Holidaying in Kodaikanal is like stepping into a camera and seeing the world for what it should be – vibrant, colourful and bursting with life. A hill station tucked away in Tamil Nadu, it’s the first place that comes to mind when I think of the word ‘peace’. That said, here’s my list of things you must do. Apart from doing nothing, that is.
1. Stay at the Villa Retreat. It’s right next to Coaker’s Walk which offers a breathtaking view of the Kodaikanal valley. Clouds throwing shadows over looming mountains, with homes, alternating patches of forests and crops dotting the mountainous terrain. Villa Retreat is a quite, cosy place constructed with stone and a whole lot of love. Husband, wife and son run it. The food is good, the scenery absolutely picture-perfect and the routine of doing next-to-nothing is just what your therapist will recommend.
2. Trip on the blooms everywhere. The Kodai weather drugs insects into spreading pollen from plants and nudges little buds into full-blossoming adulthood. There are flowers everywhere – massive blooms of vivid purples, oranges, pinks, whites, reds, blues…it’s like a painter’s paradise. We went in the last week of June and the weather was perfect – rain and sunshine, with plenty of rainbows thrown in for good measure.
3. Visit the Pine Forest. The fragrance of the pine forest is one you won’t regret when it fills up your lungs and pervades your senses. Pine cones are scattered everywhere. The ground is a bed of soft, sharp pine needles that drown your footsteps. The sun plays hide and seek but you’ll catch it by the shadows it casts on the ground. The place is usually crowded but it’s worse over weekends, so pick a weekday to visit. And walk around. And soak in the atmosphere.
4. Eat magic mushrooms. I asked people, but they either didn’t know about it or pretended not to.
5. Catch at least one sunrise/sunset. It’s worth two hours of lost sleep, I promise.
6. Visit Berijam Lake. It’s a slightly long drive from Kodai town, but the journey will be nothing compared to the picturesque setting. I was asked by a friend to visit Berijam Lake, in memory of her great grandfather who owned the property and gave it away to the Government before he passed away. The good thing is, not too many tourists know about Berijam Lake and so the place is almost people-free except for the forest officials manning the entry post.
7. Buy lots of chocolates and Eucalyptus oil. Kodai is pretty well-known for its home-made chocolates. You’ll find all sorts there, and in abundance. The Eucalyptus oil is so pure that one whiff will cure you of your worst flu. The test for authenticity is pretty interesting – the shop keeper will dip a handkerchief in a bottle of Eucalyptus oil until the kerchief has soaked up generous amounts, and then he’ll light it on fire. You’ll see the flames alright, but the hanky won’t burn. That’s when you know that the oil is unadulterated.
8. Walk around. The people are friendly, the roads are near-empty and inviting, and the weather perfect for it. You’ll see lots of old English houses, churches, squares and cyclists.
9. Visit the boathouse. Not for anything else but for the fact that it’s a really old, really quaint location with lots of little duckies going quack quack and paddling away rapidly from cruising boats. Nice place for pictures.
10. Enjoy the quiet. It’s the kind of silence that you want to be surrounded by. The only thing you’re likely to hear are your own thoughts, the crackling fire, chirping birds and cicadas, rustling leaves and maybe a few pots and pans clanging in the process of getting food ready.
Getting there: Drive down if you’re in Bangalore or TN, or opt for the train.
Go if: You need a quiet vacation to spend quality time with yourself, your better half or with parents. I chose the last option and it was so worth it. They still gush about it like two kids after visiting a fair bursting with joy rides and cotton candy.
Pictures: All pictures shot using my friend’s Nikon D40. I didn’t own a Digi-SLR of my own then.