat ride through the Kerala backwaters not only offers a glimpse of a unique way of local life, it is a great place to observe birds in their natural habitat. A slow ride in those peaceful backwaters rids one of stress like no massage ever can! While you are at it, you can also stop at a floating restaurant for the freshest sea food lunch possible…

 

Day 4 – Head to Kovalam Hawa Beach

Now if 3 whole days of doing nothing make you crave for some action, hop in to a taxi and take the less than hour long trip to Kovalam. Hawa beach is a gorgeous beach that boasts of a lighthouse, speedboat rides and water sports. Bang in the middle of the vacation, this would be a good break from bumming around!

Day 6 – Explore the Resort

Staying in a floating resort would be useless if one did not spend enough time exploring the resort or simply chilling out in the sea cottage!

That is how my dream vacation of living and being near water would be like. Having spent just a few hours at Poovar the last time round, I am very keen to spend a long week there 🙂


Read more parts of my Kerala Vacation Diaries.

Kerala Vacation – Varkala

Kerala Vacation Diary

After some research and lots of planning for Kerala vacation, we were finally ready to start our annual trip on 21 Feb 2015!

Kerala Vacation – Varkala Travelogue

Mumbai to Kochi

We had a very early morning flight from Mumbai. To board our 5.30 am flight, we were at the airport well before 4.30 am. After the check in and the security, we came to a kiosk at the airport where they were giving makeovers to the ladies. Now imagine a vacation that starts with a free makeover… has to be a good one right? The lady did an awesome job and made me look fresh as a daisy! Did I mention it was 5 am then? Yea… we had a 5.30 am flight!

Kerala

Travelling from Kochi To Varkala

After an uneventful flight, we quickly collected our luggage and met our  chauffeur for the week by 8 am. After driving through for 5 hours non stop, we arrived at the town of Kollam about 168 km from Kochi and made made a quick picture stop giving us all a chance to stretch our legs. Since our chauffeur was from around this area, he took us to a cashew shop where we made purchases. We covered the remaining 30 km distance to Varkala in over an hour and reached Varkala beach at 2.30 pm. I wanted to go straight to the resort but Hubby insisted that we stop by the cliff overlooking the beach and boy am I glad I did! The view of the crescent shaped beach from the cliff top was glorious and there were para gliders all around us!

Kerala Vacation Varkala
Crescent shaped Varkala beach seen from atop the north cliff

 

Kerala Vacation Varkala
Para Gliding over the Water at Varkala – oh how I wanted to do this!!!

Kshetra Resort, Varkala

We were at Kshetra resorts that was on the beach. It meant that the resort was perched on the cliff and was a mere 5 min walk to the beach. This also meant that the approach road was practically non existent. Varkala has many small hotels, resorts and home stays. The lanes are really narrow and very difficult to manoeuvre a large vehicle in. I remember being stuck for ten minutes because there was a tempo unloading supplies and refused to move!

Kshetra resort had an impressive facade and a delightful little lobby decorated with plants, traditional Kerala artefacts like Kathakali masks, elephant truck covers, idols and had a library full of varied books that can be read by guests. There were sofas and chairs strewn about that one could sit and relax in. The resort seemed like an old style house with a central open to air courtyard and rooms all around connected with a narrow passageway. The rooms were very basic with minimal flooring, furniture and normal bathrooms. They had working ACs and geysers though. The hygiene levels could have been a bit better with the sheets and stuff. We had to get them replaced in one of the rooms. The staff was courteous but not very helpful when it came to our queries about the beach or places to eat etc.

The biggest negative about Kshetra resorts was that it did not have a kitchen. That basically means no room service. Not even tea! We were famished by the time we came and would have loved a hot cup of tea or coffee. The staff said we could order it from any restaurant close by and they would serve us. We did not click pictures of the rooms at Varkala but here is a quick look at the facade. That was the best looking part of the resort anyway!

Kerala Vacation
Kshetra Resort at Varkala Beach, Kerala

Varkala Beach

Varkala beach was one of the beaches I had a lot of fun on and undoubtedly amongst the top 3 places in this trip. The approach to the beach is from a hill and you have a long cliff side stairway to reach the water. Atop the cliff is a series of shops that sell everything from beer to handi crafts, from beach wear to tattoos and lots and lots of eateries! Post sunset, the market comes alive. The whole area is clearly aimed at foreign tourists. In fact, we were amongst the minority there.

The beach is very clean and while there were options of boat rides and water sports, the people are not nagging. I even saw lifeguards at the beach which is impressive! The water was clean, the slope gentle and it was great for a swim in the waves. We played around in the water till sunset and then made our way back to the hotel for the night.

