A Commoner in Kollam

In my previous post, I wrote about our first day in Kollam without mentioning anything about the town itself. In this post I will start with a few lines on it before going into details of our second day. Kollam, pronounced as Koilam was previously known as Quilon. It is one of Malabar Coast’s oldest ports situated around 74 Km north of Thiruvananthpuram and 85 Km south of Alleppey. This small town sandwiched between sea and Ashtmudi Lake was once the centre of the spice trade. Marcopolo, the great Venetian traveler, who was in Chinese service under Kublai Khan, visited Kollam in around 1293 AD on his return trip from China to Arabia. Ibn Batuta also visited Kollam in 14th Century. Malayalam Calendar or Malayalam era – The solar calendar followed in Kerala is also known as “Kollavarsham”. It is calculated from the founding of the present Kollam town by Syrian merchant Sapir Iso in 825 A.D. It starts in mid April and coincides with the New Year festivities elsewhere in India, which occur around the same time as Bihu in Assam and Baisakhi in Punjab. It is celebrated as Vishu in Kerala. The town is less interesting than its history might suggest. It’s a typical sprawling Keralan market community kept busy with the commercial interest of coir manufacturing, cashew processing and fishing industry. It has lost its earlier sheen, charm and importance. These days it is chiefly of interest as one of the entry or exit points to the backwaters of Kerala and for the famed Munroe island. Most travelers simply stay overnight enroute to or from Allappuzha or Alleppey. In Kollam we stayed at KTDC Yatri Niwas that is situated at a beautiful riverside location. The tariff of a single room was unbelievably low – Rupees 350 for one night in high tourist season. Staff was courteous and smiling, but being the government run accommodation there were general problems of maintenance and cleanliness. We started our second day with a short visit to a beach and a lighthouse at Thangesseri – around 5 Km away from the city centre. The beach had a small strip of sandy beach. After initial hesitation of getting wet or not, we decided to move-in. Rachit was very happy and it was pleasure to hear his joyous shrills timed with the incoming waves. I was proudly holding his hands, letting him enjoy the waves and ensuring that he does not fall down. In the realm of imagination, all parents wish that they could shield their kids from falling down permanently, during the ups and downs of the real life. As we moved from there we realized that Rachit’s clothes had become a small bag of sand.

Kollam Beach

From the beach we moved towards the lighthouse. On the way, we passed through a posh locality. The big and beautiful bungalows near light house were eye candy, though now I don’t remember much detail. The lighthouse stood 144 feet (44 m) tall and was built in 1902. It is possible to go upto the top of the lighthouse but we missed the experience. We had reached there in the morning, while it used to open in the afternoons. While returning from there we found a few fishermen’s huts in the vicinity, they looked more picturesque to me than the light house itself.

Fishermen huts at Kollam Beach

This short trip was over very soon and we reached back to the railway station wondering what to do next. I went to the good old DTPC office thanking them for the previous day’s experience and to seek guidance on how to spend the rest of our day in a meaningful way. One of them glanced at his watch and indicated us to rush to the near-by jetty stand, telling us that soon a local ferry was supposed to leave for near-by villages. A sudden wave of excitement ran through my body. That was our chance to visit inner Kollam using locals’ mode of transport. Leaving all bags and baggages of a tourist and moving around like a local and in-fact becoming a face in the crowd among locals, actually brings myself closer to real me. The charm of becoming a commoner found an echo in well known Hindi Poet Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s following line as well …

और क्या है ख़ास मुझमे, जो में साकार करना चाहता हूँ,
ख़ास यह है की, हर तरह की ख़ासियत से आज इनकार करना चाहता हूँ में

Rough translation of it can be: What else is special in me, that I want to prove today? Special is that today I want to deny, That there is anything special in me. In my opinion, the best possible way to get a feel of a place is to travel like most of the locals do. And for sure such possibility enhances the flavor of the trip. We were just in time. The ferry was about to leave. We were told that at the last stop it would wait for a while and then return back. The schedule was perfectly fitting in the timeslot before our planned departure to Bangalore by train. I bought return ticket that costed me around Rs 5 per person. I would say that the experience was so enriching that I would not have minded paying even 30 or 40 times more for it. As it started sailing we noticed that we were the only tourist on that cruise. It seemed that tourists’ taking that route was not so common. Traveling like that can very well be described as traveling in the local bus of the backwaters. After getting our tickets checked we positioned ourselves at the main door enjoying unhindered views of the backwaters. The scene felt straight out of the movie “Swades” when Shahrukh traveled similarly in a local water craft to a near-by village to collect a loan. In the beginning, the boat was moving close to the banks and we glimpsed fishing communities, where the huts were exposed to the winds of backwaters and Chinese nets were stretched like spider webs and beyond them fertile land was painted green with paddy and coconut trees.

