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South India photoblog: From Kerala's Backwaters to old colonial Cochin

In Kerala we journeyed from the Backwaters of Kumarakom and Alleppey to the palm-fringed beaches of Marari, and ended at the colonial heritage city of Cochin, home to Portuguese, Dutch, Arabic and British traders at various times in its history. We have inspected all the good hotels in the region (43 hotels at our last count since arriving in South India) and eaten many delicious seafood curries. Here are a few photos of our Keralan adventure...

The quirky turquoise houseboat at Privacy, part of the Malabar Escapes group of properties, set in a secluded spot on Lake Vembanad
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Lake view swimming pool at Privacy
There are thousands of kettuvallom houseboats (rice barges) in the Backwaters and they are the perfect vessels to explore these interconnected canals, rivers and lakes as a half day activity. Some people feel they want a few nights sleeping on a traditional houseboat, but once night falls you cannot see your surroundings and the reality of it is often less romantic than assumed
You will see ladies washing clothes in the river, children playing and couples fishing outside their homes. Life has changed little here through the ages and it is extremely idyllic and peaceful
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Can you spot the kingfisher? The backwater's lush landscape attracts a huge variety of birds - from egrets, terns, kingfishers, darters, cormorants and other migratory birds
Sit back, unwind and observe local life playing out as you drift by waterfront churches, temples and villages
Sit back, unwind and observe local life playing out as you drift by waterfront churches, temples and villages
Lunch on board the houseboat is freshly prepared by a fantastic cook
The kitchen is small but the feast was immense! It was utterly delicious
The sun falls over Lake Vembanad. In the distance you can see what are known as Chinese fishing nets, which have become ubiquitous with the Malabar coast
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The 'Meandering Pool Villas' at Kumarakom Lake Resort where you can step straight from your villa into a curvaceous, 250-metre long swimming pool
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Marari Beach Resort is the perfect place to kick off your shoes and relax with your feet in the sand. It's very sweet and simple, and we consistently get glowing feedback from our clients who stay here
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Ultra luxury arrives in the Backwaters in the form of Carnoustie Beach Resort & Ayurveda Spa on Marari Beach. It is a brand new property with forty villas of exceptional quality, each with their own pool, lavish bathrooms and a spot-on fusion of contemporary luxury and traditional Kerala architecture
At a Kathakali performance in Cochin. Arrive half and hour before it begins to watch the performers preparing their make-up on stage
Kathakali is a classic Indian dance-drama originating in Kerala, known for its elaborate costumes, make up and emotive facial expressions
A trading port since Roman times, Cochin is a fascinating yet supremely relaxed city. It has an atmospheric colonial vibe and a slow seaside pace - particularly the Old Town, where most of the hotels are. ‘Jew Town’ is an area of the Old Town with a mix of old shops, warehouses, spice auction rooms and a beautiful Jewish synagogue
Fresh catch straight off the boat at Cochin harbour
The Old Harbour Hotel in Cochin is a charming boutique hotel, set in a 300-year old building built in the Dutch style of architecture with hints of Portuguese influence
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Handmade tiles and traditional Keralan carvings at Chittoor Kottaram. The house was originally built by the Rajah of Cochin, Rama Verma, and is now run as a boutique CGH property sleeping 6 people for exclusive use
Hello breakfast! Brunton's Boatyard serve a mean Masala Dosa. The hotel itself is excellent, too - a Cochin favourite of ours, set right on the harbour

Next and final stop on our South India research tour: Hyderabad, to stay at the Taj Falaknuma Palace...

Client Testimonials

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- Mr David Wallace, North India
I would recommend Ampersand without any hesitation!!! The best travel agent that I’ve ever had. Everything – from the individual care and attention in planning the trip, through to the efficiency of the agents on the ground in India – was handled brilliantly. An absolutely first-class service all round!
- Matthew Annable, Rajasthan, India
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- Mr Geoffrey Johnson, India
So many highlights to choose from! The hotels were amazing but Maya Villa was a highlight… I loved just hanging out in the hammock reading my book and watching the peacocks chase the cows!
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We had a wonderful holiday - everything was perfect. Thank you for helping us to make a thoughtful plan to enjoy and make most out of our trip. The places we visited, the guides, the transportation and driver, the hotels selected... Everything was great!
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I had a very lovely time and was looked after splendidly. My first visit to India could not have been better, save for being longer! But I shall return at some point and I shall look to you to make the arrangements.
- Matthew Nicklin, North India
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- Anonymous, India
Without question, you put together the best trip I have ever taken. We were shown around like visiting dignitaries, the hotels were fantastic and the itinerary was just right. Everybody I know will hear about how amazing Ampersand is!
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