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Waiting to be discovered . . .

The God's Own Country has established its place on the world tourism map as one of the most exotic destinations. Close on the heels of Kerala being extolled as a "Paradise Found" - one of the 50 destinations of a lifetime - by the "National Geographic Traveller", the destinations of the palm-fringed State have found place in another prestigious international magazine.

"A Passage to Kerala", a vivid travel feature on the "green, somnolent, watery State down on the south-western coast" has appeared as the cover story in January issue of "How to spend it" magazine. Published along with the "Weekend Financial Times" from London, it hits the stand on the first Saturday of every month.

Written by Ms. Lucia van der Post, after her vacation in the "land of coconut tree", it is a recognition of the spotlight acquired by Kerala over the years as a destination. Along with a photograph of a fisherman throwing his net, the cover has the blurb "Catching the drift-WHy travellers are captured by Kerala".

Noting the state as another India entirely, where you still have an almost tangible sense that little has changed since the time of the Raj. "It appeals to those looking for places which chic little boutiques and five star hotels haven't yet reached but which nevertheless has more than enough to seduce and attract".

It is a green Venice, but unlike Venice, where man as created most of the glory, in Kerala nature rules. Everything from the hectic south-west monsoon, dreamy lagoons, curving waterways, damp paddy fields, swaying greenery, scents of cloves, pepper, ginger, tamarind, cinnamon and nutmeg to cruise along the backwaters and Ayurvedic therapy has been featured vividly.

A trip along the backwaters is unmissable, not just for the natural beauty but for the fascinating insight they offer into the life of a typical "Keralan village".

It is fascinating, ever busy scene, yet one imbued with great serenity!

Is there another side to explore? Aim for Thekkady, up amomg the trees and mists and the groves of cardamom and cinnamon, and you are in another world. Cars and drivers are cheap in the country. "So hire a Hindustan Ambassador and head into the Hills-it will allow you abundant opportunity to research Gandhi's view that the real India is to be found in villages".

Photographs of the Chinese fishing nets introduced on the waterway at Kochi 2,000 years ago, the Jewish Synagogue, the fishermen at Ashok Beach, a resort at Kumarakom, a cathedral at Thrissur, Turmeric Warehouse, eerie Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary and a beach trader of Kovalam have found place in the magazine.

Kerala, too, is the "great home of Ayurvedic treatments" as every hotel and village offers some version of ancient remedies. Advising not to spent too much time on the treatment table, it concludes "there is always something more to see: there are mountain retreats, spice plantations and jingle walks, temples, mosques and churches. Above all, there is real India, still a little ingenue, still a little green, waiting to be discovered".






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