Chinese net

On the way, there were many ships lined at the bank like Portofino’s poor cousin. Portofino is a beautiful place in Italian riviera.

Ships at Kollam

The boat was moving zigzag. It touched one side of the bank, left a few passengers, took in a few others and then moved towards village on the other side of the backwaters and so on. Slowly and slowly human settlement was left behind. Apart from our fellow co-passengers, the only other living being in our view was Brahminey Eagle. It was gliding over backwaters in search of its prey and was ready to take plunge on it. Jaishree and I tried hard to capture this flying beauty. Our frantic efforts evoked our co-passengers interest in helping us! Whenever we missed it, they drew our attention towards it. At last, when we were able to shoot the bird completely in one frame and showed them the results, they looked equally satisfied.

Brahminy Kite

Brahminy Eagle

From far we could see straight lines and colorful dots floating on the water. Those geometrical figures generated immense curiosity in us. As we got closer, the dots metamorphosed into a group of fishermen on their small boats. They were trying their lucks and nets in the water. When I looked at them through a tourist’s eye, for a few moments the boundary between work and fun got blurred. Everything seemed lyrical to me – their colorful attire, their boats and hats, and their concerted repetitive movements of throwing their nets and bringing it back each time. The reverie came to an end as we moved on and they started to appear once again as dots and straight lines, eventually becoming miniscule points against the backdrop of the vast expanse of the backwaters.

Fishermen at work, Kollam

Fisherman at kollam

Fishing net kollam

After around 3 hours, as we returned, I had mixed feelings. It was the feeling of immense satisfaction about our last brush with the backwaters, but a feeling of gradual sadness was also seeping through, as we prepared ourselves to say Au-revoir to Kerala. The images of shimmering backwaters, bamboo rafting on Periyar river, spice trip in Kumily, verdant hills of Munnar started to dance in front of my eyes. Even today when I think about our Kerala trip, those images still float in my eyes. I would like to end with the hope that we may get another opportunity to continue this trip from where we left …


  • Patrick Jones says:

    You delve into the core of things, as usual. Splendid!

    So you have done the east, west and the central parts of Kerala. North and south on the next visit?

    Seems you have mastered things on Kerala, there’s hardly anything for me to point my finger at :-)

  • manish khamesra says:

    45 view aur koi comment nahi – Bahut naa-insaafi thi. Finally the wait of this post to get a comment is over :)

    Thanks for your ever encouraging comment. I too learned a lot from these travelogues. It was like living again that travel to Kerala.

    North and South are left :( I think covering both in next visit will be difficult, but may be next visits (Am I becoming greedy ?) will be better.

    Thanks Patrick for your very informative comments on whole series that not only made me smile, but also gave a bagful of information to other readers as well.

  • nandanjha says:

    MK the poet, great story to finish the long journey we all were enjoying. I liked all the pictures. I sincerely wish that the cousin gets rich soon.

    PJ – I have high expectations from you. There has to be something deserving your pointed figure in this post.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Thanks Nandan. MK the poet – I liked it. Well even if it was M. The Poet – I won’t have minded it :)

    Thanks Nandan for the encuragement during the whole journey. For me also it was really fun filled :)

    Next – Well I will write, something that finishes in one post, before starting yet another series of posts on a place :)

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Sorry to disappoint you, Nandan. Manish is factually so correct, I could find nothing to the contrary.

    Well, almost.

    It is pronounced ‘Ko-llam’ only ;-)

    In its heydays the town’s splendour was so well known, an adage in Malayalam says ‘those who have seen Kollam, will not go back to their homes’. However, as Manish correctly gauged, the town has lost all that.

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    that’s a befitting finish to the sojourn-a really khaas post.
    Your narrative is as captivating as beautiful that poem is.
    pictures are great, worth all the effort and risk taken in that commoner commute.
    Your posts would be the starting point for many including me in planning a trip to God’s own country.

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Very well written series and an excellent finale to the sojourn. Some beautiful pictures too.

    A close friend is getting married in November at Kollam. If I am able to join the wedding celebrations, the whole lot of information provided by you will be of an immense help.

