It is a plantation town, which is deeply attached to the plantation of natural rubber. It also has trade in spices such as pepper, ginger etc. Indeed, before rubber became common around the middle of 20th century, Palai was noted for its spices. A particular brand of pepper called Palai Pepper was then quoted in the London market.
People of Palai are largely dependent on agriculture, particularly rubber. The good price of natural rubber for nearly half a century has made the people here prosperous. Historically the people are hard-working and attached to land.
Palai can be visited throughout the year but the heavy monsoon months of June and July may be avoided, as roads are likely to be flooded. Also, the extreme summer months of March-May are quite warm and sultry. But like the rest of Kerala temperature rarely goes above 35C or below 22C at any time during the year.
The nearest airport is about 80 kilometres away at Kochi (Cochin) from where one can travel by road (a 2 hour drive). By rail one can get up to Kottayam, which is about 28 kilometres away by road (45 minutes drive). Taxis are available at both Kochi Cochin airport and Kottayam Railway Station. Buses are also available.
If you feel like walking, you can easily get around Palai on foot, as the town is only about 5 kilometres across. But an autorikshaw will save you from the heat and the humid weather. Due to the presence of thick vegetation the atmosphere is quite sultry. Local buses are there but not very frequent.
- Rubber Plantation. Tapping and processing of rubber.
- Bharananganam Church. Where the mortal remains of St. Alphonsa are kept.
- Shrine of St. Mary (In the heart of the town). You would not miss this tall granite shrine with its massive statue of Jesus Christ at the top, reminding you of the one in Rio de Janeiro (ignore the size difference!). If you happen to visit Palai in the first week of December, you should not miss the most important festival of Palai, which is the feast of St. Mary at this shrine.
- Churches. Being a place with a very high percentage of Catholic Christians(Eastern Rite Suriyani Christians under Syro-Malabar Church), there are a number of churches in and around Palai, some of which are very old and their historical and architectural features are of interst to visitors.
- Rubber estate. Take a stroll in a rubber estate.
- Wedding reception. If you are from outside India or even from outside Kerala, most hosts will gladly invite you as you would provide a variety to the function. But remember to get the advice of the hosts on the dress that you wear.
Fresh green pepper (and keep it in brine). Otherwise you can buy dried pepper, the king of spices. Remember, the Dutch East India Company sent a naval contingent from the Netherlands under Captain De Lannoy when they found that pepper supplies were not coming. What happened was that the English East India Company had reached here! That was all about three centuries ago.
- A popular Palai dish is the boiled and mashed tapioca, taken with fish curry. Another tapioca preparation is the one boiled in the shape of small drums (drum-cut) which is taken with a mixture of green chillies, onion and coconut oil.
- Another authentic Palai dish is boiled and mashed jack-fruit, taken with beef curry.
- Ripe Jack-fruit is another local delicacy. There is also Jack-fruit Halwa a sweet-meat made out of it.
- Sweet-meats made using condensed palm toddy are the really exotic ones but you have to be lucky to get them, as good quality toddy is not available.
- If you are less inclined to experiment, Appam (a pan-cake made out of rice flour and coconut) is a safe bet in most parts of Kerala. What generally goes with it is mutton stew, which is an adaptation of the stew that you find in Ireland, or Fish Molly (fish cooked in coconut cream).
- Ann's Bake House. A good place for short eats. The cakes and pastries that you get there are tasty and cheaper than what you pay for in the larger cities.
Fresh sweet palm toddy is the best drink possible, but good quality can never be assured unless your host serves it right from the tree. Same is the case with alcoholic palm toddy, as spurious additives are not uncommon. Social drinking in public is frowned upon now, although at one time the place boasted of very high per capita consumption of toddy. Now it seems people think that things have gone too far as even school children started becoming addicts and family quarrels became common.
Home-stays are available but not many hotels.
- Hotel Maharani, Main Road (east), ☎ . Check-out: 24hr. The only approved two star hotel. Rs.500-1200.
Internet cafes are there. All telephone networks are also present. There are no formal tourist information facilities here, but you can get essential information from the man on the street. English is understood by most people, provided you speak it with an Indian accent.
From Palai you can make trips to some of the following destinations:
- Wagamon — quite hill station in the midst of tea plantations
- Peermade — a hill station on the way to Thekkady
- Thekkady — hill station and wild life sanctuary
- Munnar — the leading hill station of Kerala.
- Muvattupuzha — where three rivers merge
- Cochin — the main commercial city of Kerala state is 82 km away from Palai