Ray & Dixita Budhia

Wellington, New Zealand

We boarded the houseboat at about 1pm and we arrived back about 9am the next morning. This cruise was an unforgettable experience through the backwaters of Alleppey until sunset.

Thank you, Shani and Joji for organising and planning for us this fantastic seven-day holiday trip to Kerala which included Trivandrum, Alleppey, Kochi (Cochin) and Thodupuzha. We were both overwhelmed by the unforgettable experience.

Everything was well organised for us by Shani and Joji who organised our itinerary and accommodation. They provided us with some of our wonderful accommodation, a friendly caring driver and a well-spoken knowledgeable local guide in Kochi. They also arranged our pick up and drop offs at the airports when we arrived and departed from Kerala and in Mumbai.

When we arrived in Kerala at Trivandrum Airport we were warmly greeted by the staff who handed us a detailed itinerary pack and explained to us in detail the content of our itinerary regarding our accommodation and the places that we were going to visit in Kerala over the next seven days. In the itinerary document, they also listed the local contacts for any required assistance.

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From Trivandrum Airport we drove south for about 40 minutes to Poovar to Isola di Cocco Resort our holiday retreat for the next three days. This resort was recommended to us by Shani and Joji as they had stayed there previously at this resort.  This is a beautiful resort set on a river bank surrounded by coconut groves, different tropical trees, lush bush, lakes and backwaters and a private beach. The views were just breath-taking. At Isola, we both experienced an amazing body and mind relaxation Ayurveda programme at the Ayurveda Centre. The Ayurvedic healing massages were amazing. Dixita also took advantage of the yoga sessions.  Our accommodation in the Heritage Home part of Isola was of high quality and was clean and very comfortable. The healthy meals at the Ayurveda restaurant were something new to us and were very tasty. The half-hour backwater boat ride was just amazing. Ramesh and his staff at Isola di Cocco were at all times polite, friendly and always helpful. We will most certainly come back to this resort again for at least seven days. We will certainly recommend this resort to our family and our friends

After breakfast on the fourth day, we travelled on a five-hour car ride to Alleppey. On the way, we had a brief stopover at the popular Kovalam Beach.

When we arrived in Alleppey we boarded our houseboat which was exclusively for us. We boarded the houseboat at about 1 pm and we arrived back at about 9 am the next morning. This cruise was an unforgettable experience through the backwaters of Alleppey until sunset. The views along the waterway were beautiful and amazing passing remote villages and islands and fishermen fishing for small fish. The highlight was the amazing sunset which we will never forget. The boat was equipped with a full kitchen and the experienced chef who prepared a very nicer afternoon tea, an amazing authentic Kerala dinner and amazing authentic Kerala breakfast the next morning. Fresh fish, crabs and prawns were available for purchase.  We did purchase some fresh prawns and these were prepared and served by our chef for breakfast.  This houseboat was a two-bedroom boat only a few years old and in very good condition. The accommodation on the boat was very clean and comfortable equivalent to a 4-star hotel with all the amenities including a/c. We had a spacious bedroom with an en suite and we had a separate spacious dining room come lounge equipped with a TV, a DVD player and a CD player. The rear of the boat had a spacious viewing balcony where you could experience the beautiful views of the river and sites on the land. Our two hosts on the boat were very friendly and were very knowledgeable and well spoken. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring the fascinating beauties of the Kerala backwaters on the houseboat.

The following morning we drove up to Kochi and later in the day went on a brief guided tour of Kochi. Our tour covered the St Francis Church, the oldest European church in India followed by a visit close by to the Dutch Palace at Mattencherry which is renowned for its wall murals depicting scenes from the Ramayana.  We also visited the Jewish Synagogue located in Jew Town. We also visited a few of the shops located in Jew Town. Our guide was an amazing well-spoken lady who was very knowledgeable on the history of Kochi and the history of the above mentioned three historic sites we visited.

We stayed overnight at the Crowne Plaza Hotel Kochi. The accommodation was amazing in every way. We were treated and hosted like VIPs.   As it was New Year’s Eve we attended an amazing Bollywood/Hollywood New Year’s Eve party to bring in 2015.

After breakfast the next morning we drove to Thodupuzha which is about 90 minute from Kochi. It was a beautiful drive through rich green and horticulture plantations. We stayed at the Dewalokam Home-stay Farm Resort for our last two nights in Kerala. This is another resort that Shani and Joji recommended to us as they had also stayed at this resort previously. Our hosts at the resort were Professor Jose and his lovely wife Sinta.  This eco-friendly organic farm is located on the banks of Kannadipuzha River surrounded by rubber, teak, mahogany, mango trees, coconut palms, to name a few. The surrounding gardens and bush were just amazing

The farm produces its own organic milk, eggs, honey and many varieties of tropical fruits such as pineapples, bananas, Indian vegetable and a variety of organic spices such as cardamom, peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, allspice, turmeric,  star anise, ginger root.

Sinta took us on a spice walk around the farm property and showed us all the above mentioned plants, vines and trees from which the spices came from. Later that day one of the guides at the resort took us rafting on a small bamboo raft on the river which flows through the farm property. This guide also took us on an amazing three hour forest walk through the lush bush and a huge rubber plantation. At the end of walk we ended up swimming in the river.

Dixita attended the early morning yoga sessions provided by a very experienced and knowledgeable yoga teacher from the local yoga centre.

The delicious breakfasts, lunches and the evening dinners at Dewalokam were outstanding and delicious.  On the first evening we and another 10 or so guests were served outdoors on a long table with this fantastic three course Kerala a dinner prepared by the chef. The following afternoon we were invited by the friendly chef for a cookery demonstration where he showed us how to cook some amazing tasty Kerala dishes which we had for our dinner that evening. On two occasions we were served afternoon tea and snacks by a chaiwala making and serving us cups of chai from his traditional authentic Indian chaiwala cart.

We had a thoroughly wonderful relaxing two days at Dewalokam with our friendly warm hosts Jose and Sinta their two lovely children Tara and Paul and their happy, friendly, helpful staff. The atmosphere at Dewalokam was very homely and we thoroughly enjoyed the friendly atmosphere and the tranquil green surroundings.  We made friends with other guest staying at Dewalokam.  The night before we departed Sinta presented us with a small gift bag which contained samples of some of the dried organic spices grown at Dewalokam.

The accommodation in the newer block at Dewalokam was of a high standard and was very clean and super comfortable. Our room was very comfortable and spacious with all the required facilities. The resort also has a very nice swimming pool located near the bank of the river which flows through the farm.

Dewalokam is an amazing off the tourist route, clean green tranquil oasis, the ideal place for relaxing and eating delicious Kerala food.  This is a retreat worth experiencing.

During our seven days in Kerala our accommodation hosts and their staff, drivers and guide took great care of us and we felt safe and secure at all times.

Shani and Joji thank you both again for organising for us this wonderful relaxing holiday to Kerala.

Ray & Dixita Budhia

Wellington, New Zealand

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