Thalassery - Tellicherry
At first glance, Thalassery seems a poor relation of its richer neighbour Kannur. But walk a little further and you find many remarkable facets to this town by the sea.
Who would have thought, for instance, that cricket, the British sport which is a magnificent obsession of in India, was first played here? Who would have thought that an equally British comfort food-the cake-was first baked in India here? Or the Indian circus originated here, an innovative synthesis of Kalari exercise and movements from the other arts?
Thalassery sea brige
Many Europeans left their impress on this colonial town. Those still remembered are Herman Gundert, compiler of Malayalam-English dictionary; Brennan, the educator; Logan, often quoted for his work on Malabar, Thomas Harvey Baber, the English administrator.
Thalassery was one of the most important British military bases in Malabar, and it was the site of their first factory here. The Raja of Chirakkal permitted the British to build the fort at Thalassery to protect their interests in spices along the coast and in the hill plantations. The fort was built in 1708 and successfully withstood the struggle between the British and the Mysorean sultans.
The fort has high walls and an abandoned lighthouse and there are many tales of the secret underground tunnels leading from the fort. Behind it are other colonial buildings, including two churches and a school. The cemetery contains the grave of Edward Brennan, who was the founder of Brennan College, a highly respected institution.
Thalassery also has old houses of the Muslim merchant families. Their mosque is in traditional Malabari style, and local accounts say it dates to the 16th century. Thalassery is also known for its kalari centre, which instructs students in the traditional martial arts of Kerala.
Thalassery is well connected by rail and road to Kozhikode and Kannur, and to most of towns in central and southern Kerala via the main Trivandrum-Mangalore line.
Both the railway station and Narangapuram bus stand, where you'll be dropped if you arrive from Kozhikode or Kannur, lie on the east side of town, just over 1km northeast of the fort and beach.
Neglected by the tourists, Muzhippilangad is the place to go if you really want to get off the beaten track and enjoy the pleasures of the Kerala coast in their unadultered form. Commercialism is utterly unknown here, and it can be difficult even to find a restaurant or hotel. What business there is comes in the form of fishing and picking coconuts.
In Muzhappilangad you can see scenes of Kerala life that have changed little over the past decades, if not centuries.
The first European tourists starting to come just a decade ago, foreigners here are so scarce that your appearance will enthuse the local children. You are likely to attract a small following when passing by the village homes.
At a slight remove from the beach, people live in small houses in the dense wood, and walking around in this area can be almost much of a pleasure as the beach itself.
Muzhappilangad is Kerala's first drive-in beach, something that is widely popular with local people but canb seem odd to tourists. Of the 5km stretch of sand, cares are permitted to zoom along a 4km strip. Better to avoid peak visiting times.
Ignoring the vehicles plying it, verdant Muzhappilangad Beach is one of Kerala's finest. Approached through a winding road amidst coconut groves, the beach is naturally bordered by black rocks. This has the effect of shielding it from currents, and the water can be gentle, should you wish to swim-but bear in mind that there won't be a lifeguard.
Away from the main drag, there are smaller coves where you can enjoy absolute privacy in a tropical idyll. At low tide, it is possible to walk to Dharmadam Island, a 5acre islet, which can be seen from the beach. But be sure to check the tide times to avoid getting cut off from the mainland, as the sea level rises rapidly.
The beauty of Muzhappilangad is that there is nothing to do, aside from enjoy your surroundings!
German missionary Herman Gundert settled at Illikunnu in 1899 and stayed for about three decades. It was here that he wrote the first Malayalam-English dictionary. Now a technical training institute occupies the bungalow. You can visit with permission from the Principal.
Thalassery has a few good hotels and a few nice new homestays.
A delightful mid-19th century, colonial-style heritage home overlooking the sea. 6 huge a/c rooms with carved teak and rosewood furniture, massive baths, lots of British and Malabari memorabilia, amazing fresh seafood and cookery courses, temple pond pool, superb panoramic views, excursions.
Around 25km south of Kannur is Ayisha Manzil, a lovely 1862 colonial-era building perched on a cliff top, with stunning sea views and faded, antique- decorated rooms, run by the perfect hosts, CP Moosa and his wife Faiza Moosa, who is a renowned cook and cookery teacher, specialising in Mappila cuisine (Kerala Islamic cooking).
AVK Nair Rd
14 clean rooms with bath - 4 with a/c, a little grubby. The a/c deluxe room has an extraordinary green carpeted sitting room attached.
New Paris Complex
Dependable options bang in the centre of town just off busy Logan's Road and within easy walking distance of fort. Rooms are large, though slightly worn-those at the back are quieter. 24 clean and comfortable rooms with baths, TV, phone, restaurant, wood furniture, bright white walls in busy shopping area. Multi-cuisine restaurant.
Goods Shed Rd
Very good-value rooms-clean, spacious, well aired-in a large pink, mock-Neoclassical building in a quiet neighbourhood on the northern fringes of town. There is a decent a/c restaurant on the ground floor.
Pearl View Regency
The smartest hotel in town and the first choice of local business clients, with 52 rooms-from enormous non-a/c doubles to equally spacious "cottages"-facing a grubby pool amid landscaped gardens on the edge of town. Ask for room at the back, with a river view; the opposite side suffers from noise from the nearby highway.
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