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Alleppey (Alappuzha), Mararikulam, Arthunkal, Kerala

Alappuzha (Alleppey), Lord Curzon, once claimed, was the Venice of the East. A two hour drive south from Cochin, this town, the sixth largest in Kerala, is strategically located between the Arabian Sea and the backwaters of Kerala and the Vembanad lake. The abundance of water bodies continues through the district as canals and rivers empty into the lake and the sea. Alappuzha hosts the annual Nehru Trophy Boat Race, held on the Punnamada Lake on the second Saturday of August every year. The pouplar Alleppey beach was our first stop, a long strech of sand and coconut trees. The beach is very clean, with facilities for restrooms and food options available. For a truly unreal experience, take a camel ride on the beaches of Kerala. Alappuzha is also a every-day working town, unhyped by tourists and thus offers great bargains for shopping. No trip to Kerala is complete without a purchase of spices and the Alappuzha market is filled with them. The scent of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and other exotic spices fill the air and it is definitely worth buying a few grams of it all. The market area also has brick and mortar shops where one can purchase the traditional Kerala set-saree. The golden borders and mango designs on the white sari is a great look.

10 Kilometers north of Alappuzha is Mararikulam, a beach village. It is one of the best kept secrets of Kerala but not for long. This sleepy little village is an idyllic location for a vacation with very few resorts, so you can experience God's own country without the hustle and bustle. Marari beach (Mararikulam beach) is one the best beaches we've ever seen, anywhere in the world. White sand leading up to the water, is bounded by lush coconut trees and a winding lake that snakes inwards from the beach. The coconut trees offer plenty of shade and perfect harness spots for hammocks. If you are stressed out, pack your bags, go to Marari beach, drink some coconut water and relax. The Indian equivalent of a Corona on a Cabo beach.

Your next stop is another 10 kilometers north of Mararikulam. Another sleepy town, Arthunkal, is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Kerala. It is considered as a holy land by hundreds of thousands of devotees, of Christian as well as other faith. It is home to one of the most famous churches in Kerala, the Arthunkal St. Andrew's Forane Church, originally built by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. The church was rebuilt in 1584, under the then vicar Fr. Jacoma Fenicio, whom the devotees claim, possessed magical powers to heal the body and mind. Devotees fondly referred to him as Arthunkal Veluthachan, which in English translates to fair skinned father. Fr. Fenicio died in 1632. Eight years after his death, the church was rebuilt again, this time facing the west towards the long white-sand beach on the shores of the Arabian Sea. In 1647, the idol of St. Sebastian, struck with arrows all over his bleeding body (he was executed at the order of the Roman emperor for embracing Christian faith) sculptured in Milan, was brought and placed in the Arthunkal church. The church was granted basilica status in 2010 and now sees a constrant stream of visitors and worshippers.

We finished our half-day excursion with a typical Kerala meals, rice with a selection of curries, dals, pickles and sweets, at the Travancore Palace hotel in Cherthala. Built like an heritage Kerala property, the decor is very inviting. The food was good too. Unfortunately, the service was really slow, almost uncaring, and thus a real let-down. The hotel has a wonderful garden and is perfect for that afternoon post-meal relaxation but the customer care really needs to improve. The Alleppey district, is only a few hours from Cochin, and with its own charm, has a lot to offer on its own. Plan to spend a day and definitely use Mararikulam as your base.

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The Arabian Sea awaits, Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
The Arabian Sea awaits, Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Boat on Coconut tree, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Boat on Coconut tree, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Windy side, coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Windy side, coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Coconut leaves and the Arabian Sea, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Coconut leaves and the Arabian Sea, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Waves, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Waves, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Backwaters, Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Backwaters, Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Hammock time, Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Hammock time, Coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Paradise, coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Paradise, coconut trees, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Indian Corona, Coconut water, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Indian Corona, Coconut water, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Boat ready for sail, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Boat ready for sail, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Coconut shells, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Coconut shells, Marari beach, Mararikulam, Kerala
Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Fisherman with circling birds, Alappuzha, Kerala
Fisherman with circling birds, Alappuzha, Kerala
Cart, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Cart, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Waves, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Waves, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Dancing waves, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Dancing waves, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Dangerous waves, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Dangerous waves, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Tempting the waves, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Tempting the waves, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Waves testing the pier, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Waves testing the pier, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Clinging for life on pier, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Clinging for life on pier, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Camel ride, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Camel ride, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Camel ride photographer, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Camel ride photographer, Alappuzha beach, Alappuzha, Kerala
Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Cloves, Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Cloves, Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Cinnamon, Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Cinnamon, Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Shrimp spice? Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Shrimp spice? Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Assortment of beans, Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Assortment of beans, Spice Market, Alappuzha, Kerala
Sree Ganesh Temple Gopuram, Alappuzha, Kerala
Sree Ganesh Temple Gopuram, Alappuzha, Kerala
Mahisasura Maridini , Sree Ganesh Temple,  Alappuzha, Kerala
Mahisasura Maridini , Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
See no evil, Speak no evil, Hear no evil, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Sree Ganesh Temple, Karthikeya, Alappuzha, Kerala
Sree Ganesh Temple, Karthikeya, Alappuzha, Kerala
Turtle bearing the load, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Turtle bearing the load, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Lion, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Lion, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Ceiling motif, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Ceiling motif, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Temple musicians, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Temple musicians, Sree Ganesh Temple, Alappuzha, Kerala
Decorations on Mullackal Road, Alappuzha, Kerala
Decorations on Mullackal Road, Alappuzha, Kerala
Necklaces for sale, Mullackal, Alappuzha, Kerala
Necklaces for sale, Mullackal, Alappuzha, Kerala
Kumkum for sale, Mullackal, Alappuzha, Kerala
Kumkum for sale, Mullackal, Alappuzha, Kerala
God, ancient art, Alappuzha, Kerala
God, ancient art, Alappuzha, Kerala
Goddess, billboard art, Alappuzha, Kerala
Goddess, billboard art, Alappuzha, Kerala
Pineapple seller, Mullackal street, Alappuzha, Kerala
Pineapple seller, Mullackal street, Alappuzha, Kerala
St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Front facade, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Front facade, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Extensions on side, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Extensions on side, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Windows, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Windows, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Spires, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Spires, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Stained Glass Window, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Stained Glass Window, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Nativity scene, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Nativity scene, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Interiors, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Interiors, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
St.Sebastian idol, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
St.Sebastian idol, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Altar, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Altar, St. Andrew's Basilica, Arthunkal, Kerala
Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Courtyard, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Courtyard, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Dining area, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Dining area, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Seating with Kathakali dancer, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Seating with Kathakali dancer, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Tongue steps, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Tongue steps, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Ornamental cow, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Ornamental cow, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Ornamental Lion, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Ornamental Lion, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Kerala cuisine: Meals, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Kerala cuisine: Meals, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Kerala cuisine: Boiled Rice, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Kerala cuisine: Boiled Rice, Travancore Palace Restaurant, Cherthala, Kerala
Railway line, Cherthala, Kerala
Railway line, Cherthala, Kerala