 

Kerala Vacation Varkala
Varkala beach and north cliff just before sunset

 

Kerala Vacation Varkala
The shacks lining the clifftop at Varkala beach

 

Kerala Vacation Varkala
Sunset at Varkala Beach

What to Wear at Varkala

I saw a lot of foreigners at Varkala dressed in the usual beach garb. On the beach people were sunbathing in the tiniest of costumes and there were lots of bikinis around. Off the beach, tank tops, crop tops and shorts were common. However, around the resort, we mostly saw people in loose cotton tunics with shorts or trousers. The tourists sported bohemian mostly! I had opted for a striped pink and grey jersey with a matching pink tee underneath. This is one of the most comfortable dresses I own and does not crease!! I have worn this on many flights and is very easy to sleep in. Since day 1 was going to be a long day, I opted for this piece. A pair of cheery yellow wayfarers and I was set!

1-20150221 Kerala Feb 2015

Varkala – Overall Thoughts

I would highly recommend this place to beach lovers and would have loved to spend more than one night out here. The place is slow and unhurried and great to relax in. Varkala is closer to Trivandrum though. Just about 50 km so that would be a better airport if you plan on spending all your time there. We did not cover the south cliff but you can do that too for a different view of the beach. There is lots to do in Varkala and it is a great option for a relaxing beach getaway or a pit stop in your Kerala journey.

 

Kerala Vacation Planning

Kerala Vacation Diary

I wrote about the research for my Kerala vacation in the last episode of Kerala Vacation series. Armed with the research and having struck off popular places like Munnar and Thekkady, we were looking at beaches along the coast and the backwaters. So we decided to do a road trip along the coast line. Starting at Kochi, we were going to go all the way to Trivandrum and back. While looking at the map, hubby remarked how close we were going to be to Kanyakumari. On a whim, we decided to include the southern most tip of the country in our itinerary.

Kerala Vacation Planning – The Itinerary

Once the coastal road trip was decided, we zeroed in on the following stops –

  1. Varkala – We had a very early morning start from Mumbai and decided to make full use of the day. We would leave for Varkala immediately after landing and cover the 160 km distance by road. Varkala is known for its gorgeous beach and a spectacular view of the hill overlooking the beach.
  2. Kanyakumari – Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of India is famous for its view of three seas meeting. Also known as the Triveni Sangam, you get to see the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal merging into the Indian Ocean. We would cover the 128km distance from Varkala in the morning on day two.
  3. Trivandrum – The third morning we were to drive about 100km and go to Trivandrum. We were going to spend the day at the Hawa beach and take a halt in Poovar on the way from Kanyakumari.
  4. Poovar – About 35 km away from Trivandrum, Poovar is a small backwater area that leads to the most glorious golden beach. It is also home to the floating resort if you intend to stay the night else a good enough option for a day trip or a halt.
  5. Alappuzha – Located 154 kms from Trivandrum, Alappuzha or Alleppey is one of the most popular back water destinations in Kerala. Gorgeous backwaters that are laced with houseboats and then open into the mighty Vembanad lake, it is a must do! We planned to leave Trivandrum early in the morning on day 4 and reach Alappuzha by afternoon.
  6. Kochi – The last leg of our journey was Kochi. Covering the 55 odd km distance between Alappuzha and Kochi, we dedicated the last one and a half day to Kochi and finally get some time to relax before taking the flight home. After the backwaters, I was most excited about Fort Kochi to click the setting sun through the Chinese fishing nets!

Kerala Vacation Planning – Hotels

Since this was essentially a road trip and we were going to be in the hotels only for a night each, we decided to opt for mid range hotels and not high end resorts. It seemed like a waste of money to splurge on a hotel with facilities if you were not going to use them. Also, we needed two rooms at each location so budget was a big consideration in zeroing in.  The other factor was the proximity to attractions and main highway. We were keen on picking hotels that were close to these so that we minimise the time on the roads. We used portals like Yatra, Make My Trip and Trivago to book the hotels. Hubby would look at the places on these portals and check availability on our dates and I would read the reviews on tripadvisor. Once, I okayed the place, he would book them. We spent a large part of an entire weekend looking at hotels and booking them. At the end of the day, we were happy with most of our selections. My learning from the experience were –

  1. Book hotels that give you a buffet breakfast. If you are doing a road trip, then finding a good place to eat on the way is a hassle and often, a waste of time.
  2. Find hotels close to the attractions you plan to visit. It is worth paying extra for proximity.
  3. Research well and read reviews thoroughly. Look at the photographs of the property if possible. The most recent reviews are the most relevant. We had zeroed in on a great place in Kanyakumari but the most recent review stated it was under renovation. We called up the hotel to confirm and decided not to book it!
  4. Even though you are travelling with family, a business hotel is a great option. They are efficient and you will spend much less time checking in and out as compared to leisurely resorts
  5. Ask for upgrades! This is something the hubby taught me. We got upgraded to a suite at one location 🙂
  6. Check for elevators. If you are travelling with a kid or elderly, do check for elevators. We overlooked this and at one of the places, we were on the third floor. Dad had a tough time there.