    Looking forward to your next post.

  • manish khamesra says:


    So as ever you have something beautiful to add to the post :)

  • manish khamesra says:


    Its a pleasure to have you around and thanks for this very “khaas” comment. I look forward to your travel to the “God’s own country” and that you will return back with so many things to add to these posts :)

    I will like to add just one thing that commoner commute was not a risk at all, it was a sheer pleasure.

    You are the first one (I think) to write about Orissa. I would be going through the posts shortly. Thanks a lot for being around.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Ram Uncle,

    You are always a constant source of inspiration for me. A few days back suddenly a thought crossed my mind that we both share the similar way of writing. I wondered, should I write it on my reply to your comment, but I am afraid that other ghumakkars will disagree and feel that I am trying to increase my stature by comparing myself with you.

    Uncle, in case you go there, please also come up with how you found Kollam as I am sure that there would be so many new things we will learn from you :)

  • manish khamesra says:

    A request to all ghumakkar’s please rate the story as well, it acts as a feedback to me. So don’t leave it un-rated just because its a last part of my travel :)

  • Manish, Thanks for the kind words. The risk reference was with regards to the fear of missing the train, in case of any delays in the commute:-)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Rajeev its clear now :)

    Once we travelled to Shimla on company trip and I slipped on the slope of a mountain and one of my HR colleague (he is now HR manager in my company) pulled me up. Later on I heard from other colleages that he saved my life as there was a big steep fall there. On the contrary, at that time I simply thanked my HR colleague for pulling me up, but never looked behind to see what was waiting for me in case he didn’t hold me at the right time :)

  • Geetha Saravanan says:

    Is it a poem… is it a painting… oh, it is a travel story by Manish!
    So then it is a work of art. Your story has all the ingredients that make it really palatable to any reader. The major components are of course the correct facts and detailed descriptions. I loved the hints of philosophy (“all parents wish… real life. “) and humour (“Rachits clothes …. bag of sand.”).

    And the real flavour of course is the combination of the wonderful photographs and the description of the fishermen going about their work.
    Let me spare you the trouble and say this much… Ram Uncle’s stories are works of art and so are yours, though each one’s is unique in its own right.

  • manish khamesra says:


    Thanks a zillion for such a gracious praise. I have realized that commenting is also an art and you are among a few others who have it in such an abundance. It definitely shows how creative that person is!

    About comparison with Ram Uncle’s writing style – I just wrote what came to my mind for a few minutes, without analyzing it much. I feel that with Ram Uncle I can take a few liberties. Thanks for putting it down in the most appropriate manner :)

    Thanks again Geetha for your constant encouragement :)

  • Sudhir says:

    Manish- Once again you have taken me along on your journey as a “commoner”. Somewhere you have touched a chord in my heart. Excellent write-up and excellent pics.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Thanks a lot Sudhir for the generous comment. Its a pleasure to know that you felt with me on the journey. Its a very pleasant feeling and thanks for it.

  • nandanjha says:

    MK – The rating widget has not been very popular among readers off-late. I dont know why but if we see this trend then probably we would take it off.

    By the way, I have observed that now we get lots of comments then in the past so thats really good.

  • Manish Khamesra says:


    I don’t think that if less people are rating a post, it means that you should remove it. Its like Pizza Hut bell that means you enjoyed the food. If somebody does not ring it, then also it does not mean that they have not enjoyed the food or we should remove the bell.

    In travelogues. I like them as sometimes, I can really see that a post has been liked by more and another not by that many and sometimes I do know the reason.

    As an author, for me its like a secret ballot where a reader can rate me with utmost honesty. Sometimes it also helps me as feedback that look the post was good, but not as good as expected from you. And sometimes, it was good, but not yet the best or may be it was not good at all, a feedback that most of the reader may avoid in comment.

    So in my opinion, let it be there and keep on rating as Nandan is expected to rate the posts :)

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Geetha, Manish,

    I am deeply touched by your kind and sweet words.

    Now where do I get appropriate words to thank you !!

    All I can say is – God Bless you and be with you, always.

  • Celine says:

    You have ended just the way most visitors to Kerala do, that is, saying they would like to return to the place.

