We made a hastily-planned, last-minute trip to India these end-of-year holidays.
We spent much of our time in Kollam (Quilon), a charming old seaport town on the shores of the Arabian Sea.
Kollam has been a commercial port for centuries. Pliny (23-79 A.D.) makes mention of Greek ships anchored at Kollam. The rulers of Kollam traded with China and exchanged embassies. According to the records of the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D. to 913 A.D.), Kollam was their chief port of call. Chinnakada, (China-kada, or “China market”), the city center, was named after these Chinese merchants.
Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveller who was in Chinese service under Kublai Khan, visited Kollam in 1293 A.D. on his return trip from China to Venice. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to establish a trading center at Kollam, in 1502. Then came the Dutch, followed by the British in 1795.
Kollam, to this day, has a thriving business in cashewnuts, coir, and pepper.
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While in Kollam, we attended two family functions: a pre-wedding celebration and a family reunion. But, we also whiled away the days along the banks of the Kerala backwaters, a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes linked by natural and manmade canals.
If you go: Take a houseboat from Kollum to Alappuzha. The eight-hour journey winds through lakes, canals, and water-bound villages. Chinese fishing nets are used by local fisherman and are a common sight along the waterway.