Big Trouble In Little Varkala


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April 12th 2008
Published: April 12th 2008
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Varkala townVarkala townVarkala town

This chilled out town hangs along the cliff edge
We have arrived at the cliff side hippy/backpacker hideaway known as Varkala. All of the shops, bars and accommodation line the edge of the cliffs surrounding a secluded beach. There is more Bob Marley bars than you can poke a stick at and every step you take along the cliff edge is followed by the words "hashish, hashish" fading into the distance. Most of the locals wonder around stoned, mixed in with a very chilled out vibe and dreadlock type travelers swinging in hammocks hanging from coconut trees. If it wasn’t for the events of last night I would say this is probably the best beach resort we have seen in India, but to be honest the beaches in India are not all that and we didn’t come to India to find beach resorts.

Last night we went for a few beers at the Funky Art Cafe with some new found traveler friends. They had been advertising a Bollywood dance evening which attracted lots of backpacker/hippy tourists. Its low season in Varkala so Funky Art Cafe was the only bar packed with people. The Bollywood dance was very odd. They dressed young boys up as young as 8 in women’s
The Funky Art CafeThe Funky Art CafeThe Funky Art Cafe

Where it all kicked off last night. The sign says "The Most Happening Place" I guess thats true!
cloths and makeup! It was very strange and almost uncomfortable to watch. If this was happening in England, it would have been closed down. Putting cultural differences aside we put a fake smile on and sat though it together with 50 other travelers holding very confused expressions on their faces. We were half expecting Garry Glitter to turn up!

As the dance ended everyone chilled out and returned to the beers or hashish listening to relaxed music when all hell broke loose. While chatting to some friends I could see out in the street a group of very large, aggravated Hindi lads holding thick/heavy looking bamboo sticks and baseball bats. They marched past me and through the bar over to the staff and manager. They proceeded to beat the hell out of the bar staff. It was extremely violent with a distinct sound of someone’s skull cracking! The children were right in the thick of it. At first everyone looked on in shock, but then the Hindi lads began using the bats to smash up the bar, tables, chairs, lights, speakers and DJ Equipment. Everyone got up and ran for the exits. It was like a scene out of some insane gangster movie. We also made a sharp exit. I don’t think many people paid their bills - we all got out very quickly.

While everyone quickly walked down the street to get away from the bar, groups of Hindi lads started forming on the street corners. It was obvious this was gang related and everyone was beginning to take sides. Almost all travelers returned to their guest houses and locked their doors!

When we returned to our guest house we told some other travelers who were about to head into town what we had just witnessed. Some Hindi lads over heard and came over to asked us what happened. They too then proceeded to telephone there mates, rallied up the troops and disappeared towards the town. It was unbelievable!

It was a very scary situation. I should imagine a few people are in hospital now, or worse. I am yet to see a police officer in Varkala. I should imagine the trouble continued into the night.

This morning we took an uneasy walk down to the Funky Art Cafe to check out the damage. It was all repaired and looked as if nothing had happened? We talked to other travelers who informed us that tonight the victim’s families are going to be out for revenge and not to wonder along the sea front. Like many other travelers we have decided to leave Varkala today. After all this is India, you just don’t know what’s going to happen next!


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12th April 2008

Everybody Was Kung-Fu Fighting... da da da da da, da, da, da......
Ha ha, I know it must have been scarey but I'd have paid good money to see the look on your face! You should have given them a taste of England with a flying head-butt!
13th April 2008

Adventures in India
Seems like you are having a great time in India still. I'm back in Los Angeles, but definitely wish I was still traveling in India. Keep us posted so we can travel vicariously through you.
31st May 2008

This is not uncommon
This bar is run by a good guy,babu,but his staff leave a hell of a lot to be desired,they habitually spike westerners drinks,fact,and will try every trick in the book to get women alone,drugged and incapacitated,there is a 'chill out room' out back where women who are unusually effected by one 'special' cocktail' can be taken,by the male staff,to chill right out,usually with 5 or 6 lads to help you,...undress etc etc etc,...you were warned
30th June 2008

