Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Solo Experience With Thiruvanthapuram, Kerala

Thiruvanthapuram, fondly known as Trivandrum ran a mixed set of emotions the moment I realised I had to visit. Obviously, Kerala is beautiful, God's Own Country, but visiting it alone kind of left me in silence. But, if I chose it as my second blog then, it needs to be special. So, let me introduce you to Trivandrum through the eyes of a female solo traveller.

Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala is situated on the Western Coast of India towards the southern most part of Mainland India and is connected by Air, Rail and Road to the rest of India. Wiki page defines quite a lot about this beautiful place, linked here, however I will take you in a personal journey in the coming lines.

I started my journey from Bangalore via Indigo Airlines(all leading airlines are available) and it took around an hour and 10 mins to land and I might add that the flight journey indeed was beautiful as we could see the shores approaching and wow, it looks absolutely beautiful. Local Cab services are available in the pick up centre and if you would prefer, then OLA cabs (app available here) are also there. And for all my solo counterparts, there is a cab service offered only for female travellers, I didn't try it but had heard good reviews (click here to book it). Okay! so a lot of serious talks on all the cab details, now let me tell you that the moment I got out of the airport, I saw a beach ! Yeah, you read it right, a beach right outside the Airport. The driver told me its the famous Shankumugham Beach, alas! I couldn't visit it but the absolute beauty with which the waves splashed against the shore sent a shiver through my spine. The waves was white as milk and the sound of it soothed the tired me.

The weather was hot and humid, so with gleaming eyes towards the shore I carried onwards towards the hotel. Trivandrum is quite a tourist destination and there are umpteen number of hotels ranging from 5-Stars to budget. I had stayed in Residency Towers as it gave me the added advantage of location, very close to MG Road and hey, I have reviewed this which you can find by clicking here.
The next most important thing is food and behold! that posed some challenge to me surely, vegetarian options are quite less with a few small outlets serving South Indian (Dosa, Idli, Appam etc.) and finding a Jain restaurant is almost impossible. However, for Non-Vegetarians there are many restaurants if you are comfortable with Beef being cooked in the same Kitchen. Well, by saying this there is nothing against any sort of food, however, I know many who are very specific of not visiting restaurants serving all kinds of meat, so this is just for info and not meant to hurt any sentiments. Almost all the people understand basic English so exploring the streets wasn't much of a problem. :)

Now, people who visit Trivandrum surely visits Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and interestingly, I found our Prime Minister, Modi Ji's photo visiting this shrine in the Wiki Page, you too can see it here. This is one of the most beautiful temples I have seen and is quite well maintained. As this is a protected site hence, photography is not allowed anywhere near the entrance. I was of the notion that photography is only banned inside the temple and hence I tried to click the entrance from the stairs, however, the security personnel chased me away. LOL! I could just click the entrance from some distance.

As per records, this temple is the richest in the world and hence there is a lot of security and a dress code has to be followed in which for men Dhoti is mandatory and women can enter in Sarees or Half Sarees. (Dhoti is also available for Rs. 40/- just outside the temple premises.)The detailed conditions to enter can be found here. But, I must tell that visiting this temple is worth, the Dravidian style in which it was built is really beautiful. The principal deity Vishnu, is enshrined in the "Anantha Shayanam" posture, the eternal yogic sleep on the serpent Adisheshan. The temple has long passages with long pillars intricate with beautiful architecture. Once in six years Lakshadeepam festival is held here(Alas! I didn't get to experience it) but, I have heard rave reviews about it. This event of decorating the temple with lights is held once in six years as the culminating ritual of Murajapam, a 56 day- long chanting of sacred verses. On this day, the images of Lord Padmanabha, Lord Narasimha and Lord Krishna are taken out on Garudavahana (the mythological eagle which is the vehicle of Lord Vishnu) in a grand procession.

There is a local market place near the palace known by the name of the area - Fort and yes, I did enjoy shopping there. It consist of small street vendors to large shops hosting dresses, jewellery and many other goods. I did venture out  and bought quite a few Sarees, they were very aptly priced and I did not have to bargain much. The jewellery options available was also quite good with beautiful bangles, Jhumkas and lots of earrings. It was such a satisfactory feeling going through the narrow lanes with hordes of public buying, choosing and what not! I moved from shop to shop and it was a perfect retail therapy. For all the shopaholics, this place is a must and also, you would find almost all the big brands on MG road for that last moment shopping. I did also see a lot of antique shops with beautiful collections and yes, handicraft is exceptionally beautiful and a must try. All these shops were within walking distance from my hotel , so you see, the location is really important.

In this same location there is Palace known as Horse Palace which has been turned into a museum now.

