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PARVATHY-A woman’s take on bringing  you perfect houseboat Cruise

cruise op of the month.jpg“I really feel that people must, they just, must take a whiff of this amazingly fresh air. It is nothing short of magical! In a world that is fast paced; with vacations that can end up leaving you more tired than you were before, this fresh air rejuvenates. It really is not just about the scenic beauty, it truly brings tranquility to the soul!” Parvathy , the backbone of the Pournami Houseboats of the Alleppey backwaters, says with her eyes gleaming with childlike excitement.

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Parvathy is an exemplary image of the modern woman entrepreneur in an area that is largely driven by men. Having completed her Masters in Computer Applications and worked in the corporate IT world, she is one among the very few men and women who have sought to discover their individuality and create success from scratch.unnamed.jpg

Pournami Houseboats which now branches out under the Spring Bay Holidays Pvt. Ltd. is located at the Finishing Point Road, OPP KSRTC Bus Stand in Alappuzha, Kerala. What began as a new venture in the year 2007, has, after many ups and downs, become one of the sought after cruise operators (with amazing reviews in tripadvisor) in the backwaters of Alleppey with several Houseboats under them.

How did it all begin, the houseboats, Pournami…cruises…?

I believe that it all sort of started unraveling in front of us from the point in time that we came into a bit of ancestral inheritance. There was a lot of talk about building a house and the usual stereotyped things. Having come across Dr.Spencer’s “Who Moved My Cheese”, the idea of taking risks and putting money for further growth sprouted in our heads.

We got a two bedroom houseboat back then and initially it was actually given out for rental use by cruise operators already in the market.

What made you go from rentals into a full-fledged cruise operator?

Owning a houseboat might sound cool but trust me when it comes to maintaining it, it’s not all that a colourful picture. It’s simply a regular life situation, nobody is going to take care of your stuff as well as you might. At the end of the day, we were stuck in a real fine mess of repairs and the fact is maintaining a house boat consumes a fair amount of money. Soon we were losing more than what we were investing. That’s when we figured out that we were going about it the wrong way and it’s time to step up and do things differently.

Did you face difficulty when you started renting out the houseboat yourself, or was it an easy ride?

Oh definitely! Some major hurdles did come our way. One of them stemming from the fact that we were utterly new in the business. There were already a lot of people in the market and it was really a mammoth effort to figure out how to reel in the customers. At the particular time, word of mouth was the definitive approach for promoting the business. It was in fact a major low point in our lives too.  We have our manager Vinod who is the pillar of Pournami right from the beginning, he gave the momentum to Pournami as he was experienced in hospitality. The best thing is we still have all the employees that we started out with.

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Things have undeniably transformed over the past years.But those were years of sleeplessness

Is house boat tourism an easy business once you cross the initial hiccups?

“I wish I could tell you that it was all hunky-dory” says Parvathy laughing out loud. Till the previous

year I used to sleep with the phone constantly next to my pillow. Running a houseboat is nothing short of taking care of a baby. It’s really important to make sure the customers are satisfied and there is a lot of background work that goes into it. The AC might not work suddenly due to power hitches, or there may be several similar minor issues that might require getting a technician to the spot to fix it, be it in the middle of the night. One thing everyone has to remember is that ultimately this is a structure that stays on water at all times; problems are bound to occur but the effort is in making sure that the customers are provided perfection.

What kind of concerns do travellers usually have regarding booking of a houseboat and how does it affect you?

Most of the times the problem arises if the photograph that the travellers have seen do not match the houseboat actually provided to them, so we usually put in a lot of effort to maintain the standard and appearance of the boat and also to provide an exact match. Being unpredictable as it is with inanimate things there are times when there may be issues with a provided houseboat and we may have to replace them with another. Not everyone is ready to adjust even if the quality is exceptional. Other issues involve high expectations like enquiries about a Jacuzzi since the rate is high.

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Nowadays there are many agents offering the same things in the package like a menu for much lesser rates but lesser quality as well which the customer is not aware of; so it’s always a matter of concern for the customers as to why the prices are more here.

What are the high points and low points that Pournami Houseboats has faced in its journey?

The low point would probably be during the last June-July period. The heavy monsoon rains caused a lot of customers to turn away from this region. Monsoon time being an off season is usually a pretty tough time since the expenses keep popping up along with the salaries whether sailing or not.

The high point was a recent trip that was booked by a factory owner in Coimbatore for his family and employees with around 125 people. The success of this trip was that it came with no complaints and no issues.

How has the houseboat tourism transformed over the years?

As I mentioned earlier, the business usually came locally especially through walk in enquiries when we started off but the present scenario has changed drastically. Online enquiries and booking have become the trend. People’s’ expectation in terms of comfort and requirements have changed.

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Everyone has a website and booking system irrespective of whether they are houseboat owners or not. The competition in the market is high and everyone is in their best of forms.

What makes Pournami different from others?

I really believe that the quality that we provide comes in a big way from our staff. Our staff is the

biggest asset we have. We make it a point to provide the most cordial service to the travellers. It’s a mood killer if the facilities are good and the staff are bad. We consider customer satisfaction to be our prime objective. The reviews that they give matter to us a lot, we try to improve upon every aspect with every suggestion and opinion.

What are the things you feel, needs to be addressed for the smoother movement of houseboat tourism?

I genuinely feel that there should be a clear discrimination between houseboat owners and brokers. Usually the owners have licenses registered that can be verified.

The second major trying issue at hand is the liquor ban in Kerala. It is adversely affecting the backwater tourism especially in terms of domestic market.

There should also be measures to check the bird flu scares that put off a lot of travellers from visiting here.

I also think that a few sloppy houseboat owners or operators who do not pay attention to maintenance apart from employing inexperienced staff affect accidents on the backwaters resulting in a lot of negative impression in tourists’ eyes. Stringent rules should be taken against such people.


