Kerala has three distinct topographies, separated by elevation, allowing for a limitless variety of agriculture. The lowlands are full of very lush tropical vegetation. The hot humid weather is good for growing rice, coconuts, bananas, and mangos. The landscape is dominated by rice fields and dense coconut forests. This region receives a lot of rain, especially from June to September, providing constant irrigation.
The midlands are higher in elevation where rubber trees, cashews, pineapples, and jack fruit grow in abundance. The weather is slightly cooler and green hills and deep valleys define the landscape.
Kerala is a very developed state and a top tourist destination. The people are friendly and highly literate. Cochin, one of the main cities to visit, has an interesting history. It’s where Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese explorer, landed in India in 1498, lured by the pepper trade. His house is still there to see. There is also an active Jewish synagogue in Cochin, built in 1568, the oldest one in India.
Kerala is home to the famous backwaters. The backwaters are a unique 900 kilometer network of inland waterways parallel to the coast. Large dikes separate the lakes from canals. On the dikes are the homes, schools, churches and shops of the villagers. People travel by canoes, ride bikes along the dikes, or take powered water taxis for transportation. One of the main crops is rice. Kerala rice is best known for its aromatic flavor. Large wooden barges were used to transport rice from the fields up the canals to the main seaport of Cochin.
For tourists, the rice barge is an inexpensive way to see the backwaters and experience the colorful rural life. An overnight rental of the boat comes with chef and crew. Lunch on the first day is served, then a snack, with dinner at night, and breakfast in the morning before returning to the jetty in Alappuzha. When we booked the boat we asked for vegan meals which was easy for the chef to accommodate using all of the locally grown ingredients - spices, curry leaf, turmeric, coconut milk, fragrant rice, and limitless vegetables and fruit.
For three great meals, we enjoyed fresh vegan food with local ingredients, including a thick vegetable curry over Kerala rice and a spicy green bean, carrot, and mango salad. For the first time traveler to India, it was a peaceful way to try its vegan cuisine while experiencing the tranquil and tropical countryside of Kerala. For a vegan traveler, it couldn’t get better!