My Kerala Trip: Arriving in Bangalore, Day 1

Never in a million years would I think of going to India.
Not because I’m snooty or anything. It’s just that I wouldn’t know if I could survive Mother India, after all the stories I’ve heard about “don’t drink the water”, “don’t get ripped off by porters” etc. My best friend travelled to India many years ago and she told me that they had to do their toilet business somewhere in some bushes, covered only by opened umbrellas!
So I didn’t really have that much expectation when Nic and I went to Kerala, India recently with our client, the team and management of Paul Penders Co. We were invited to tag along as they were doing a feasibility tour of a new business they intend to embark on in the state of Kerala.
I wasn’t even excited. I was thinking, OK, this is for work. Hopefully I won’t get dysentery or some stomach bug.

    Paul and his team ready to get off the plane at Bangalore

The AirAsia flight from KL to Bangalore took 4 hours. The thing is, we travelled to the west so we gained time. Though we left KL at 3.05pm and the plane actually took off much later (after some dawdling on the runway), we arrived in the ultra-modern Bengaluru Airport about 6pm India time. Bengaluru is the local name for Bangalore. For our Malaysian stomachs, it was 8.30pm and we were thinking of dinner.

    Inside Bangalore Airport, before the arduous form-filling!

Before we could exit the airport, we had to fill in the immigration forms. I felt a bit peeved because the form asked for so many details. Fortunately the Indian customs officers are not as rude or curt as the HK ones.

    Have to fill up the Incredible India arrival card!

It was here that we met an Indian national who had completed his work contract in Malaysia. He was smart; he heard us speak BM and pounced on us in a friendly way. He wanted me to help him fill in his entry form because he was illiterate.

    More forms to fill before they let you get out of the airport

Anyway, what with the form filling and etc, we finally got out of the airport and Joji and Jegan, our Indian hosts for the one-week trip welcomed us with fresh roses. So there we were, a huge group of different nationalities – Dutch, Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian and Chinese. We were going to be travel mates for the next 6 days, exploring the Ayurvedic-herbal route.
According to Joji, we were going to travel in a convoy of 4 Toyota Innova’s from Bangalore to this place called VanaMoolika in Wayanad district, Kerala where we would be staying for 3 days.
What we didn’t know was the car journey from Bangalore to Wayanad was going to take 6 hours. In the end, we found out that it is possibly 6 hours if the roads are like our PLUS highways. On Indian roads which are pot-holed and narrow and in some places, without adequate street lights, the journey took us 12 hours!
(At this point, I am glad we gobbled our ‘dinner’ aboard AirAsia. A travel tip: Eat first if possible. One never knows how long some journeys are. It is better to eat dinner twice than not to have one at all. Even going by local time, we figured we would arrive in VanaMoolika at midnight. Someone said there was going to be a feast for us! By Malaysian time, that would be 3am. Could I even eat at that hour?)
As we left the airport, we headed straight into the city and by that time, it was the evening rush hour where people were getting off work. Jegan, who sat in our car, told us that some 27 million people lived and worked in Bangalore. That’s like the entire Malaysian population in one city.
The most eye-opening experience for me was the fact that honking is very much a driver’s pleasure and pastime. The second was their utter disregard for traffic. Cars, autos (resembling tuk-tuk’s in Thailand), lorries, buses and animals all wove their way on the roads, honking, swerving and driving too close to each other. I didn’t know if it was our driver who drove badly or the traffic was horrible but the start and stop jerks of our Toyota Innova made Hong car-sick.
The third eye-opening experience was everywhere is your personal rubbish bin. When Hong puked into a plastic bag, she was gripping tightly to it and told us she was going to throw it at our next toilet stop. Our Indian guide told her to wind down the car window and chuck it out of the car! (Over the next few days, I found out that it is so hard to locate a rubbish bin. You see people throwing rubbish everywhere!)

    The Atria Hotel where we stopped for tea

Finally our Indian hosts decided to make a quick stop at a local hotel so we could go for our toilet break and have some tea and snacks before the really long car journey. I thought, “OK, this is where we get some food!” By then we had all but digested our airplane food.

    A quick stop at the hotel coffeeshop for samosas and tea

They still insisted that we would be having our ‘dinner’ some 5 hours later so some snacks would be good. In the end, we really had tiny morsels of food, samosas which were tasty but too small to make a dent in our tummies. Luckily I downed it all with a cup of masala chai, a very silky smooth milk tea scented with cardamom.
We packed ourselves back into the Toyota, bracing ourselves for the next 5 hours.
To be continued….

