Sunday, May 24, 2015

Mesmerizing Munnar

Just when simmering summer heat started peaking in Pune this April, I was counting down days to my Munnar trip, as I could not plan a getaway last year on the occasion of my 10th wedding anniversary this vacation was overdue from quite some time. I had made up my mind to have a good break with my family this year and I am happy I choose Munnar as my destination for this trip.

TripAdvisor community proved helpful in planning this tour for booking my hotel stay, I was trying to avoid a drive down to Mumbai airport for travelling to Kochi and luckily I got a good deal on SpiceJet direct flight from Pune so all arrangements went well.

We landed on time at Kochi airport and our ride had arrived to drive us to Chinnakanal at Siena Village Resort, approx 119 Kms away from the airport. We had quick lunch at airport cafeteria and our journey began through streets of Kochi and as we left the city behind it took us almost 3 hrs 30 mins to reach Munnar town.

Kochi city or Munnar town has close to non existent political hoardings on road which I am accustomed to witnessing almost in all Indian tourist places I have visited and to top this I was amazed by the condition of the road, I wish Maharashtra government takes up such state highway road upgrade project, it would surely boost tourism prospect which is lacking in spite of having abundant tourist spots.

I must admit that this was the most exhilarating hill station trip I have ever experienced in my life. This uphill ride goes through a long series of narrow single lane road bends, best part is that this entire stretch of NH8 I hardly spotted any pothole or bumps. I was spellbound by the beauty of this place. Understood and felt for real as to why Kerala is called as God's own country as we passed through dense forest areas, hilly terrain graced by tea plantations, huge silver oak and nilgiri trees, witnessing nature in it's true grandeur is like a fresh breathe of air for your soul.

If you are travelling with adult or kids having motion sickness issue I would advise taking frequent breaks on the journey and be ready to put your belly to puke test. My kid had thrown up many number of times & thankfully our driver Mr. Saji he has experience ferrying passengers for quite some years in Munnar so he keeps a small bucket handy in his vehicle for passengers with motion sickness problem. Road condition is rarely bumpy or uncomfortable but route after Thalakode area has multiple and frequent turns.

Once we reached Munnar town we decided not to stop as our hotel was another 22 Kms away and finally we reached the resort at around 6 PM and we were received at hotel reception with a welcome drink and after checking in we headed to our duplex cottage style room which was very spacious and well maintained. Day 1 journey was spent travelling and savoring the long and scenic drive, we relaxed for rest of the evening to call it a day.

Waking up to chirping of birds in the morning and witnessing a thin layer of mist floating above the valley in front of our room terrace was serene, I took some snaps from the verandah and my kid was delighted to explore resort play area as we proceeded to have our breakfast, after returning we got ready to venture out for sightseeing.

We decided to visit a nearby tea factory first which is owned by Goenka group and they have a small educational tour on tea processing where a guide explains all major steps of how tea transforms from a leaf to powder, it was quite an informative session and the aroma of tea all around gets fixated in your senses. This factory has a sales outlet too allowing you to taste demo samples of different grade and quality of tea available, they do not process flavored and CTC quality tea at this plant so you can buy authentic organic quality tea from this factory.

After completing Tea Factory tour our next destination was Rose garden which had a huge variety of flowers spread across a well curated terrace landscape, this place has no guides with just flowers and plants well labelled for tourists to enhance their floriculture knowledge.

We decided to visit Mattupetty dam next which has boat rides. This dam had enough water around this time of the year and we strolled around dam area taking some pics, our boating plan was put off as the speed boat drivers were riding it dhoom style and the larger slow boat required 20 people for which you have to stay near docking area and let a big group assemble to share charges. My kid was in no mood to allow us to go boating so we departed from there back to Munnar town to have lunch and retire back to hotel for enjoying a relaxed evening.

Day 2 sightseeing began with a drive to a spice farm ahead of Munnar town, a local guide at this place gave us extensive and detailed information on how spices are grown and how to identify different variety of spices available in the market. we also learned about ayurvedic benefits of different medicinal plants grown at this farm. It was time for some spice shopping from their store, our next halt was a elephant ride attraction, it was growing very dark and windy outside and my kid was initially excited to ride an elephant but he got fidgety after looking at the elephant size, after failed attempts at pursuing me and my wife decided to ride elephant for him as he wanted to see our snaps but not ride along with us!

Just as we started our elephant ride, it started raining very heavily and the mahout handed us a big umbrella tucked on the side of saddle, my kid sat out with our driver happily watching him take our pics as we took a small round on a narrow forest trail with huge trees around, we returned back early as the elephant was getting scared due to thunder and lightning and it is never wise to force any animal in such conditions as they can run berserk due to fear in such weather.

We returned back to our hotel on day 2 early as it continued to rain and our driver was worried that there could be road block problem on our way back due to mud sliding or tree falling across road during stormy rains. Thankfully we reached without any issues so it was an evening well spent enjoying light drizzle while sipping tea and feasting on pakora's on the terrace verandah as the clouds cleared up a little late in the evening.

I woke up to a rainy and gloomy morning on our last day of touring hoping for rains to go away as we had planned to visit a tea plantation spot nearby. Rain gods granted our wish and the sunshine was out again which allowed us to move out and take some good pics at a tea plantation photo point which is nestled in a low lying valley with a backdrop of rocky mountains engulfed with clouds that descend quite low to offer scenic view, after having lunch at Munnar town we indulged in some local shopping for a while and later visited the annual flower show at Hydel blossom park which has great collection of a large variety of flowers luckily it was not a repeat of rose garden collection and from here we concluded our sightseeing schedule, reached back at the hotel just in time for a hot cuppa of tea.

Our stay at The Siena Village resort was like an icing on the cake, I chose this property for our stay because it has good open area and I read TripAdvisor reviews notifying that it was a kid friendly place. Hotel management and housekeeping staff were extremely courteous and prompt in their service and complimentary Wi-Fi service at the hotel also offers good browsing speed. I was impressed by their overall maintenance of the property, along with clean and hygienic rooms that offer lovely view outside.

We returned back to Pune after a splendid 4 day excursion, you can also combine backwaters with Munnar if you plan to visit Kerala for more than 3 nights. More pics from my trip here