The existence of God is a subject of debate in the philosophy and the God's abode is believed to be in existence out of the earthly realms. So if you are travelling to God's own country, you can be rest assured of an experience which is also out of the world. After our Water Taxi experience on 1st day from Kottayam to Alleppey, we started for Cochin on 2nd day morning. I had been to Cochin couple of decades back during my chartered accountancy training days in connection with an audit assignment of Mattancherry branch of Union Bank of India. I had just some vague memories of that trip especially of the Vasco Da Gama grave in one of the Church in Fort Kochi and Jews Synagogue at Jew Town.
We negotiated for an Innova cab for the day from the local taxi stand. George, the owner driver, agreed for Rs.3,000/- for the whole day. He was a localite and knew lot about the place as I could make out with the quick initial chat with him and later during the course of the day. I did tell George to cover the above two apart from any other offbeat and obscure place which he would want us to see.
Over a period of time after so many travels across the globe I have come to the conclusion that whatever preparation or study you may do about any place, the fine intricacies as well as the trivia about the place is best available with someone who belongs locally. For this, there can be no better person than the cab driver as you spend the whole day with him. Generally, I do a small chat with the driver before hiring the cab to gauge how knowledgeable he is about the place and the related trivia. In my case, most of my travels are weekend types which then do not allow me a luxury of covering all the places extensively. In such cases, the local knowledge of driver comes handy as he can optimize the time by routing the drive in such a way that you can cover as much as possible
Once you get this part right, you can look forward to an exciting day ahead. I have got wiser after my experience at Pondicherry wherein we had asked the guest house caretaker to arrange for a cab. The cab came and we boarded it post which we realized that the driver did not understand either of the language that we spoke. Though we were able to save the day as he was aware of the famous points which are frequented by tourists but we could not explore the offbeat places as well as could not get any back stories which typically localite can share with you. This is one of my important travel experiences.
As we started out, very soon I realized that we were not wrong in driving with George. The first point where George took a quick halt was a house on the roadside which has been constructed in a typical Kerala architecture. The house was very beautiful, nicely constructed and I am sure the owner must have invested his heart and soul while constructing the house. The house simply looked majestic and straight out of any movie. Generally such houses are spotted in movies and it seemed as if this house has also been created for a movie shooting. We stopped over for a while taking pictures and I was curious to talk to someone at the house but seemed like there was no one except for an old lady but she did not understand either of the language that we knew. So we moved ahead.
At an intersection, George took the countryside road instead of state highway. After sometime, we noticed a big flock of cranes feeding in a big water field. George told us that it was part of Kumaraokom Bird sanctuary. The sanctuary is located on the banks of Kavanar River which merges into Vembanad Lake and is spread over 14 acres. It was originally developed by an Englishman named George Alfred Baker but currently being managed by Kerala Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC). One can find wide variety of local birds like egret, darter, waterfowl, etc and also the migratory birds like Siberian cranes, Parrots, lark, and many more.
If you are a bird lover, you shall plan a trip here. Get in touch with KTDC for more specific details but do plan sufficient time. The view was mesmerizing. It really kicks in the spirits when you see such a huge flock of birds over a vast area up till the point you can see. Their movement and the flapping of wings looks like a symphony. It is indeed a visual treat for eyes.
After a brief stopover doing bird watching, we started though we wanted to spend some more time. Soon after, as we were cruising through the road, George stopped the car in front of a Church. It was St. John's Jacobite Syrian Church and also known as Attamangalam pally. The church was established in 1853 though the current building was built around 1950s. The church was very beautiful and the whole atmosphere surrounding was very somber and serene.
We crossed a small bridge whereby we could see the few houseboats which had docked there. In fact, one can notice houseboats at every nook and corner. It is no surprise that houseboat industry is one amongst the big industries in Kerala and backwater tourism plays a big role in Kerala economy. In a way, the houseboat industry has become synonymous with Kerala.
As per mythology, the land of Kerala was recovered from sea by the sage Parasurama due to which Kerala is also called Parasuramshetra. This is the reason behind the existence of one of the biggest wetlands as well as many canals; lakes and rivers in the state. There are 44 rivers with the average length of 64 kilometers. One is bound to come across either of the water bodies at few kilometers distance while driving.
Immediately after crossing the bridge, we saw another beautiful church built in Keralite architectural style slightly far away from the road in the middle of thick forest. As we were heading forward, the road was a typical countryside road. The tall trees and the lush vegetation adored the both sides of the road in abundance. The green meadows seemed to be running besides the road as we raced towards Cochin.
Recommendations to travelers
If you believe in exploring offbeat things, you shall plan a stay at Kottayam. It is ideally located in the middle but far away from the maddening crowds of Kochi and Alleppey. Once here, one can explore out bird sanctuary, troika of Vaikom Temple, Vasco DaGama connection at Kochi, water taxi ride in Vembanad Lake or just a drive through the countryside roads amidst the green meadows.
The nearest airport is Cochin which is an International airport and connected through direct flights from Dubai, Sharjah, Kuala Lumpur, Muscat, Singapore, Male, Jeddah and Colombo apart from many cities in the country including Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Indian Railway also has many trains connecting Kottayam directly with many cities in the country.