Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2012: A Southern Culture Trip. Part One.

Named by Forbes Magazine as one of ‘Thirteen cultural events to be seen at in 2012’, the opening of the Kochi-Muzirus Biennale is an ideal addition to any cultural diary. Lasting for just over a month and showcasing some of the world’s best artists, the Biennale will see the crème de la crème of the creative culture scene descend upon Kochi. Here at Natural Mystic we have designed the perfect trip for any artistic traveller who wants to see and be seen at the Biennale, but also sample the aesthetic beauty and fascinating culture that the rest of Kerala has to offer.

6th December 2012

Arrive into Bangalore in the morning and be picked up by your private driver ready to take you to your accommodation (4-5 hrs).  Your first destination is none other than the stunning Orange County Kabini, a luxury five star resort positioned perfectly on the banks of the River Kabini . The cottages, with their simulated mud walls and thatched roofs are inspired by the design of the Kuruba. Use the day to relax, refresh and sleep off any jet lag. Dining Suggestion: The Kabini has two restaurants on site.  The gastronomical delights on offer include both Indian and International dishes, with plenty of local flavour too. Tonight sample the fare of Kuruba Grill, a specialty restaurant dedicated to Kebabs and Grills and serving up platters of the best specimens in a serene setting overlooking the River Kabini.

Kuruba Grill

7th December 2012

This morning, take a guided nature walk along the banks of the Kabini river and toward the scrubbery and fields of the local villages. Upon your return, why not pass a few hours and soak up the atmosphere from the infinity pool, situated right on the edge of the river (below). Later in the afternoon peel yourself away from the edge of the river for a coracle ride. Unique to southern India (and oddly enough Ireland!) these boats make a great Indian experience. The coracle will drift slowly down the Kabini, hugging the shoreline. Dining Suggestion: In the evening, visit Orange County Kabini’s fine dining establishment, the Honey Comb. The restaurant is named after the honey gathering Jenu (Honey) Kuruba tribe and has a prime location overlooking the river. Add the fact that the menu consists only of the cream of international and regional cuisine and you have a recipe for success.

Infinity pool by the Kabini River

The Honey Comb

8th December 2012

Wake up early in order to take a riverboat safari to the Nagarahole Forest on the other side of the river, returning just in time for Breakfast. Nagharahole is home to the largest Asian elephant population in the world, along with peacocks, purple herons, guar, chital and dhole – leaving you full of wildlife encounters to regale over the table. In the afternoon, top up your interaction with nature by getting up close and personal with the resort’s resident elephant, Meenakshi. You can bathe and feed this fascinating and intelligent animal before going for a ride.  Once the sun goes down, be entertained by a troupe of Kuruba tribal dancers who perform every alternate evening. Dining Suggestion: Take the sunset cruise on the river for an intimate dining experience.

Nagarahole Forest is also home to the elusive tiger…

9th December 2012 – Wayanad

Be driven to Wayanad (150 KM, 3-4 hrs) and arrive at Tranquil Resort. Tranquil is essentially a microcosm of the Wayanad itself. Before you venture out into the great wide open of Wayanad, explore the 400-acre estate, which affords the adventurous soul with breathtaking views, scenic treks and unspoilt surroundings. Staying in Tranquil’s luxury tree house, at a height of 35 feet from the ground level and overlooking a valley facing north, the views are completely unrestricted. The entire structure measures 517 sq.feet, comprising of a bedroom, a bathroom with a six point shower and a north facing verandah offering a panoramic view of the estate. Dining Suggestion: Serving a mixture of continental fare, regional Indian favourites, traditional Kerala cuisine and “Grandmother’s” secret formulas, the communal dining room at Tranquil has a distinctly family feel. Along with some home grown vegetables and fruits, you can enjoy bread fresh from the ovens and home-made jams, preserves and relishes.

Tranquil Resort’s Luxury Treehouse

10th December 2012 – Wayanad

After breakfast, enjoy the various activities at the resort such as bird watching and walking trails. You will have a choice of a number of walking trails with each promising a new adventure. Each trail has been made with utmost care so as not to disturb the surroundings. From climbing to hiking across places of exceptional beauty observing indigenous fauna or exuberant vegetation the choices are yours to make.  In the afternoon, visit the Wayanad wildlife sanctuary. Dining Suggestion: Tranquil Resort.

