South India

India's flag
Asia » India » Kerala » Varkala
April 10th 2011
Published: April 10th 2011
Edit Blog Post

Varkala BeachVarkala BeachVarkala Beach

the beautiful view of the beach from atop the cliff
Another month has passed. It goes so quickly when I'm traveling, although I dont feel like I've done that much in the past 5 weeks! That could be because I spent 2 weeks on Varkala beach...a gorgeous cliff town with the beach down below. I spent 2 weeks there last year too and just couldn't tear myself away again. I also met up with a British Ayurvedic doctor I met there last year and he spent some of the 2 weeks with me teaching me Ayurveda. It was great incentive to stay and I learnt a lot from him. Plus....the food in this town was AMAZING! and after a month of eating very bland "sattvic"food, it was great to have options and go to a restaurant and order whatever I wanted. Aside from the food and the Ayurveda, I really just did yoga in the morning and lay on the beach all afternoon with other tourists I met. I rested in anticipation of 3 more months of non-stop travel around the rest of India.

Once I finally got my act together to leave, I traveled with a few other people I met in Varkala to Alleppey, a small town surrounded

playing with an adorable British kid i fell in love with
by the backwaters of India. We took a small, old canoe through the canals and walked through the remote villages that had very basic accommodations. Our boat rower (who was way too old to be doing physical labour so he actually had us take turns rowing!!) took us to his house for lunch, where his wife cooked a very typical keralan meal in her beyond tiny and simple kitchen. She had 2 portable stoves, no fridge and a counter made from mud. The ceiling was a few inches taller than her and there was no light or fan. I couldn't stand in there for more than a minute! And in there she cooked us fish, rice, sambar, mango chutney and papadam. Even in a western kitchen that would take me 3 hours!! The rest of the house was just 2 small rooms where they raised their 3 kids. But, they get to live in the most peaceful, serene place I've visited in all of India. Their backyard is a river and their neighbours house is separated from theirs by a forest. The only mode of transport in the area is boat or public ferry. They live a one hour ferry
mmmmm....Indian foodmmmmm....Indian foodmmmmm....Indian food

curries, naan bread and Tibetan momos
ride from town, so I imagine they don't make the trip often. And they probably don't have to....everything they need is in their backyard...chickens, goats, vegetables, fruits and a local shop just at the ferry stand. Sounds good to me 😊
From there I left my friends to head up into the mountains of Munnar, which are filled with tea plantations. So everything is bright green and the air is crisp and clear. I met a German lady my first morning there and we hiked (or should I say got lost for 5 hours) hiking through the tea plantations. We ended up at one point in a small village where a family immediately invited us in for tea. We chatted with them, took pictures and then I noticed a big cloth hanging from the turned out a baby was sleeping in it!!! After all the hiking I needed a big meal, so we found a restaurant with a big Indian menu. And while I waited the usual 45 minutes for my food, I noticed the chef was in a tiny cubicle-like room just next to the restaurant. He was the sole chef for the entire place. It did help

the backwaters of Kerala
though that all the veggies had been pre-cut, all the chicken and paneer was in a fridge next to him and all the rice and noodles had been pre-cooked. So all he had to do was add the spices and fry everything together in a wok. It was incredible to watch and I couldn't help but have a little crush on him for his marvelous cooking abilities. I went back to that restaurant 3 times in the 2 days I stayed there!!!
The bus ride down the mountain was interesting. I have a great video to show you when I get home of the bus trying to make a 180 degree turn down the one point I can't see road anymore, just a cliff! If you can get over being frightened of going over (which i did from time to time) it's a beautiful scenery.
I took that bus to to a town called Madurai which has the biggest temple on all of south India. IT took me 2 hours to see all the rooms and shrines. The best feature was an elephant who was trained to give blessings to anyone who gave it money, by touching it's trunk

A lady doing laundry in her "washing machine" otherwise known as the river
to their head. For 10 rupees, it would put it's trunk on your head long enough to take a picture....which i of course I had to do, who wouldn't!

That night again I jumped on an overnight bus to the east coast of south India. Last year I heard about a town there called Auroville, but I had a hard time picturing what it would be like. It just seemed to be unlike any Indian city I've visited...probably because it's not typically Indian. So this year I took a week to see what it was all about. I learnt that it was created 40 years ago by a woman they call "the mother" (who was married to a respected yogi). She had a vision to create a community that belonged to no one and welcomed all humanity. It promotes no religion (unless you consider devotion to "the mother" religious), but encourages unity among all people. To me it sounded a little like a cult but when I got here I saw that people were not blindly devoted to anything. It just allowed people to form their own small communities that were essentially a part of one bigger community. Everyone
A kitchen in a village houseA kitchen in a village houseA kitchen in a village house

our delicious lunch was cooked in this tiny, dirty kitchen
contributes and people from all over the world live here or visit every year. The vision included not using money within the community. But they got around this by giving out cards that you could put money on and using those essentially, you're still paying for things just not with actual bills.
There were 5 other people staying at my guest house and by the second day I had started teaching them yoga each morning. I was nervous at first to teach my first class...especially to 5 people, 3 of whom were men. But it went really well and I taught them every morning for the week I stayed. The most unusual part was that class was at 7:30 in the morning. I was not only awake at that hour, but actually speaking and teaching a class! If only I could continue that at home....I'm not getting my hopes up!
From Auroville I spent a day in Pondicherry...a town that the French invaded so it still has delicious bakeries with real baguettes and pastries. A nice change from the white bread you get in the rest of India. And I found the cheapest accommodation in all of India....I slept
Tea plantations of MunnarTea plantations of MunnarTea plantations of Munnar

