Sunday, September 30, 2012

Kerala Trip

A good trip was long long overdue.... to be precise, almost 5 years! We have not had done any travel since our honeymoon in Dec 2007 due to various genuine reasons - except small trips around Pune. So after quite a few deliberations and considerations about various places like Kashmir, Ladakh, Shimla, Kerala we finalized on Kerala [It was wife's first choice! :)].

So the dates finalized for the trip were 20th Sept to 28th Sept - two reasons for finalizing Sept month. One - I had to complete my leaves by end of September and Two - from 1st Oct, peak season starts in Kerala taking costs up by 30% to 50%! The best value-for-money months for Kerala trip are Aug and Sept (Aug may witness some mild rain occasionally)!

Now before digging into details, some main points about the trip:
Flight: Spice-jet return (direct) flight Pune-Kochi-Pune cost about Rs. 6000 per person for return ticket! (booked through MMT) - Total Rs 18000 for 2 adults + 1 kid (2.5 years)
Kerala Local Package: Package for 8 nights 9 days, Total cost Rs 37000 for two adults + one kid, including car, hotels everything. (does not include flight tickets)
Tour operator for Package: A1 Kerala Holidays - http://www.a1keralaholidays.com.
My overall experience with the tour operator: Excellent - I would highly recommend! Got best rate from them and service was excellent!

Now some details about planning of the trip:
I booked my honeymoon trip to Mauritius through MakeMyTrip. While the service was good, when I met some other couples who were in the same hotel and same flight as we were, I realized that cost of MMT was about 10% higher than the local travel agents. So this time I preferred going with local travel agents and not any of the OTAs!
Through google search I found A1 Kerala Holidays. One more interesting site (a startup) I found during my search is http://www.traveltriangle.com. On travel triangle, one can post his travel requirement and local travel agents will provide quotation for the trip competing with each other.
I received quotes from various agents but the best one was from A1 and hence I decided to go with them. Initially I was a bit apprehensive as I didn't find any reviews about them on net (not even on TripAdvisor!). However, the closest quotation I had was more than 10% higher and A1 is a General Sales Agent of KTDC and TTDC so decided to take a chance and go with A1.

Itinerary:
My itinerary was something like this -
Cochin (1 night) - Munnar (2 nights) - Thekkady (1 night) - Alleppey houseboat (1 night) - Kovalam: including a day trip to kanyakumari (2 nights) - cochin (1 night) - cochin departure

My Hotels:
Cochin : Hotel SeaLord (Meals: Breakfast)
Munnar : Las Palmas (Meals: Breakfast)
Thekkady : KTDC Aranya Nivas (Meals: Breakfast, Dinner)
Alleppy : A/c Deluxe Houseboat (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Kovalam: KTDC Samudra (Meals: Breakfast)
The cost for the package - 37000/ for 2 persons + 1 kid (2.5 yrs)

Originally I was suggested following hotels by A1 where I upgraded two hotels - In Thekkady & Kovalam :
Cochin : Hotel Sea Lord/similar (Meals: Breakfast)
Munnar : Las Palmas/similar (Meals: Breakfast)
Thekkady : Silver Crest/similar (Meals: Breakfast)
Alleppy : A/c Deluxe Houseboat (Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)
Kovalam : Sagara Beach Resorts (Meals: Breakfast)
The cost for the package - 34000/ for 2 persons + 1 kid (2.5 yrs)

Suggestions based on my experience:
Following are some of my suggestions based on my experience of the trip.
If you are planning similar duration of trip, I would recommend skipping Thekkady and adding a day in Kovalam instead.
Upgrading hotel to KTDC AranyaNivas in Thekkady cost me Rs 2000 extra. While Aranya nivas was simply superb, I would suggest you should go to Thekkady only if you want to do some trekking or jeep safari in jungle and in that case you should give 2 to 3 days to Thekkady. If you are not interested in trekking, skipping Thekkady is highly recommended. More than saving a day, saving on the travel-time is more important. Travel by road takes a lot of time in Kerala. On an average you can expect to travel not more than 30km/h in Kerala which means 150 kms is a long time-distance of 5 hrs... almost half of your day!

Another points was that Arrival and departure should not be at same place. If you arrive at Cochin, depart from Trivendrum and vice versa. In my case, there was no direct flight to Trivendrum from/to Pune and the cost was also almost double w.r.t. Cochin flight.

