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The Hill Palace, ChottaNikkara Temple and Tripunithura Temple… the Princess Diaries continued!

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And then it was off to the Glorious Hill Palace- a place where both my fathers parents (both of them were cousins) had been born and raised and where the Maharaja had lived from 1914- 1932. My grandfather who unfortunately I never met was born 1921 and my grandmother who died at a very young age (and who also I never met 😦 ) was born in 1926 at the Hill Palace and my Father is lucky to have photographs of them playing together and growing up together in this beautiful, beautiful palace!

I had been really waiting to see the Hill Palace and I was right. It is indeed one of the most magnificent palaces I have ever seen! With layers of Gardens and fountains in front, the Palace , at one time must have stood out as a glorious white swan amidst a lake of green ! With a deer park (huge) which still have beautiful deer and with several building nestled among the lush greenery- the Hill Palace is easily one of India’s most glorious and most underrated palaces. After visiting it, I hope to write to the ministry and I will try and restore my family’s old home to part of it’s former glory. It seems only fitting. It seems only fair.

The Palace is looked after well, considering their obviously limited finances. The Government employees are proud of the Palace and the wood seems to be polished regularly and care has been taken to preserve all the incredible paintings, jewelry and artifacts. But with an entrance fee of Rs. 20, it is difficult to even keep a Palace of this size clean- so restoring it to it’s former glory is impossible. Sponsorships and Funding must come in and we should try and preserve this proud testament to India’s glory days.

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The gardens are now but shadows of what they would have looked like. Where the would have been 50 trees, there is now one aged weed and where there would have been brightly coloured flowers there is one token bush. The fountains are dry and chipped…. A new coat of paint and landscaping would easily restore the gardens to their lush beauty.

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I entered and immediately i saw my Family Crest carved beautifully in wood. The Family Crest is everywhere – on the top of the Hill Palace,in different rooms, etched in glass everywhere! Immediately we were click happy and I asked to get some photographs taken.

DSC04416In most parts of the Hill Palace, photographs are not allowed especially in the Crown room and where the Jewellery is stored- but because we were family- a wonderful government historian proudly took us around to rooms that hadn’t even been opened to the Public yet; showing us artifacts they were restoring and rooms that would soon be open to Public.

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Another interesting thing to note…is like the Taj Mahal in Agra, you must walk thru this Palace barefoot. The Palace is kept clean and the tiles are original and is wonderful to walk on the cool flooring and marvel at the care and attention that had been taken when this palace was built. It was also so far sighted of those that constructed the palace to choose the right materials for the Palace. Even in the humidity and heat of a Kerala afternoon the floors were cold and the windows kept a steady stream of air passing through. With out air conditioning , we were still able to walk a few hours without even breaking a sweat!

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And so it was off to the Crown room! And we saw the crown and the throne and the room where the Maharaja would conduct his daily business!The Palace in itself has several buildings with the traditional centre courtyard. The women, families and children would live and play in the other buildings. I’m assuming a simple game of hide and seek could run a couple of days with the amount of space this exquisite Palace has! 🙂 Unfortunately those building have yet to be restored and sadly some of the of them are being used as administrative offices and the rest of them just left vacant.

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Achan (Dad in Malayalam) and I posed in front of his great grand father picture (The Maharaja of Cochin) and  I know I was dreaming of being a Princess and roaming this beautiful Palace as my home.

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I was snapped out of day dreaming with the stunning light emanating from the rubies and emeralds and the room where all the jewellery and armor is stored. And then we wandered off to see the carriages … beautifully kept and a wonderful memory of a simpler, grander time!

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After a quick stop at the Deer park , I sadly said farewell to a new Palace I had just seen but which seemed so familiar to me….! I will come back. I must restore it.

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And then it was off to the famous temple ChottaNikkara. Legend has it that my great, great grandmother Parukutty Nethyar Amma ,got married very young. Like all young girls, she wanted many things. Her husband, said to her that if she wants so much, then she should perhaps ask the Devi and so she did. She prayed for fame, fortune and prayed with all her heart. When the Raja abdicated , she was at the temple when the Priest asked her whether she had moved to her new house- the Palace. She went home, to find that her husband had just been named the first Maharaja on Cochin State. The temple is beautiful. With great amount of faith, I went and prayed. I was so proud to just be able to walk the space my great great grandmother had and be able to share some of the faith she had!

No photographs are allowed in the temple.

And then finally we ended up in the Tripunithura Temple where the kings came after their coronation. Interestingly ,in Gurvayoor the Krishna idol is standing, in Tripunithura – he is sitting and when you go to Trivandrum, he is lying down!The temple has a massive courtyard where the elephants were brought and made to stand! We were overjoyed to see one hungry, very naughty elephant troubling his Mahout as the evening set on this PERFECT DAY!

From Hill Palace, both these temples are very close by and MUST SEES!

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Prayers in Kerala and imagining my Royal Past :)

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The next day it was an early start and off to Guruvayur Temple. The temple was a good 3 hours ( and a little extra ) away from our hotel and it was important that we got an early start.The presiding deity in the Garbhagraha (central shrine) is Mahavishnu and is supposed to be over 5000 years old! The temple is dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple has an enormous following and is very holy and was one of the main reasons for my trip. The rules of the temple are strict.

  • You must be Hindu
  • Men must wear mundus and go bare chested.
  • Women must wear skirts or saris or salwar kurtas
  • No shoes or footwear is allowed
  • No photographs allowed!( so the one below is off a website!)

The queues are enormous and the time you get to see the deity(the darshan) is very short. But with the amount of faith this temple has among devotees – the lines are never too long and the Darshan always special!

And then it was off to Thrissur where my father was born. My father had spent several years in Thrissur and our Tharavad (ancestral) house was in Thrissur. It was wonderful to relive some of his memories.

