PHOTO ESSAY: Faces of Kerala

One of the things I liked most about my recent trip to Kerala, India, was the people. Aside from the world-class hospitality extended to us by our hosts in the Kerala Tourism Board, the people we interacted with in Kerala were really nice and friendly.

In my whole trip, I encountered only a handful of people who wanted to rip me off because I was a tourist. The rest were all very warm in welcoming foreigners to their communities.

From the locals in the Kumarakom backwaters to the villagers in the spice plantations, everyone made me and my co-bloggers feel welcome.

Unlike other countries I’ve visited where locals would feel snappy if you take photos of them, the people in Kerala were different. They would happily pose for a photo once you take out your camera and point it at them. They’d also happily take your photo if you ask them to.

While travelling across this southern Indian state, I compiled photos of the faces I interacted with during the trip. Showing people in their daily lives is the best way of showing the warm-hearted welcome I experienced in my trip.

I’m not a photographer. Though I’ve had training in sports photography during the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games, I never really use SLR cameras to take photos when I travel. These photos were all taken using my iPhone 5 and Samsung Note 3.

The security guards of our first hotel - the Turtle on the beach hotel in Kovalam.
The security guards of our first hotel – the Turtle on the beach hotel in Kovalam.
A family I saw strolling along Kovalam Beach during sunset.
A family I saw strolling along Kovalam Beach during sunset.
An old lady guards one of the buildings inside the Padmanabhapuram Palace.
An old lady guards one of the buildings inside the Padmanabhapuram Palace in the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu.
A local fisherman from Kumarakom village, the original setting of the book "The God of Small Things," prepares to throw his net.
A local fisherman from Kumarakom village, the original setting of the book “The God of Small Things,” prepares to throw his net.

 

 

“And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”

– Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

 

A Hindu pilgrim poses for a photo in front of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum. He has been walking through different temples in India to fulfil his holy expedition.
A Hindu pilgrim poses for a photo in front of the Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Trivandrum. He has been walking through different temples in India to fulfil his holy expedition.

 

While traveling from Trivandrum to Alappuzha, we passed by students participating in a parade for the national youth games.
While traveling from Trivandrum to Alappuzha, we passed by students participating in a parade for the national youth games.
One of the students in the parade dresses up like India's national hero Mahatma Gandhi.
One of the students in the parade dresses up like India’s national hero Mahatma Gandhi.

 

An Ottamthulal performer during our dinner in the beautiful Kumarakom Lake Resort.
An Ottamthulal performer during our dinner in the beautiful Kumarakom Lake Resort.
An old lady from Kumarakom village shows us a mat she just finished weaving from banana leaves.
An old lady from Kumarakom village shows us a mat she just finished weaving from banana leaves.
A villager from Kumarakom shows us the traditional way of weaving rope from coconut shavings.
A villager from Kumarakom shows us the traditional way of weaving rope from coconut shavings.
A Kathakali actor demonstrates the facial movements involved in the Kerala art form.
A Kathakali actor demonstrates the facial movements involved in the Kerala art form.

 

 

 

“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.”

– St Augustine

 

 

 

Kathakali actors put on their makeup before their performance.
Kathakali actors put on their makeup before their performance.

The highlands: Thekkady and Munnar

Some preschoolers inside a school we passed by in a spice village in Thekkady.
Some preschoolers inside a school we passed by in a spice village in Thekkady.
(L-R) (1) A tea plantation worker shows cardamom seeds she just harvested. (2) Our local tour guide explains how the spice village works. (3) Forest rangers of the Periyar Tiger Reserve pose for photos before we started our nature walk.
(L-R) (1) A tea plantation worker shows cardamom seeds she just harvested. (2) Our local tour guide explains how the spice village works. (3) Forest rangers of the Periyar Tiger Reserve pose for photos before we started our nature walk.
My new friends from the Tusker Elephant Trail in Thekkady.
My new friends from the Tusker Elephant Trail in Thekkady.
A Kalari fighter demonstrates one of the traditional weapons used in this Indian martial art.
A Kalari fighter demonstrates one of the traditional weapons used in this Indian martial art.
A little angry bird in Munnar.
A little angry bird in Munnar.

 

 

“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.”

– Mary Ritter Beard

Some school boys waiting to go home in Munnar Town.
Two school boys waiting to go home in Munnar Town.

#TheManoj

BEST TOUR GUIDE EVER!
BEST TOUR GUIDE EVER!

Our Kerala experience would not have been as wonderful if not for our tour guide Manoj Nair. This guy is, perhaps, one of the best tour guides in Kerala, having journeyed with journalists, bloggers and celebrities like Anthony Bourdain.

But he is not just a tour guide. Manoj is also a renowned photographer who had been published in different magazines and books. He has traveled to many countries, often on a shooting assignment for international travel books.

Manoj was very patient in entertaining all our concerns and questions. He knew all the fun facts about the places we visited and gave extra effort to make us feel safe and comfortable wherever we went. He was a very gracious host and being a photographer, he knew all the best angles of the places we visited.

What sets Manoj apart from the other tour guides I’ve had in other countries is that he is really passionate about his job. He loves Kerala and wants his guests to appreciate “God’s Own Country” in the same way.

I’ll never forget Manoj and the other people I interacted with in Kerala. I hope someday I can host them when they visit the Philippines.

This is a part of my #ComeToKerala blog series. My trip to “God’s Own Country” was sponsored by the Kerala Tourism Board. I had the time of my life in Kerala and I’m sharing my experiences here:

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