So for the same duration, I would suggest following itinerary:
Cochin (1 night) - Munnar (2 nights) - Alleppey houseboat (1 night) - Kovalam (3 nights) - Trivendrum departure

Reviews: 
A1KeralaHolidays: As I already mentioned, most competitive and excellent service. One more thing, our package included A/C Indica car but we got a free upgrade to A/C Tavera. Definitely added to comfort factor! The driver Binu was very humble and always eager to help. The complete experience has been very good with them.
Contacts:
Phone: +91 4842377880  |  Mobile: +91 9567860874
www.a1keralaholidays.com | Email: info@a1keralaholidays.com


In general I felt politeness is imbibed into the very nature of Keralite people. Very humble people and they do understand the fact that tourism is the main industry driving Kerala and hence they have very positive attitude towards tourists. Unlike other parts of India, in general you won't find people trying to cheat a tourist.

Kochi: Kochi is one of the main cities of Kerala. Has good historical places. 1 day is more than enough for this place. I spent two nights here as I had onwards and return flight both from Kochi.
The hotel SeaLord was really a good hotel. It is located in city center and Marine drive is just opposite the hotel. No scenic views though.







Munnar: An awesome place with pathetic roads! (This can be generalized for Kerala as well) It is a beautiful hill station. However, if you are coming to Kerala to relax and have only 4-6 days, you can give a skip to Munnar and choose only backwaters (Alleppey) and beaches (Kovalam). Munnar is famous for its Tea Gardens. We visited Eravikulam national park (beautiful!), Tea Museum, Punarjani's Kathakali performance, flower garden and Muttupatty Dam (awesome views). Tea available at tea museum is about half the rate what you find in major Indian cities (at least I can compare with Pune)
Hotel Las Palmas was good hotel. It was a bit far from central Munnar. There was no mobile signal as well in the hotel. When we entered the room, the room smelled a bit due to dampness in the room walls I think. They applied some room freshener on our request. Fresh air from the window as well helped getting rid of the smell of dampness. Hotels in Munnar do not have A/Cs as the atmosphere itself is cold enough.






Thekkady: As I wrote above, unless you want some trekking experience, it is highly recommended that you skip Thekkady. Mainly to cut down the travel time! Thekkady is famous for its spice garden. We did shopping for spices from Thekkady.
The hotel Aranya Nivas was simply awesome! Right in the middle of the Periyar wildlife century - a highly recommended hotel if you are going to Thekkady. It is a KTDC resort but the staff is the most efficient staff I witnessed - no traces of that government  employees attitude! KTDC must be doing something right to ensure such an agility and proactiveness in their staff.




Alleppey: The houseboat we stayed in was arranged by our tour operator only so we don't know the name of the houseboat company but the boat had 'Whispering Waves' written on it. Not sure if it was houseboat name or the company name. However, I got the feeling that all the houseboats would be equally good as government has strict rules for maintenance of the houseboats! One night in the houseboats is a MUST HAVE experience in Kerala. The food on the houseboat is also something to cherish if you want to experience authentic Kerala food.






Kovalam: The most beautiful part of the trip. Awesome beach, awesome experience!
The hotel KTDC Samudra had awesome beach view rooms. However, there were hell lot many mosquitoes in the room. I hated it - could not sleep properly both the nights. I had to kind of pack myself in the comforter to avoid the mosquitoes! One more negative was that no one responds on their room service number (shows not-so-good attitude of the hotel)! Hence the hotel left a little bad taste in my mind. If not for the views, I would have simply discarded this hotel. I would recommend checking out any other hotel with good beach views before going for this one.





5 comments:

PEN, PAPER AND THOUGHTS said...

thanks Buddy, this was very informative. Even though, my native is kerala, havent visited most of these places :( and would love to plan a trip soon.

Ashutosh said...

Thank you very much for offering useful information about "God Own Country". Kerala is popular tourist place for its beauty. If you are looking for affordable honeymoon packages, we would like tell u about ladakh. it most reputed tourist place for lot of activities. ladakh honeymoon tours offer you amazing view of ladakh landscape covered with white snow.

SSIS said...

Thanks for the information... really an amazing place Munnar....

monika singh said...

Tour Packages In India Comment Thanks for sharing good information !

shiv kumar said...

Really Nice information and Thanks for the information... really an amazing place Munnar...