Tea Plantations are the Soul of Munnar and they make it one of the most romantic, dramatic and natural places in the country. However, be aware that living in tea plantations is extremely dangerous and may have many repercussions. You might never like to return to your normal life. Even if you do, you will feel like you left your soul behind. You may feel hollow from within, but saturated with Green. Strange Feeling! Isn’t it?
Tea is not only a drink, it is a living for some, lifestyle for others and scenic beauty for travelers like us. Many of us may be addicted to tea. Some of us may need a cup even to come out of bed and some might just die without it. I am also one such addict. However, these days my addiction is not only of drinking tea but of living in the tea plantations, riding or walking through them to the hill tops, only to realize that the tea looks more beautiful than it tastes.
Munnar is a place you should go to if you can see the 100 similar looking costumes and still appreciate the nuances and enjoy looking at the costumes. There are tea plantations everywhere and after a while you might feel it is all the same. You enjoy it if you love to spend time in it, walk through it and want to see it over and over again. If you think you can do that, you will fall in love with the place immediately.
1. Trek through the Tea Plantations
It is the best way to appreciate the beauty of Munnar. When you are walking you have the opportunity to get close to the plantations, stop by at as many places as you like and enjoy the view from different points. This may not be possible if you are in a tourist bus, which I find more like a cage. The bus will not give you an opportunity to stop at so many beautiful spots, it will just take you to some stupid designated tourist spots. So go out there on your own, feel the freshness in the air, fall in love with the green color and rejuvenate your soul. Do remember to apply sunscreen or you will get burnt badly as it happened with us.
There are many trek organizers available in the town, just near the bus stand. You will see many boards with the text “Tourist Information Center”. You can just walk in and ask for different trekking options and rates. Most of them will offer it at the rate of Rs. 850/- per person. Request them for sending a knowledgeable guide who can provide useful information to you during the Trek.
2. Stay in a Resort that offers a view of the Tea Plantations
Though we did not stay in one, we would definitely recommend you to go to one such resort. It’s basically about the view of the tea plantations, and if you can get it from your resort, why not? That would be really awesome. We stayed in resorts called Blue Bells which offered us the view of cardamom plantations which was alright but in no way comparable to the view of tea plantations.
However, after exploring, we found two good resorts which offered us amazing view of the tea plantations. One is Devonshire Resorts and other is C Seven. The view from both the resorts in very enchanting and can make it one of your most memorable stay. Even a government resort called Tea County by the Kerela Tourism Development Corporation (KTDC) seem to be ideally located, however, the rent is very high. There may be many others also, but it’s difficult to get an idea of the view while looking at pictures on internet. So you will have to go and explore the place yourself. However, you can stay assured that there are enough number of both cheap hotels and luxury hotels in Munnar.
3. Go for a Long Ride Either on a Cycle or a Motorbike
You can easily get either a bike or a cycle on rent at very reasonable rates. Take one and go for a long ride. After walking, this is one best way of enjoying the beauty of Munnar. Be careful, it’s a hilly terrain, so unless you are confident of riding, do not go for it. Take a bike with a powerful engine, and in no case less than 150 cc. Consider going towards Top station, but not on a weekend, the crowd will just spoil the fun of the ride. There are many points which offer an amazing view of the plantations.
It would be best if you start early morning as it gets too hot during the day. Photo point is one such scenic spot where you should definitely stop for a while and click some nice pictures.
En route to the Top Station, you will find spots from where you will be able to see both, the Mattupetty dam water as well as the plantation. The water surrounded by plantation is a very scenic sight and you must stop by for a while to admire its beauty.
Also, consider going towards tea museum – just after going over a kilometer, the beautiful tea plantation will start. Just go for a ride for few kilometers. It is fun.
4. Buy Some Tea from Tea Museum and Explore Shrushti – A TATA Foundation Initiative
Buy locally grown tea from the Tea Museum at very reasonable rates and get to learn about the different tea varieties and how tea is produced at the museum. Do attend the presentation by an old gentlemen, if you want to be offended and get few insights about tea. Some people find it very funny and enjoyable also.
If you go a kilometer further from Tea museum, you reach Shrushti which is an organization run for a social cause and an initiative of TATA foundation. There are two main things you can see here. How natural pigments are used for coloring of clothes and how different types of wastes are recycled to produce different varieties of paper. It was really interesting and a different experience. You can also do some shopping from their outlet. Though most of the things are expensive, you can find some reasonably priced items as well, like a locally produced jam of strawberry or a passion fruit sauce or some candles, clothes, or diaries made of locally produced paper.
