I left Belize over a month ago and spent a good 3 weeks in one small state in India – Kerala, and it was not at all enough. I’ve been back home for 2 full days now and I’m jet lagging like crazy. So what better time than 4am to finish next-to-last wrap up on my fantasy-come-true trip to Kerala, India.
I have lots to cover so let’s get started. I think one of the strongest pre-conceived notions I had about India was the train. Maybe it was from reading and re-reading Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar” or the movie “Slumdog Millionaire” or just stories…but I was expecting pandemonium. Hoards of people vying for a few empty seats, pushing and mayhem and during my two trips in Kerala? That wasn’t the case.
GRANTED, I was taking the train from Cochin – a tiny city by Indian standards of only about 600,000 people.
Quick tips: 1. The Indian Railway website is an exercise in frustration. You need an Indian credit card, an Indian phone number, FORGET IT. And even the sites set up to help you around that are frustrating as all heck (that’s YOU MakeMyTrip.com and Yatra.com).
2. Just go to the station a day or two early and buy the ticket yourself or ask your hotel to help.
3. Most trains seem to be traveling on extremely long distance journeys and will be late. “Oh..that train? It’s coming from Delhi…it’s usually 1-3 hours late” seems to be the standard. Spend 100 rupees, whether you need help with your bag or not, and get the help of a porter.
Not only will he carry your bag up and down steep stairs but he helped me know when my train was actually coming. There are relentless announcements in 3 languages…it was great to know someone was coming to help me on MY train and the RIGHT car with my bag.
No…not this one.
And BONUS. He’s a lovely guy.
We were in the sleeper car – there are many classes, 1st, 2nd, with and without AC – but sleeper is fine for a short trip. It’s warm for sure…but you have a seat and everyone was absolutely lovely. The train in Kerala is a lovely way to travel.
Just make sure to bring some strong leg muscles and some sanitizer and toilet paper for the bathroom. And watch your…donation…run to the tracks.
I apologize for that…but it had to be mentioned!
My first train ride took me to Varkala…the cliffs, the beach, the sunset over the water, the shops!! I wrote two posts already on it – about the gorgeous holy spots in the area and one about the GORGEOUS beach and atmosphere.
Just after the sunsets…and the hundreds of lights from the fishing boats start twinkling.
I will try to quickly wrap it up with a few more pictures…where I stayed in particular. A town of beach, yoga, Ayurvedic treatments, shopping, surfing and more.
Leather goods for sale along the cliff walk.
This gorgeous woman who sold me a pair of fun, crazy printed ali baba pants.
So far, in Belize, these pants are soliciting the comment “wow, those look comfortable” more than “those are fantastic!”. I DON’T CARE!
And an oracle tooth: We are all just riding on a wave.
My hotel was a place called “Feeling Hotel” and it was located just behind the cliff walk. It is owned by a lovely Ukranian couple who came to the beach for vacation and fell in love with Varkala. I SO don’t blame them. They first purchased a building, renovated and opened the fantastic 10 room InDa Hotel…
They do a gorgeous 200 rupee breakfast with UNLIMITED turkish coffee…so good.
My spot, Feeling Hotel, was just around the bend and for 1150 rupees per night? PERFECT. About $16 US a night.
Simple and very comfy.
Varkala really was the easiest place to be solo. Tons of travelers from around the world…super easy going atmosphere and lots of great restaurants and my FAVORITE coffee shop to just hang out.
Coffee Temple. A definitely MUST go for lunch, breakfast, Cardamom coffee, the view and a big hug from the manager when you leave.
Lhasa Restaurant. On the second level of the south end of the cliff, the Momo or Nepalese dumpling were 150 to 200 rupees ($2.50US to $3.50US) and a delicious meal in themselves with the broth and side salad.
And the view.
And lastly, ayurveda. An ancient system of medicine from India. It’s VERY famous in Kerala – people come from all over the world for treatments and…the famous massages. Traditionally, you lay on one of these tables and are basically slathered with a few gallons of herbed oils.
Check these guys out at Dayana Herbal Beauty and Ayurvedic Spa Center.
I did try one of these in Kovalam. In Varkala, I found this spot and this business woman and, as with EVERYTHING at shops in India, NEGOTIATE. I got 2 deep tissues massages – for 1000 rupees each. Absolutely heaven.
I have only one more post about India…perhaps in a few days. Until then, I hope you seriously think about visiting. YES, the trip is LONG…I MEAN LONG! Though shockingly my plane ticket from BZE to Mumbai was under $1000USD…
But it is beyond worth it. A life changing kind of experience. And I KNOW I will be back soon.