We got to see Ratnavilas a palace that my great-great grand mother – Parukutty Nethyar Amma built and lived in after her husband died! My mother had also visited and lived here after her marriage and i too had visited as a baby! Now unfortunately it had been sold to a hotel but even then you could see perfectly beautiful wooden staircases and gorgeous windows- remnants of an incredible time gone by! My parents spent time reminiscing about Ratnavilas and there were so many fun anecdotes and incredible memories- I wished that I’d been a little older when I’d visited just to share some of the history!

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And then it was off to the Town Hall built by my great grandfather V.K. Aravindaksha Menon who was the second son of the Maharaja and Chief Engineer of Cochin State. The building from the outside seemed almost as good as new and we were very delighted.

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The famous Vadakunnathan Temple is in the middle of the huge Thrissur Circle which has a diameter of a mile. The temple is very powerful and dedicated to Lord Shiva.The statue of Shiva is in the form of a huge lingam and is not visible. It is covered under a mound of ghee, formed by the daily prayers with ghee over the years. A devotee looking into the sanctum can now see only a 16-foot-high mound of ghee embellished with thirteen cascading crescents of gold and three serpent hoods at top. Legend says that Tipu Sultan while he was invading Cochin State tied his horse in front of this temple not heeding the curses and warnings of the priests. As he did so, news came to him that his capital of Srirangapatnam (near Mysore) had been invaded by the British. He left immediately heading back to Mysore and was killed in battle.

Driving thru Thrissur you cannot but help notice the statue of my Great great grandfather the Maharaja in the middle of a busy junction and despite the fact that there was no way I could get out from the car(the roads were that busy)- I kept clicking and clicking!

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A quick bite and a lot of shopping later , we headed back towards the hotel happily tired and very nostalgic.

I know I wish I’d been born during the Maharaja’s time. I think I’d be a super Royal :)!

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Balinese adventures!

It was the end of the year and I had let the year win. Exhausted, fed up and trudging along at a miserable pace- the year showed no signs of ending. It was on one such a week where Aditya asked me what my plans were for the next week. Life had become so routine that I recited my daily schedule in a single breath. “Not really,” he said. My Dad and him had taken my life in their very able hands and planned a perfect break-ation!

So it was off to Bali. I had never been to Indonesia before and was very, very excited. We arrived in Bali and checked in to luxurious  Melia Bali in the Exclusive Nusa Dua. Nusa Dua is home to luxury hotel properties and Melia Bali was a magnificently beautiful hotel with a private beach and gorgeous lagoon pool that was so, so inviting! Now Nusa Dua is more serene and is rather private so it is a bit cut away from all the action and madness of Bali but we had come here for a break and it was absolutely perfect for us! Ubud , in the hills is also wonderfully luxurious and relaxing but I’m a beach girl and Nusa Dua was PERFECT for us!

For more of the action and fun head to Kuta. Kuta also has several hotels, but none of them have their own beaches. It is also a more touristy part of Bali and so much as I loved hanging out in Kuta during the day, I absolutely loved heading back to my beautiful paradise in Nusa Dua to have romantic dinners on the beach with my husband! Kuta has great shopping and drinking and bargains! It is very touristy, always bustling and always fun.

Nusa Dua was quiet, relaxing and the perfect unwind.

Indonesia is a Hindu Country. They are so proud about the culture, the religion and their temples, it’s hard not to be proud of how well preserved the culture is. Furniture is made on shops along the road and is amazingly cheap , hardy and perfectly crafted. However shipping is often a problem and most of the local artisans would rather have you take responsibility for the shipping entirely and as a tourist with very few days in a country- that’s often not something you can do. Next time I go back, I’ll research the shipping plans better; so I can pick up some amazing furniture or a beautifully crafted Lord Ganesha!

Obviously in Bali , it’s all about the sea.  So after a quick city tour we were in the sea and racing each other till we couldn’t see land any more!

And then we discovered white water rafting. We were picked up with 3 other couples and taken to the Ayung River and then we had to walk down ridiculously steep steps. A quick change and even quicker set of instructions later we were off on  our own learning how to deal with the rapids and weaving our way through the river. At one point, we were allowed to get off and swim and the cool water after a hard bit of rowing was so refreshing we didn’t want to get out! After the rowing, you are taken for a quick bite to eat and something to drink and packed into the bus again and sent back to the hotel. What I really loved was a group of Japanese tourists who had used the river as a treasure hunt-team building experience. Different teams would rush to points on a map and pick up clues. Fun, exhilarating and a huge team building experience and suddenly I wished we had come with the whole family. Nothing like a good , fun competition to make a fun day even better!

Bali is beautiful, unspoiled and serene. It’s the perfect quick getaway from Singapore or Malaysia and a place I definitely must go back to! The sun shone brighter in Bali. My smile was bigger in Bali and I relaxed so completely in Bali!

Best Times To Travel- RIGHT NOW! ALWAYS ! ANY TIME! But on a more serious note…May to October is the best time to travel to Bali. Bali is always warm….so pack lots of shorts and lots of swimwear.

Price Factor-:  $300 a night for a good hotel! But check the fine print. Several don’t have private beaches/ all the facilities you’d like! So choose well!

IMPORTANT NOTE-: ONE DOLLAR is approximately 9500 INDONESIAN RUPIAH. SO WHEN YOU’RE TIPPING, DON’T BE STINGY WITH THE TIPS AND EXPECT A SMILE AFTER TIPPING SOMEONE 10/20 RUPIAH! THAT ISN’T MORE THAN A FEW CENTS!

ALSO A COKE BOTTLE IS APPROXIMATELY 20,000 RUPIAH! 

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