The museum hosts a lot of reminiscences from the bygone era when India had monarchy and is completely made of wood. The entry is Rs. 20/- for Indian Nationals and we should wait for our turn where the guide comes and takes you in a group of around 10 people. We were asked to keep our slippers outside, the guide came and took us in, he also gave us an option of selecting the language to communicate - English or Hindi. As we had few foreign tourists we agreed upon English. Inside photography wasn't allowed but I still have the beautiful images saved in my memory. Beautiful paintings, large wooden carving of legendary Kathakali characters, pottery made of China Clay, Italian Chandeliers, various portraits of the Royal family are quite a few to be mentioned among the thousands of beautiful artefacts preserved there. All these made me understand that the Royal Family is really progressive and had always worked towards the betterment of the people. This palace is a two storey with extensive wooden carvings on the ceilings. A speciality as told by the guide was that each room has a different carving in the ceiling which left us spell bound. At the centre is the library from which like sun's rays, all the rooms venture out. Currently, all the rooms are not open to public and renovation is going on for quite a few. However, what we saw delved us into a different era, it completely took us to a land which was so progressive even at that time. There were a few rooms dedicated to Dance, Scholarly discussions and also holds a secret passage to Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, which opens once in six years during Lakshadeepam Festival when the Royal family goes to the temple via the passage. Let me show you one of the wood carvings from the ceiling in the waiting Verandah which captivated me, which will give you an idea on the brilliance of their carving.

Also, all the windows are aligned in such a way that they fall in the same line for all the rooms and the outside lining has wooden carvings in the shape of horses, hence the name as Horse Palace. Although this wasn't one of those grand palaces I had visited, however, it has a very unique charm of its own and I must say that its worth a visit.

Now, for my favourite part, the beach and yeah Kovalam is undoubtedly one of the best beaches, turquoise water splashing the Golden Sand, coconut trees over the land. I went to the part known as Hawa Beach and oh! its pure beauty, but I really suggest to visit on a weekday when there are few people on the beach and you can have almost the entire beach to yourself. Isn't that straight out of a Bollywood movie? Perfect water, Golden Sand and Coconut trees swaying and not much of people around to bother. I just loved it!

Kovalam beach can be easily reached from the city by cab(which I did) or by bus. Regular buses ply from the heart of the city (Fort Bus stop) and is quite a good ride as I had taken that earlier. If you plan on booking a cab, you need to bargain and always book it for to and fro which will give a better deal. It was total around 40 Kms from my hotel(two-way) and the cab charged Rs. 1500 for 6 hour package. Initially he had said 1900 so it was a good bargain!

There are many restaurants in the area serving fresh fish which is a must try, food is good in this area with variety of exotic fishes, crabs, prawns so its basically heaven for sea food lovers. I had taken a veg dish and yeah it was delicious, so vegetarians needn't worry. :)

One more must try is the boat ride in which they take you on a speed boat which is really bumpy as its light and splashes against the wave with a mighty thrust. So, if you have a waist ache or are a little faint hearted then I would suggest not to try, but then it has its own advantage of showing you a few more beaches along the coastline. The day I visited had high tide and yeah this ride made me scream the entire time. And yes, please bargain a little here,  they did come down from Rs. 450 to Rs. 300 to show me both the sides of the beach and take my word, its worth a try. After that day I now believe that I can bargain quite a lot. :)

This coastline has really good hotels, get the list by clicking here. Personally, I can suggest Vivanta by Taj as I have heard rave reviews about it from few of my friends, however, nearly all the properties have good reviews from travellers, so explore. I took a ride till the end of the coastline crossing the harbour and the view was exceptionally beautiful as shared here. The wind was strong and the splashes on the rocks stronger but that is the beauty of our Indian coastline, isn't it? 

With time ticking towards the end of my quest with the beach, I returned to the hotel after a surreal feel with the sea.

Few tips on a Trivandrum visit is:

  • Autos are easily available to move around, however, just hop into it, say the location you want to go and tell him to put the meter, else he will ask any price as per his mood which is really high once he realises you are new. I did the same and always kept my GPS on to follow on the roads being taken. Buses also ply, however, I always chose auto for shorter distance and OLA cabs for longer ones. 
  • People are friendly and tend to smile at you which is fine, so just smile and move ahead.
  • Do not pick up any fight with any local until and unless you know the language else no will listen or understand even if you are correct.
  • Solo girls might want to return back soon to their hotels as night life doesn't exist much and even the main roads are deserted post 8 o'clock in the evening.
Saying this, Trivandrum trip was beautiful with few hiccups, but isn't that the beauty of a journey? Highs and Lows will surely make travel a pleasure and if you plan to visit this land, then just enjoy and flow with the tide. :)

Thanks for reading and sharing the joy I felt in my trip. To explore a new location, never make it a destination but rather a journey to experience each aspect and fall in love with the place.


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  2. Very detailed and nice blog Moumita.. Exactly the type of blog I was looking for.... I came here by seeing this link on other blog and this blog is really awesome....Happy to see that you even talked about some Veg options.. I would like to follow your travel blogs going forward..

    Just couple of suggestions which could make it even more helpful for readers like us -
    1. If could add the month when you visited. I am assuming it is March but that may not be true.
    2. Time of the day you visited a place and what do you think would be the best time to visit that place.
    3. How was the feel of the climate when you visited that place?

    1. Thank you Vaibhav, Your suggestions are really good and I will surely consider them for my future blogs. I visited this place in mid-February and yes, it was really warm and humid. Would look forward to you reading my blogs :)