We've covered some serious land in India. In total we've hit around 3000 miles. Our last two weeks of our Indian adventure we spent at the beaches of Varkala and Kovalam in the state of Kerala. Check out our path... Before we got to the beaches of India, Rick and I hypothesized about which beach would be our favorite. We both guessed Varkala in the state of Kerala. Varkala is a known pilgrimage site for Hindus and from google images, the beach lived at the bottom of rusted colored cliffs. We took our last Indian train (phew) from Kochi to Varkala and were eager to see if we had guessed right.
Well. We were wrong. We both agreed that Agonda Beach deserves the best Indian beach prize.
Varkala is decent enough though a bit crowded. We were also there during peak time, which could account for the crowds and price gouging. Restaurants and shops line the top of the cliff and there are black sand beaches just to the north of the main beach along with some small fishing enclaves.
Here’s a look at the quieter beaches just north of the main beach in Varkala.
Sadly, Kovalam wasn't any better. In fact, it was worse.
Wiki travel described Kovalam as "famous for its beaches, among the most pristine in India."
Kovalam is a resort town of the past. It's overpriced, over-crowded, and we were over it. Not to mention dirty. Piles of smoldering trash released picturesque smoke at both ends of the beach. The food left something to desire and we both agreed it was the worst beach in India, not the best. I was less than inspired by it so here are the few shots I took...
So, a bit of an anticlimactic end to India, but by the end of 3000 some miles, we were a bit tired and anxious to move on to Sri Lanka. The last three nights we spent at a jail-like hotel near the airport where the first night we turned out the lights and a pigeon wiggled through an opening in our window (because the window wouldn't close properly) and was stuck flying around in our room. Did I mention I hate birds? After cowering under the covers, I ran to the bathroom until Rick shooed it out after it pooped all over the floor. Conclusion? Room change at midnight and we were over India. Don't get me started.
But what did I love about India??? It will all be in the next post.
I hope everyone had nice holiday season. We spent x-mas in Fort Kochi and spent New Year's in Varkala where we are now. But let's back it up...
While we were in Kochi, we took an overnight trip to the Munnar tea plantations high up in the mountains. The drive is a good four hours and on the way up we stopped at an elephant training center. I was hoping this would be some sort of an elephant sanctuary where they are lovingly cared for, but sadly this was not really the case. It seemed this was a center to train elephants for forestry work. We watched them get bathed, chained at the feet, as they absorbed much yelling.
The plantations fill the mountainside and it’s really an incredible sight. The pictures don’t do it justice. I was hoping we’d stop and get lost in the mazes of the plantations but instead we ended up at a tea museum which was lackluster and underwhelming. You receive complimentary tea which I was hoping was a tea from the area, but in fact it was a milk tea out of a cappuccino-like machine. What??? We are surrounded by tea at a tea museum and they are serving mass produced tea that I wouldn’t be surprised if it was from some mix/powder. Disappointing.
The following day we stopped by some other tourist spots (aka shop stalls ready to haggle you) and then headed back to Kochi. Overall I’d say the tour itself was a bit disappointing, but the tea plantations are quite impressive and wished the tour included a more intimate look at the plantations.
Kerala is synonymous with the backwaters. A houseboat tour is a must. We opted for a 7 hour tour where the day was split between time on a country boat (smaller, canoe type boat) that allowed us to explore smaller canals, and in the afternoon we boarded a houseboat for larger waterways. We had entertained an overnight houseboat trip or a day trip and we are glad we decided on just the day jaunt. We had heard the backwaters were a bit over-hyped and I think we'd agree. It was lush as expected but perhaps not as mind blowing as we had hoped. Nevertheless, I'd recommend it and am glad to have seen the area. Here we start the tour on the country boat...
In the afternoon we headed to an island where we were served a delicious lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent on a houseboat that lazily crawled around the waterways. It was so calming that I was fighting my appetite for a nap.
For more information regarding the backwaters, check out Kerala Tourism's latest backwaters campaign
Next stop? The tea plantations of Munnar.
We were sad to leave Agonda as we were growing accustomed to our morning coffee while watching the waves crash, our comfy tent, our daily beach walks and swims, and good eats. We said goodbye to Goa and hopped a plane to Kochi in the state of Kerala. We are staying in the area of Fort Kochi where there are clear remnants of Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonization. Several religions are visible here and there's even an area called Jew Town, complete with a Jewish synagogue and cemetery. The area is full of color and some pockets of old colonial architecture had me feeling like I was in the alleyways of Europe. Sadly, most buildings have fallen into disrepair.
A noticeable difference here are the streets are much cleaner than what we've seen in India, however there is still a sewage/trash problem. Also, they speak Malayalam in Kerala and the alphabet is beautiful and quite graphic.
Another main attraction in Fort Kochi are the Chinese fishing nets.
We went on a Sunday, so there wasn't as much fishing action, but to be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to eat any of the fish coming out of these waters. The nets are near to Fort Kochi Beach which seems more like a wasteland than a beach, but perhaps we are seeing it with our Goan glasses on. However dismal it seems to us, it's quite a popular promenade and I use the word promenade loosely. The industrial view is also lost on us.
Next post? The backwaters!