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.

IMG_20151113_165345368.jpg

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.

IMG_20151113_173558770_HDR

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.

IMG_20151113_165923378.jpg

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.

IMG_20151113_184225088.jpg

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.

IMG_20151114_072119330.jpg

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.

IMG_20151114_150131078.jpg

 

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.

11348138_183008348713195_448599131_n

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.

11374264_1738963249664818_823298452_n

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.

10894946_1643309165939341_923966443_n

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.

Follow me on Instagram.

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.

DSCF7708

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.

DSCF7713

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.

Pondy Polama!

My Visit to Pondicherry!

We left around 1pm but it was only around 150 that we caught a bus for Pondy. We gave up waiting for the AC volvo and boarded the deluxe one. The cost for the one way trip varies from Rs. 55-150 from Thiruvanmiyur. This trip was planned last minute i.e., in 2-3 days hence we had trouble getting accomodation and had to settle with Anandham Residency instead of a guesthouse which we had wanted. We chose Anandham because it was priced at Rs 1250 for a double AC room and charged Rs 300 for an extra bed. They also provided complimentary breakfast.

We reached Pondicherry around 5pm and were at the hotel easily. We dumped out bags and were set to explore. We found our way to Mission Street which was deceptively named as Cathedral Street on our map. Lucky our hotel was about 4 blocks away. Next we rented our two wheelers. We got 1 Star City, 1 Activa, 1 Access 125 and 1 Scooty Pep Teen2.

And we were off to our first destination eventhough along the way people got lost on the way to re-fuel. I got to ride the Access 125 after the re-fuel as i was one of those eligible riders around. So Chunnambar Backwaters it was as scheduled by our tour planner Nievu, although i had already said it was too late for that. So we headed out of Pondy as this is a good 8 kms away on Cuddalore Highway. Finding the place is not easy and you might just overshoot this place like we did. Naturally, it was closed. A bystander told us to come back the next day after 8:30am.

We headed back to Pondy. Interesting events that occured during this were, the unlicensed riders taking a fall and after half a kilometre being stopped by policemen. The Promenade was next on the list. The Promenade is a 1.5km stretch of beachfront. Vehicles are not allowed here and its a Walker’s paradise. we parked our vehicles on the side roads and went walking. It was past 8pm by then and it was a lot crowded. Not surprising, it being a Sunday and all. We hung around a bit, clicking pictures and soon it was 9pm after we had a small snack.

We had read online that this place called ‘That’s Y Food’ is supposed to be one of the best places to eat at, so we hunted for it. After a lot of hunting on Mission Street we found that the restaurant was no more and the one that had replaced it had closed its kitchen. Now Pondy is a small town that means restaurants and other eating out places are closed by 10:30pm and we were running out of places to eat at. In the end, we decided to choose ‘CKS’ as it was open. Ordered a veg. burger combo for myself. Satisfying. We headed back to our Hotel.

After a good night’s sleep, it was morning again and after waking people up and having that yummy complimentary breakfast and a quick re-fuel, we were off to Auroville. Auroville is a good 10kms away our info told us but those long straight roads make you wonder if its really 10kms. We just kept going on and on. Finally we were there. We parked at the Vistor’s Centre and strolled around. Visited the boutiques. I bought a Rope Bag and Apple Butter Cookies. Next we headed to the Matrimandir but we came to know that we needed the entry passes to enter the compound. So as the pass distribution would resume after lunch break at 2pm, we decided to skip it. We headed back to the Cheese factory. Midway, the girls took a detour to shop and i waited at The Bakery with Girish. I had a Quiche and a Pizza, that was to be my lunch. Most of us had a snack at that point except our Vegetarian(@nievu) and the Cheese Intolerant(Faris) 😉

Back we went to hunt for the Cheese factory, and after many wrong turns and double backs, me, shwetha and girish were the last to arrive. Sadly we came to know that they wont show us around. We need to inform prior to coming. So that was sad. So after our bad luck that day, we hit the road but stopped at the first open restaurant. It was GoodMan’s, and i say the food was Good. The Seafood was more affordable than in Chennai and quite tasty. Late afternoon we headed back to Checkout from the Hotel.

The journey back went well except two vehicles overshot the hotel and finally ended up back at the hotel after quite a ride. With our luggage now on our bags, we headed out to Chunnambar. We knew the way by heart by now. Actually we knew quite a lot of Pondy by heart. This time it was my turn to overshoot the destination. The rest were worried as i didnt pick their calls either. But i made it back and somehow hopped into the last boat ride of the day. It was a relaxing sunset boat ride on the river and it made us realise that our trip was coming to an end. These barely two days were a lot of fun. We headed back to Pondicherry hunting for a place to eat dinner. After much searching, we found La Terrasse. The food was awesome! Thanks to @anahgem for the recommend. Somehow we made it to the vehicle shop minutes before 9pm. There we had a minor disagreement about the damage to the Scooty Pep+. We ended up coughing up Rs700 as a fine. With that out of the way, we headed to the Express Bus Stop to perhaps catch the last Volvo out of Pondicherry that night.

At 10pm, the bus arrived and we settled into our seats for the ride home. It was a memorable trip. Wish i could do it all over again.

What we didnt do right: Find out about hiring two wheelers. Check if Tourist sites are open during your visits. Many of the museums seem to be closed on Mondays. Call and book visits for places like the ‘Le Ferme’ Cheese Factory.

What you should do: Find out details about places of visit, their timings, charges, etc. Know that restaurants close early. Keep a map handy. Rent a vehicle.

What we would want to do next time: Visit the museums and roam the city. Visit Matrimandir. Visit the beaches. Scuba diving, Surfing also on the list, Have french food.

Refer this list for more details about Pondy!