Situated on a hilltop at the southern end of India is Kerala's
capital, Thiruvananthapuram (still commonly known as Trivandrum).
For most visitors the capital is simply a transit-point on their
way to Kovalam, the popular beach resort a few miles to the south.
However, it is worth lingering for a day or so in this easy-going
city to explore the narrow backstreets, old gabled houses and
The most fascinating part of Trivandrum is the Fort area, around
the Shri Padmanabhaswamy temple (closed to non-Hindus); and Puttan
Malika palace, seat of the Travancore Rajas. Some of the palace has
been turned into a museum, and displays a collection of heirlooms
and artefacts; however, the highlight is the building's typically
understated, elegant Keralan architecture. Beneath sloping
red-tiled roofs, hundreds of wooden pillars carved into the forms
of rampant horses prop up the eaves, with airy verandas projecting
onto the surrounding lawns.
When it gets too hot at sea level, Ponmudi makes a welcome
excursion. This enchanting hill station, tucked away in the Western
Ghats forty miles to the north of the capital, offers a lot to
travellers with a passion for trekking; and just as much to those
who'd prefer a gentle wander along narrow, winding pathways,
through cool green, wooded environs thick with mountain flowers and
butterflies. The hill resort is surrounded by tea-estates and
mist-covered valleys, and peppered with little stone cottages
painted violet, pink and white.