Ha ha ha!
Well, it sounds like the "owner" has had some karma returning ... he's ripped off loads of people who've lent him money, is a total con-artist and lying sleazeball .... I've also heard about his "employees" following people home in the dark and spiking people's drinks .... so it's lovely to hear that he's got a little back of what he's given out over the years.
9th July 2008

child prostitution
I have just found out that these boys you saw dancing are regularly rented out to tourists as child prostitutes. Friends of mine witnessed European men in Varkala taking the very young boys back to their rooms! It is very, very troubling!
25th July 2008

yah
My wife and I, accompanied by friends, were in Varkala a few months ago. The police arrived at the Funky Art nightly pouring out beer and intimidating the backpacker/tourist crowd, demanding payment for the unlicensed alcohol action. Varkala is hippy-dippy and caters to backpackers, but the surrounding community is pretty conservative. Been traveling in India since 92, and I can tell you that every Funky Art Cafe has to pay their dues or suffer the consequences. The owner told me that he knew it the situation would only get worse. A bummer, and a bit frustrating. Also, a tense situation, since most of the cafes are bars, yet unlicensed. Still, we had a great time, despite it all. The 6 year old was likely the dreadlocked owner's son, who was forced into child-dance-labor on more than one night while we were there.
18th November 2008

More of the Same
All of this is true and more - stay away from this bar if you value your sanity!
7th January 2009

Eh????
Just read through these comments on the funky art cafe and staff. Can't believe this is the same place we spent most of our evenings during our 2 weeks stay in Varkala. Me, my partner and our 2 year old daughter ate there most nights and didn't experience any trouble. Granted we left before 10.30 every night but they couldn't have been a nicer bunch of people. They treated us very well, bought our daughter presents and all came to say goodbye on our last night - one guy even chasing us down the path to say goodbye. Babu's son is actually 14 and is trained in Indian classical dance. We also saw young children dancing but this was evident in lots of bars along the cliff.
7th January 2009

Hi Gaby
Yes, I seem to get alot of mixed reports on what we witnessed at the Funky Art Cafe. It seems to hit a nerve with alot of people. Still thanx for your comment I will publish it with everyone elses (good and bad) and cheers for taking time to read my blog. take care
13th January 2009

Upset and Shocked!!!
I visited Varkala in 2006 and stayed at the Funky Art Cafe for over a week. I never saw anything like this going on and only have good memories of Babu and his staff. Admittedly I was aware of some local young males who visited the place, and it was obvious they were there for the white western girls but that happens in any country. As for the cocktails, I saw both sexes but particularily young western woman partaking in the drinking of cocktails at the Funky Art, and getting totally smashed and oblivious to whats going on around them. Drinking alcohol in a hot country is not recommended as it really has a much stronger effect, particularily when there is no control on the measure that is being served Obeying the alcohol or drug laws in any country is what is important, legally or illegally available. maybe I enjoyed myself thoroughly when I was there and had encouraged my 24 year old daughter to go there this year for a holiday following the route I had taken, but now I don't know what to think!!! I am shocked to say the least at what I have read here. It certainly does not sound like the same place when I was there. Fair enough I will say that Babu was a bit of a chancer with the ladies but a more helpful and considerate person you could not meet. But better to be safe than sorry I think I will have to look further into this and discuss with her the safest choice.
14th January 2009

Hi Danny
Thank you for taking time to read my blog. The Funky Art Cafe certainly gets a lot of mixed reports. I will publish your comments, its nice to hear the positive views too :-)
29th November 2009

never go to the funky art cafe
we been to have a beer at funky last night we have found that the most dangerioues place in varkala shit place we ask for beer and guy who serve he ask are on over honey moom and we say noo we later onn her boss come to say me if you not married you fucking not allowed in my cafe but there was a guy he make here underestand the lady who owns the place she is stowened all the time ! and fight with her all the costemer we if you not having a food in this place then i think there is no respect as long if you give them good busyness they good eles you have to face a trouble they have singh coll the most happening place it true been rude with the costemer and fight as i want to say in the massage to you all my friend please dont go toi funky bar you will be feel unrespecatable ur self the lady coll alessendra please try not to go stay safe have good time in india
23rd December 2009

