Monday

Varkala. Kerala- India



We arrived by night in a hotel that was nicely lit. After freshening up we stepped out to explore the property and the beach. Our friends were holidaying in another hotel, we had to meet them for dinner, so they asked us to walk down the beach road towards Clafouti. We asked the hotel staff for directions for the ‘beach road / cliff path’ and here we came up with some early ‘learning’s’:
v  English language is an alien communication tool for the locals
v  Sense of distance is equally foreign to them
v  Power blackouts is a constant phenomenon in Varkala
v  Toddy (liquor) is a constant companion to most local males
v  DO NOT expect professional anything :D

We walked from our room to the boundary of the hotel property, guided by the sound of the ocean surf, wanting to locate the “cliff path” - we reached the edge and looked down and saw the white surf of the waters, and just then there was a complete blackout. Complete darkness! Slowly a few lanterns lit in the distance…but not enough to show us clearly what was “the beach road / cliff path” -since we were not yet familiar with the geography of the locality, it was unnerving standing in the dark, we retraced our steps back inside the hotel.


We requested for transport as the Hotel staff said Clafouti is approx. 2km away. He called for an auto whose driver was drunk- the auto in standstill mode, was sliding in the reverse, the driver was oblivious to it. We asked the Reception to get us another auto, but the Receptionist told us its ok, he is in control, there is no problem- so despite our senses screaming otherwise – we took this transport. Given it was late, given it is a small town, given friends were waiting, given we wanted dinner and some sleep for that night.  The worst auto ride ever!


The 2km distance turned out to be less than 2 minutes for which we paid 100 bucks. To top it, our nerves were grazed, being on the edge with the driver reeking of alcohol, not in control of his auto on the upward climbing slope, on a pitch dark narrow road, with not a person in sight (post the Delhi incidence) was a horror of all sorts, the mind was working its wily hands about! Such was our relief to have reached Clafouti in one piece- incidence free, unbridled joy was the only feeling we soaked in!

It took us the rest of the trip to realize that these (above) first impressions (while some maybe true) – were a bit harsh. Largely speaking - the locals are harmless even when drunk, they are genuine, warm, and honest and trusting them is easy as they are humble; despite the city menace narratives we all unconsciously carry about with us.


Varkala is beautiful. A wonderous place. It is a Hindu belief that a dip in the Papanasam beach of Varkala can wash away your sins. What I can indeed say with certainty is that it will wash away the stresses and strains of a busy life. Our hotel was situated on the seashores of the magnificent beach of Varkala, providing us a panoramic view of the setting sun, the lashing waves, the coconut orchards, the fishing boats & the anglers at work.

You cannot tire of walking on the beach cliffs, enjoying the freshness of nature, be a sun bathing enthusiast or simply be; on the silky beaches, around the many hotels dotting this 2.5-3 km stretch called Varkala. The walk along the cliff takes you to many interesting spaces, some offering Ayurveda massages, special oils, yoga classes, even a library while you wait for your order or sip on a drink.

What is unique about this sea resort destination is that Varkala is a small town, pretty much off the beaten track. Located an hour away from the Trivandrum airport, the growing number of curious travellers who decide to stop by and then end up planning their next vacation here, is a testimony to the fact that Varkala is getting popular. (PS: not sure if that is a good thing tho…)


Varkala is a virgin beach with a beautiful cliff lining the beach stretch with a string of eateries and shacks offering a choice of world cuisines. The walk that seems to lead you to the end of the cliff gradually slopes down until you find yourself climbing down on to the other side of the beach. It is also a more secluded area on the beach which some tourists who discover the path, seem to prefer. No matter how many times I walked along the cliff road separating the sea and the hotels/shops, I invariably was tempted to stop and soak in the sights a zillion times over. Having grown up in cities and metros most of my life, one finds here the peace and tranquillity that the human soul craves for.


I mean where else would you find yourself standing under a canopy of palm trees staring at sparkling, calm aqua blue waters lapping gently at your feet and then turn around to see the tumultuous waves crashing against the rocks along the shore on the other side. And all this under a clear blue sky forms the perfect setting for an artist to capture. 

25 comments:

Shweta said...

Awesome!!!! Definitely is a find this Varkala. Is thr a place called vartala too?

john said...

