The state of Kerala never stops fascinating you, the food, the people, the serenity, and above all, its politics. This trip to Kollam in Kerala was amidst the heat of both summer and the great dance of democracy, the general elections of 2014. I went for a wedding, so most of the things were taken care of, including food, and that too home cooked food, as you say the traditional Kerala style.
Well, about the city, it is a beautiful place, having a history of being a trading port for centuries. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a trading center in Tangasseri part of Kollam, in 1502. The trade mainly composed of spices, as they are produced in plenty in the surrounding areas, and the spices find their way into the cuisine as well, pepper being the main taste enhancer, which eventually laid the foundation of the name of Kollam (pepper in sanskrit). The town is known for cashews, coir and other agricultural products also, and a blend of communities of Christians, Muslims and Hindus and Anglo-Indians. The town is place to some of the most beautiful temples, churches and mosques. The town seems to have drawn some influence from China, and that is due to the trade links with China.
About the approach, I was travelling by bus from Mangalore, through Cochin and Allepey. It is further connected to Trivandrum through rail and road. Further details on staying and eating out can be found on google, I do not have much details on that, being a good guest to a great host and a great friend. But places to visit I can write about:
Thangassery was an enclave of the Portuguese, Dutch and British in succession bearing historical importance, with old 18th century churches, light house and remnants of Portuguese and Dutch forts. The lighthouse (open 3-5 PM) gives panoramic view of the entire town. Thangassery Cathedral / Infant Jesus cathedral is a must see place.
Ashtmudi Lake: Ashtamudi means 'eight coned' (Ashta = 'eight'; mudi = 'coned'), it is the second largest and deepest wetland ecosystem, a palm-shaped large water body, having un-parallel scenic beauty. Munroe Island is a cluster of eight tiny islands in Ashtamudi Lake, located at the confluence of Ashtamudi Lake and the Kallada River. It is worth a watch as you cut across the lush green country side with lavishing coconut plantation.
Ochira: It is a very ancient pilgrimage center dedicated to the ParaBrahma. There is no sanctorum in Oachira Temple, the statues of the deities are placed and worshipped below large banyan trees.
Haripad: Subrahmanya Swamy temple in Haripad is one of the oldest temples in Kerala, dedicated to Subrahmanya Swamy. This has been one of the most beautiful temples I have ever been to, and it would have a different aura in the evening when all the deepams on the peripheral walls are lightened up. The Mannarasala Temple is a Nagaraja temple situated near Haripad. It is nestled in a dense forest, and has over 30,000 images of snakes along the paths and among the trees. It is the largest such temple in Kerala.
The towns like Kollam are not just the melting pots of different cultures and ethnicities; they have splendid untapped and unseen beauty which seems to be fading under the sheen of much populated tourist destinations. In short, Kerala has a lot to offer than the backwaters and ayurvedic massage.