I find this very hard to believe
Hi I have visited Varkala twice, three years ago so things may have changed since then but I find it hard to believe that drugging of girls is occurring. I pretty much lived at funkys for three and half weeks, and again for two weeks and Babu and his team were lovely, and i think of them as friends. I was a young girl backpacking for the first time and Babu and his staff couldn't of been more helpful. One of his staff would always offer to walk me home, not in a sleazy way but to make sure i was ok because it is so dark along the cliff during the low season, they helped me book trips, took me to the dentist when my tooth hurt, Babu even has got out of bed in the middle of the night to get his driver to come and take me to the airport because the taxi i booked had not turned up and i was about to miss my flight. There was a small group of us travellers that hungout there with all the staff and we often went on outings together with Babu and some of the other guys. I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe when i was there, the complete opposite which is why i stayed so long. Yes Babu does have an eye for the ladies, but it is always reciprocated and it is often Babu that is left heartbroken when they leave (well for five minutes until the next love of his life arrives) Holiday staff flirting with travellers happens all over the world and there never seemed to be anything more than that, I and other girls who were not interested were never pestered or hassled. Babu is lovely and i am looking forward to visiting him again in January. I would also like to point out that I hung out with male travellers who got on fantastically with him and the staff, Babu even arranging for the guys to have martial arts lessons because they were a bit bored during a rainy week. Anyway that's penny's worth
30th January 2010

Please listen.
Hello, I am 28 years old, and considered an attractive single woman, as I am not married. I have been living in varkala with my NZ boyfriend for two years, and trust me when I say that I know the ins and outs of varkala. We are the only young foreigners living here by far. The only people living here are over 50 years old, and married or sngle and deal drugs or sleep with the locals. I have very solid evidence for this. I love Varkala, but have quickly learned to be extremely careful on the cliff. Funky Art is one of the most dangerous places you can go if you are young and attractive. Ladies, be sure to have a man thatis not drunk with you. Some guys at Funky Art are cool, but trust me when I say they have seen everything, and don't really care when someone has been drugged. I havebeen blessed to be able to make friends with most on the cliff, and so was looked out for whne my sis and I were drugged at Funky. I seriously warn any unmarried women who go to Funky or Rock'n'roll, and don't forget that there is a high turn over of staff there, so don't think there is not one oout of the crowd that will do it. This is all from experience. Best, Em
12th March 2010

My time in Varkala
Hi, I have really been interested in reading these comments having been twice to Varkala the most recent time was a few weeks ago. I always felt completley safe on the cliff...I never went to the Funky Art Cafe or any of the other bars - I would eat my dinner in Cafe Del Mar and then wander around a little before walking back to South Cliff where I was staying, but I would walk alone and in the total darkness. I love Varkala and am planning to rent a house there for six months and I will def take on board the advise on being a single girl there alone and not be so naive to think because it is not London I can feel safe walking in the dark in empty roads...I never have got drunk there though and would not do so.
1st May 2010

totally agree...
watch out! i have not seen the drug thing in the drinks but i can say that most of the people working in there knows very well how to cheat people. their way is to be your best friend, sister or brother and you really think they are... and even if you think you are smart they knows how to do it in a "nice" way... hold on to your money and check the bills too....and dont fall for their charm ....
3rd January 2011