How do you think the houseboat tourism is affecting the environment and how effective is ecotourism?

Having grown up in Alleppey, I can proudly say that the presence of houseboats here has definitely not polluted the waters of Alleppey. Waste management is of the utmost priority when anyone sets adrift here.

With the influx of huge number of tourists into the regions, how do the native people perceive and feel about it?

Oh the change has been truly overwhelming. The financial state of the people in and around the region has shot up. Most of the homes here have transformed into homestays, parking and so on.

People are looking ways and means to profit from the boom.Another notable transformation is the presence of Tourism police in every nook and corner. People can walk around anywhere, any time with their eyes shut.

How safe do you think Kerala is in comparison with the rest of India in terms of tourism?

In the initial days, tourism was something new for the natives here. They were seeing different cultures, different sense of dressing and kinds of people from all over the world. It did create quite a raucous amongst the localities. The curiosity and the problems lasted only while the whole concept was new. Now everyone has understood the importance of tourism for personal progress and have started acting accordingly.

A pleasing personality accompanied by an ever ready smile, Parvathy is filled with passion for the backwaters and wants the world to see the beauty and the overwhelming serenity she perceives. At the same time, she manages to create a realistic angle when it comes to the hard work and effort that goes into putting out each of these majestic beauties out on the water.

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

Your Guide to the Nehru Trophy-Snake Boat Race, Kerala

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The calm backwaters of Alleppey, Kerala come roaring alive every year on the second Saturday in the month of August. The waters are dotted with the famed snake boats fighting neck to neck in the palm fringed Punnamada Lake in Alleppey; each vying to be the victor and the proud owner of the prestigious Nehru Trophy.

It is once again the time to feast your eyes and  lose yourself to the mesmerising ripples of the backwaters.

The Race Particulars:

Venue: Punnamada Backwaters in Alleppey, Kerala

Date : August 8,2015 at 2:30 PM

Location: Punnamada

District: Alappuzha

Nearest Railway Station – Alleppey

Nearest Airport – Kochi International Airport

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How to get there:

Alleppey is well connected by trains, but Ernakulum (Kochi) has better connectivity by both air and rail. Ernakulum lies 62km from Alleppey; multiple local buses and taxis are available. Taxis charge as much as ₹2500 for a one-way ride during this weekend. Overnight buses from Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and other cities can be booked via state run operators

Where to put up:

This is a super busy time of the year with people flocking in from all over the state, the country and world.

It is best to stay somewhere close to Alleppey to witness this great race. You can take your pick from Alleppey, surrounding villages, Marari beach or Fort Kochi. You can always book a houseboat(backwaterbreaks.com) and relax and maybe get a good view from the boat as well.

Ticket Tariff (official)  :-

http://nehrutrophy.nic.in/pdf/2015/ntbr2015-2015-06-27-ticket-rates-eng.pdf

Book Tickets Online

(http://in.bookmyshow.com/events/63rd-edition-of-nehru-trophy-boat-race/ET00032013)

 

 

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DO’s and Don’ts for the Visitors of Nehru Trophy Boat Race

Do’s

* Purchase tickets from authorized retail outlets (through Govt. depts. And tourism information office– authorized ticket counter)

* Please check the tickets for authorized seal of the committee and serial number

* Authorized counters can be identified with banners having logo of NTBR

* Try to reach Alappuzha by 9 AM

* The committee already arranged separate boats for the tourists and ticket holders to reach the race area

* The ticket holders must reach the specially arranged boat jetty by 11:00 for catching the boat

* Try to bring food items and water and can take to the venue

* Occupy your seat by 12:00 noon

* Vehicles can be parked in Municipal Stadium north of Zillah Court Bridge

* This facility will available only up to 11:00 AM

* Less luggage more comfort

* Show your tickets at the entrance of the boat jetty and also at the entrance of the pavilion

* For any help please contact the control room 2243441 / 100 (police)

Don’ts

* Do not purchase tickets from unauthorized person

* Do not purchase complimentary passes by paying cash

* Do not purchase tickets having no seal or serial no. etc.

* Do not bring any explosive items and dangerous electronic devices

* Smoking is not allowed in the pavilion

* Do not bring liquor to the pavilion

To Know more about Tracks and Heats:

http://nehrutrophy.com/heats.pdf

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

Through the Eyes of a Man who Conjures up Your Dream Cruise- Devdas

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The picturesque backwaters of Kerala is a destination that every tourist would vie for to obtain the ambience of utmost serenity and natural splendour.

The houseboats of Kerala bring true dreams of many to catch a glimpse of heaven right here down on earth. Here is a little glimpse into the life of one of the cruise operators who strive to perfect the traveller’s  little moments of joy on the Kerala backwaters.

The man, whose most important events always happened to fall on a first of a month was born on December first in Ambalappuzha, a small town in the district of Alappuzha, Kerala, India.

Devdas, founder of the Kerala Cruise and Holidays with about fifteen houseboats under his wing and seventeen years of experience in the houseboat tourism business, is as humble and down to earth as they come.

“As a boy”, Devdas fondly remembers, “we used run along the bunds  along which the houseboats carrying the foreign tourists were rowed. The tourists  during those days would come with gifts like pen, pencil, chocolates and so on which we eagerly sought after, running along the embankments alongside the houseboats.  ”

“Sayyipe one pen please ! is what we would say” mentions the seasoned cruise operator with a nostalgic smile spreading across his face.

The smile reflected the seed of affection that was sown then in his heart for these travellers from beyond the boundaries of the nation.

A graduate in Commerce, Devdas hailed from a family of humble background with an ailing mother who was a heart patient and a sister.  His only aim from a tender age was to amass just enough wealth to support his family. The only ambition being, as was the norm during those days, to travel to a gulf country and make money.

After graduation he registered for CA with the hope of reigning in the situation of his family and had also completed a course on computers.

