Friday, June 3, 2011

Magnificant Munnar

The tea plantations of Munnar rank among the most spectacular sights we've seen on the GT. Located on the Western Ghats in the southern Indian state of Kerala, near the border with Tamil Nadu, Munnar was a favorite hill station of British colonial rulers, and today a favorite of honeymooning Indians.  The cool, crisp air, rolling hills and lush expanses of tea plants made Munnar one of our favorite destinations in India.

There's lots to do in Munnar - and I'll get into it below - but our favorite activities were simply walking (or in Russ' case, running) through the tea plantations near our homestay in Devikalum (a town about 7km from Munnar), enjoying the scenery and watching the tea pickers go about their business.

We spent a morning at the Tata Tea Museum, where we learned about the harvesting and production of tea.  We also watched a propaganda video about Tata Tea, and the amazing, wonderful things they are doing for their smiling happy workers and their families.  We later learned that when the market for tea plummeted, Tata sold out almost all of its shares to the workers themselves.  It's nice that the workers collectively own their tea plantations, but maybe not so nice that they bought in at a time of falling tea prices.

We also took a ride up to Top Station, a viewpoint along what used to be an important tea shipping railway route.  The 40km drive, along a winding road cut into the hills, would probably have been fantastic had we not been suffering from an acute Indian bathroom issue.  I apologize to the restaurant we stopped in along the way.  Anyway, once we finally got there and were feeling much better, we took a walk out to the scenic viewpoints and posed with a series of Indian honeymooning couples.  Good times!
Any place this beautiful has to have some nice treks, so we spent a few hours climbing a giant hill and enjoying the spectacular scenery, which was even better than that at Top Station.

We highly recommend a visit to Munnar.  It was a wonderful, peaceful escape from the heat and humidity of the Keralan coast and the breathtaking scenery was unlike any we'd seen before.  Enjoy the slideshow below of some more of our favorite Munnar photos.

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