Travel Diaries: Surreal Kanyakumari

Kanyakumari was just a few hours away from Kovalam, the venue of 2015’s hackbeach, that I() decided to plan a day trip to visit the Southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. We toyed with the idea of taking a cab like a friend of ours did but in the end we opted to take the Island City Express to travel the roughly 3-hour journey.  This was turning out to be quite a low cost trip thanks to the company I had. One of the concerns I have with solo tripping is that it does burn a hole in your pocket if done for short periods of time.

Tip: To get to the station from Kovalam, you have to choose between a rick (tuk-tuk), cab or the bus.

So we caught the train around 12:30 and reach Kanyakumari by 15:00. We were staying at Vedanta – Wake up and since it seemed closeby we decided to walk there. As we walked to our Inn, we got our first taste of  the multi-ethnical, multi-cultural town of Kanyakumari.

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After a brief break, we decided to head to the tip, where the action seemed to be; the sea shore. The Triveni Sangam is one of those rare places where you get to see the “meeting” of 3 bodies of water. This incidentally also means that at Kanyakumari you can see the sun rise from the sea and set into the sea as well. However the weather was gloomy and we did not get to see the sunset.

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There is a Gandhi Mandapam where his ashes were kept before immersion. This is really a huge empty building populated in some parts by lovers.

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As it grew darker we decided to explore the shops around and man! were we in for a surprise. The busy market was full of LED lit shops selling wares for Rs. 30, Rs. 20, etc. Entire shops dedicated to a single pricepoint.

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We headed back to Vedanta to sleep early so that we could wake up to see a sunrise.

IMG_20151114_061148933.jpgUnfortunately, the morning was just as gloomy and the crowds that had woken up with the hope of seeing a sunrise had nothing to do. Some of us walked down the stone jetty to the far end and sat down to take in the calmness of the morning but there were people selling watery tea and trying to con people into buying ‘pearl’ necklaces. There was this one guy who haggled with a family and brought down the price from 200 to 20. Later on in the market, I overheard another seller trying to sell similar necklaces to foreigners for $100. I wonder if anyone falls for their tricks.

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When we got back we could see that the line to visit the Vivekanand Memorial snaked through the bylanes of the town and the memorial had not even opened yet. So we decided to skip it since we wouldn’t be able to make it back to Trivandrum in time. But we had plenty of time to kill, so I decided to go for a stroll along the coast.

Being from a coastal town, I felt surprised to see the amount of construction and development done to commercialize the shoreline and provide people a place to sit and see the ocean. The roads too were well maintained and the streetlights bright.

Finally it was time to go. We headed back to the train station and waited for the island city express to start.

Back we headed to Trivandrum.

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My Travel Diaries: Varkala

The first time I heard of Varkala was probably way back in 2011, when we were in chennai and trying to decide what could be our next trip post Pondicherry. We never ended up going for it then and when I was planning a list of places to visit in 2015, I tried to include it.

The Diwali extended holiday seemed right for a trip down south and so it began with me flying to Trivandrum from Bangalore on the 11th of November. In hindsight, I should have tried the train from Bangalore.

Tip: A cheap way of getting to Varkala from Bangalore is taking the 16526/Island Express which leaves at 8:00 PM and reaches the next day around 12:00 AM.

Now that I landed in Trivandrum, I had to figure out a way to get to Varkala. The internet spoke of buses from the airport to the city and the city to Varkala but I was told that they are not very frequent and the train is my best option. So after getting to the city for which I paid a rickshaw ₹ 150 to ferry me, I bought myself a ticket to Varkala. It cost ₹ 30 to get to Varkala in a crowded general compartment (the Island express on its way back to SBC) full of the afternoon crowd. Once there, I just took an auto after non-aggressively haggling to take me there for ₹ 80. My return trip cost me ₹ 70.

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Vedanta Wake up! was where I chose to stay in Varkala. I had tried Vedanta earlier this year at Kochi and was quite satisfied with what they offered. Vedanta, though is located a bit away from the beach but not too far so it still is a good choice for solo travellers.

Tip: Go for a morning walk along the cliff walkway and the beach, you will get to see fishing boats casting their nets. Walking south takes you to quiet beaches, walking north takes you to the black sand beach.

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I spent just a day out here but I liked is so much that I shall surely return again. I had to head to Kovalam next, so at around 12pm I set out to the train station. I was told that there is an AC volvo and decided to take it instead since the train would take longer. There are no boards informing you of the bus, but luckily one did come along at 1pm, half hour later than what the local shop owner had told me. It cost me ₹ 92 to Trivandrum and the bus continued to go to Kovalam from there so I travelled on it for ₹ 32.

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12 in 12

I was meaning to update this blog with my travel diary posts but somehow I never seem to get myself around to doing so.

After I started working full time, I decided to use my earnings and start travelling solo. I set myself the target of covering 12 new places before 2015 ends. Its July now and I’ve finished 4 such trips. The first one was to Hampi and though it began as a solo trip, it ended up differently. Next was Kochi, to visit the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. I was not disappointed and this was my first truly solo trip. March saw me travelling to Jaipur to witness the wedding of two of my friends; Amrita and Roshan. I cancelled my Gokarna trip towards the end of March at the last minute but I intend to visit it later this year. The end of April had been set aside for a trip to the North thanks to the bridge holiday of Labour Day. I decided to head to Kasol and once there proceeded higher to Kheerganga. It was the most ambitious trip by far and ridden with uncertainties. That trip also dipped a lot into my finances and I had to skip the next month trip in order to recover.

My next trip is this week and this time I am heading to Pune.

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A little off course…

It was May and I badly needed a break hence we planned a last minute impulsive getaway to Mahabalipuram(Mamallapuram) over a weekend. The trip was unplanned and people were few but the fun was good. All we did was eat and after starving through most of April I really needed it. The trip may have been too short but then frankly it was not the best time in the year to visit.

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We stayed at the Lakshmi Guesthouse, where we were assured that we would get bakcup power for our AC room. We visited the Le Yogi for Breakfast(Crepes were had with a mug of good tea) and then headed to Seashore Restaurant and Shanti Cafe for a *long* lunch. The beach air was just what I needed and I ended up exhausted and slept prior to dinner. Dinner at Anand’s Moonraker’s was not as good as I had hoped it would be. Perhaps this was a lesson never to go for anything other than the real Moonraker’s. Next day’s breakfast was at Nautilus and that was because the Gecko Cafe was closed. Unfortunately as it was off season, there was no bacon anywhere.

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Its definitely one of my favourite getaway spots. This was I think my third visit and I bought a well read copy of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods back as a memory of it.

Ko Da Gu!

A not so last minute trip to ‘the Scotland of India’ was planned and executed this last weekend. In just a couple of days, we somehow managed to get rooms booked in a homestay and our bus tickets to and fro. We had a limited amount of time so we planned the itinerary to cover the most of the visit places.

Day 1 was rainy and we were drenched by the end of it. We visited Talacauvery, Abbey Falls and Raja’s Seat. The Evening ended with us warming ourself at Pause, the unwind cafe.

Day 2 was surprisingly sunny and after morning problems of waking up and getting ready, we were finally on our way to the Dubbare Elephant camp. This was followed by us visiting the Namdroling Monastery. This trip wanted me to learn more about buddhism. Finally it was time to go home and we caught our Volvo back to Bangalore.

If any of you are planning a visit, do try booking a cab from Bangalore or perhaps opt for this kstdc plan.