“What turned you in the direction of houseboats and Kerala backwater tourism?”

He laughed out loud and said “To tell you the truth, it all started because of my watching a movie!”.

“I had registered for the CA course and used to go for classes which would get over by five in the evening. I would reach home around six to seven in the evening.”

“It so happened that on that fateful day, a friend of mine came down from Ahmedabad and we went for a movie called ‘Azhagiyaravanan’ . It had gotten really late by the time I returned home”.

“When I reached back home, the entire family was up and fussing about and that’s when my cousin (mother’s sister’s son) said enough of CA and got me a job in Ernakulam.”

“The salary was 750 rupees out of which I was left with 60 rupees after all the expenses and the PF was 62 rupees hence i had to pay 2 rupees out of my pocket which I now had to separately earn”.

“After two more odd jobs, I finally joined the ATDC houseboat operators  on first August 1996 as an accountant which also required me to do different odd jobs like receive guests, take them to their cruise and other services. That was the real turning point in my life that has put me where I am right now”.

How has the journey from an employee in ATDC to setting up your own business been?

“ATDC proved to be a vast exploring playground ground for me. It opened up to me a whole new world of opportunities to establish new business relations and knowledge. In fact the 17 years of my life spend there has amassed me a wealth of knowledge and experience”

“Following ATDC I joined another agency to whose terms and moral policies I could not bring myself to agree. I believed in a personal touch and friendly service. Satisfaction of the people we were providing a service to, I firmly believed lay the root to establishing stronger ties with the travelling masses”.

“Eventually, with the help of three friends, I bought my first  own houseboat. ”

Who are the people who have influenced you the most in your life?

“The person who influenced my life the most was my mother. She is a heart patient but has inspite of that struggled to make ends meet and keep our family moving forward.”

How has the houseboat tourism in Kerala progressed over the years?

“Backwater houseboat tourism in Kerala has faced colossal growth over the years. What started from a  non mechanised houseboat with one cook, kerosene stove and native food has turned into a luxurious affair.”

“During the earlier days, there were many smaller canals connecting different places and the local people traveled by those until the advent of roads and bridges pushed down the preference of canals right to the last. Reclaiming land from canal and building bridges caused the canals to gradually close up leaving only bigger channels behind.”

“Another major change is that , earlier the boats were smaller nearly around 13 feet, 60-70 ft length whereas now they are nearly 17-18 of  width and of 85 ft in. Hence the boats also bigger since height has to be constructed accordingly. Neither are the boats made in accordance with the climate or the environment.”

“Initially there were two authoritative bodies namely, the Canal authority which was responsible for the hull and the chief inspector of boats in which was in charge of looking after the running condition. This system was prevalent since the rule of the rajas.”

“Currently the rules are laid as per the seaport rules and the people who have brought about these rules have no idea about the backwaters. It is not right to compare the lagoons and the sea and make rules for both as if they were the same.”

What are the things you feel, needs to be addressed for the smoother movement of houseboat tourism?

“The first and foremost thing, I believe is to have a board specifically designed for the backwaters of Kerala that would form rules and regulations pertaining to the situation here rather than the open seas or port”.

“Recently there has been a new regulation passed by which new houseboats will not be provided with licenses. I strongly object to this because this could lead to a monopoly by the bigger businesses in the houseboat tourism .i.e. help the rich get richer.”

“Instead, new boats’ construction limits should be maintained and the length and width should be controlled. There should be control in the corruption at the higher level of authority”

How do you think the houseboat tourism is affecting the environment and how effective is ecotourism ?

“Houseboats have been on the Kerala backwaters since the early times. The only change is the motorization of the houseboats. Every possible measures are taken to ensure that we do not disturb the ecology of the place.”

“Proper waste management systems are followed in terms of human waste on house boats. Currently, the wastes are chemically processed and released in an environment friendly form. There are also suction points at different locations.”

“We all strive to maintain a clean environment and pay due importance to it. With the influx of massive numbers of tourists into the area, implementation of ecotourism has greatly helped maintain the sanctity of the place. Alleppey is close to becoming a non-plastic region with the replacement of plastics used for daily purposes by degradable substitutes”

With the influx of huge number of tourists into the regions, how do the inhabitants perceive and feel about it?

“In the earlier days, people were averse to the idea of tourism and were not quite supportive of having their land overrun by strangers. But in the recent years , the realisation has strongly sunk in as to the importance of tourism in the market and the benefits it pose. The acceptance and interest has risen sharply.”

Where do you see the future of the houseboat tourism in Kerala?

“I truly see the future of Kerala’s houseboat tourism to be a bright and prosperous one. This is a service industry ; while only about 40% behave courteously , the rest have unbecoming behaviour due to the existing Trade unions. The trade unions were helpful when the rich used to suppress  the poor in the older days, but the times has changed and they should pay attention to the service quality and look to introduce reforms to make the industry more prosperous.”

How safe do you think Kerala is in comparison with the rest of India in terms of tourism?

“From personal experiences and feedback from the visitors, there has been a considerable satisfaction in the safety in Kerala as compared to the rest of the country.”

“Most international travellers first land in Delhi and travel own throughout the country, finally making their way down to Kerala. They have all commented on the secure and relaxed feeling they experience when  in Kerala. Our police and the general public go a long way to make the visitors comfortable in their stay except for the  occasional eve teasing which is strictly dealt with by the policing bodies”

The plethora of knowledge that Devdas shared throws a lot of light on the more unrealized stories, aspirations and realities that exist behind the scenes in bringing out to the greater public the perfect journey in the quest for peace.

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

Thrissur Pooram – The Elephant Pageantry Festival

The City Thrissur

Thrissur is a city situated in the centre of Kerala state, India with a population of around 5.2 lakhs. The city is home to a large number of ancient temples and the mother of many art forms hence the rightly gained name as the “cultural capital” of Kerala. The name Thrissur is derived from “Thiru-Shiva-Perur”, which literally translates to “The city of the Sacred Siva” .

