Everyone loves a good vacation. Just to break out of the humdrum of daily life and have some fun or to give yourself a detached perspective to your problems and issues, everyone gets bitten by the travel bug from time to time. “Many Miles and Smiles Away” is a travelogue about all the different places I’ve been to in my life. (this may include an astonishing amount of temple town, bear with me :p #southindianmomsarespecial)

I guess the earliest vacation I was on was in 1999-00 when my family went to Europe. Disneyworld Paris, Rome and Germany – covered. You’d think this would have been spectacular. I’m sure it was. I was 3. I have no recollection of this at all 😦 I’m told I was given a tour of the Happiest Place on Earth courtesy a pram and I was apparently thrilled to meet my idol Mickey Mouse. It would be 10 more years before I got to see the inside of an aeroplane.

The first real vacation that I remember was when we used to go down south to my grandma’s place in Kerala. She lived in the quaint riverside town of Muvattupuzha, in Kochi district, a couple of hours away from Kochi itself. (For those of you who can’t pronounce that, have a look here)

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As a kid who had only ever lived in the city, Muvattupuzha was paradise. We ended up going back there a lot, almost every school vacation till high school. It was usually the final stopover in all of our trips.

My grandmom lived in a large ancestral house on the banks of the river itself. She had  huge yard with everything from delicate flowers to coconut plantations. One section of the garden was so thickly infested that no one dared enter. My sister and I jokingly christened it as “her private forest.” I had never seen so much open space to play. Infact, we used to play mini-Olympics in the front yard itself. Despite my mom’s insistence, we did venture into the river to splash around and get soaked. Naturally I stayed in too long and caught a cold. All further river forays were indefinitely suspended, the next time I got in was only when I was 12. From building castles to throwing stuff in the well, we had a free rein to do whatever we wanted. And another reason we loved it was that the days were often punctuated by grandma’s irresistable home food. It was the ideal home away from home.

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The Muvattupuzha river is a photographer’s delight

The town is separated by the Old Bridge which was supposedly the first concrete bridge in India.The main attraction for Muvattupuzha is the Muvattupuzhayaar or Muvattupuzha river which is very calm and cleanly flowing. In fact, the town is named after the river Muvattupuzha which flows through it. The name is made up of three Malayalam words ‘Moo’ which stands for ‘three’, ‘aaru’ – river, and ‘puzha’ – which also means a river. ‘Aaru’ is a word that is usually used to mention rivers in the southern half of Kerala, while ‘puzha’s are used to mention northern rivers. The three rivers in this case are the Kothamangalam river, Kaliyar and Thodupuzha, which merge to form a single river. With many picturesque ghats and river bends, it is a photographer’s delight.

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The Old Bridge

The other main things to look out for are it’s two temples (sigh) – Velloorkunnam Shiva Temple and Puzhakkara Kavu Maha Devi Temple. (Try saying that :p) The more famous of the two is the latter. This is an ancient Devi temple situated at the confluence of 3 rivers. The annual 10 day festival ( Chirappu Mahotsavam ) of the temple is celebrated with great fervour and gaiety every year in December which concludes on the 26th December, The final 5 days of the celebration is so colourful and eventful with ‘Ezhunnallipu’ (procession) on 5 decorated elephants along with ‘Pancha Vadyam ‘ or ‘Thayambaka’ by group of 20 and odd drummers and other artists lead by world renowned drummists of Kerala. This is a sight to be seen.

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Velloorkunnam Mahadeva Temple

But the best thing that I liked about the town was how friendly everyone was. Be it autodrivers or shopkeepers, maybe because it is a small community, everyone knows a large percentage of the population. And all of them are extremely welcoming and make you feel right at home.

It is a well accessible town, with buses plying at a good frequency to major nearby towns like Kochi and Kottayam, and a host of long distance buses coming in from towns as far as Bangalore and Trivandrum. Nedumbassery International Airport is a mere 35km away with flights in and out of Colombo, Muscat and Singapore among other locations. The nearest railway station is Aluva, at a distance of around 30km. This was our favourite mode of transport. The whole family would be there and we would pile into one of those iconic white Ambassador Taxis, it was a bit of a squash but the travel time was less than an hour and by then everyone was too excited to care.

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Panchavadyam at Puzhakkara Kavu

What with grandma’s pampering I’m not in any position to make a comment on the restaurants of the town (:) ), but suffice to say there is ample choice of hotels offering a variety of veg and non veg dishes.

There are a lot of Tourist Attractions in the Eastern Border of Muvattupuzha Taluka Which is Idukki District like Thekkadi,Periyar Wildlife Reserve.There are a number of waterfalls in reach from the city. The Vazhachall-Athirapilly waterfalls, one the biggest in Kerala in both height and the volume of water, 48 km away from Muvattupuzha and is easily accessible by road. The famous Idukki Dam is also a mere 2 hours away. It is one of the highest dams in Asia and is especially known for it’s curved arch structure.

I list these out as potential side destinations for a fellow traveller. Thought I’ve been to these places, for me Muvattupuzha will always be associated with my grandma’s homemade jackfruit chips and going to the temple fair and begging mom to buy me toys. Over the years, I’ve developed a real fondness for the place and I think if you get the chance to visit, you should grab it with both arms 😀

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