Seems like a calm sea? Gorgeous place! Fallen in love with it!! Are there water sports here?

sagar said...

Well captured the ethos of the place Mee. Bruise for battered souls for sure.Seems the Kindle must have got more than just a glimpse

R Niranjan Das said...

This is one of my favourite beach destinations in India. Nice post.

www.rajniranjandas.blogspot.in

Rahul said...

Anything that's far from concrete jungle makes us feel happy these days. Almost all tourist destinations in India have developed into small metros. But reading and watching this place through your superb pics makes me believe that still there's some untouched nature left to explore... This place Varkala shows how a balance between development and nature can not only help us live peacefully but also help us prosper (tourist).. This place is on my priority list for sure... :)))

Anon said...

Lovelyyyyyy beach its got :D

Vandy

ashish said...

Hey was all time spent at the beach. Anything else of interest there? Food?:DDD

suzanna said...

:) Made me realise how different a place seems when you land at night. And then it's all quite beautiful when you wake up the next day :) Lovely account. And true. Planning a trip there soon. Could you tell me where you stayed?

sheila said...

Give it up for varkala!! Completely endorse this post! Swell place, complete laidback, easy, no hurry and charming

Anon said...

oooooooooooooooo, poetry in prose, awesomely evocative writing Mee!
Keep travelling n posting !

PP

sanjiv said...

Ohhh this is a fantastic post Mee!!! Loved reading it, wish it wld continue and tell more!!! Simply must visit!!!

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gita said...

Watte a beautiful post Mee, sans the auto ride!!! Loved the place, fab pics too!!

Jim said...

Hey! Lovely post! Had no idea of this place called Varkala. Looks absolutely clean and lovely! Added to the lists of places to go to!!thx!!!

Mee said...

@Shweta- Vartala and Varkala are both one and the same

@John-The sea looks calm. Has strong currents for sure:))

@Sagar - The Kindle never happnd, decision changed and a Google Nexus happnd instead:D

@R Niranjan Das - how lovely! Wish I had discovered it earlier

@Rahul - am not sure for how long it will remain pristine and untouched and not go the Goa way tho...

@Vandy - yep it sure does!:)

@Ashish - hope to write another post on Varkala food, watch out for it:D

@Suzanna - hope you have a wonderful trip

@Sheila -:))))

@PP- embarrassed in a nice way:DD

@Sanjiv- yep definitely u guys must go!!

@Gita- yea that auto ride is forgettable

@Jim- u;'' love it, I promise u:))

Aijaz Ahmed Pitafi said...

While reading I always find myself as if travelling along with you. Even the pictures of serene and tranquil hamlet called Varkala soothe my mind and sprinkle my heart with salty sea drops together with silver sand grains. Wish I were the Auto driver :))

weisel said...

I TRULY BELIEVE THAT THE GEOGRAPHICAL LANDSCAPE OF INDIA IS SO AAAAAAAAMAZING, THT WHER EVER U GO V DISCOVER ALL AROUND BEUATIFUL PLACES WHICH R SO NICE SERENE,DIFFERENT,SMOOTH,RUGGED,THT IT BECKONS U ALWAYS TO VISIT AGAIN.
THE ONLY POINT CERTAINLY BEING THT PEOPLE R DECENTLY BEHAVED TO OUTSIDE TRAVELEERS.
KKEEP ON TRAVELLING!!

Binu said...

Mee
I am a native of this place. There is not a place known as "vartala" to the best of my knowledge. I don't know how you have come to the conclusion that "Vartala" and "varkala" are the same.

I don't know where you are from. If you are an Indian, please avoid comments like "English language is an alien communication tool for the locals".

Also what do you mean by "most local males" in your sentence "Toddy (liquor) is a constant companion to most local males"? More than 50% men? Then I disagree on this.

You might have met some drunk men, or unfortunately each person you met there might have been drunk which doesn't mean that most are so.

Anonymous said...

i have been there a few times in the evening (Papanasam beach in Varkala). One might not call it a tourist spot, but to me it is more like a place to just stay there with serenity, looking at the sky, the waves, the dimness and you get into the feel of the air. Not sure of how to explain!

Mee said...

