After my days on the beach in Goa, I wasn’t terribly excited about more beach time in India. It seemed like there was so much else to do further north – the Ganges, the Taj – but I’d already booked a flight from Trivandrum to New Delhi and so there was time to kill and I’m always a sucker for the coast. The tourist guides describe Varkala as an old backpacker hangout that is trying hard to cling to it’s roots. As if that description wasn’t compelling enough, the image of soaring red cliffs made my decision an easy one. After a few days in Varkala, I was was struck by something in the sky. It actually took my brain a couple of seconds to register what I was seeing: a wisp of a cloud. Varkala is one of those spots where shop and restaurant owners tell you to pay them later if you don’t have enough change (or small bills), you’re encouraged to fill your water bottle from a big jug to help save the environment, the police overlook the fact every restaurant serves cocktails (Kerala is a dry state), and the signs proclaim positive thoughts and inspirational quotes. Fair to say, this turned out to be one of my favorite places in India.
January 17, 2011
Had big hopes of exploring Kollam today – the beach, spice markets, cashew stores – but upon exiting the Nani Hotel it seemed overwhelmingly HOT, crowded, and unimpressive. Only managed to buy a train ticket to Varkala before returning to the hotel for a good shower, email, and cable tv. The train was late and jam-packed but it was fun to watch people interact; especially a little girl and old man, strangers who shared a seat. Was happy to find Varkala stunningly beautiful and filled with restaurants and shops along the cliffs. Staying at the Santa Claus Village ‘resort’ which is reasonable and has a front porch overlooking the sea.
January 18, 2011
Successful day. Got cash (no easy feat but a beautiful walk along the beach to the other side of town for the nearest ATM), a few textiles, and booked a train from Delhi and hotel in Varanasi – but also got a farmers tan and yelled at by a vendor for not buying from her. Walked north and south for miles on endless pathways along the cliffs and shoreline. Offered marijuana twice (really?). I did, however, buy some ayurvedic sleeping pills. The location and view is awesome, but the bed keeps me tossing and turning all night.
January 19, 2011
Quiet day of reading on the porch, hanging out at the beach, and stopping for lime sodas. Spent an hour or so on a rock near the stairs of the cliff to catch a breeze, some sun, and people watching. A great place to see the sunset too. Delish tofu tikka masala for dinner.
January 20, 2011
Meandered through the back roads of Varkala today – some nice homes but not much else. Beach, lunch, then not feeling great so chilled in my room. TMZ made me a little homesick. Sad, but true.
January 21, 2011
Enjoyed a leisurely masala dosa breakfast and thali lunch before spending some time on the beach. Booked a cooking class for tomorrow!!
January 22, 2011
Major frustrations today. The phone kiosk in Kochi never submitted my paperwork (#%^$ typical), so I can’t make outgoing calls or receive text messages. Then the guy who markets his ayurvedic therapy in front of my hotel criticized me for not being married with children. Just when I was losing faith, I had the most enjoyable cooking class with Ani at Kerala Bamboo Village. We made samosas, parotta, daal curry, malai kofta, veg biryani, and a coconut dessert. The spices and smells were incredible. I still smell of coconut oil and vanilla – divine! The owner joined me for dinner in the garden. A really interesting guy with a great story of adventure and entrepreneurship. Faith restored.
January 23, 2011
Last day in southern India spent reading and at the beach per usual. Watched the sun set at Rock N Roll Cafe with a Kingfisher and good tunes. Sunday seems to be a popular day with local Indians strolling the beach. Interesting contrast between the bikini clad tourists and the fully clothed locals.
More of my India diaries: