Anecdotes from the Malabar Coast of Kerala

If memory serves me right, I made 3 trips to Kerala in 2017 and early 2018. Co-incidentally on all the trips, I had the chance to traverse across the historical Malabar Coast. The mind harks back to the unforgettable moments across some pristine beaches, backwaters, magical sunsets, and succulent biryani; among a vast plethora of outstanding experiences.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
I can’t even… No words for sunsets on the on the Malabar Coast of Kerala.

Where Exactly is Malabar Coast in Kerala?

The Northern part of Kerala adjoining the beach is known as Malabar coast and the entire region is enchanting. I was instantly in love with the sparsely crowded beaches surrounded by coconut plantations, a constant stiff breeze bringing fresh air, inland waterways called backwaters and fragrant spice plantations.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
Entire South India does great snacks at very reasonable prices. This I ate in the train before reaching Kasaragod.

My Most Memorable Experiences from the Malabar Coast, Kerala

The Peaceful Beach at Nileshwaram

Nileshwaram (Also called Neeleshwar or Nileshwar) is a small village characterised by swaying palm trees and pristine beaches. It is blessed with a charming location on the Malabar Coast in Kerala. I distinctly remember being lulled to sleep by the sound of the crashing waves in Nileshwaram.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
Chilling in Nileshwaram with an endless view of the Arabian Sea.

Nileshwar Palace is the old palace of Nileshwaram Rajas. In the morning, it was magical to walk on the pristine white sandy beach with cool sand in the feet. Hammocks hung beneath towering coconut trees almost extending an invitation as we lay on sun beds soaking in the gorgeous views of the ocean. Little huts on the sand had been laid out on the beach itself and it was otherworldly to enjoy breakfast in the beautiful surroundings. I did not get to experience it, but Theyyam performances in Nileshwar are quite popular even among local Keralites.

1500 year old Ship Building Industry in Beypore

Beypore is a sleepy town located on the banks of the Chaliyar river and a traditional hub for shipbuilding on the Malabar Coast of Kerala. It is situated around 10-15 kms away from Kozhikode. I’d boarded an auto rickshaw for going to shipbuilding area in Beypore but due to the language confusion, the auto guy dropped me in an entirely different place. Google maps came to the rescue and I somehow walked to the shipbuilding area in Beypore with my (huge) backpack. I was in an awkward scenario dripping in sweat unable to adjust to the humidity of the Malabar Coast in Kerala, even in the comparatively cooler month of February.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
This is where the auto guy dropped me; Beypore Port which was far away from the Ship Building area.

As soon as I reached the shipbuilding lane, I was astounded to see the huge ship being worked on by a number of carpenters. They were busy working on the partially built ship of wooden logs, and for me it was like being thrust right into the middle of the action. With the limited interaction possible due to the language barrier, I couldn’t really talk much but the people tried to show me the ship from the inside and explain the process.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
Working on the Uru in Beypore.

From the limited knowledge I gathered – Ships made in Beypore are called uru in the local parlance. The Uru is a wooden dhow, quite huge in size and a single ship may sometimes take 2-3 years to build. Jackfruit tree wood and rosewood are used for designing the interiors. According to the workers, these ships are made without any fixed work plan or blueprint; apparently the mistry gives daily instructions to the workers. It was astonishing to know thats how the entire ship is built!

1498 – First Europeans set foot in India at Kappad Beach

I’d read in history books long back in school that Calicut is the place where the first Europeans landed in India. After coming to Kerala, it was known that Kappad Beach is the historic beach where Vasco da Gama landed on 27th May 1498. That is how the Portuguese history and the colonial history of India had its inception. Kappad beach is located around 20 kms north of Kozhikode on the Malabar Coast in Kerala.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
The Malabar Coast is an uninterrupted coastline with insanely beautiful beaches.

To my surprise, upon reaching Kappad beach, there was a monument commemorating the same spot where Vasco da Gama landed more than 500 years ago; it is called Kappakadavu. If you are a history lover, Kappad beach has an old world charm of bygone times and it also makes for a nice place to spend an evening to enjoy a gorgeous sunset as well.

Experiencing the Magical Backwaters on Malabar Coast, Kerala

The backwaters on the Malabar Coast of Kerala consist of a zig-zag network of lagoons, lakes & canals and is a truly memorable delight. I was lucky to experience the backwaters in the recommended, local manner. We were on a traditional thatch-roofed houseboat, locally known as ‘kettuvallam’ and it slowly floated through the maze of canals.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
Caption of the ship, eh…

Almost all the houseboats plying in the backwaters around Malabar Coast in Kerala are renovated cargo boats that are complete with all modern comforts and conveniences. According to the locals I met, nearly every family owns a houseboat in this region. It was stunning to observe the sunset from the houseboat while the beauty of the colours of nature got accentuated in the reflections on water.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
Kannur was a pleasant delight on the Malabar Coast, I’d love to go back and explore the Kannur Fort.

