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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Spending a Few Sipping Good Days at Munnar’s Tea Country


Seated at the front of the official KeralaBlogExpress bus I can already see the spiraling road ahead of us leading to the mountainous region of Munnar. Unmindful of the sensational scenery that lies ahead, I lay my head to rest on the glass window, just as sleep is about to beckon. As the bus revved its engine and struggle to climb the zig-zag road, the fog enveloping the countryside starts to thicken and as if on cue, I looked at Kim, who was seated across me and I saw the scenery outside her window. I found myself relishing the initial cadre of what would become an almost endless stretch of cotton-ball-like appearance – of tea plantation, that starts and ends as far as my eyes can see.



Rejoicing at my first ever sighting of such magnificent backdrop, I was instantly jolted back to full consciousness with my heart racing at the anticipation of more breathtaking visual feast. I hear ‘oohs and ahhs’ from my fellow participants, as I see them with their eyes glued outside the bus window, most certainly feeling the same excitement I’ve been having.


Gorgeous Kim of Vanilla Sky Dreaming looks out at the beautiful scenery
About an hour into negotiating the steep upward road, we encountered sharper curves that introduces us to the dangerous sights of deep ravines. With the splendor of our surroundings triumphing over any thoughts of danger on the road, I felt at that part of the journey, that we are indeed passing through the famed Tea Country of Munnar. As the sky comes closer to us and our bus gathers elevation, we were further introduced to a massive land area composed of tea plants that colors this part of the world with lush greens while subdivided by random patterns of lines, enhancing the painterly scene now displayed in its full glory to us.



I see scattered moving figures of tea farmers darting in and out of random spots in the tea plantation as the bus slowly rolled in. I imagine a simple yet filled with strenuous labor, kind of life that balances hardships with the unbelievable majestic environment of their livelihood. Their highly trained hands cutting the leaves that make it possible for the aromatic and tasteful cup of tea to find its way into our hands and eventually afford us a satisfying sip. 



In the middle of the tea country, our guide Manoj ordered the bus driver to park at the side of the road giving us the opportunity of stopping and ‘to smell the flowers’ – which in this case is represented by the tea plants. When I thought that by just having a front seat view from a moving bus is spectacular enough, the moment I set foot over the side road and walked into the direction of the tea plantation, did I experienced a new level of high, reveling at the distinct landscape spread before my eyes.


Anna Phipps of Global Gallivanting
My new friends – the crazy but fun travel bloggers from around the world started to pose for the camera of our official photographers Jinson, Arun and Vineeth while I also got busy pointing my camera to every inconceivable angle. Everywhere I direct my gaze attracts a captivating image worthy to be on a postcard. So a series of shutter clicks accompanied my amazement of what I was seeing that time.


Photographer Vineeth shows Yolanda her images
As the cool winds brings the scent of tea from a nearby tea factory, we meet some locals passing by the side of the road carrying baskets filled with tea leaves. They smiled and graciously accepted the request for a photograph with my fellow travel bloggers. Suddenly, this distant and off the grid place becomes an ideal setting for most of us who are tired of the hustles and bustles of big cities. I immediately imagined owning a small home surrounded by a tea plantation in this part of the world. I was surprised that it sounded like an amazing notion to myself. Before the crazy thought of running away from the bus and eloping with a beautiful local persuaded over me, I hear Manoj calling us all to get back on the bus so we could continue to our destination for that day; the mountain-top town of Munnar.



Known as both as a town and a hill station situated in the Idukki district of the Southwestern part of Kerala State, Munnar sits squarely in a picturesque mountain top crowded by marvelous endless tea plantation at around 5,200 feet above sea level. The weather was chilly cold as expected when we arrived and settled on respective quaint cottages at the KTDC Tea County hotel.



As fascinating as the way en route to Munnar, the town itself presents a more culturally pleasing picture after I learned of the harmonious and peaceful religious diversity existing in ‪Munnar,  as evidenced by the Hindu Temple, Islamic Mosque and a Catholic Church located within each other. In a world hit hard by religions indifference, what I witnessed at Munnar provided me with a comforting thought about the future of humanity.



As I strolled the town with my friend Mica, a fellow Filipino blogger participant, we opted to watch the sunset from the top of a small hill where the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church stands. Overlooking the rest of the town from a higher vantage point, I see a breathtaking scene when the sunlight slowly faded and ushered darkness to take the reins for the day. As night starts to take a bite, I see one by one, the houses in the horizon starting to flicker its electrical lights – capping another beautiful day of travel.


Of course, we never went quietly into the dark as when night falls, a group of us lighted a bonfire and danced the night away to the tunes of catchy Bollywood songs. Merrymaking at the new friendships forged and a indulging in a small amount of alcoholic drinks to cap what is shaping out to be an experience of a lifetime; this KeralaBlogExpress

*This article appears on the pages of the January 2016 issue of FWD Life Magazine - a leading Lifestyle Magazine in Kerala, India*



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