This past weekend I had some vacation days for Dasara, so I went with my friend Vidhya to her family’s home in Wayanad – a town in the state of Kerala. Wayanad is not far over the Karnataka border, about 6-7 hours by bus southwest of Bangalore.
I traveled on Friday and arrived in the early evening. I was greeted by many members of her extended family who had all gathered to see the foreigner in their small town. Wayanad is a fairly rural area in the hills of Kerala. It is completely green – everywhere you look you are surrounded by fields of rice, ginger, tumeric, black pepper, bananas, papayas, and so many other crops. Most of all, there is tea. Tea bushes require a very specific, moist climate to grow and Wayanad is the perfect home filled with hills and mist. Especially in the morning you see women walking along the road with big sacks of freshly plucked tea leaves on their backs, and many more in the fields yet to come down. It is a pretty cool sight.
On Saturday, we went on a hike with some of her friends to a nearby peak and then visited a waterfall as well – they were absolutely beautiful. Pictures below. Mostly, though, we spent time at her home chatting with her family, drinking coffee on the veranda and eating lots and lots of food. Her mom is one of those moms who wants you to eat. A lot. I quickly learned that saying thank you after being served food to indicate that was enough did not translate into her language of Malayalam – instead it meant keep going! Once I fixed my mistake and said mahdi (enough, no more), she would be quick to scold me in Malayalam, which I did not understand, but it always resulted in everyone else laughing and me getting more food on my plate. But, it was delicious, so I always obliged 🙂
I don’t think I have ever been met with such hospitality. At one point, after eating more rice and curry than I thought I could ever do, Vidhya’s brother-in-law said Don’t think all of your travels in India will be like this. Our family is the most hospitable and we have the best cooks. If you want better, you’ll have to leave India. And I’m pretty sure he is right, though I’m not sure it could be found out of India, either (except in Muncy, of course). Kerala food uses a lot of coconut (which I love) and has a different variety of spices, or maybe its just that the spices are freshly plucked from the ground so they taste better. They also have many plantain dishes which aren’t found in other parts of the country – again, huge fan. Vidhya’s mother and sister cooked some awesome meals, but on Sunday afternoon they prepared an extra-grand feast for a cousin’s birthday. I’m not exactly sure what we ate, but it involved ghee rice, a special mutton curry and coconut mint chutney all served on banana leaves. It was easily the best meal I’ve had since arriving in India, no competition.
Her family also gave me a traditional Kerala sari – my first sari! I need to take it to a tailor – a sari consists of a top which looks like a belly shirt and another piece of 3 meter-long fabric wrapped and draped in a particular manner. Typically the fabric to sew the top is included in the sari, and you take it to a tailor to sew a custom-fit top. I can’t wait to get mine sewn! I couldn’t believe how sweet their gesture was, and I am so lucky to have met such wonderful people here in India.
We have already started planning adventures for our next trip, and I am trying to figure out what gifts to bring. I cannot wait! Check out some of my favorite pics from the weekend below.
Vidhya and her cousins. They were so excited to take a selfie with the American 🙂
Vidhya’s parents and her niece seeing us off at the bus station in Wayanad
Cutting the birthday cake
Check out the storage going on in this guy’s cheeks – watermelon for days!
Checking out the view from the top of Chembra Peak
Heart-shaped lake on the climb up.
The girls – photography by Arun
On top of the world!
That view though…
Soochipara Falls – the place to be on a long, holiday weekend. The water was actually pretty warm!
All swimming is done fully clothed. No bathing suits here.