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Trissur Pooram

Thrissur Pooram

Temple festivals in Kerala are a part and parcel of people’s lives and occur at regular intervals in multiple temples varying in time according to the deities and Kerala calendar. The size and importance of these festivals vary from a small gathering to mega spectacles like the Thrissur pooram.

The Thrissur Pooram is considered to be the Mother of all Poorams, a culture highlight that towers above all other festivals .Thrissur pooram is a festival unique in its pageantry, magnitude and participation. It is not a mere temple festival in its strict sense but at the same time it is the festival of festivals of Kerala.

The Thrissur Pooram, celebrated in the Malayalam month Of Medom (April-May) is a grand assembly of Gods and Goddesses in and around Thrissur. These Gods and Goddesses make their visit to the Vadakumnathan Temple premises on caparisoned elephants accompanied by grand ensembles of Chenda melam and pancha vadyam.

The Ten participants of the Pooram are the Thiruvambady Bhagavathi and Paramekkavu Bhagavathi, Nethilakkavu Bhagavathi, Karamukku Bhagavathi, Ayyanthole Bhagavathi, Laloor Bhagavathi, Choorakkattukavu Bhagavathi, Chembukkavu Bhagavathi, Panamukkumpally Sastha, Kanimangalam Sastha. The processions and rituals of each of these deities follow a very strict itinerary, scheduled in such a way that the tempo of the Pooram celebrations – 36 hrs non-stop – is maintained without any loss of energy.

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Origin

Thrissur pooram is 200 plus years old prior to which the “Arattupuzha pooram” had been conducted at Arattupuzha, some 16 km away from Vadakumnathan, which was known as the biggest temple festival of Kerala. All the temples participating Thrissur pooram and Kuttanellore pooram was the regular participant of “Arattupuzha pooram” .

Once these temples were delayed to attend the festival due to heavy rain or so and then chief of Peruvanam Gramam denied the entry. As an act of reprisal Thrissur Naduvazhi the chief of Vadakunnathan, known as Yogadiripad and Kuttanellur Naduvazhi started the pooram in Thrissur.

Later due to some reasons the Kuttanellur Naduvazhi disassociated the celebration at Thrissur. Since the withdrawal of Kuttanellur Naduvazhi the glamour of the pooram was lost and the two ‘Naduvazhies’ began to treat each other as enemies.

It was in this juncture the former ruler of Cochin, His Highness Ramavarma Raja, popularly known as Sakthan Thampuran (1751-1805 AD) became the Maharaja of Kochi. Sakthan Thampuran unified the 10 temples situated around Vadakumnathan temple and took steps to celebrate Thrissur Pooram as a mass festival.

Sakthan Thampuran classified the participants in to two groups the western and the Eastern The western group consist of Thiruvambady, Kanimangalam, Laloor, Ayyanthole, and Nethilakkavu temples. Paramekkavu, Karamukku, Chembukavu. Choorakottukavu and Panamukkamppilly comes under eastern group. The Maharaja re – organized the annual festival in its present form in front of Vadakumnathan. Sakthan Thampuran also directed the main temples at Thrissur, Paramekkavu and Thiruvambady to extent all support and help to other poorams which are coming from 2 to 10 KM. away from Vadakumnathan temple. Recently the Kanimangalam changed to eastern side. The event management of the whole pooram was chalked out by His Highness Sakthan Thamburan and followed iota till now.

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Thrissur Pooram – The Format

The participant poorams are divided into two parts namely “Paramekkavu side” and “Thiruvambady side”. The Paramekkavu side consists of besides “Paramekkavu Bagavathy”.

1) Pookattikkara-Karamukku Baghavathy, 2) Choorakattukara Baghavathy, 3)Chempukkavu Baghavathy, 4) Panemukkumpilly Sastha. Besides Thiruvambady Baghavathy, the Thiruvambady side is having 1) Ayyanthole Baghavathy 2) Nethilakkavu Baghavathy 3) Laoor bagavathy 4) Kanimangalam Sastha.

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Getting There

BY FLIGHT

Thrissur does not have an airport. Nearest airport is Kochi Airport. i.e. 56 km away

Calicut International Airport (CCJ), Kozhikode, Kerala i.e. 95 km away

BY TRAIN

You can easily get regular trains to Thrissur from other major cities of the country.

Railway Station(s): Thrissur (TCR), Divine Nagar (DINR), Thrissur Punkunnam (PNQ)

 

BY BUS

There are regular buses from other major cities of the country to Thrissur.

Bus Station(s): Thrissur

 

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

Travelling Safe in India

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India is a land of boundless cultures, flora and fauna, languages, attires and so on with a dash of unpredictability and uncertainty added to the mixture. It offers the world the adventure of a lifetime ranging from lifestyle to natural splendour.

And just as you would pack your safety gears on your other adventure trips, India requires a certain amount of safety measures for those coming from a more predictable and routine life.

Because India, you would find is far from what you can ever imagine to be ‘predictable’.

High Risk Areas Advised Against  Travelling

As per the government guidelines  issued on Thursday, 26 March 2015, places like State of Jammu and Kashmir (except Ladakh region, Jammu and Srinagar) and India-Pakistan border (except Atari crossing) are not allowed for travelling.

The government recommends reconsidering travelling to locations like North-eastern states (Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur) and Chhattisgarh and the border areas of neighbouring states owing to unrest in the region.

Awareness About the Locations

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India is a vast land stretching across  3,166,414 square kilometres and the number of locations worth visiting and near to infinite with the prevailing diversity in regions. Hence it is very important to have a very good idea and knowledge about the climate, terrain and facilities in a region you intend to visit apart from the necessary knowledge about the lifestyle and beliefs of the people there.

