God’s Own Country
Kerala is a state in southwest India, and it’s nickname is “God’s Own Country“… it totally deserves the moniker.
I was able to get a driver to take me from Kochi to Munnar, a tea plantation town in the Western Ghat mountains in Kerala (when I hear it pronounced, it sounds like: Ker-luh, but I think there is an extra syllable in the middle that I’m just not hearing because I’m not used to the language). Before I came here, whenever I asked people where I should go in southern India, they all said Kerala, but I wasn’t sure where exactly in Kerala I should be. Then I talked to someone from Kerala, and he gave me a short list of the best places, which I then googled, and Munnar looked amazzzzing! So, that’s where I headed👍🏼.
We stopped on the way for lunch, and at this restaurant, I noticed a sign by the women’s restroom…
When I was taking a picture of the sign, a guy who worked there came over to me and told me that foreigners always take a picture of the sign. I tried to explain to him why it seems funny – because it leads people to believe that vomiting in the wash basin happens really frequently, and then it’s funny because you wonder why it is a problem at this particular place – but he didn’t understand me. He just said, “Many women, they do, and they should go outside.” OKayyyy😂
Driving around Munnar involves all hairpin switchback turns on a road that is just wide enough for two vehicles. But the viewwws!!!!
The tea plantations cover the mountainside, growing on angles across the steep slopes. The tea leaves are harvested by hand, either by picking or cutting off the top with a handheld scissor/basket contraption. The leaves are taken off the top every ~10 days, and the same trees just keep growing and producing for years and years. Apparently, there is a tea tree in China that is 1,800 years old! Because the leaves are harvested regularly, all of the trees are the same size and shape, which adds to the beauty of the mountainside. To me, Munnar is a greener, hillier, and *dare I say* prettier version of Napa. Not saying it’s better because, I mean, it’s tea not grapes… But definitely prettier.
Amongst the tea trees, they also grow eucalyptus. And most of the spices grown in India come from the regions around the Western Ghat mountains (part of the Western Ghats is even called “Cardamom Hills“!). So, growing here is also ginger, pepper, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, vanilla, turmeric… more I’m sure, this is just what I saw. Because of all this, there are ayuverdic “hospitals” throughout Kerala that use these different herbs and oils that are produced for massage and holistic treatments.
On top of that, coffee and CACAO trees are grown here… which means chocolate is made and sold everywhere…
OF COURSE I went overboard and bought too much, so I sat at one of the tourist stops and ate half of it with a boy who was selling pineapple instead of going to school😕 Maybe it made his day good? Or maybe it just gave him a sugar rush, and his mom was cursing me when he got home😏
Even the nighttime view at my hotel was lovely.
I visited a rose garden and a tea museum…
At this time, in the garden, with the sun beaming down on my skin, greenery everywhere, the smell of the flowers, and the view of the hillside, I said to myself, “I can’t believe I get to be here right now.” I felt Joy.
I also checked out the local tea museum… which ended up being owned(?) by the biggest tea-making (British) company in town… Which meant that the start of the tour was a 20-minute self-serving, bombastic video talking about how this tea company brought healthcare to the local people.. and I all but lost it when they were singing the virtues of employing women by saying, “The women proved to be particularly skillful at being able to pluck the tea leaves quite efficiently.” Are you fucking kidding me? So I walked out and began my self-guided tour.
After meandering, I joined a group in the factory, where there was a guy explaining more about tea. His primary assertion: Drink more green tea! Why?
- You see the Chinese and Japanese – do any of them have big bellies? NO!! It’s because they drink green tea all day!
- Chinese and Japanese never pass gas because they drink green tea all day!
He was awesome. They do drink green tea all day. Well, that’s what I saw in Japan anyway.
I saw a few more sights in Munnar…
It is really weird getting stopped by people and being asked to take pictures. It’s happening in India a lot. But it didn’t bother me when these ladies asked because I wanted a picture with them too😊
This tree is overloaded by beehives!
Next up: Indian Culture Review