In search for love and truth

In September 2010, I travelled together with Paul Penders Company to India. With my business partner, Ingmar Waarheid, also from The Netherlands, we are in the setup of an exciting plan called “Pure Wellness Travel” which is still a division under the Paul Penders Company umbrella. As both of us are in search for Ayurvedic wellness centres, during this group travel in India I met a very special person who stole my heart. His name is: Acharya A.J. Snehadas.

    A short meditation with Acharya A.J. Snehadas during my stay in Sopanam

Acharya means priest, but he prefers to be called “A Teacher of Yoga. Acharya A.J. Snehadas developed “his own” yoga what he calls “Sneha-Yoga” meaning: The Art of Love. According to him, yoga is oil for our body and mind and Sneha-Yoga keeps both in harmony. He wrote several popular books and travelled around the world to promote his works but also to teach his yoga. I was very impressed with him. I really wanted to know why he decided to become a teacher of yoga. He kindly agreed to an interview as below:
A.J. Snehadas was raised in one of the rural parts of India and is one of 9 children. His Catholic mother was a very open minded person and loved people of any religion, or, even no religion at all. She simply gave love to all. When he was 17, his mother passed away and this shocking experience in his young life was the direct reason for his search for overall love and truth.
Then A.J. Snehadas decided to become a Catholic priest and started his priestly religious formation. He studied about Francis de Assisi in Italy and found out that he loved everyone and everything; people, the sun, animals, nature, etc. It reminded him so much about his mother who loved everybody as well. Later on he decided that he didn’t want to be a priest for the Catholics alone but a priest for everyone in life.
One of the various questions he asked himself many times: Why is it so difficult to love each other? The answer he came up with was that because we are not taught to love ourselves first. If you do not love yourself first, how can you love one other? In the search for answers he also discovered yoga. In yoga you are taught first to find love in yourself and only then you can pass yoga on to others. After a great in depth study of yoga he became a teacher of it and felt only now he was able to share and give love to others. “It makes me so very happy myself when I can share Love with another person”.
Today Acharya A.J. Snehadas is a well known teacher of Yoga in India. I had the privilege to attend some of his lessons during my stay at Sopanam Ayurvedic Hospital which is actually also an Ayurvedic Wellness Centre in the beautiful Kerala State located in South India.

    I & the rest of the team were doing Yoga with Acharya A.J. Snehadas early in the morning

I noticed the passion and inner peace from Acharya AJ Snehadas when he explained different kinds of yoga all provided to us while we were staying in the Sopanam Wellness Centre. He taught me how to learn yoga and how to bring the specific principle techniques back home what means one can benefit from his yoga program for the rest of our life.

    Sopanam Hospital

You too can attend his yoga lessons as part of 1 to 3 weeks wellness cure at Sopanam Hospital. Not only your body, but also your mind gets fresh, vital energy, something we can use in our hectic daily lives. For more information please visit our website
Practising yoga was a total new experience for me and unfortunately my stay was too short to attend all the lessons. But even in a short period I noticed a feel of peace and love provided through Sneha-Yoga. I made a commitment to myself to return to Sopanam Hospital to experience the entire program in order to benefit my life.
I want to thank Acharya A.J. Snehadas for sharing part of his fascinating life with me. I feel proud to know him and spend travelling with him through a most beautiful part of India
A.J. Snehadas wrote two fascinating books. “A Secret for Lovers” ( ISBN: 81-7214-749-X) and “A Gospel For The Angry” ( ISBN 81-7495-071-0). Please email me at and I make sure you get in contact with the publisher.


Bastiaan Penders, 41 years old, was a successful loan officer at a bank in The Netherlands. Although he enjoyed working with the various people at the bank, he also felt the desire for a total new and fresh start in life. He actually did what many only dream about… He developed a 2-year plan to change his life radically. He quit his job, sold his car and his house and now lives on basic cost and without worries of the daily western lifestyle. He executed his desire to be free for opportunities to explore new things in life for deeper satisfaction.

Managing Sopanam Ayurvedic Hospital & Wellness Centre

Managing an Ayurvedic Hospital with physicians, traditional Ayurvedic massage therapists, a full-range Ayurvedic pharmacy… and of course patients visiting from anywhere in the world, who need various treatments, including Ayurvedic dental care may not be the easiest job in the world.
I was traveling with the group of Paul Penders Company to India together with my business partner Bastiaan Penders, also from Holland. As part of this special company trip we also stayed for 4 days in this fantastic Sopanam hospital and I thought it would be a good idea to interview the GM of Sopanam Hospital and ask him how it is to run an Ayurvedic Hospital which at the same time is a few stars hotel accommodation with a superb vegetarian kitchen as well.
Mr. Lonappan, the General Manager is a graduated accountant, who studied at Christ College in Irinjalakuda, Kerala state, India. After his graduation he started working in Bombay, after which he went abroad. He spent 16 years working in Saudi-Arabia and 6 years in the UAE.
While working in the UAE Mr. Lonappan and a friend made the plan to set up a specialty Ayurvedic Hospital in India because they felt there was a real need for quality care and with it spread the word about Ayurvedic Medicines as well. So in 2003 they bought land near Kochi in Kerala State and started to build the famous Sopanam Hospital & Wellness Centre.