Health

It is generally advisable to get vaccinated for some of the known tropical viral diseases prevalent in the said geographical conditions. In addition to it, carrying a first-aid kit is always a sensible way to travel in case of emergencies.

The quality of medical services and facilities varies throughout the country. Medical facilities are generally good in major centres, but are usually limited or unavailable in rural areas. Private facilities often provide a higher level of care, which can be expensive. Most hospitals require up-front payment or confirmation of insurance coverage prior to commencing treatment. Government hospitals provide services free or at minimal cost.

Transportation

It’s always advisable to book prepaid taxis from known taxi companies in the country  if you intend to travel by a cab.

If you are looking to get a real feel of the land by travelling by public transport, then it is best to use trains for long distance travelling.

Almost all the places are connected by plenty of buses as well. The time chosen to travel usually determines the rush in the buses. It is essential to take good care of your valuables as the buses and trains are usually pretty crowded and there’s a lingering threat of pick pocketing and thievery.

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Auto rickshaws (three wheelers) are another common mode of transport used quite frequently and a ride worth experiencing. Though these should be given a second thought when travelling at night particularly if you are not aware of the route to be taken since rickshaws function independently and not under a company like cabs excepting the prepaid ones at the Railway station or airports.

If you value your personal space when travelling, then public transports are definitely not for you as this is the last thing that a crowded train or bus would ever offer you in an India.

Personal Safety

There are numerous incidents and stories circulating in the media regarding the safety of tourists in India especially women. It is necessary to know that all of India is not the same, nature of the people and the security and protection available from the police varies from region to region. Having said that it is a must to take some basic precautions against any such unpleasant situations.

The body language and mannerism in addition to the attire in India varies considerably from cities to villages and region to region hence its safer (especially for women) to dress up a little more conservatively as per the norms of the land so as to not attract any undue attention. The Indian cotton ‘kurtis’ form one of the most comfortable ways to tolerate the climate as well. Loose fitting cotton garments form the best option in this regard.

It is not uncommon to find yourself being stared at by every second person in several locations but sometimes these are usually harmless; although its best to ignore and not respond to avoid miscommunication.

It’s important to be alert at all times, especially when travelling alone and to keep emergency numbers at hand to call for help at any point.

Avoid travelling late in the night, and if there is a necessity travel in groups if there are people accompanying you or using recommended and registered transport system like the prepaid cabs who are accountable.

Southern India including states like Kerala are generally safer in comparison to the Northern states

Eating Right in India

India is ridden with numerous mouth watering cuisines and drinks; all the more reasons to be careful about what and where you eat from since it’s hard to resist the delectable looking food. Make sure you eat from good reputed restaurants if you have weak stomach. Not all places offer hygienic and fresh food. Its best to take recommendations and opinions before having food or water at any particular place.

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Its best to always carry bottled water whose seal you should check before buying from a shop.

Other Tips and Points to Keep in Mind

Beggars are a common sights in the streets of India and their condition and poverty very heart wrenching but it’s crucial to harden your heart to such sights as they are usually part of intricate web of a network which usually forces children and women to go begging . The people begging might not even get the money that you give them. The networks are often run by petty criminals who harass the children and compel them to begging.

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They also involve a large number of people who have no interest in working and make a livelihood by just begging. Women with babies in the scorching heat is usually a heart wrenching sight but these babies are most often borrowed and drugged for the sole purpose of begging by gaining sympathy.

It is also important to stay on your toes dealing with friendly strangers; some may be good but there are plenty who may be up to no good.

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

Planning a Trip to Kerala

A land rich in culture, intriguing traditions and  customs seething with abundant wildlife, Kerala is a coastal state that lives true to its tagged name of “God’s Own Country ” offering tourists venturing out here, a perfect holiday.

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If you have your mind set on journeying through this land of the maharajas and elephants, here are some of the things that you might want to include in your planning.

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Days of Visit

Kerala, being a land overridden with exotic beaches, beautiful hill stations, enthralling wildlife, , delightful Ayurvedic therapies and Spa, important historical and architectural splendours and so on; it’s very important to narrow down on the number of days and the time of the year that you intend to visit this sought after tourist destination in Asia.

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The number of days is important in regard to the tourist spots that you want to visit in this state as there are a wide variety of things that you can do here ranging from adventure to relaxation. The time of the year matters as during the peak summer season, the climate tends to become very humid and hot which would probably stop you from appreciating the true beauty of this land.

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Hence a longer time in the cooler periods of october to february would be the most ideal time to visit.

Purpose of Visit

Starting from the Northern Kerala to the Southern tip of the state, customs, traditions, land terrain, people and so on keeps varying.

Hence depending on the number of days you have for your vacation, it’s important to jot down in advance as to the things you are actually interested in seeing or the places and culture that  you really want to experience during the valuable days of your holiday.

It could range from experiencing the art forms in Kerala, cruising through the scintillating backwaters, getting a feel of the village life etc. Research and collect information beforehand so that you know what you are in for.

( Not sure where to visit in Kerala? Read more at http://blog.backwaterbreaks.com/post/98541406399/top-6-places-to-visit-in-kerala )

Booking hotels, Home stays, Houseboats

Hotels and Homestays

If you are someone looking to take a tour package from one of the many tour agents, they usually accommodate the hotels as well into their packages which may or may not turn out to be to your liking. Otherwise if you wish to experience Kerala on your terms and not see what someone else shows you on a  standard basis, there are a plethora of registered hotels and home stays available throughout the state whose reviews and ratings are available on websites like trip advisor.

You can either book these online in advance or on the go basis which could be little difficult during the peak season.

Houseboats

In light of the availability of a numerous number of houseboats, which again maybe offered by a tour agent as well, they come at varying price range, availability and facilities.