@Aijaz:Noooo u dont *wish* to be the auto driver for sure!!!!:)))

@Weisel: So criticial that the "experience" be something one cherishes for a long time. And that is created by people. India on many aspects has a long way to go...:))

@Binu: TY for your comments, and sincere apologies for having offended you, you do sound very cross.
-- Varkala/Vartala as said to me by one of the shack owners in English "both are interchangeable, one and the same" - perhaps I misunderstood what he meant?
-- From my own experience I stick by that comment on "English" -- the language is v v v vry limiting and most ppl(locals) struggle to explain/communicate
-- Toddy and "most ppl" - is a way of speaking, there wasnt nothing derogatory implied, no need for no hair splitting n getting urself all twisted about...:))
-- And finally its good to take pride in your place of work/residence, but wld humbly submit, thr is equally a way of putting views across.
TY for your inputs and visiting this blog.

@Anonymous - I do understand what you are saying, completely agree with u:))

Anonymous said...

"A tourist is one who carries his sensibilities with him" Mate, do carry some sensibilities with you when you travel or don't do bad journalism!!

Starting of your blog gave a complete negative image of that wonderful place.

let me point out this,

"v English language is an alien communication tool for the locals"
-Go to some decently dressed guys, probably they will answer you better!

"v Sense of distance is equally foreign to them"
-Probably right, hv no idea on that as i didn't try to ask anyone one distances, carry a smartphone or a map, mate. Also, do your homework, if you are a backpacker.

"v Power blackouts is a constant phenomenon in Varkala"
-ha ha, that is true for the entire India, even occasionally in Metros. No body told you to carry a torch when you travel in India?

"v Toddy (liquor) is a constant companion to most local males"
-Well, you mean almost all of the locals are drunk 24 hours a day? I never experienced that. Yes, i did come across "some of them" in the evening around the beach, especially coming out of the bars near the beach.
"Most" is a quantifier showing the greatest in number and it means almost every one. if that is not the case, then use, "some of the ppl" or "a few of them".

"v DO NOT expect professional anything :D"
-True, if you expect everything truly professional, do not go to villages, just stay in some metros. Or book trough some top travel agents and check in to some top luxury hotels. If you are backpacker on a budget then don't expect professional services for your two bucks.


I truly believe those negative part spoiled a nice attempt of portray a beautiful place. And, sorry to be harsh to you, bro, this was an attempt to show you the mirror, coz you sound exactly like some of those backpackers i meet while traveling. They pay two bucks and expect luxury services for their cheap bucks. I hate those fellows.

I have been cheated by the taxi drivers in singapore many times, tricked by some shop owners in Copenhagen, had trouble talking to people (in English) in Prague, Munich, Bali, etc. But I wont go ahead and label "most people" on that, you will find "some" crappy people everywhere. Look around, you will find "some" in your neighborhood as well.






Mee said...

@Anonymous: I have a problem with anyone who is not courteous, or has no elasticity to stomach a different pov, or gets touchy when his own backyard is not clean. India has problems! And when you indulge in a comparative, you do yourself and India a great disservice. A positive outlook shall help you in life! Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Just read again what you have written, " I have a problem with anyone who has no elasticity to stomach a different pov." Sometimes apply that to yourself also.

Bro, you sounds like a typical Indian, who probably born and brought up outside india and takes proud in bitching his own ancestral home.

FYI, i don't live in India also, am a photographer who travel around the world. I was not fighting with you with my double barreled gun, saying that India has no problems. That is not my intention at all. My only point is you were grossly exaggerating a negative outlook on some of the points. Probably it is time to take a look at the mirror, mate and learn to accept your faults.
Anyway, am not going to waste my time and yours on this. No point in debating with one who considers himself as the center of earth.
Cheers mate.

Mee said...

@Anonymous: Tata! Cheers:DDDD

weisel said...

ITa a fantastic place and d narration makes u sure wana go again nd again to sch a serene gorgeous ocean front just to realise that u are NOTHING IN FRONT OF MOTHER NATURE'S BOUNTY!!!
ANS DIFF OF GETTING PERSPECTIVE OF A PLACE OR LOCATION WHEN U TRAVEL IS SUBJECTIVE ISSUE!! POINT 2 BE NOTED!!

KEEP ON TRAVELLING!!