5. Watch Kathakali At Punarjani
Though it is of mediocre quality, still you can get a good idea of what Kathakali is. Also, for a change you can watch something different from tea plantations here. A show is played every day at 5:00 pm and you can go and buy tickets directly from the counter. If you want to participate in the interactive parts of the play, go for the seats in the front row.
6. Eat at Sarvana Bhavan
Sarvana Bhavan offers very delicious vegetarian food at a reasonable price and you must definitely go here once. The service is fast and the quantity of everything served is more than sufficient. Do try their Ghee Roast Dosa and Onion Dosa.
Details of Our Trip
We spent about a week in Munnar and realized that the tea plantations are the soul of it. On the very first day, we decided to take a walk around to explore the town. I along with my wife, trekked through the tea plantations to Pothamedu Viewpoint from the Munnar bus stand. It must have been about 6 km. The trek was definitely worth the effort. It was an amazing experience walking through the tea plantations. On one side you have hills and on the other you have valley, but you see only tea plantations on both the sides. It’s like a scene from a romantic film has come alive. You feel like spreading your hands, dancing and singing while trekking up the hill. The view from Pothamedu is good however, I will give a 5 star to the trek and only a 3 to the viewpoint itself. As stated in many of my blogs, it became evident again, that journey is more beautiful than the destination, at least in the Indian context (talking only about road trips, not Indian railways or buses).
This had taken most of our time on the first day. We took a bus to the resort. Our resort, Blue Bells, was about 6-7 kms from the town, which required us to walk for about a 500 m to go down the valley. There were no lights on this 500 m stretch and no signal in cell phones to connect with the resort reception. We luckily had a torch which gave us the courage to walk to the resort. The light from the torch was the only light on the road and it was all dark everywhere else. We somehow managed to reach the resort and from then onwards decided to return to the resort before 6 pm in any case for the rest of our stay. Though isolated from town, the Blue Bells resort was a beautiful property and was really a good value for money.
The next day, we took a two wheeler on rent and asked the bike agent to suggest us the best place to explore using a bike. He recommended us Top station which was about 36 kms and according to him was the most beautiful place around Munnar. Without a second thought we headed to the Top station. Just after 2-3 kms the road became beautiful, surrounded by lush green plantations everywhere. Being a Sunday, the roads where totally crowded. However, it still was a wonderful journey which left us spellbound. You want to stop at every spot, but then you have very limited time to ride up and return before it gets dark.
The first spot we came across was the Rose Garden. Though we decided to skip it as we had already seen one in Ooty, we still stopped to see the view of hills from outside of the Rose Garden. It was beautiful enough to compel a dead men rise from his grave to take a stroll through the plantations, so how could we not stop. We could also see from top that there were no roses in the rose garden and hence we decided to skip it altogether.
The next spot was also easy to identify as enough crowd had gathered around the spot. It was called Photo Point. Even this was about tea plantation, but with a more beautiful and photogenic view. We clicked a few photographs and then moved to our next destination – The Mattupetty Dam – a dam like all others. Clicked few pictures, explored the Mattupetty market for shopping and went ahead for the next stop. While going forward it occurred to me that even top station would be just a point which most probably will not be as beautiful as the road to it is. Hence, we enjoyed the ride to the best possible. Eventually, it turned out as predicted – the view was not that clear as it was very foggy. However, there was less disappointment as we had already anticipated it to happen. We hurried up to the bottom of the hill to ensure that we reach before it gets dark. Going down was a lot easier and faster.
Next day we explored the tea museum direction and it turned out to be the most beautiful route. For the first time, we saw few ladies plucking the tea leaves. We stopped by to see them. They, unexpectedly, smiled at us and invited us inside the fields. It was too steep, but we somehow managed to get in there. There were too many of them plucking the tea leaves. They offered us a bag to tie around our forehead and encouraged us to help them in plucking the tea leaves. They also happily posed for pictures. It was an altogether new experience. We were feeling satisfied that we did not only see the plantation, but we also experienced how the locals pluck the tea leaves.
We were not sure where else should we go after that. As it happens in movies, a messenger of god then came from behind in the form of a taxi driver. He came forward and started talking to us. He told us that Shrushti is one NGO, a little down the road that we must visit. So Shrushti it was. Shrushti proved to be an interesting experiment and experience.
The return to Bangalore via 5 pm Karnataka State Road Transport Corporate (KSRTC) bus turned out to be unexpectedly good experience. We could see many beautiful sights which we would have missed otherwise. The decision to take a 5 pm bus allowed us to enjoy the beauty of Munnar for 2 more hours, i.e., till 7 pm, after which it got too dark to see anything outside.