Sunday, 15 December 2013

What Brighten Up My Day..

There is nothing compare to this beautiful poem written by my son, Hakeem. It melted my heart and made my day! Mommy loves you Hakeem.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Kerala "Gods Own Country" - Munnar

It took us 8 hours to travel from Punnamada, Alleppey to our destination in Munnar. Yeah.. it was a very long hour journey not by flight BUT road. According to our taxi driver, the journey was normally 6 hours but because it was a public holiday of Pooja Festivals, some of the roads were having a bad traffic. We stuck almost an hour at different towns along our journey.

Munnar is one of the most popular hill stations in India. It is located 1600mtrs above sea level and was once the summer resort of the British rulers in the colonial days. Munnar has the unending expanse of tea plantations, pristine valleys and mountains, exotic species flora in its wild sanctuaries forest, waterfalls and cool weather.

The scenery along the journey reminds me when I was small, balik kampong from Muar to Batu Pahat. The coconut trees, rubber estates, pineapple farm and vegetable farms.. sounds familiar right.. The roads through out the journey are tarred, good and not as what I expected. There were many beautiful houses with Indian architecture looks like Balinese. I guess ni rumah toke estate, penghulu or wakil rakyat kut..

This is my second time in India. I’ve travelled from Delhi to Agra (Taj Mahal). Half of the journey, the road was very bad and muddy. The small towns that we passed by looked so gloomy with very bad traffic all the time. It was not just the ‘transport’ like cars, lorries, busses or motorcycles on the road, I could also see kereta lembu, kereta kuda, trishaw and even pigs! And.. hey Keralite people out there.. you should be proud of your place. All the towns that I passed by are organized and clean.

After hours and hours (my children said this journey was even longer than a flight back to KL) went thru the winding bumpy roads and the children three times vomiting including me – hahahaha.. pening melugai.. kuar habis muntah hijau, we finally arrived at our resort – Camp Noel. I didn’t know that I’ve booked a resort that was located at the end of Munnar’s road. We have to pass by thru a deep forest with tall trees like the one in the Twillight movie and also the warning sign of “beware of the possibility of wild animals crossing”. Cool ahh..

The resort is secluded in the middle of a vegetable farm near the village of Pazhathottam. It is 6550 feet above sea level. Once I stepped out from the car, I could feel the breezy cold air touch my face plus the smell of woods. Yes.. the natural smells of woods around us. We were served with a cup of hot chocolates (the best hot chocolate ever according to my children) upon our check-in arrival.

We stayed in a two bedroom cottage with a touch of English design. It even has a fireplace inside that my children were excited ‘playing’ and ‘experiment with it. We were surrounded by a beautiful view of majestic mountains, trees and not to forget the smell of the woods. Hilang segala penat 8hours travelling with all the vomiting when we had all of this.. hhehehhe

Our next day started with the Indian Kerala breakfast before we headed to our day expedition! Our first stop was at the TOP STATION. Top Station is notable as the historic transshipment location for Kannan Devan tea delivered up here from Munnar and Madupatty by railway. Here we could have the panoramic view of the majestic Western Ghats and neighboring state of Tamil Naidu. It was such a spectacular view.

We then passed by the MATTUPATTY DAM, which was built in 1953 and now famous for a picturesque picnic spot. Speed launches, motorboats or even horse riding are available to entertain you. It was a huge damn with very pleasing view.

Our next stop was at the famous spot called ECHO POINT. What is really intriguing about this place is the fact that the echo can be heard if you only face the trees in a perpendicular direction. We were very excited to try doing this. When we reached there the place was crowded with the local tourist. I was saying to myself – macam mana ah nak test echo ni.. with all the noises and hero heroin filem tamil tengah posing tangkap gambar!

The place actually was a long stretch of lake with rows of trees across the lake. So we have to stand by the lake and facing the tress to SHOUT or SING or say something. We tried one, twice, thrice but it didn’t worked! We got a bit frustrated until we saw our ‘friend’ next to us doing it. Probably we didn’t shout loud enough and it was not at the right direction. Once we got the hook of it.. menjerit2 tak henti2 ah nak test! Hahahhaa.. It was amazing.