( Read more at – http://blog.backwaterbreaks.com/post/103475948334/kerala-houseboats)

At Backwaterbreaks.com the numerous cruise operators are registered with the website providing their information and the details of their houseboats and services including photographs of each vessel offered for a cruise and the corresponding seasonal rates.

Backwaterbreaks.com  offers you perspective and information to let you choose from different types of cruises and cruise operators at the best price and book it safely through the website eliminating the chances of being duped.

Travelling to and through Kerala

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Depending upon the initial location to be visited, you can choose to either fly to Kochi, Trivandrum or Calicut, each of which are starting points for some of the major tourist locations.

From there, there are various means of transport such as the bus, train or taxi to your next location. The timings and bookings of which are available on online portals.

If you have booked a package with the tour operators, then usually pick ups are arranged from the arrival to the destinations according to the packages availed.

You can also travel by your own vehicle or a rented vehicle with the GPS aiding you through the maze of roads to get the feel of a road trip.

Selecting Vehicle

select vehicle depends number of people travelling and luggage. Indica is good only if maximum of 3 people are travelling. If more than 3 people are travelling India will not have space to carry luggage as this vehicle does not have boot space and getting vehicle with carrier is difficult. Climbing the hills with 4 people will be difficult for a vehicle like Indica. Try Indigo if you want better luxury and Tavera is suggested if 4 or more people are travelling. Inova can be opted for better luxury. If number of people travelling is more than 7 go for traveller and you can get a traveller with 12, 14, 17, 19 seats and for groups 27 seater, 35 seater and 49 seater vehicles are also available

Available Taxi Services

Uber Taxi (https://www.uber.com/cities/kochi) service now available in Kerala aims to connect passengers with drivers, much like most other apps in the age of social media.

Licensed drivers with permits to carry passengers can sign up with Uber, which provides them a smartphone and basic training, following which they can ply the roads and pick up fares. Drivers can choose when they are available through the app, and all the info and fare collection is computed through the phone, with no further equipment or vehicle modification required. Passengers pay through the app, so there is no negotiation required with the driver, and the vehicles themselves are unmarked, giving more comfort and convenience.”

The company provides it’s lower cost UberX service in Kochi, with mid-size sedans doing most of the operation, while cities like Bengaluru and Chennai also get the premium Uber Black, which provides more luxurious vehicles for a corresponding increase in fare (users get a rough estimate on the app before booking, and get text messages alerts when their ride arrives). Time of arrival for riders, in Kochi is currently around 15 minutes.

Uber was founded in San Francisco in March 2009 by Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp and has since spread to 280 cities in 60 countries, with Kochi being the 11th city of operation in India. Currently Uber only offers city-based services in Kochi, but is considering inter-city rides once operations are established. Drivers have the option of selecting when they are available to offer rides. The app can be downloaded from Google Play, Apple App Store and the Windows Phone store.

She Taxi, (http://www.shetaxi.in/)  an initiative by Gender Park, under the Social Justice Department of the Government, gained much popularity in Thiruvananthapuram, and expanded to Kochi in May this year. The Kochi wing of the operation has a fleet of nine cars to transport women and families, which are owned and driven by women entrepreneurs. The vehicles are available for transport within city limits or for longer rides, and equipped with navigation and tracking facilities.

Taxio, (http://www.taxio.in/) which calls itself the first radio taxi service provider in Kerala, is the more mainstream version of the transport service. The concept of the radio taxi service is that depending on call volumes from different areas, our taxis are spread out across the city and usually arrive within 20 minutes of a call. The vehicles can also be tracked and speed monitored, making it hassle free and safe, as it eliminates the uncertainty associated with normal taxis.

Luggage/Cash/ID card

Carry minimal ornaments and luggage. You find lot of ATMs everywhere hence carry minimum cash with you. Do carry an ID card as it is required at the time of check in to hotels.

I hope this article helps you in planning your Kerala trip.

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

Attukal Pongala – Temple Festival of the Attukal Bhagavathy (Goddess)

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India, the land that birthed Hinduism is teeming with temples, rituals and architectures that speak volumes of the spiritual and vibrant nature of this religion.

The state of Kerala houses some of the magnificent embodiments of the same. One such famous temple is the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple; home to the revered Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy, the Supreme Mother.

The Attukal Bhagavathy Temple, is one of the ancient temples of South India and is fondly known as theSabarimala of the Women folk as the women from all walks of life come here to worship the supreme goddess who is known to have taken form to annihilate the evil and protect the good in the world in the present Era namely Kaliyuga.

Origin and History

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The story has it that the Goddess Bhagavathy revealed herself to a fervent devotee of a notable family namely the Mulluveettil family.

One day as thehead of the family was carrying out oblations in the Killi river, she is said to have appeared in front of him and asked him to assist her in crossing the river. The old man awed by her aura of divinity assister her in crossing the river as well as offering her the hospitality of his household. The young girl disappeared as she had appeared before whilst the members of the family were preparing to serve their guest.

That very night the Goddess Bhagavathy appeared in the dreams of the old man and demanded that he establish an abode for her in the nearby sacred ground at a consecrated spot marked by three lines. The next morning came across the very three marks that the goddess had spoken of in his dream. It was on this spot that the initial idol of the goddess was established. Several years later, the structure was renovated by the local devotees. A beautiful and majestic idol of the Deity with four arms, bearing weapons of destruction in each, like spear, sword, skull, shield etc was also installed.The consecration ceremony was carried out by the revered high priest of the Badarinath Temple.

In keeping with the mythology, Attukal Bhagavathy is the divine form of Kannaki, the famous heroine of Chilapathikaram, written by Elenkovadikal, the Tamil Poet. The story narrates the destruction of ancient city of Madurai, following with, Kannaki left the city and reached Kerala via Kanyakumari and on the way to Kodungalloor took a sojourn at Attukal. Kannaki is supposed to be the incarnation of Goddess Parvathy, the consort of Parama siva. The all powerful and benign Attukal Bhagavathy reigns eternally supreme at Attukal. Thousands of devotees from far and near flock to the Temple to bow before the Goddess with awe and reverence to prostrate and redress their affliction and agony.

