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Explore the Indian way.

Travelling to India is not like visiting any other place in the world. It has everything you might seek and more. You may not always get the spit and polish but it has plenty of romance, adventure, history, architecture, colour and life.

Whether it is in the summer, winter, spring or during the monsoons, there is always somewhere to go, just throw off your inhibitions and embrace the attitude of 'everything goes'

India is also very cost effective and English is spoken almost everywhere. Just plan it properly and be mentally prepared to deal with mosquitoes, crowds, beggars and tricksters.

For me India holds a range of complex emotions. It's a huge country and its diversity in the types of people, religions, cultures, theatre, dances, songs, foods and languages is immense.

From the beaches to the Himalayas, historical monuments to the palaces, and cosmopolitan cities to rural villages, wildlife and nightlife, five-star hotels to budget outlets and from the clubs to the cultural centres this land is brimming with choices.

For a traveller coming from abroad, like me, the internet reduced my hassles in buying air or rail tickets and getting my hotel reservations. There are plenty of airlines flying from the Middle East to several Indian destinations and if you book early enough excellent deals are always on offer.

Maps and travel information are freely available and information is at one's finger tips. So all you need is to know what you want out of your Indian holiday.

Every year, with my family, I try to unravel a little bit more of my country. This year I chose to journey to my hometown in Kerala and drive down to the tip of India, a place called Kanyakumari, where the waters of the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal meet.

Kerala was in the middle of monsoons. It was raining cats and dogs but that is exactly what we are missing here. All our eyes could see were the green paddy fields, coconut palms, tapioca farms and rubber and banana plantations, not to mention the colourful villas that dot virtually every street and highway in the state.

We flew Air India Express, a budget airline that serves hot meals on its flights from Bahrain to India. Our holiday started in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala's capital city which could easily be mistaken for a sleepy old city except when you see its grand State Assembly building and the royal palace.

It is the place where India's acclaimed princely artist Raja Ravi Verma hailed from and a transit point to several interesting places in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

We drove from here to Ponmudi, 60km from the city which is a part of the Western Ghats on the edge of the Deccan Plateau. The drive is absolutely splendid and offers scenic views and a cool climate. On good days you can walk through the mists here.

Our next stop was Kovalam beach where we spent three glorious days at The Leela Kempinski Kovalam Beach Resorts. Here we lived in absolute luxury, eating excellently prepared local food and watching the tumultuous Arabian Sea from the infinity pool. This hotel is a great favourite among honeymooners and has beautifully designed interiors true to traditional Kerala style.

We then drove to Kanyakumari via Nagercovil and Suchindram, two temple towns which have ancient temples with amazing architecture. Religion is an intricate part of India and South India is particularly dotted with ancient temples most of which have a mention in mythology. As a Hindu and lover of history and architecture, they have a particular fascination for me and my family.

We continued along to Thiruchendur, famous for the Murugan temple which stands majestically by the seashore. On the way we saw one of the largest wind-farms in India and then proceeded to Tirunelvelli, considered to be one of the oldest cities in the Indian subcontinent.

It is home to two magnificent Saivite temples of historic heritage, the Swamy Nellaiappar temple and the Sri Kandimathi Ambal temple. The place is so fertile and prosperous that it is said that many years ago farmers would build fences of rice paddy around their fields because they had so much of it.

After a short stopover at the nearby Courtallam falls we proceeded back to the capital city where we rested, met friends and watched the latest Harry Potter movie which was definitely proving a great hit among the city's youngsters.

The last leg of our journey was a drive home to Guruvayur on the Main Central Road also called MC Road, one of the oldest state highways. One can soak in the culture of this sleepy state and witness nature at its best on this route while passing through many important towns of central and south Kerala.

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Publication:Gulf Weekly
Date:Aug 16, 2009
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