Kerala Vacation Planning – Taxi

On a road trip, your vehicle is the most important thing. We decided to hire a chauffeured taxi so that we could arrive in comfort and then enjoy the places to the max. There were several leads we had from friends who had visited but none of those materialised. We then looked at the information board on the Kerala Tourism site and posted a request there. Eventually, we found the taxi from the references given on the forum itself. This was the biggest single expense for us on the trip. We were particular that we wanted a comfortable ride. So we booked an Innova. A few learnings on taxi booking –

  1. The taxi bookings work with leads. It is not necessary that the guy you speak to will be the one to pick you up. Be cognizant of that.
  2. The drivers there know English but some may pretend not to understand. This happened to us. So beware.
  3. If you are paying an advance, carry a receipt. Our driver was annoyed that we had paid an advance to the guy who took our booking. He expected us to pay the entire amount to him.
  4. If your friends or family have had a good experience with a particular driver or guide, call them and insist on booking them. Even if it means paying extra, a good chauffeur can make a lot of difference to your trip
  5. The drivers have an understanding at most locations. They would take you to the hotels or cruise operators where they can earn a commission. Since we had booked all our hotels before hand, our driver was highly annoyed with us. We shopped for cashews at the place he recommended but did not go for the massages and sari shops like he wanted. Robbed of the commission, he was very upset and his behaviour toward us deteriorated as the vacation progressed. Communicate to the guy before hand that you have your bookings in place so that he has the right expectations.

Kerala Vacation Planning – The Clothes

Kerala is a hot and humid place. Apart from Munnar and Wayanad, the whole of Kerala is pretty much like that. So pack comfortable, loose cotton clothes. On a few beaches like Varkala, swim wear is fine but at others I was more comfortable in regular clothes. The locals in Kerala are quite tolerant of tourists and western wear. Only if you plan on visiting temples, you need to be mindful of what you are wearing. At other places, dress for comfort! Also, carry lots of sunscreen!!! You can check out some of my Kerala Vacation Outfits here.

So that was all about planning. Next time, I will talk about my experiences in Kerala! Stay Tuned…


I am writing this as a series about my Kerala vacation. We took that trip in Feb 2015. My four year old daughter and 60 year old father in law accompanied us so this was an out and out family trip. Through these series of posts, I will share the experience of planning and booking for the trip and also details of how the trip was. I hope you will join me as I recount the journey yet again.


 

Kerala Vacation Research

Kerala Vacation Diary

It has been over a year since I took my annual vacation to Kerala and I have not yet posted about it. So, I am finally penning down about my journey before the trip fades to a few hazy memories in my head.

Kerala Vacation Research – The Pre Planning

I call the stage of vague ideas and Research the Pre planning stage. We had taken advantage of an air line offer and booked our Mumbai – Kochi – Mumbai tickets well in advance. We figured we had plenty of time to do the research and come up with a kick ass itinerary. Well, we did. But as usual, things got pushed to the last month and we got started with serious research only toward the end of December! Having taken Holiday packages before, both hubby and I are of the opinion that a pre-designed package was not for us. We like to have the flexibility to do as we please on a holiday and not be bound by a routine. Also, this time since we were travelling with a toddler (my four year old daughter) and an elderly person (my 60+ father in law), we wanted to be able to do as we pleased.

Kerala Vacation Research – Holiday Packages

While I knew the holiday packages were not for me, they were still the first point in my research. We were going to be in Kerala for 5 nights and I looked at all sorts of packages on the popular as well as the off beat sites. This gave me a very good idea of the popular tourist places and how to economise on the travel within Kerala.

Kerala Vacation Research – Travel Blogs

Travel Blogs were the next stop in research. I actually checked out details of the short listed destinations from the research above and read about the experiences of people. That is how we figured out that Alappuzha and Kumarakom were both similar in the offerings and I could choose one over the other. It was a travel blog that told me Poovar was a must do even though most packages did not include it and I am glad we did it! So my tip to you even if you are going to be taking a package, do read a few travel blogs about the place. You can make better use of your time.