11th December 2012 – The Eve of the Biennale- Kochi

After an early start, drive directly to Kochi (6 hrs). The newly crowned ‘Biennale City’ is teeming with life, offering plenty of things to see and do. Be escorted promptly to the Brunton Boatyard Hotel, your accommodation for the beginning of the trip. Moored on a historic stretch of Kochi’s famed harbour, Brunton Boatyard offers stunning views of the Kerala coast and has an eco-friendly approach to travel. Get rid of that travellers fatigue by the hotel’s idyllic pool before attending the evening’s opening ceremonies or why not take a brief stroll around Fort Cochin. Dining Suggestion:  Eat at Brunton Boatyard’s ‘History Restaurant’.  Each dish has been specially designed to reflect a different community and with 30 different communities living in Kochi, you are set for a historical and delicious journey.

Sea View Room at Brunton Boatyard

12th December 2012 – Kochi

It is the opening day of the festival and your local guide is ready to meet you at 10am. After breakfast, explore Fort Cochin and adjoining Mattancherry in depth. Visit the Dutch Palace in the area also known as Jew Town – the centre of the spice trade. Be sure also to visit the Pardesi Synagogue, partially destroyed by the Portuguese in 1662 and rebuilt two years later when the Dutch took Kochi. Featuring an ornate gold pulpit and hand painted willow floor tiles from China, the Synagogue is a work of art in its own right. In Fort Cochin, visit the infamous cantilevered Chinese Nets and St. Francis Church, constructed by the Portuguese in 1510 and believed to be the first angelical church in India. Vasco Da Gama was buried in this church, and later his remains were sent to his homeland Portugal. Use the afternoon to explore the Biennale’s different exhibitions at your leisure and unwind with an aryuvedic treatment back at the hotel. Dining Suggestion: Brunton Boatyard’s restaurant complete with complimentary cooking demo on the terrace.

Relax with an Aryuvedic Massage…

13th December 2012 – Kochi

After breakfast, your local guide will once again be ready at 10am to escort you around Kochi. Today, devote yourself to perusing the Biennale at your leisure. Explore the recently renovated Durbar Hall, one of the epicentres of the Biennale placed in the heart of Fort Cochin.  All of the Biennale’s primary venues house exhibitions but also provide opportunities to participate in workshops too if the mood takes you.  The Biennale has seven venues in total, all within Fort Cochin and easily accessible.

The newly renovated Durbar Hall

Durbar’s grand interiors create the perfect art gallery space…

In the evening swap one aesthetic pleasure for another by putting your feet up in order to watch a Kathakali performance at the Kathakali Centre. The centre features a woodlined theatre and provides the perfect introduction to the artform. Dining Suggestion: Head to the Old Harbour Hotel restaurant for a change of scene, well known for its seafood dishes and garden barbecue.

14th December 2012 – Munnar

This morning make the journey to Munnar from Kochi by private car. Munnar is famous for its plantations, so where better to stay than at The Windermere Estate, a 60 acre cardamom plantation in the Munnar hills. Sitting high on the observatory hill at 1600m above sea level, this charming retreat and plantation is surrounded by tea clad hills and dramatic rainforest. The atmosphere is fragrant with extensive tea and cardamom plantations. There are enchanting high ranges, lakes and streams and lovely views of low flying clouds and mist filled valleys. Unwind and fill your lungs with pure mountain air by taking a walk through the cardamom plantation. The Waterfall trek through the fields and intermittent woods leads to Attukadu Waterfalls, an ideal spot for a picnic. If you’re feeling spritely, you can also arrange to walk up to the Munnar Top station, the highest lookout in Munnar! Return to camp to refuel, making the most of the estates culinary highlights. The menu is comprised of traditional Malayali, Oriental, continental and family recipes. After all that trekking relax by sitting out on the porch with a cool drink and nothing but the birdsong to disturb you. Dining suggestion: The Windermere Estate

The Windermere Estate, Munnar.

15th December 2012 – Munnar

After breakfast, explore Munnar at your leisure. Your guide will come to meet you at 10am once again, but your route is up to you.  Visit Kannan Devan Tea Museum to gain first hand knowledge about tea processing and the operations that go into the making of black tea, as well as to participate in some delightful tea tasting! Devikulam Lake and Anayirangal Lake are also idyllic spots well worth visiting. Another option is taking a day trip to Marayoor, where you can visit the magnificent Thoovanam Waterfalls within Chennar Wildlife Sanctuary. Dining Suggestion: The Windermere Estate.

Please continue to Part two for more itinerary ideas…

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