This is a guest post by Lorraine who believes that travelling with kids is a fabulously enriching experience.
“Are you crazy?”
“They are too young to go to India.”
“Everyone gets sick in India; it will be too difficult with them.”
“India is too dirty.”
These were just a few of the many comments we received from friends and family when we were planning our trip. Despite all of this, we embarked on an adventure with two boys under 5 (one still in nappies).
One of the highlights — Kerala is amazing, so everything was a headlight — was a night on a houseboat in the Backwaters of Kerala. This was the only part of the trip we were worried about. 24 hours on a boat with two active boys. In preparation, we packed as many books and toys we could fit in our rucksack. However, we had no reason to fear. Onboard there was a TV and DVD player, with cartoons. “Yes!!!” we thought, it would be Ok after all.
During our trip, the boys were not bored once. Mr C drove the boat, while Mr G ran himself ragged. The crew played with them. They looked from our houseboat as India flowed past us. They laughed and they smiled with the local children as they left their schools and ran to their homes. At the end on our night on the Keralite houseboat, as they waited in an old Ambassador taxi, their sadness was mixed with excitement at what other adventures India had in store for us.
Next we moved on to Coco Bay Resort. It was a small and extremely friendly resort. It is quite isolated, requiring a boat on a canal to get there, so not for those who want to escape to the night-life of Kumarakom. This was another child friendly choice, with its inviting pool, the beautiful gardens, great food and the lack of escape routes for adventurous boys.
From Coco Bay we made our way to Periyar Wild Life Reserve in Thekkady. It’s a small town, not unpleasant, but very much centred on the reserve. With young children we were very limited in what we could do. We could do none of the jungle walks, but we could do the boat ride. It was certainly an experience; pushing and shoving to walk the plank to board the boat. Next was a painful two hours on board a hot boat. We did see some elephants and buffalo-like animals called guar, but alas no tigers.
The highlight of Thekkady was the gorgeous guest house where we stayed. It was actually about 10km out of the main town, up a mountain road which looked impassable, called Cardamom Club. We had delicious food every night for dinner, all from the plantation and delicious coffee, again from the plantation. There was a tree house, which the kids loved, as well as lots of space for the boys to wander. The owner took us on a wildlife walk up the hillside which led to the edge of the reserve, telling stories of the workers previously encountering large mammals.
Next on the agenda was the hill-station town Munnar. Famous for its tea plantations, Munnar, at an altitude of 1600m, was a welcome relief from the heat. We stayed in the gorgeous Blackberry Hills. Set amongst the tea plantations, it was the perfect point to explore the area.
Munnar was quite a pleasant town, with an interesting market and great spice shops. Vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon and of course tea are good purchases here. I think this was probably my favourite spot in Kerala.
Perched at the top of the tea plantations is Blackberry hills
Finally, we made our way back to Cochin, where we stayed in the Fort House Hotel. Again, another gorgeous hotel and pretty child friendly; watch out for the jetty and young ones though.
Cochin is not an easy place with young kids. We found a rickshaw driver we liked who took us to the sights for a day. When we came to places that Mr C did not wish to venture, we left him in the rickshaw with the driver. Of course, we frequently looked out to ensure he was still there! The old part of Cochin is pretty interesting to wander around, stopping for frequent breaks of gorgeous fruit drinks or coke in not so trustworthy places.
Kerala was a great introduction to India. It is relatively hassle-free, clean and easy to get around. Most importantly, it is child-friendly. So began our love affair with India. Almost two years later, we embark on our third visit to this amazing country.