Not fair
I've just read this blog and find it quite unfair and inaccurate. First and foremost the writer obviously has little education about the south of India or Kerala state. The boys that are continually referred to as "Hindi lads" are indeed not Hindi at all. Hindi is a language spoken in a large part of India but is not the local language and these boys were likely Maylaylee. The truth is I am in Varkala for much of the tourist season and have not seen anything like this so my feeling is it was likely a one off. And a further truth of life is that could have happened in Central London, New York, Dublin, Rome or anywhere else on the planet where people gather. There are "hippie types" that come here and probably indulge in the mentioned substances but there are also families from Sweden, Italy, etc. with their young children experiencing the magic of India along with people looking into yoga, natural healing treatments and meditation. Concerning the young boys dancing and dressing one must remember this is a completely different culture and dance and costumes is a huge part of it. As with anywhere in the world, Varkala is not without it's problems and as with anywhere in the world they are sometimes extreme. But to base an opinion on one incident is, as I said in the beginning simply not fair. Many people come here and stay for months and many, many return yearly. So there's another view point.
12th January 2011

RE: Not Fair
The blog IS accurate of the events that happened that night, and yes its true that this could happen anywhere in the world. I don't claim to be an expert on India and wouldn't know the difference between Maylaylee and Hindi, but that's not the focus of the blog. I hope this was a one off event, and as it says in the blog, Varkala is probably the best beach resort in India - Still there are a lot of mixed reports. -- I have published your point of view --
10th February 2011

Hi, I realise this blog was written some time ago. Having lived in Varkala sometime I too know many stories of the cliff, and some of them aren't very pleasant. However, as the co-owner of Rock N Roll (with my Varkalan husband), I would like to assure you that single girls will not have those issues at Rock N Roll (as Emily earlier suggests). We have worked hard to improve our reputation and the safety of women is extremely important to us. Never, in the three years that I have been involved in Rock N Roll has anyone been drugged or had drinks spiked. I'm shocked to say that when bad things have happened they have been caused by tourists. For example, things being stolen. The only night that is very difficult to manage is New Years Eve. Despite all our best plans there is an influx of locals who come to celebrate. Honestly, this is the only night that I would warn female travellers of. But then again, its much tamer then the streets of Manchester on a Saturday night. Emily, if you are still around. I would love to meet you and please anyone, if you have these kind of concerns about Rock N Roll come and talk to me. Billy (Aussie female running Rock N Roll)
17th February 2011

Rock n Roll
Billy, your comments have been published. Thanks for reading my blog :-)
20th May 2012

big trouble in varkala
hi all,the guy who used to run his cafe which used to sell drugs and spike drinks to cheat white girls now has a new bussiness with a couple who will be cheated soon called palm tree in varkala,he has so many cases pending in courts but these swiss people are dum to invest with him .
17th September 2013

scared
well im french and recently married to an algerian women, we are both muslims and i was planning to travel in india with her but honestly now with all the raping stories we saw (both indian women and foreigner women, a swiss women has been raped by several mans and his husband hited near agra) and what i just read here about varkala well i dont want to go to india anymore at least not with my wife. what a shame, i like to live dangerously but alone, not with my sweetheart. its funny im a white guy converted to islam and was never scared to go to a country like india, in fact i was scared to go in a country like algeria. now its the opposite because when i visit algeria for the first time, i was alone and the travel has been cool, the people nice and they help you if you have problems. i know now im more in security in a country like algeria than in a country like india, the mentality is the big difference, not to say the religion but of course its related. i will be happy to go to india oneday but without my wife, i dont like all these place with "hippies" who takes hard drugs like alcohol, heroin or designer drugs ect.... i smoke pot for medical reason but i sick of all these junkies we saw everywhere, its because of people like that, people die in car accidents, women get rapped and governments put innocent cannabis growers and smokers in jail, this world is sick and the third world will not get better too. full moon shit and co, all of this because of spiritual emptiness... sorry for the little off track post but all is connected !
18th October 2013

Hi Sirus
There are problems but also beauty in Indian as in any part of the world. Please don't let my story scare you off India, its still full of amazing adventures, history and culture. This was one of the many incidents that happened forming part of my experiences. I agree that the world is a little bit messed up where ever you go, but its also diverse and exciting. I would still visit again :-)

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