The Attukal Pongala Festival

The Pongala Mahotsavam (festival) is the most important festival of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple. The offering of Pongala is a special temple practice prevalent in the southern part of Kerala and some parts of Tamilnadu.

It is a ten-day programme commencing on the Karthika star of the Malayalam month of Makaram-Kumbham (February-March) and closing with the sacrificial offering known as Kuruthitharpanam at night.

On the ninth day of the festival the world famous Attukal Pongala Mahotsavam takes place. The entire area of about 5 kilometre radius around temple with premises of houses of people of all caste, creed and religion, open fields, roads, commercial institutions, premises of Government offices etc. emerges as a consecrated ground for observing Pongala rituals for lakhs of women devotees assembling from different parts of Kerala and outside.

The ceremony is exclusively confined to women folk and the enormous crowd, which gathers in Thiruvananthapuram on this auspicious day is reminiscent of the Kumbhamela Festival of North India.

Architectural Magnificence

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The Attukkal temple edifice is a harmonious conglomeration of both the Kerala and Tamil styles. The beautifully carved figures of Mahishasuramarddini, Goddess Kali, Rajarajeswari, Sree Parvathy with Lord Paramasiva and various other depictions of the Goddess in and around the temple are nothing less that the glorification of artistic genius .

The corridors surrounding the temple are flaunted by the depiction of various other Gods and the epic stories of the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu viz., the “Desavathara”. On either side of the elegant front gopura – are the idolss based on the story of Goddess Kannaki. On the southern Gopura, the puranic story of “Dakshayaga” is depicted in sculptures. The decorated gate at the entrance of the temple is by itself an excellent example of architectural beauty.

There are two idols of the Goddess in the sanctum sanctorum. The original idol is preserved in all its pristine beauty covered in ornamental gold embedded with installed stones.

The second idol of the Goddess is installed besides the original one. Within the temple corridors are also installed carvings and sculptures of Lord Ganesa, the serpent God and Lord Shiva. At the centre of the Sanctum within the Sreekovil, at a consecrated spot is installed the idol of the Goddess Attukal Bhagavathy emanating light and lustre to all.

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

Booking Houseboats with Backwaterbreaks.com

IMG_9180.jpgBackwaterbreaks.com, with its roots in Sutton, UK, is a first of its kind platform providing an online marketplace for local travel / holiday business owners in Kerala, India to list their houseboats, home stays etc. and rent it out to travellers around the world in a cost effective manner.

Backwaterbreaks.com lets travellers search, gain knowledge of, and generate a holiday with one or more listings available and book it on-line. The travellers can thus book their own perfect holiday at the local market price falling within the budgetary constraints. Vacationers all over the world who are looking for a respite from the chaotic buzz of life are thus empowered to select their dream cruise with no worries about the authenticity of the cruise operator or the quality of the services provided.

The Different Types of Houseboats Available for Cruise

Deluxe Houseboats:  which includes facilities such as front living area and bedrooms with a beautiful wooden ceiling with overlapping logs to give it a contemporary feel. The bedrooms of the deluxe A/c Houseboat have complete glass windows stretching across most of the wall to offer the guests a complete and uninterrupted view of the backwaters while travelling. It is  less expensive and can have AC operational from 9pm to 6 am and a common menu.

Premium Houseboats: has all the facilities as above in addition to an Ac functioning full time as well as a special menu .

Luxury Houseboats: provide high quality service matched by high finesse and a contemporary feel. The bedrooms of the Luxury A/c Houseboat have complete glass windows stretching across 3/4th of the wall to offer the guests a complete and uninterrupted .view of the backwaters while traveling Each bed in the Luxury A/c Houseboat is located at the exact height of the window, so the guest gets a good view even while lying on the bed. Each room in the Luxury A/c Houseboat has a dressing mirror, luggage compartment, writing table, wardrobe, attached bathrooms and air-conditioning.Few operators provide such grandiose services.

Kerala houseboats are  of excellent construction and luxurious furnishing with exquisite flooring, hull and canopy. They are in the best of conditions, usually with a sun deck, spacious living / dining area and each rooms with attached bathrooms. The kitchen are maintained with utmost cleanliness and protected from hazards using adequate safety measures.  Each of the boats come with a valid license from the tourism board.

 

Why Backwaterbreaks.com?

There are a zillion cruise operators who offer houseboat services. They often offer it as a part of packages via tie ups with tour operators or directly lease out right at the deck or by providing information online. The prices usually varies according to season and festivities. Backwaterbreaks.com helps to solve the problem of determining the best of services and genuineness of the offers.

Booking a Houseboat with Backwaterbreaks.com

At backwaterbreaks.com, the numerous cruise operators register with the website providing their information and the details of their houseboats and services including photographs of each vessel offered for a cruise and the corresponding seasonal rates.

These details are cross verified by the backwaterbreaks team. You can find the cruise matching your criteria including the one falling within your budget and book it online using your debit/credit card through our secure payment system.

Searching for the right kind of boat:

Backwaterbreaks.com give the  traveller the power to choose the houseboat that suits their needs at just a click away

The process is simple and requires you to open backwaterbreaks.com, enter the date you wish to commence your travel and the number of fellow travellers. Our efficient search engine brings you the required details at the click of your finger. If the dates don’t work for you or the number of people travelling went wrong; you can always modify your search on the results page. If you are considering a multi day cruise, you can always specify it with the checkout date while adding the houseboat to the cart. You can now specify the checkout time as well.

Payment Process:

This is followed by the sign up process for the backwaterbreaks account via your E-mail or Facebook account in order to enter your payment details for the items in your cart, which would be authorized by Backwaterbreaks. You can and view prices and make the payment in your local currency.

