27
Dec-2015

Munnar: a photographer’s dream

 

Hiking through the foothills of Munnar

Hiking through the foothills of Munnar

I woke up the early next morning, and eventually open the curtains to my room. My jaw drops.

I showed up to the town totally unprepared, and disoriented from the 6-hour bumpy bus ride from Kochi. It was cold, dark, late, wet  It was my first time in Munnar I arrived solo, and on a bit of a shoestring budget. (click here to hear more about my more high-end experience in Munnar a couple of years later). And so I just walked to the main strip and found the first decent hotel that I could…a little one-bedroom spot with a hot shower for like $15/night. Not bad…I’ll take it. I promptly crashed like a log.

SONY DSC

I woke up the early next morning, and eventually open the curtains to my room. My jaw drops. When I arrived, it was too dark to see any of the landscape around the town. But now, as the sun is out shining, the real landscape of Munnar reveals itself. And it is stunning. Lush green rolling green hills, endless mountains in the distance, clouds hovering around maintain tops. What really hits me were these interesting looking green “clumps” of bushes that formed into beautiful formations on the sides of these hills. Tea plants! I had never seen any before, and am loving this phenomenon.

Tea bushes

Tea bushes

Taken from one of the many many photo view points in the hills...

Taken from one of the many many photo view points in the hills…

I woke up the early next morning, and eventually open the curtains to my room. My jaw drops. When I arrived, it was too dark to see any of the landscape around the town. But now, as the sun is out shining, the real landscape of Munnar reveals itself. And it is stunning. Lush green rolling green hills, endless mountains in the distance, clouds hovering around maintain tops. What really hits me were these interesting looking green “clumps” of bushes that formed into beautiful formations on the sides of these hills. Tea plants! I had never seen any before, and am loving this phenomenon.

Energized, I venture out to find a little bit of brekkie. There are lots of local mom-and-pop breakfast spots on the road-side that cook up food for cheap.…and so I dive in like a local and scarf down some chai and omelets. (Note: when eating roadside food in India, only eat fried food cooked in front of you. Chai is generally safe since it’s boiled).

Still having absolutely no plan on what do to in Munnar, I showed up to the official government tourism office, just a slight walk from the city core. To my delight, they offered day-tours around the vicinity of Munnar, and for cheap! I was pretty wiped out from my travels around Kerala. So I figured yeah, I could suck up my backpacker pride and take a fully-guided bus tour for once. And well, like I said, it was super cheap….$15 for the day, including lunch, LOTS of driving around to various spots, and a half-day elephant trek in the jungle.

 

Around the foothills of Munnar...

Around the foothills of Munnar…

Around the foothills of Munnar...

Around the foothills of Munnar…

I hop on to the mini-bus, which is filled with about 10 other travelers. I grab a dn seat and am instantly befriended by a Dutch couple (two guys) who are a sarcastic riot. And so we bus around to various stunning mountain photo viewpoints, lake photo view points, tea plantation photo view points, etc….joking around the whole time. Being a photography junky, I was quite fine with all of this. The tour covers some great vantage points of the surrounding hills that you wouldn’t normally find on your own. There was also a spot about monk habitats from like 100BC. Pretty cool stuff. Lunch was even decent. All I can recall about lunch was drinking jaljeera, which was soda water with lime and salty spices. Totally refreshing!

Part of this tour takes you on a half-day trek through the jungles of Eravikulam National Park to hunt for elephants!  The park trek was pretty awesome I have to say (albeit a very “beginner” sort of hike), and was so good that I had to cover it in a separate blog entry (click here to check it out). There We didn’t do a tour though any of the actual tea operations, but if you have the time I would definitely suggest you check it out. Tata Tea Company is the major one though I would tend to gravitate towards one of the more local ‘microbrew’ operations. You can buy Munnar tea pretty much anywhere in the city.

Some quirks of Munnar: it is elevated, so if you are going anytime between November and March, definitely pack a rain jacket, sweater, pants, socks, etc etc. I showed up absolutely unprepared for this and ended up buying some very cheesy (but warm) local attire that I promptly gave away to locals upon my departure. Another quirk: the rickshaws are a cartel. Most rides are fixed priced (non-negotiable). However, you can certainly hire and bargain with drivers for tailor-made photography sessions though some of the more remote tea plantation areas off of the major routes (highly recommended). I got one driver to take me around for 2 hours around the ‘suburbs’ of Munnar for about 300 rupees. Totally worth it.

Tea workers, chopping away...

Tea workers, chopping away…

That's me, just chillin

That’s me, just chillin

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