    Entrance of Sopanam Ayurvedic Hospital


    The rooms in Sopanam Ayurvedic Wellness Centre are very comfortable

Building the hospital took approximately four years and in 2007 it opened for patients and guests, therefore the hospital is now already three years in operation.
Mr. Lonappan tells that roughly there are two groups of people visiting the hospital.
The first group is people that come especially for Ayurvedic treatments, in combination with regular tourism. This group is offered a light diet during the first three or four days of their stay, and they can go out of the hospital on various trips. Possibilities are the Athirapilly Waterfalls, an elephant sanctuary or shopping and sightseeing in Kochin. After these first couple of days, the people will be put on a complete and strict diet and will not be able anymore to go out on daytrips as the schedule will be full with treatment sessions, doctor’s monitoring, yoga etc.

    Athirapilly Waterfalls                  Our morning yoga sessions

The second group is the real patients. They become truly hospitalized. Sopanam Wellness Centre has successfully treated several patients that could not be treated by modern medicine. Among them were a few stroke patients, but also a patient that had had a transection. This particular patient was advised by modern medicine that she would never be able to walk again. After 33 days of treatment in the Sopanam Wellness Centre she could get up out of her wheelchair and has now recovered to a normal life for over 70%.
I asked Mr Lonappan what is the secret of Ayurveda that it can achieve results that modern medicine cannot achieve?
His answer was that it is a matter of the correct diagnosis, the correct treatment and the correct medicine. “So far not really different from modern medicine, but as Mr. Lonappan says, Ayurveda looks for a cure not for a remedy. As it is also 100% natural, treatments will not negatively affect other parts of the body, such as is possible by modern medicine. Here Mr. Lonappan refers to, for example, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Ayurveda is a lifestyle, not just a medical treatment.

    Side view Sopanam Ayurvedic Hospital


Mr. Lonappan has the ambition to make Sopanam Hospital one of the best centers in the world for Ayurvedic treatment. He strongly believes that the future is promising and the centre already has such a good reputation as well.
Besides operating the center, Mr. Lonappan explains they are looking for a small factory to produce Ayurvedic medicines. Mr. Lonappan shows a genuine interest in both visitors, as well as the staff working in the center. He easily remembered several patients, and we saw him busy at several places in the center, helping the staff. He has two sons of 25 and 15 years old.
I was extremely impressed with him and with the special care and great vegetarian meals we received each day, with the Ayurvedic treatments and yoga, meditation we got. The kind and professional way the hospital is managed in general. Soon they will start an Ayurvedic dental service as well.
We wish Mr. Lonappan and his wonderful staff all the luck in the world to make a long-time dream come true where Sopanam becomes the best specialty Ayurvedic Hospital where all people want to be for the best and affordable health and inner peace as well.

    General Manager Mr. Lonappan and interviewer Ingmar Waarheid

Sopanam is a Multi-specialty Ayurvedic Hospital that falls into the organic way of living with specialty clinics for gynecology, paediatrics, eye care, general medicine, dermatology; and contains special programs for: spine care, slimming, rheumatoid and rejuvenation. They promote healthcare from Abhyanga, Patra Potali Sweda, Choorna Pinda Sweda till Vasti and many more treatments; as well as traditional Ayurvedic massages, yoga and meditation classes. Rooms are very comfortable and meals all authentic vegatarian; lovingly prepared exclsuive from fresh certifed organic ingredients.
Please visit


Our One-Week Ayurveda Travel Expedition

Paul Penders Company is not a “me too” producer of natural organic cosmetics. We not only use exclusive certified organic herbs, certified organic color cosmetic ingredients and many more certified organic ingredients in our products, we also go to the smallest details to check out our raw materials first and to be assured that all is “WHOLE” in what we believe in. Proudly I can state that our small company always has been a pioneer in the field of natural cosmetics in Europe, USA and now also in Asia.
Our aim has never been growing the company big; but always growing the company better! Readers of this blog that follow each day a new story about us understand better what we are and who we are. It is not me, the owner of this company… it is all of us that are sincerely committed to the very same. And Paul Penders Company…. For 40 years in business…. we take commitment seriously.


