Trivandrum and Kovalam: heading farther south

Trivandrum is the capital of Kerala and close to the beach town of Kovalam, so I split this visit between the two cities.

I started out in Trivandrum with the Museum of History and Heritage, in walking distance of my hotel. The museum walks one through time, starting with stone axes and carvings from 3000 to 1000 BC, and progressing up to 17th century in the form of murals. The building itself is in traditional architecture rich in wood carvings and shady porches. By the time I finished wandering there it was late afternoon and I called it a day. It’s much warmer here in Kerala than in the other places I’ve been recently, so I’m taking it easy.

The next day’s adventure was taking a local bus to Kovalam, and wandering around the town and beach. Kovalam beach is beautiful, and although somewhat touristy, has managed to avoid the blaring music of Goa. The sounds of the waves crashing on the sand, fishermen hauling their nets, and happy vacationers fill the air. 


If I had had more room in my luggage, and wouldnt have had to haul it around for five more months, I totally would have been going home with one of these!

After walking for some time, I decided to rent a chair under an umbrella.

Sandy toes, no woes

 Ahhh…now I could put my feet up, watch the waves, and…

“Madam, you want fresh fruit? Pineapple, mango, papaya….”

No thank you.

“I give you good price”.

No!

“Madam, very fresh, I give you good price, not tourist price”

 I ignore the saleswoman, and after a few more tries she goes away. Time to relax.

“Madam, you want scarves? Pure silk, very beautiful, one hundred rupees only.”

No. I don’t want any. 

“Look madam, very beautiful, I give you good price”

Within thirty minutes of sitting on the chair, no less than a dozen persistent vendors came up to me selling fruit, scarves, and carved items. I realize it’s how they make their living, but I have to admit I was getting ready to shout “Bugger off!” at the next one that came by. I took that as a cue that relaxing by the sea was not in India’s plan for me that day. Instead, I gave up and walked away. I found a vendor free restaurant in which to have lunch, and then took the bus back. Enough of Kovalam. It really was a beautiful place though.

On the way back I found a Hindu temple and Keralan style building around a water tank. The temple was off limits to non-Hindus, but I enjoyed the views from outside.


For the last trip I went to the zoo in Trivandrum. I had heard that Yann Martel had based his book, “The life of Pi” on the animals here, and later confirmed that he had spent nearly three months at the Trivandrum zoo studying mostly the tigers. Although I was saddened at the cells, er, enclosures that some of the animals and birds were in, it was probably the only time I’ll be six feet away from a tiger and live to talk about it. It was great to be that close, but I wouldn’t go again.

Himalayan bears
Gaur, a type of Indian buffalo
Pacing the cage

Overall, Kerala was fantastic, filled with coconut trees, peaceful places and great people. I’m now in Kanniyakumari, which is the southern tip of India. You can’t go any farther south from the mainland here unless you swim. More to come….

The Venice of India: Alleppey

My original travel plan was to take a week in all the places I visited, adding or subtracting days as I saw fit. But since deciding on the yoga course I’ve had to prioritize and condense said schedule. While I believe the change in plans will be worth it, this is the third place I’ve visited in a row in which I’ve wished I had more time. However, I’m  grateful I’ve been able to visit here the last two days.

Alleppey (or it’s pre-colonial name Alappuzha) is famous for its canals and backwaters that run through the region, and the houseboats that float along the major canals. The houseboats seem interesting, yet they’re very plentiful, and also take a toll on the local environment.

A more eco friendly option is the canoe trip, which takes a more intimate course through the smaller canals and villages. It’s more wallet friendly as well: A houseboat runs about 6-7000 rupees a night: about $100. The canoe trip is just under $15. I tried to find a kayaking tour, but none were to be found. This was a lovely alternative, and a day well spent. We had a great guide who did the paddling (although we got to pitch in if we wished to), and provide a wealth of information about the local area. Quietly floating along at a gentle speed past houses, villagers and colorful vegetation was a most relaxing way to spend the day. As an added bonus, we were treated to a Keralan meal, traditionally served on a banana leaf.

Kerala has a beach as well, that is a much quieter affair with just a few restaurants and ice cream stands, and no blasting music.

Those are the main attractions of Alleppey. It’s a tropical town that says “Relax, slow down, and don’t take tension”. Definitely worth visiting for a week or even much longer.