Kerala Vacation Research – Trip Advisor

Once I had a general idea of things and places, I read tons of forums and articles on tripadvisor about Kerala in general and the places in specific. As a result, I was able to short list the places I wished to visit and the attractions around each place. Trip advisor was also a great tool in knowing about local travel, where to shop and eat and stuff like that!

Kerala Vacation Research – Kerala Tourism

The Kerala Tourism official site is a mine house of information. I started reading this site after it was mentioned on a few tripadvisor forums and wished I had come here first. This site is very well maintained with lots of information, links to sub domains and details about each destination. It also includes tools like a tour planner and a forum where one can directly contact accredited service providers.

Kerala Vacation Research – Iternerary

Once I had the short listed places, hubby and I opened a map and sat down to discuss the places. I had the most popular places in Kerala as well as the stuff I wanted to do in that list.

Kerala Vacation Research – Munnar & Wayanad

Munnar is the most popular destination in Kerala since every package had it. A hill station down south where it actually gets cold has got to be a local favourite too! Lace it with tea plantations and you have a winner. Right? Wrong! Well, you see hubby loves hill stations while I would go to one only if forced to. Our last big vacation had been to Sikkim so none of us were keen on doing hills this time. Specially some place as crowded as Munnar. We decided to skip this one.

Wayanad is relatively lesser known but said to be more beautiful. My neighbor at work is from Kerala and he had recommended this place highly. However, Wayanad is toward north of Kochi while the rest of the places we were looking at were to the south. So, Wayanad was struck off the list too.

At this point, I must mention that skipping hill stations meant we did not have to carry any warm clothing so our packing was much easier!

Kerala Vacation Research – Thekkady

Thekkady is known for the Periyar National Park that has  river sanctuary and elephant reserve. I was quite keen on Thekkady given the variety of things it offered. A wild live experience, a huge lake, elephant rides and even a spice plantation visit.  Enter hubby and he says he does not want to live in the jungle for 3 days. He cited logical reasons like mosquitos and the fact that while he and I may enjoy it, it will be tiring for our daughter and dad. Add the fact that Kochi to Thekkady was 155 km and it would have taken a good 5-6 hours to cover that distance and we would have to cover almost the same distance to be back on the coast, and Thekkady too was struck off our list!

Now, are you wondering what did we really do? We were striking the most popular places off our list. Did we actually go to Kerala or not???

Well, we did. You have seen my vacation outfits post now. Haven’t you?


I am writing this as a series about my Kerala vacation. We took that trip in Feb 2015. My four year old daughter and 60 year old father in law accompanied us so this was an out and out family trip. Through these series of posts, I will share the experience of planning and booking for the trip and also details of how the trip was. I hope you will join me as I recount the journey yet again


 

 

 

 

 

Travelling Without My Camera #MicroblogMondays


Indian Bloggers

Ever since I got my DSLR in 2009, I have carried it with me on almost every trip I have been on. I can count on my fingers the few trips that I left it behind home. On every international trip, I have carried it around with me and come back with literally thousands of pictures. So, this time when I took the uncharacteristic decision to leave my DSLR behind, for a trip to Europe no less, hubby was quite surprised. However, my mind was made up. I was not going to get much time sight seeing this time and carrying around my heavy DSLR for a just a few hours of use seemed too much. I decided I would rely on my iPhone for the photography this time!

Having relied on the iPhone to do point and shoot photography on my last holiday, I was pretty confident that I would come badck with loads of good pictures. Now, when I am back home and have browsed the pictures on the phone, I am quite happy that I did not go around carrying a heavy DSLR . Other than the frozen fingers since iPhone camera did not work with gloves, I have no complaints. I was able to go around the city carrying a small purse and my phone came out of my coat pocket every time I needed to click.

When I have a to explore a city on my own in a few hours, I invariably take a hop on hop off tour. This time was no exception and since I was in Amsterdam, a canal tour it was. Sitting inside the boat with the glass windows, I was easily able to view the city sites and my trigger happy self took hundreds of pictures! A DSLR makes taking pics thru glass windows a bit of a challenge.

The biggest advantage was asking other people to take pics of me. I used to always hunt for someone with a Nikon DSLR and request them to take pics of me. It was much easier explaining the controls to such a person. With the iPhone, I was able to ask any of the other travellers to do it for me and once I offered to click theirs in return, we were all happy tourists.

I also liked that my pics synched to the cloud every time I had wifi 🙂 so back up was immediately available. I have heard horror stories of losing cameras and cashed memory cards…

Overall, I am happy with the results of my experiment and think I will rely a lot more on the phone for pictures from now on!

Leaving you guys with a few pictures from the trip to The Netherlands 🙂