A lesser-known minority group of Indians in Singapore known as the Malayali came from Kerala, India. During the colonial period, the Malayalis and the Sri Lankan Tamils formed the majority of the upper-middle class of Singaporean society — most of them are English-educated. One of the most recognisable Singaporean Malayali is the late President S R Nathan.
Kerala is situated in South India, boasting a long stretch of Arabian Sea shoreline. It is also home to a portion of the Western Ghats, a beautiful mountain range. The land plays host to gorgeous vistas and idyllic landscapes, ideal for all travellers whether Malayali or not.
Cultural Treasures to Look Out For
Kalaripayattu (martial arts)
While you soak in the rich cultures of South India, take time out to watch a Kalaripayattu performance. Kalaripayattu is a traditional martial arts form that originated in Kerala.
Chakyarkoothu (comedy satire)
A traditional Indian folk dance, the Chakyarkoothu is a monologue performance narrating Hindu legends and folklore. The modern evolution of this classic performance art form infuses stand-up comedic elements and socio-political commentary on current affairs to remain relevant to audiences.
Ayurveda spa treatments
Home of Ayurveda spa treatments, people from all over the world travel to Kerala for relaxing spa retreats. Ayurveda is an ancient practice that aims to create harmony within the body.
Kerala is blessed with a diverse landscape – from beaches to the mountainous tea plantation. To kickstart your balik kampung journey, head to Cochin and Thiruvananthapuram to get nostalgic with the colonial buildings and forts. Make your way to Munnar, Wayanad or Palakkad if you are looking for some lush green landscape. Keralan cities still strongly hold their cultures and traditions until today.
Interesting Places to Visit in Kerala
1. Fort Kochi, Cochin
Melting Pot: Portuguese, Dutch and English influences with hints of Chinese characters. Just chill and take a nap whenever you feel like it.
The beating heart of Cochin (also known as Kochi) city, Fort Kochi inherits western cultures from the Dutch, British and French settlers. The beautiful Malabar coast serves as the perfect backdrop to this laidback destination. Take a stroll through town and hit the historic St. Francis Church or visit the iconic Chinese finish nets (pictured above).
2. Mattancherry Palace, Cochin
The Mattancherry Palace is a classic example of East-meets-West architecture found in Cochin. It was built in the 16th century by the Portuguese as a gift to the king of the Kochi dynasty. It later came to be known as the Dutch Palace as the Dutch undertook numerous repair projects for the palace. Today it houses tons of murals, portraits and paintings, open for visitors to enjoy.
Address: Mattancherry, Kochi, Kerala 682002, India
Opening hours: Saturday – Thursday, 10 am – 5 pm | Closed on Fridays
Getting there: The nearest railway station is Ernakulam.
3. Jew Town and Spice Bazaar, Cochin
Travellers might be surprised to find that in Kerala there still exists a small Jewish community. Visit one of India’s oldest Jewish synagogue and admire well-preserved Jewish antiques while you’re there. Within Jew Town, you can also shop for fine spices of all variety like ginger, cloves, cardamom, and turmeric at the Spice Bazaar.
Address: Old Cochin, Kochi (Cochin), India
Operating hours: Daily, 8 am – 6:30 pm
Getting there: Just a 10-minute drive from Cochin, hop onto a local taxi for the quickest way to get to Jew Town.
4. Tea Museum, Munnar
Back to Nature: Find yourself surrounded by the tea plantation, unless you want to get stuck in the jam-packed administration town.
The highlands of Kerala provides fertile ground for tea plantations. In 2005, Tata Tea opened a Tea Museum that captured the journey of tea in the region. One of the more popular attractions at the Tea Museum is the demonstration room designated for tea tasting. Here, visitors can try a wide variety of exotic tea available to the local plantation also sourced from all over the world.
Address: Nullatanni, Munnar, Kerala 685612, India
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 9 am – 5 pm | Closed on Mondays.
Getting there: From Cochin take the train to Munnar city and hire a private car to bring you up to the Tea Museum.
5. Top Station, Munnar
Plan The Unplanned
Atop the misty hills of Munnar lies Top Station. Take a moment to indulge in the breathtaking views from Top Station, situated 1,700m above sea level. The cool breeze and flora and fauna makes for a great escape from the bustling cities of India.
6. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, Thiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum)
Chill Kampung: Vibrant kampung with a laid-back atmosphere.
CC2.0 by Pranav
Located within the capital city of Kerala, the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is a sacred site dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is rumoured to be the world’s richest temple and said to have a hidden vault containing over $1 trillion worth of treasures. As a result, security is tight at Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. While only Hindus are allowed into the temple, the surrounding compound is still well worth the visit.
Address: West Nada, Fort, East Fort, Pazhavangadi, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 695023
Opening Hours: Daily, 3:30 am – 7:30 pm
Getting there: From Thiruvananthapuram train station, take the local taxi to the temple. It is a 20-minute car ride.
7. Kuthiramalika Palace (Mansion of Horses), Thiruvananthapuram
CC BY-SA 2.0 by Kerala Tourism
Just a short walk from the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple is the Kuthiramalika Palace, also known as the Mansion of Horses for the 122 horses carved into the wood within the palace. The palace is still kept in pristine condition and featuring traditional Kerala style architecture.
Address: Bhajanapura Palace Rd, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala 695023 India
Opening Hours: Tuesday – Sunday, 8:30 am – 1 pm & 3 pm – 5 pm
8. Bekal Fort, Bekal
Hidden Kampung: Luxury beach resorts start sprawling along the beach, but the locals and historic forts are sights to behold.
CC2.0 by Renjith Sasidharan
Bekal Fort is one of the most visited sites in Kerala amongst tourists, and for a good reason. The Fort offers both natural landscapes and a pristine beach. Standing atop the fort gives you a scenic view of the surrounding sea and attractions.
Getting there: Take the train to Kasargod or Kanhangad station and hail a cab to the Bekal from there.
9. Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary, Wayanad
Pristine Kampung: The unspoilt sanctuary is a heaven for animal-lovers taking a break from the heritage buildings.
Part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, the Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary was created to conserve the biological heritage of the region. The sanctuary is full of rare species of flora and fauna unique to the area, making it a paradise for nature and animal lovers. More than just a wildlife sanctuary, it also plays host to a number of mosques and temples, as well as heritage museums and research stations.
10. Silent Valley National Park, Palakkad
Legit Kampung: No tourists in sight so you can soak in the breathtaking views all to yourself.
Kerala Tourism Guide
Located on the idyllic Western Ghats of India, the Silent Valley National Park boasts the last tract of undisturbed forest. When visiting during the winter seasons, the peaks of the park is shrouded in mist and covered in thick grasses and bushes. The cool and dry climate makes it a great time to explore the park and to spot large animals like elephants.
Flavours of Malayali: Must-try Food in Kerala
Many of the vegetarian Indian dishes that we are familiar with originated from Kerala. A distinctive trait of Keralan dishes is that they are served on banana leaves and are known as Sadya.
Credit: Muriel A via Burpple
Ghee roast dosa with sambhar
Credit: Muriel A via Burpple
Mild alcohol made from the fermented sap of coconut flowers.
Best in Mullapanthal Toddy Shop, Thrippunithura.
Appam with stew
Indian pancake from fermented rice batter and coconut milk served with vegetable or meat stew.
Best in Nalukettu, Kochi.
Cleaned pearl spot fish marinated with rich spicy masala, baked in banana leaf.
Best in Karimpumkala Restaurant, Kottayam.