As an integral part of the above statement, in servicing our customers worldwide with the best natural and ethically produced ingredients possible, all of Paul Penders Company at Langkawi UNESCO Geopark went to India. Our friends of Paul Penders India Pvt. Ltd, assisted us in whatever needed during this journey, including visiting certified organic farms, (last time visiting Indocert – the Indian Organic Certification Board – and Vanamoolika – the “375 daughters of the Woods”).

All of us travelled to Kerala State for more verifications and in-depth studies of raw materials for our products, for authentic Ayurveda healthcare, yoga and meditation, and for the set-up of our new “Pure Wellness Travel, Inc” division . All together we travelled with almost 30 people, including drivers, guides and of course, our friends of Paul Penders India.

    All cars used during our stay in India


The caravan vehicles continued days of hectic driving through mountains, narrow roads and hairpins from Bangalore all the way to Kochi where we stayed for 4 days at Sopanam Ayurveda Hospital for treatments, yoga, wonderful prepared vegetarian meals, meditation and original Ayurveda massages.

    GMP facilities at Vanamoolika.    Marcel our webmaster a closer look to one of the herbs!

As we were on the way to Sopanam Ayurveda Hospital, we were hosted for 3 days at Vanamoolika, the certified organic farm, and also visited a successful certified organic farmer in Kerala who was appointed by the Indian government as the best organic farmer in the State. We got to spend some time to know his family and they had prepared a wonderful vegetarian lunch & juices using his organic plants, herbs, flowers, coffees and much more! I bought some beautiful painting from his daughter who is a gifted artist.

    The selection of organic food & juices was great! We truly enjoyed the variety of wonderful food


    Sopanam Multi-Specialty Ayurvedic Hospital – a truly wonderful healing place

Besides that we also did a rafting as well in Kuruva Island, situated on the tributaries of the river Kabani, a fabulous picnic spot.

    Rafting to get into Kuruva Island


    Athiripally waterfall

    Our spiritual teacher Acharya A.J. Shehadas

In a several articles that follow, each of us will write about their own experiences. You can visit Facebook where Krista wrote about her experiences, while her article will appear on this blog as well.

    The flowers and wild nature in Kerala is truly wonderful

Paul Penders blog is read daily by thousands of people in over 60 countries. We look forward to your comments. We are always here to serve our customers better and better. Paul Penders Company is ALWAYS on the lookout and search for the best possible ingredients, wherever in the world and prepare these in natural cosmetics made by heart and soul. We thank you for your support.

    A tired but happy bunch returning to Langkawi UNESCO Geopark


What is Unnatural is also Natural – Goethe

Goethe meant this phrase more less psychologically, where the words below are pure chemistry based. All is chemistry because all comes from chemistry. Natural and organic cosmetics get more popular because of fear by many towards chemicals.
But chemistry (means: science) is not man-made. Chemistry was happening naturally already before man came on earth. Many people think that chemistry is only happening recently and only done in labs. But chemistry has been around since the earth was formed. Chemistry relates to reactions in nature.
Natural ingredients are either single chemical substances, or, made of different chemical substances (mixture). The word ‘chemical’ is actually confusing in English. For many people it means ‘an unwanted additive or residue’ in their cosmetic products.
A chemical is any pure substance; being a synthesized molecule in the lab, or anything that is naturally occurring. Also organic ingredients are chemicals. And chemicals are not the same as ‘synthetic’.

Chemistry applies to synthetic and natural substances in the exact same way as it has been shown by today’s science. And when it comes to toxicity and safety issues…. remember: ‘EVERYTHING IS POISON AS IT ALL DEPENDS ON DOSE’ as Paracelsus, the father of today’s medicine stated in the 15th century.

We have to be aware that all substances can be good for us or dangerous for us …. Because it is a certain amount of use that counts:

  • Venom will not be harmful if accidentally ingested while sucking off a snake’s bite (before spitting it out). Its full efficacy to induce adverse effects is in the blood system.
  • You may safely eat butter, almonds or chocolate, but eat as much as 1 or 2kg of one of these and the toxicity of its components will become evident.
  • Table salt is critical for the body to function well, but the World Health Organization recommends on its daily intake.

Remember… synthetic ingredients are not always ‘bad’. ‘Natural’ and ‘organic’ ingredients are not always ‘good’ or even safe! Natural, organic and synthetic ingredients are CHEMICALS. The dosage used is the key whether it is safe or brings harm or toxicity, as well as its effectiveness.
Freely edited from an article by Philippe Papadimitriou. Conducted studies in biochemistry at the University of Geneva in Switzerland where he majored in pharmacology and neurosciences. Is a member of the Jury of the International Exhibition of Inventions of Geneva dealing with new ideas, concepts and creations in the class ‘food, drinks, cosmetics, paramedical, health and hygiene’.