On the houseboat ride, we were in the pristine valiyaparamba backwaters of Kerala, and had a glimpse of unspoilt nature with age-old traditions. Villages are set in the backwaters and are surrounded by paddy fields, their main occupation is fishing. The funniest memory for me is when I pretended to be the Captain of the Ship by wearing the hat and steering the wheel left and right!

Malabar Coast, Kerala
In a perfect scenario, Kerala would have been 5 degrees celsius cooler and it would have been just right for me!

Slow Walks in the Bounty of Nature

Walks in the countryside of Malabar Coast region took me on little trails that were shaded with coconut trees. I meandered through the plantations which are perfect for short hikes. Wherever you go, the trails are blessed with stunning vistas of the backwaters, and runs very close to pristine beaches. The locals I met all through the journeys in Kerala were very friendly and inspite of the language barrier, my time in this state will remain a cherished memory.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
Typical breakfast on the Malabar Coast in Kerala; ate this at a local eatery for only 20 Rupees.

Delicious Kallumakkai (mussels) Biryani in Thalassery

Thalassery is a beautiful old town with a fort on the Malabar Coast in Kerala. Out of the around 8000 tonnes of green mussels harvested annually in north Kerala, Thalassery is one of the top three producers of mussels. Malabari biryani, especially the Thalassery Biryani, has a subtle taste and not heavily flavoured like its North Indian counterpart. While Hyderabad is famous for dum biryani, Thalassery mussel biryani is really meant to be savoured as one of the top biryanis in India!

Malabar Coast, Kerala
A Houseboat in the backwaters, Kerala.

And what a sight it was; after we ended up at one of the recommended eateries in Thalassery town. We were 8 of us, and we ate like hungry beasts eager to devour whatever variety of biryani appeared on the table!

Malabar Coast, Kerala
Times when hammock life is the best.

Apart from the Biryani in Thalassery; Mambally’s Royal Biscuit Factory is the place where the plum cake was baked in India over 135 years ago. While Thalassery’s biryanis are famous, it is the mussel biryani that is a must try. There are many restaurants recommended by the locals and Rara Avis is a safe bet. Another interesting fact about Thalassery is that cricket was first played here in India.

Sunset at Bekal Beach near Kasaragod, Kerala

If not for catching the sunset, this experience could have easily made it to the Failures on the Road – Stupidity in Changthang, Ladakh. I had started the day in Kozhikode and after visiting the Ship Builders in Beypore had decided to head in the direction of Kannur and then try and make it somewhere close to Mangalore and try and find a cheap homestay and chill on the beach anywhere on the Malabar Coast!

Malabar Coast, Kerala
Surreal sight when we stopped the car to enjoy this view.

In reality, I somehow got to Kannur in a slow bus, reached the train station to take a train to Kasaragod. The train turned out to be quite late and it was around evening by the time I reached Kasaragod. Kasaragod didn’t quite turn out to be the tropical paradise that I had dreamed it to be. I quickly made up my mind and boarded a bus to reach Bekal. Bekal also turned out to be a town where the beach wasn’t as close as I had thought it would be. I ran shelter-skelter with my bags before it became dark to try and find a homestay near the beach. After some hitched rides and unsuccessful stories, I finally landed on the beach near Taj Bekal.

Malabar Coast, Kerala
A postcard perfect frame from Bekal Beach.

I hadn’t found a homestay yet but the sun was setting and the scene was so immense that I was torn between two feelings. I was very worried about finding a nice homestay, but also immensely happy to have made it to the pristine Bekal beach. I spent some time enjoying the after-sunset colours; walked back to the main road to get lucky, hitch a ride and found a cheap place to stay.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Pooja says:

    The photographs are out of this world!

  2. arv! says:

    Aye! captain let this boat ride be fun! Good to see Shubham steering the “travel boat”!
    And that sunset picture is awesome.

  3. Excellent story, beautiful photos! In Kannur, the arakkal museum is worth a Dekko too… It’s reminiscent of the arakkal dynasty which was the first one to trade with Europeans.

    You are absolutely right about the cost & quality of food! We’d some of the best food of our lives on the West coast, & for 1/3rd the price of what we get up north…

    While north Kerala was immensely picturesque, we found the backwaters of Karnataka to be more appealing.

    We’d done a road-trip from Mumbai to Kannur in 2017! Do read about it here – https://letsgosightseeing.wordpress.com/2018/10/09/cruising-along-the-indian-west-coast/

    Love reading your blog posts.

  4. I must say I am in love with this coast now. Like really? What an awesome piece. Every experience you described created an itch to grab that. And I hope to do it very soon. Thanks for the beautiful article 🙂

    1. shubhammansingka says:

      Thanks! Hope you go soon, Vipin.

  5. Niranjan R says:

    My favourite stretch in Kerala- Malabar! Nice post, bro.

  6. Mayuri Patel says:

    So pretty and stunning pics..would love to visit kannur..glad to read your experiences.

    1. shubhammansingka says:

      Thanks Mayuri !! So glad you liked it. I would have explored more if not for the energy sapping humid weather … Sigh

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