Our houseboat docked and Raja picked us up to take us to our last stop on this India trip – Varkala. We had chosen Varkala because we wanted a few days at the beach and wanted somewhere different from Kovalam, where we had been on our first trip to India.
Varkala is a lot less touristy, at least as far as Western tourists go. It attracts a lot of local people since it is an auspicious religious spot, but the foreigners go for the beach. Varkala was a fine place to end our trip to India. The beachfront/tourist area is almost a small self contained town by itself, separate from the main business district of Varkala about 5km.
Varkala beach is backed by high cliffs – the resort area consists of a small lane running along the top of the cliff with hotels and guest houses, stores and restaurants. One walks down flights of stairs to the beach below. Very laid back for India. We really felt that we could give the kids some freedom here – the beach itself is sandy and beautiful – but we learned very quickly that the waves and current are super dangerous. The water of the Arabian Sea is warm, and the waves not that high, but we couldn’t let the kids in the sea by themselves as the backwash or current when the waves run out is incredibly strong. Initially I went in with both boys but got them out quickly and had to take them in one at a time. They couldn’t let go of me. Still, we had a great time – not much better than warm sandy beach pretty much to yourself and a water temperature that’s fun to be in. Eitan sat at the high water mark and let the waves roll in over him.
There is not much else to do in Varkala – we found a spice store selling incredible vanilla pods and spices from all over the country, and we found good rug stores where we bought some Kutch rugs from Gujarat. Souvenirs from all over India were everywhere.
Sunset in Varkala is very special – the sunset itself is just incredible – the whole sea glows orange-red and yellow and the clouds are magnificent. Dinner time was an absolute treat – at the Sunset restaurant we found some of the best food of our whole time in India – and the five of us could eat some outstanding fish for the equivalent of US$10.
The hotel we stayed at was the Hindustan Beach Resort – good rooms, nice pool but hardly a resort and while at the sea, too far from the main beach area to happily walk all the time – we took rickshaws for about $1 for all of us. Our main complain about the hotel was that we did some laundry us which was obviously dried over a smoking fire – we smelled of smoke for the next few days.
We did go into the center of the town one morning – busy like all Indian towns but we happily walked around. It was Diwali and the gold stores were packed. After three weeks in India we felt pretty much at hom,e by now but it was time to leave.
Sadly we said goodbye to Varkala and much more sadly we said goodbye to Raja, who after driving us to Trivandrum airport to catch our flight to Singapore would have a one day break before meeting his next clients. Raja had quite simply become our friend, and when we go back to India one day we will let him know far in advance. Raja is typical of the emerging middle class – his Tata Nano car is on order and he is even thinking of turning his small property in Tamil Nadu into a homestay. He sends his three year old daughter to a private school. We will gladly give him our business if he realises his dream.
Possibly one of the worst airport buildings I have had to spend a few hours in with nothing to do, nothing to buy and almost nothing to eat is Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram for long). They are building a new terminal at Trivandrum which will probably be a huge improvement. We had to suffer intense boredom.
Our Silk Air flight to Singapore left late, and from Singapore we would be travelling on to Cambodia, the last country on this journey before heading home!
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