We also passed by the KUNDALE DAM, which was constructed 100years ago. With a reservoir capacity of over 250 million cubic feet of water, this damn is a symbol of engineering excellence that has endured for more than a century.

Our expedition continued to the ELEPHANT ARRIVAL SPOT. Again it was crowded with tourist and we have to wait for almost an hour for our rides. This was my first time riding on an elephant and it was a wonderful experience. Imagine sitting on a huge tall animal.. lenggang lengguk jalan.. slowly that I anytime felt like going to drop off on the muddy trek.

It was almost noon and we headed to Munnar town to have our banana leaves rice lunch at the famous local Vegetarian Restaurant named Saravvanan. It was quite different from the one that I used to eat back in Kuala Lumpur. The curry and condiments that comes together looked very plain but it actually tasted delicious. Bertambah makan semua sehingga menjilat jari!!

After lunch we went for a visit to the TEA MUSEUM. This is a knowledgeable visit especially for my children. We didn’t just learn how the tea was processed but also the history of tea – how it was first brought to Kerala India, the famous tea and expensive tea and more information that I never knew.

Before we leave, we toured around this small town of Munnar. The people were very friendly and nice. All the foods, vegetables, fruits and even souvenirs are cheap. We spent almost a day with our friendly helpful driver who was so kind and never got tired to show us around. Sadly we have to leave Munnar on the next day. We left Munnar and Kerala with a mind-blowing experience. It was a tremendous experience that I and my family were not just enjoying the thrilling holiday but also to get to learn the culture, places and lifestyles of other people from the other part of the world.

MUNNAR and ALLEPPEY have their own uniqueness. At our resort of Camp Noel, Munnar – we only got hot water in the morning and evening at only a few hours. (it was cold with temp around 15degC). No Internet connections for entire stay and the electricity will be OFF after midnight till dawn. Surprisingly all of us were not complaining about it at all especially my children! We even enjoyed every single moments of our stay there.

People always terrified and talked about how dirty India is and YES.. I’ve seen those. People also complaining having stomach ache or afraid to eat or try on their foods – I was fine and even love the foods! Is India safe? – Yes! They are very honored to have guests in their home and will do all out to please us, tourists. When I said I want to visit India instead of Europe – many were surprised and wondered why?

India is a beautiful country. The people are very beautiful and special in their own way. India is often thought of as a backpacker destination with shoddy hotel rooms and dirt everywhere. This isn’t the reality! You can travel cheap or as lavishly as you want.

India is a place that everyone should visit once in the lives to get out of their comfort zones and get a different perspective of life. I guess sometimes we have to go to these kind of places to learn and value things that we have in our life. You’ll appreciate what you have back home and how fortunate you really are.

Believe me, after we came back from Kerala.. Me and hubby already planned to explore to a different part of India!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Kerala "Gods Own Country" - Alleppey

It may not be in one's top ten places to visit, but we decided to visit Kerala anyway. People might be wondering, why Kerala instead of some other 'cool, famous' places... but trust me.. when I walk you thru our journey to Kerala, you'll be surprised with the beautiful creation of this "Gods Own Country".

Kerala is a strip of land between the Arabian Sea and Western Ghats. Kerala or Keralam is known as the land of kera or coconut. It is a never-ending array of coconut palms... sun blanched beaches.. kettuvallams over enchanting backwaters.. misty mountains.. fragrance of spice, magical monsoon showers and the evenings reverberating with the rhythms of a thousand artforms.

We went to the two districts of Kerala; Alleppey and Munnar.


It was a two hours journey from Cochin Airport to our destination in Alleppey - Punnamada Lake Resort. We were greeted by the warm welcome of the resort's staffs upon our arrival until even we wanted to lay our head on the bed. Memang rasa macam VVIP sangat. Our luxurious beautiful villa is surrounded by a carpet of green, tropical flowers, fruits and plants which really soothed our eyes after being so long in the land of brown walls and mountains. The villas have all been built using traditional Kerala architecture. Every part of the rooms has a hint of traditional ethnicity designs with touch of luxury. I just loved the room!

Alleppey (which is also known as Alappuzha) is referred to as the "Venice of the East". We woke up in the morning greeted by the soft breeze blowing off the Vembanad Lake facing our resort. We enjoyed our breakfast and lunch with the beautiful scenery of houseboats continuously cruising down the backwaters. My kids just loved to walk and run around the resorts, appreciate the greens and the view of the large lake. What else could you ask for at that moment..

We also experienced cruising the famous 'houseboat' on the backwaters. Houseboats or kettuvallams are the boats of Kerala that were originally used for the purpose of transporting food grains from one part of the state to another. However, most of these boats nowadays have been transformed into luxurious water vessels. Mostly the houseboats are about 25mtrs long, made of planks of jack-wood joined together with coir. Not even a single nail is used during the construction of the boat. The houseboats have an open foredeck sheltered by a vaulted roof of braided screw pine grass called vembanad.



Our houseboat took us to the rural lifestyle journey of Keralites. We could see villages with the riverbanks that are embroidered with the palm trees and a cluster of mud houses with thatched roofs. Some houses looked rundown with just plywood as a wall or roof. There were also a few big beautiful bright colour houses that attracted our attention. This I think rumah penghulu or wakil rakyat kut..

We also witnessed women washing their clothes, dishes and even taking a shower. We viewed children running around catching each other in front of their houses and some also swimming splashing water to each other.

You might think that this kind of scenario could only be seen on the TV or probably acting played at some places like Disneyland – NO.. this is real. The boat cruised so close to the riverbank that I could see all of these very clearly.

This is such a valuable experience to me and especially my children. Witnessing all of these from the decks of my houseboat didn't make me feel better than them, but made me appreciate more with what I have now.

Our days in Alleppey mostly spent on relaxing, swimming and enjoying the cool breezy weather. We also had a chance to see how toddy was traditionally made. The process is called ‘toddy tapping’ where a man climbs to the top of coconut palms to tap the trees for their sweet sap.

We were also being entertained by the cultural traditional show over our dinner. Though we couldn’t understand any single words, we still enjoyed the show especially accompany by the delicious Kerala spicy food.. We just love the food!


We had a lovely stay here. I would recommend any of you to come to Alleppey and stay at the Punnamada Lake Resort. The resort is gated with tight security and secluded at the end of the village. It is very beautiful, clean and also not to forget the delicious food they have. The staff were very helpful and friendly. My children learned lots of Malayalam vocabs from them. They are everywhere at anytime to greet and assist you.

In this resort you really truly feel like you're in Kerala. It was not just the surrounding or the food but also the people. All the men staff wear their traditional dress called 'Moondoo'. It is a hand-woven cotton cloth that is worn like sarong. Ala.. yang macam mamak2 zaman dulu buat roti canai tu...

When we first arrived at the Cochin Airport, I was followed by a guy who claimed to be a taxi driver. He saw me holding a taxi slip and kept saying "taxi.. innova.. my taxi.." I was like.. biar betul dia ni taxi driver. He was wearing this white 'moondo' yang asyik2 dia duk angkat and selak sampai ke lutut plus with rambut ala alleycat. Macam tak confident je akak..

Well.. actually he was our taxi driver! Hahhahaa... His name is Sebastian. A nice chap though.. very determine to explain and tell us all the places that we passed by although he was struggling to speak English! Along our journey we saw almost all the man wearing this 'moondoo' and ladies wearing their traditional Kerala dress. I felt like watching a life Tamil movie except no action from Sivaji The Boss!

Anyway..   if you want to be treated like a King or Queen.. or probably a “Bollywood Superstar” in India, stay at the 4-5 stars hotels. Forget about what people say and comments about India or Indians. This is my second holiday in India and trust me.. Indians here are very nice, kind and friendly to tourists. You have to experience and see it to believe it.