Once the cruise operator accepts and confirms your reservation will we collect the booking amount from you. The moment you are destined to vacation in the said houseboat, we at backwaterbreaks, will open channels of communication between you and your houseboat’s cruise operator by providing you with the cruise operator contact details as well as the backwaterbreaks customer support number.

You can always cancel the booking with the cancel option in your backwaterbreaks.com profile page if you ever decide to change your mind; keeping in mind the cancellation policies of backwaterbreaks.com

Availing the Services:

The minute you reach your destination, the cruise operator will be ready to you and take you on the exciting cruise that you were eagerly waiting for. If there is a delay by the cruise operator, you can either contact the cruise operator or the backwaterbreaks customer support team. At backwaterbreaks.com, we deliver what we promise, if not more, hence if there ever is a no show by the cruise operator, backwaterbreaks will make sure that your expectations are met with another cruise operator with quite the same features as the one you had booked

Book Your Kerala Houseboat cruise with Backwaterbreaks.com and set adrift on the scintillating backwaters!

https://backwaterbreaks.com/

NEW YEAR EVE CELEBRATIONS, KERALA 2015

A land known for its immense beauty and greenery, Kerala or otherwise famously known as the “God’s Own Country” , has its own definition when it comes to new year celebrations. Apart from the scenic delights, it has some unique way of celebrations that are sure to be a treat for the eyes.

If you were wondering how could you possible enjoy a New Year without good pubs or discs, then you’ve come to the right place for answers. Here are some of the destinations and events where New Year is celebrated with great pomp and show.

The Famous Cochin Carnival

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The vibrant city of Cochin showcases one of the state’s largest carnival during the festive month of December. The advent of December is accompanied by the preparations in the entire city of Cochin building up to the final grand events of the 31st.

The fest which commences on the day of Christmas continues for a week and is signed off by the silent prayer to the martyrs of the land. The origin of this grand carnival can be traced back to the Portuguese roots, when Portuguese New Year celebrations where held during the colonial days.

The carnival includes a plethora of event and rides and adventure sports like Beach Bike Race and swimming races. Apart from that, there are Beach Football, Shuttle Badminton, Beach Volleyball and Ball Badminton Tournaments, organized during the course of the festival.

The entry to this carnival is absolutely free for all and the venue for the carnival is at River Road, Fort Kochi.

New Years Bash*100 Years of Indian Cinema

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Le Meridien celebrates 100 Years of Indian Cinema on the 2015 New Year eve based on the theme 100 Years of Indian Cinema.

The program includes a show put up by Dj Varsha from Calcutta playing some of her mesmerizing Bollywood and commercial tracks. Other programs include dances by the Thandav dance group presenting their customized dance performances keeping 100 years of cinema as the theme. Also the RAW Comedy winner, comedian Vamshi would be present to tickle the audience’s funny bone.

Vivanta by Taj, Trivandrum

Vivanta by Taj is offering a night to remember through their three variety of DJ night. DJ Night at Twist will cost you Rs 3,000, DJ and dance at ball room where u also can have a buffet spread will cost you Rs9,000 while DJ Night by the poolside will be available at Rs2500. That’s not all, Vivanta by Taj is also offering special gala dinner on December 31st at a rate of Rs 2950 and a brunch and dinner for Rs1950/ person on January 1 at the Fifth Element. There will also be special menu at Chinapolis on December 31.

·         Contact: 6612345

Hilton Garden Inn,Trivandrum

Hilton Garden Inn has planned a great ‘UV Mayhem’, an Ultra Violet (UV) party and dinner at ball room and Garden Grille on New Year’s Eve. The guests, preferably dressed in white, can get glow painting done on their faces. Apart from the main event, there will be Party props, photo booth, elaborate buffet, kid’s zone and a two-piece band at Garden Grille, and a DJ in the ballroom.

·         Rate:  Rs. 5,000 /- per couple

·         Contact: 6600000

Uday Samudra, Kovalam

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On New Year’s Eve, Uday Samudra Beach resort at Kovalam is hosting a gala event featuring Indian traditional dances, magic trapeze acts, rope dance, an elaborate buffet with 36 counters, and fireworks.

·         Time: 7:00PM onwards

·         Rate: Rs 6,000 per couple

·         Contact: 2485767

Holiday Inn New Year Celebrations, Kochi

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Holiday Inn Cochin awaits to Welcome 2015 in style with various events planned at different venues.

Ramada Resort ,Kochi

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http://pinkerala.com/blog/events-gallery/new-years-eve-party-ramada-resort-cochin

Crowne Plaza

The big New Year’s Eve Gala will be held at the Grand Ballroom in a Hawaiian-themed party from 7:30 pm. DJ Sekhar will be grooving you to upbeat music . Adolf & The Band, a five piece live band playing popular western tracks, will also enthral the crowd. Entry price is `12,995 per couple, `7995 for stag accompanying couple and `3495 for kids between 5 to 10 years.

A party will also be held at Sky Grill, Rooftop lounge on the 16th floor. Doors open from 7:30 pm onwards and entry price is `9,995  per couple, `3995 for stag accompanying  couple and `2,995 for kids between 5 to 10 years.

The last party for New Year’s Eve is held in Aroma in the lobby floor starting from 7:30 pm onwards. Entry price starts from `7,495 per couple, `3,995 for stag accompanying couple and `1,995 for kids between 5 to 10 years. A recovery brunch is also arranged on January 1 at Mosaic Restaurant from 12:30-15:00 hrs for a minimal price of `1,195+taxes per guest.

The above are just a glimpse of the few destinations for celebrating this New Year with a bang. When it comes to enjoying life, God’s own Country is like a bottomless pit. Wish you a fantastic 2015 and an awesome jump start with the New Year Celebrations!

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