    I’ve always felt so too, and have gone to Kerala time and again, and still feel more trips are needed, including one to witness the snake boat-racing and another for the Pooram festival, and yet another to trek to Silent Valley, and…. oh, the list is long. ;)

  • manish khamesra says:

    Ram Uncle,

    Its so pleasant to have you among us and to get blessed :)

  • manish khamesra says:


    I am in complete agreement with you. When I ended, I ended without thinking about anything in particular, but you have added images to those words.

    Am I missing it more now ? Indeed :)

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    Hi, Happy Onam:-)

    I seek an advice here. After finishing my TN trip at Kanyakumari I will have a day on whose evening I will be catching TVC(Thiruvanantpuram) Rajdhani from TVC or Mangla from Ernakulam.

    There are three generations in our group. Suggestion are requested on how we can best utilise the day around Thiruvanathpuram. I will be especially thankful for early responses.


  • jaishree khamesra says:

    Hello Rajeev,

    Hapy Onam to you too. I am sorry for being in late commenting about TVC. Well, we had been to Thiruvanantpuram only when I was around 12-15 yr old only for a day (Just as you might be going).

    Suggestions for three generation of groups can be as follows:

    – 260 yr old Padmanabhaswamy temple (please remember that there is a dress code, though I think you can hire clothes from outside).
    – Puttan malika Palace very near to Temple.

    Then there are art galleries (I think its the least interesting for different age group of people) – Shri Chitra art gallery and Napier museum.

    You can also explore the possibility of exploring any live performance of Martial art or Kathakali.

    Another possibility is to head straight towards Kovalam Beach as its only 10 Kms from TVC. Beaches are for every age group, but you have seen enough at Orissa :)

    BTW there is a zoological park also (for kids, but I don’t know is it different from that of Delhi).

    I wish that someone who have more knowledge like Patrick reply to it. Tomorrow I will ask him also on mail about it.

    I am looking forward to a detailed account of your visit, after your travel to Kanyakumari and I hope that my answer had given you something to explore more :)

  • Patrick Jones says:

    The Khamesras have become such experts on Kerala, it gives me a complex!

    Only a few things to add:
    – a clock tower known as ‘methan mani’ installed over 170 years ago.
    When the clock strikes, two rams hit a smiling face from both sides

    – Ponmudi. A resort 61 km away, the only hill resort in India from where
    you can see the sea

    – Varkala, a pilgrim centre for the devotees of Sree Narayana Guru. 51 km
    from Trivandrum and boasts of one of the best beaches in the State

    For a day I would suggest Kovalam, Padmanabhaswamy temple and then attractions inside the city like methan mani, reptile house etc.

  • manish khamesra says:

    I remember seeing the reptile house and I was pretty impressed as a kid.

    Thanks Patrick for giving your expert suggestions to Rajeev.

  • manish khamesra says:

    To avoid further confusions, yesterday’s comment was mine only. I forgot to remove Jaishree’s (saved) name while posting the comment. Generally its only Jaishree who comment from our home PC, so was the reason for the mistake :)

  • nandanjha says:

    Yeah, I agree its Jaishree’s fault.

  • manish khamesra says:

    Miyan-Biwi ke beech mein aap kaun janab ?

    Jin rishton ki buniyaad aur puree buliding, ladai aur takraar, pe khadee hotee hai unhe bahar se aag mein ghee daalne waalon se koi farq nahi padta :)

  • nandanjha says:

    Sorry, I mean its Manish’s fault.

  • Manish khamesra says:

    Now its better. I know what you meant ?

    This is for the first time, I have seen a person really keen in helping to diffuse fire in-fact throwing a bucket full of ghee and then saying that he thought it contained water :)

  • Rajeev Tivari says:

    LOL guys. Manish, This Ghee and water analogy is great. I enjoyed going through this taqrar- though was not bystanding while the building was burning and the fire being doused with Ghee…I mean water. Poor Nandan.

    Thanks Patrick, Jaishree (Let me remain happy in this confusion, illusion:) and of course Manish. And how can one forget the energising contributions of Nandanji;-)

    I have got a fair idea of things around TVC with your inputs.

    However, I was thinking whether we can have backwater boatride from some place nearby, like Kollam. Yes, Padmnabhaswamy termple is of course the reason behind Thiruvananthpuram and must not be skipped.

    But I guess, our idea is to get at least a glimpse of, a whiff from the famed backwaters and that is why, in order to squeeze this day out of our packed itnerary of predominantly a TN trip (Chennai, Tirupthi, Kanchipuram, Mahabalipuram, Trichy, Rameshwaram,Madurai, Kaniyakumari) we dropped Cuddalore backwaters, though we would be boatng at Muthukadu near Mamallapuram.

