Kerala – Trivandrum and Varkala

Posted: November 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: travel | Tags: , , | No Comments »


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Trivandrum isn’t really the name of the capital city of the state of Kerala, but I have no hope in hell of spelling the new name properly. Here I’ll go cut and paste it: Thiruvananthapuram.

Anyways, I arrived in Trivandrum after a long flight from Delhi with an unexpected stop-over in Kochi, I thought it was a direct flight but it was one of those sneaky “we’ll just land here for 30 minutes or so on our way” flights that looks like a direct flight on the internet, lesson learned. It wasn’t until after midnight that I actually made it to my hotel. The drive over was a good intro to the town, it was quiet, the streets were empty, and it even looked reasonably clean, basically paradise after my short sojourn in Delhi.

I gave myself one full day to explore the town before heading off to the beach at Varkala where someone told me there might be surfing (I have been thinking of trying to learn just for fun) but I forgot just how 35C and 90% humidity feels, so I didn’t exactly make it to all the sights available. The coolest sight is unfortunately one I couldn’t go into, the Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple which is notable because not too long ago the decided to open the vaults beneath the temple (vaults that have been storing offerings for centuries) and discovered about $5.82 billion USD worth of gold and jewels, making it one of the richest temples in the world. Closed to non-hindus I did go up to the entrance and took some photos of the grand entry from the street and smiled at the automatic weapon toting army officers who are now guarding the temple.


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Varkala is one of those places where travellers arrive with plans for onward travel and find themselves two weeks later wondering whether they should stay another week. Certainly for me after months of pretty much constant movement, never really staying anywhere for more that 4 nights in a row (well, except Abu Dhabi but that’s one place I really should have given myself less time in with the killer combination of expensive, boring, and hotter than hell), I have already extended my plan to include at least a week here.

What makes it so appealing? First it’s got a beautiful beach backed by a nice tall cliff, meaning all the guesthouses, restaurants, and other assorted crap of tourism stays off the immediate beach. Second there’s a big super touristy beach closer to Trivandrum called Kovalam which draws most of the package holiday types so Varkala is pretty much all travellers. Third, because all the restaurants are essentially on top of a cliff there’s a nice breeze which makes the heat bearable. There are more reasons but they all boil down to it’s a really chill place.

My original reason for coming here was to learn to surf, the water here has waves and most mornings you can see people out on surf boards trying to catch waves, but unfortunately the waves aren’t really great for learning on as they’re unpredictable and choppy at times, or at least that’s what an Australian I met told me. I did find one place outside of town, a full on surf camp/resort, but it’s criminally expensive.

So, I’ve contented myself with learning to body-surf, which is tons of fun and gets me in the water for several hours every day. The daily routine seems to work like this: wake up at maybe 8 or 9am, breakfast, get into the water by 10 – 10:30, play in waves pretending to be a dolphin until noon or 1pm, lunch, back in water for 3’ish for another hour or two, shower and then dinner for around 6 – 7pm, hang out meeting/talking to people at the chill out lounge until maybe midnight. Repeat. It’s a hard life 🙂