Yesterday we went to Munnar for a one-day trip. It was beautiful and is one of the most unforgettable moments of our whole trip. Munnar is renowned for its vast tea plantations established by the British in the 19th century. It is around 125 km from Cochin and lies at approx. 1500 metres above sea level. It is really an impressive height! We hired a taxi to take us there and left from Cochin at half past six in the morning. As we moved we saw men dressed in a white one-piece cloth like the one Thai sarong wrapped around their waist, the ones you sometimes see in old pictures of India. This costume is still common today.
As we started our ascent towards Munnar, we instantly felt a change in the air. It was much cooler and fresher. The road wound up through dense forests consisting gigantic trees. They were so charming that we frequently stopped to see the exciting and wonderful things. A group of cute monkeys with their babies, several waterfalls, and the most impressive of all was the spice garden, a large privately owned area. The landowner is a man who has dedicated his life towards cultivating and preserving many endangered and rare plants. We were amazed to see the diversity of plants, fruits, and spices grown here. He took us on a tour of the garden. He showed many indigenous plants and explained their habitat, commercial value, their culinary and medicinal uses, and properties. He even gave us samples of many plants to taste or take with us.
In the restaurant we serve authentic Indian, Continental, Chinese, Arabic and Lebanese cuisines. We serve both an elaborate multi-cuisine buffet and a select a la carte menu too. Our thematic and tasteful buffet meals in the restaurant are a treat to the eye, taste buds and your senses. Savour and enjoy a sumptuous spread of carefully chosen, choice menu from all over the world. The menu includes a perfect spread of assorted Indian and global cuisine comprising of main courses, live counters, appetizers and desserts.
We were impressed. We saw cardamom plants, coffee shrubs, vanilla climbers, pepper, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, cocoa, Indian gooseberries, curry shrubs, betel leaf, holy basil, passion flowers, hibiscus, orchids, cloves, and several Ayurvedic plants. Among fruits, our favourite was bell apple, which was very delicious. The other fruit bearing plants were papayas, passion fruit, bananas, pineapples, strawberries, pomegranates and cashew trees, orange and lemon trees. Dahlias, roses, and neelakurunji, a shrub that apparently blossoms strikingly blue only once every twelve years were also equally mesmerizing. Among trees, we were seeing sandalwood for the first time and there were teak and mahogany trees, which were more than 50 years old. It is amazing that all these plants grow together in such a relatively small area, a real Garden of Eden in its diversity. One could see the surrounding mountains with the unfamiliar sounds of tropical birds and feel the air, which was fresh and cool.
We stopped at the first tea plantations on our way and took a walk into it. The landscape was captivating and we could inhale the aroma of tea as it wafted with the soothing breeze. These vast areas had nothing but tea, growing on undulating hillsides. The larger mountains in the background partly covered by silver coloured clouds in a blue sky were breathtaking. It was as if time took a break. Occasional cars and motorbikes only made us feel that we are on planet earth. Unfortunately, our trip was on a Sunday so there were no women working in the hills plucking the tea. It was a bit of disappointment for us when photographs are concerned. Their absence made the atmosphere very quiet and calm. Only there were the empty hills with tea. We stayed quite a while enjoying and drinking in the scenic beauty. I pinched a tealeaf as a memento even though it i s illegal.
After some time we traveled to the little town of Munnar, which is a quaint and little bit crowded place. However, it has a lovely small tea museum, which is on the outskirts with beautiful hillsides with tea plantations.Inside the museum, we saw some of the original machinery used to process tea and the first telephones established by the British.
The one, which impressed us, was a room furnished in the colonial style; even a bunch of fresh roses from the adjoining rose garden on the table was distinctly British. A row of photographs demonstrated the steps of tea processing and there was a collection of old photographs of the original tea factory. There was a small tea factory in the museum where we could actually see the processing of the tea done through the many stages, from the green leaf up to the actual crumbly or powdery tea as we find it in our supermarkets. Now, every cup of tea I drink will remind me of Munnar!
After lunch, we moved to another lovely garden, this time it is flowers and only flowers, it is so beautiful. Cho Chweet! Every flower was in full bloom at the same time. And that too in February. Roses, azaleas, dahlias, petunias, poppies, gerbera, water lilies, and many more that I have never seen! We went a bit further up along the winding road to a lovely spot with a nice view of a lake amidst the mountains. I cannot recall the name, a tongue twister one.
There we declined the offer of elephant and motorboat ride from the tourism promotion stalls that were all around us, but just had some tea, which was delicious and freshly prepared for us. After that, we started our return journey back to Kochi. After four hours, at around nine, we arrived back in Kochi, tired and slightly sun burnt. However, we were really happy and pleased that we had taken this wonderful trip to Munnar. We hope to come to Kerala once again to Munnar and all the beautiful places here and spend more time here.