    What we think is that we would leave Kaniyakumari in the morning after sunrise and would be at TVC by about 9:00. We would go to the main temple, the Kovalam beach and then catch a bus/train to Kollam and then try getting on the three hour commoner ride from there, to return to TVC in time to catch 19:50 train.

    What say guys? Suggestions solicited please. Any Sequencing?

    One more thing, We are taking the west coast route back to Delhi just to have a passing view of the beauteous sights along it down to Panvel. Can anyone confirm that the timing of TVC-Nizamuddin Rajdhani suits this motive?


  • Manish khamesra says:


    Personally, I feel that the plans you have in mind will make it very hectic esp with the elderly and small kids in the group. Every place has its own charm, I am sure with relaxed travel plans, you would enjoy TVC & nearby places more than going till Kollam.

    I have not travelled with TVC-NIzamuddin Rajdhani and hence I don’t have any idea about Panvel views. I wish that more knowledgable of us(did I say Patrick :) could comment on it.

    I wish that you would return with a GREAT travel :)

  • bikerdude says:

    Manish… I dont have any words left to express the feelig after reading your post… anything I write would come across as “Seen That, Read That”…

    Having covered all anyone can… comparisons to Poems, Paintings etc etc… I am left with one word… which, thankfully, has not been used here… “AWESOME !!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Thanks a lot Manishdude.

    I love reading your posts and seeing the beautiful photographs you take, so when a praise comes from you, it has a special meaning. Thanks for it.

  • Patrick Jones says:

    Agree with Manish as far as the day trip is concerned. May be you can return one day exclusively for Kerala and sure Manish will be happy to be your guide.

    On TVC Rajdhani, you’d miss all of kerala (especially the Alleppy side) and parts of Karnataka but from Kankanadi (6 am) to Ratnagiri (5 pm) its a treat especially around Karwar. You’d reach Panvel around 11 pm only.

    Happy journey!

  • Rajeev says:

    Dear Patrick, Manish,
    Thanks so much for the guidance.
    As suggested by Patrick, we would come back another day only for Kerala, with Manish’s wonderful reports as guide.
    This time round I will limit myself to Trivandrum. Before catching the Raj, which sounds sightful enough, we wound go around in TVC.

  • Manish Khamesra says:

    Its my pleasure Rajeev :)

    I wish you a very pleasant and memorable trip.

  • gbpanjwani says:

    Very inspiring and am tempted to visit Kerala and would like to know the best way to see as i have one week any suggestions for palnning the best route to take.
    any suggestion please let me know on Email;gbpanjwani@hotmail.com

  • manish khamesra says:


    First of all thanks for your comment. Its a pleasure to know that you liked this post on Kollam.

    I have posted a few posts on my visit to Kerala: We started from Kochin (though we didn’t do any sight seeing there), our first stop in Kerala was Munnar, followed by thekkady, then we took backwater cruise from Kottayam to Alleppey and in the end we visited Kollam.

    It depends on your own interest, your age and the number of members. We liked Munnar a lot (you can read about it and see its images in another post of mine). Thekkady – we planned three day there, but with small kid we could not do many activities that can be done there and hence it was something we would have liked to be little shorter. In case you can indulge in those activities, then it can be another interesting place to be.

    Spending a night on Kettuvallam (House boats) can be another interesting thing to do. You can do so at Kottayam, Kumarkom (there is a beautiful article by backpakker on it), Kollam and Alleppey.

    In the end we enjoyed visiting Munroe island in Kollam and this village trip also was one of the highlight.

    Some people also visit sea beaches in Kovalam.

    I wish that it will help you to start exploring. If you need some more specific information after that, it will be a pleasure, if I could help you.

  • gbpanjwani says:

    Thanks Manish,
    More than anything else,your post on board inspired me and pictures were awesome so first visit is sure to be a learning exercise,will keep on touch.
    if you ever decide to go abroad ie indonesia,china,gulf,europe i may be at hand to help.

  • manish khamesra says:


    Thanks for your generous offer. You seems to have traveled a lot, its a pleasure to interact with you.

    In case you would like to share your travelogues, you are very welcome at ghumakkars. I am sure lots of people may learn many new things from your travel accounts.

    I have been to Europe, but for other places – when I will plan a trip of those places, I will contact you for some suggestions, .

    Thanks again for the offer and its a pleasure to interact with you :)

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