On our trips to the rolling hills and beautiful plantations of Munnar, we always make multiple halts along the way. Either it is the bewitching sights begging us to take pictures or some absolutely enticing food stalls. Along with the plantations, the elephant rides are also just outside the main town and you need to make a stopover if you want to experience the joyride. Not to be missed if you’re a fan of all beings four-legged like yours truly.
Being as it is, situated at an elevation higher than quite a few in our country, the joy of sipping on a cup of cardamom chai, smelling the eucalyptus and pine trees along the way is to be experienced. We have walked in beautiful plantations, had passion fruits fall in our laps from trees and tasted the almost watery, yet so flavourful burst of fresh cardamom picked off plants in front of our eyes. We don’t think we can do justice to the wonderful local food we have encountered while we’re talking about our staycations and will talk about the culinary adventures of each destination in a separate post.
On our earlier visit we had chosen to stay at Blackberry hills, this unfortunately, was not to be. There was some rioting in the town the day we reached, friction between the local and tourist cab drivers and our man of the hour – Danny, wonderful as he was, was not very keen to go on ahead and asked if we would be willing for a change in plans. We then proceeded to the Sienna Village. All our trepidation was cast aside when we had a look at the property and our cottage. Everything from the breakfast to the romantic candle lit dinner they arranged for us was pretty good.
The trip that we took last year, had us staying at the Ambady Estate. The place, though a little difficult to locate, stole our hearts the moment we got down from our tempo traveller. With such picturesque cottages, the completely private plantation and birds calling out to you, it is very difficult to leave even for day trips. We were welcomed with a herbal tea, and the manager was kind enough to share the recipe with us. They have an old cardamom drying facility that he took us to get a look at. Warning : Go up to the attic like space only if you are comfortable climbing up seriously old stairs and not claustrophobic. The cardamom needs a lot of dry heat to lose all the moisture and hence the breathing issues once you’re inside. Out of the seven of us, just the two daredevils that we are, ventured up. The dining area is right next to the cottage they use as a reception and the food is scrumptious to say the least. The family that owns the property lives on it, along with their wonderful staff. The owner was friendly enough to enquire about our stay almost everytime we ran into him inspite of the manager being on his toes all the time.
This property charmed us so much, almost felt like leaving home when our stay was over. p.s They sell the organic cardamom they make. Be sure to get a packet or ten, like we did.
Among the things to do while in Munnar would be, a visit to the Rajamalai National Park, something we missed doing on both our trips even after hours of waiting in line. It’s almost like the Zara store has announced a pick anything for free promotion in Mumbai. The kalaripayattu or the kathakali shows, suit yourself, we being a family of adrenaline junkies, chose the former and renewed our resolve to get fitter after we had been suitably chastened by their feats.
The natural or manmade beauties at the Matupetty Dam, Top station and the tea gardens. The freshly cut pineapple they sell everywhere, inexplicably, tastes better in Munnar than anywhere else. A well guided tour of the plantations is also something we enjoyed. The guides do tend to get carried away while they take pictures and you might find yourself strugging to contain your laughter as you humour them and take the most awkward poses. Almost all plantations have shops near the main entrance and hold a treasure trove of spices, oils, tea, coffee, sandal and what not. The Kolukkumalai tea estate was a favourite with us on both the trips. Just a word of caution, this being the highest place in the world for organically grown tea, the ride is pretty bumpy and not for the faint of heart or full of stomach. Eat light and please avoid this if you have any serious health problems. Once you reach, it is quite a delight to the sense. The cool, misty air and the wonderful, soul soothing tea that you can have, is sure to leave snapshot memories.
The one thing I absolutely love in Kerala are the freshly fried, salted yellow banana chips. You cannot imagine what popping a crisp and hot banana chip, straight out of the kadhai, feels like. Life changing. Go already.