I got lost hiking through tea plantations
on the floor of the lobby (where they had sort of set up a dorm) for 90 cents!!! But it was so hot there I left after a day and headed to Goa to meet a guy I did the yoga course with. It was nice to finally be with someone I knew from we didn't have to go through the typical questions that usually get asked when I meet new travelers like "where are you from? how long have you been here" where else are you going" etc. I love hearing other people's answers but I'm getting really bored of my story! Sometimes I make stuff up just to entertain myself!
We spent 5 days on the beach....doing yoga and swimming twice a day, reading a lot and renting kayaks. One last relaxation! The beach was surrounded by forest so all you could see on one side was the ocean and the other mountains and palm trees. It was really beautiful. and soooo day was 35 degrees with 80% humidity! I had to spend the day either sitting in the shade or cooling off in the water. Tough life, I know!
And that's the end of my
Village lifeVillage lifeVillage life

A family in a small village in the mountains invited me into their home for tea
stay in the south. Now I'm making my way north where the weather will cool down a bit....I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to colder weather! Maybe I'm not looking forward to cold as much as taking a break from my entire body being covered in sweat while I sleep!

Before I leave you, I'll share a few random experiences I've had that you just need to know and some things I've learnt about the culture that are just too interesting to keep to myself:

- At restaurants whenever I ask a question about something on the menu (which happens often because food changes from one state to the next), their answer is to simply read me out the entire menu. My question never gets answered and I end up having to sit there for 10 minutes while the waiter goes through the list of dishes. Yet I day I will get my answer!

- The word "dish" doesn't exist here and I always get confused looks when I say it! That goes for many other words, like parcel instead of take-away. I've had to adjust my vocabulary to "Indian English." I might confuse you
Lone chefLone chefLone chef

A chef (I had a huge crush on) cooking in a tiny cubicle for an entire restaurant
when I get home.

- The streets are constantly being's someone's full time job. I've come to understand this....people throw everything on the grown so it makes sense that someone cleans it up once in a while. What was new to me was the woman sweeping the sand on the beach outside the restaurant in Goa. The restaurant was basically on the beach and she was sweeping leaves and stuff that had fallen off trees around the tables. I still don't get it.

- Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way. Its actually the opposite. So I've learnt to jump out of the way when cars, bikes, motorbikes, cows etc. come towards me. But it's not so easy when the driver is staring at me (because I'm white) and doesn't realize that he's heading right towards me. When I move, his eyes follow and so does his bike! haha And there are no side walks to be heard of so its not like I have a choice but to walk on the side of the street.

- Indians have no concept of distance. Several people told me the ATM was at least 3-4 km
Blessed my an elephantBlessed my an elephantBlessed my an elephant

this elephant was trained to give blessing....for a fee of course
took me 20 minutes to walk! I'm convinced they measure km differently here or everyone is just misinformed. The problem might be that they always have to give an answer. So maybe they have no idea how far it is but instead of saying "I don't know" they make up a number.

- This also creates a problem when I take rickshaws...standard payment is 10 rupees (25 cents) per km. When the driver tells me my destination is 8 km away and it should cost 80 rupees, how can i argue that he's wrong about the distance....which he usually is and i have no choice but to overpay!

- The culture is extremely friendly in India. All people want is to have a conversation and make a friend for life...which they seem to think they've done simply by saying hi (they're constantly telling me about their good friends" from abroad who it turns out they met once)! So as I walk down the street I hear over and over "heellloooooo madam, your country?" It takes me forever to walk anywhere because I am constantly stopped by people who just want to say hi!

- There Hindi word
Auroville MatrimandirAuroville MatrimandirAuroville Matrimandir

The centre of Auroville is this temple (mandir). The outside is gold and gaudy but the inside is white and pristine and completely silent
here for white person or foreigner is 'firangi' similar to 'muzungu' in Swahili. But here, nobody yells it at you the way they do in Kenya. Instead, they get your attention by yelling out questions. Everyday I hear "your country? How you feel India? School pen? How long India?" etc.

- The most amazing thing I've noticed....Indians have the most radiant's as if their whole faces light up when they show their teeth (which are perfectly straight and sparkling white). It makes them seem like the nicest, happiest people in the world. Who knows if that's true, or their smiles are fake, but it's nice to see.

That's all for this chapter.

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16


Palolem Beach, GoaPalolem Beach, Goa
Palolem Beach, Goa

recharging on the beach before my last 6 weeks of travel

10th April 2011

I have enjoyed your blog
Great sunset and I love the laundry. That is what makes traveling fun. Seeing the everyday work in new locations. Love your food photos.
11th April 2011

Your blogs get better and better.You are so funny and I can not wait to see your beautiful face in person so we can go through the blogs together. I love the pic of you and the elephant. Hope to speak to you tomorrow. Love you Mom
11th April 2011

Hey Trish! Keep writing, it makes me dream! Enjoy every single minute! Joe xzx
10th September 2012

word for white foreigner
Just for your info. In malayalam(language of kerala) white man is "saayipu". white woman is "madaama". In hindi white people are called "firangis".

Tot: 0.097s; Tpl: 0.013s; cc: 11; qc: 46; dbt: 0.061s; 1; m:domysql w:travelblog (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.2mb