Saturday, March 29, 2014

Varkala, India | part III

So here it is, the third and final part of my 5 day trip to Varkala last February! It took me about five weeks to blog about this short but eventful week (which is quite a while... haha), however, I believe it gives all of you more time to appreciate the photos (and the effort :D). I took so many photos those five days with my beloved new camera, I was even taking photos lying on the floor of a boat whilst being sick. Yes, you will read all about that below...



Only three days in India and I feel ill. I slept till about 2 or 3pm. Despite feeling quite ill and longing for sleep, I couldn't just stay in bed the whole day. I mean, come on. You're in India Daisy, don't rot away in your bed. In the late afternoon my mom and I took a tuctuc to the backwaters of Varkala (For some incomprehensible reason my sister did not want to come with, that's insane, right?). This boat was a lot smaller than the one from the previous day. It was made out of wood and it obviously did not have an engine. The canoe took us to Ponnumthuruth Island, better known as Golden Island. On this island stands a Shiva Parvathi temple, called 'Thuruthu Kshethram' by the natives. The temple is more than 100 years old and lies between a crowd of palm trees. As I mentioned in the previous post, the backwaters were extremely quiet. And by that I mean that there were no tourists at all. Not a soul to be seen...
When arriving on the island, we had to write our names and address in a logbook. To my greatest surprise, the lady above us was from Luxembourg too! What are the chances. The temple was under construction and there wasn't too much to see. Nevertheless it was a nice walk around the island - until I started feeling extremely lightheaded and almost fainted, oops. The man and woman in charge, couldn't have been friendlier hosts. They cared for me, they insisted that I had some tea, and when I declined their offer at first - since I am not a huge tea lover - they prepared the tea anyway.
And the tea really helped.



*iPhone quality*


On our way back to the mainland, I sat on the floor of the canoe, still feeling a bit lightheaded. When sitting in this wooden canoe sailed - or should I rather say "pushed forward with a 5 meter long bamboo stick" - by a humble Indian man, you gaze into the horizon, seeing an endless row of palm trees at the water's edge, you get the most amazing feeling. Such tranquility and serenity... I remember how I thought to myself: "I better enjoy this moment as much as I possibly can. Tomorrow you will think back and you will miss this more than anything. This very moment. Capture it, remember it." The view you get to see there is not something you get to see every day. So even though I almost fainted, I couldn't just sit there with my eyes closed.

 


Our tuctuc driver suggested to go to a British Fort in Anchuthengu, known as 'Anjengo Fort'. We had a lot of time on our hands so we thought, sure, why not! After a rather long tuctuc ride, we arrived to a closed gate. Sure was a shame, but I really enjoy sitting in rickshaws - letting the wind breeze through your hair and getting to see many locals who all stare back at you - so I did not mind. At a certain point we asked the tuctuc driver to stop for a minute, so we could set foot on a beautiful and deserted beach. We walked over a little pathway which lead to the beach, with halfway a little house with a very poor family. The bottle of water I was holding in my hands no longer belonged to me, haha. "Pens, ma'am, pens! Do you have any pens ma'am?" the kids were asking. Any place you go to in India, kids will ask for pens. Something you should definitely bring (a couple of hundred from) along if you ever go to India!
Standing for no longer than two minutes on the beach, our tuctuc driver comes running and says: "we have to leave, now. It's not safe". And that was out short visit to the deserted, but beautiful, and apparently, dangerous, beach...



The boy on the left was so shy, and they both were so fascinated by a camera. I suppose they don't come across blank people too often. (It wasn't as dark as it looks, the flash makes it looks like it is midnight).





Our last day consisted of relaxing on the beach, drinking numerous fresh juices and having supper with the most magnificent view of the sun setting in the sea. In the evening we went to see a Kathakali show. My mom and I had seen it last year, but my sister had not yet seen it and I think it's worthwhile. Before you watch the actual show, you can see the performers applying their makeup and putting on their costumes. Their costumes were made out of many different layers: empty rice bags to add volume, covered by a white curtain or sheet. The show is all about the face expressions, the body movements, the makeup and the costumes. The show tells a story of an ugly demoness who tries to seduce a wealthy prince by transforming into a beautiful girl. However, the prince knows better and fights the beautiful girl as she does not leave him alone.


Writing this final post and scrolling through all my photos again makes me miss India an awful lot. I feel guilty saying this as I have been to India twice within a year, but I sure hope to visit India sometime soon again, and discover more of its wonders! :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Varkala, India | part II

Oh boy, oh boy, it has been too long. School hasn't been treating me nice lately, with tons and tons of work. The end of high school is getting closer and closer! Anyway, before I start wandering off talking about my exciting gap year plans, I still need to share a couple of photos with you from my trip to Varkala, which was already three weeks ago now! *Shame on me for being such a slow blogger*


I usually don't like to pick favorites but I think the third day was definitely the best day. With a tuctuc we drove about 20 minutes, to Kappil Lake, a part of the famous Kerala Backwaters. Last April we went for a boat trip on a houseboat in Alleppey, and despite the fact that it was very busy - lakes filled with houseboats -  it was absolutely beautiful. I always love going on boat trips, but the ones in India top them all. I thought that it would be hard to top this boat trip in Alleppey, but to be honest, our boat tour on Kappil Lake, definitely did. It was mesmerizing. Beautiful and clean water with nothing but palm trees surrounding it. And lets not forget the blazing sun! No houseboats in sight. No other tourists at all, while Varkala what is only 20 minutes away, bursts with tourists. We were the only ones on the lake. Okay maybe not the only ones. All of a sudden a head popped up. And then another one, and another one. These men were fishing, by holding their breath for a crazy long time and then catching the fish bare handed... Skilled!


Casually crossing a river

We sailed past a bunch of waterlilies, and when our boat driver picked one out of the water, we wondered why, why kill this pretty waterlily? Not more than 3 minutes later he gives us a necklace he made out of it. Do not ask me how he did it, but it was really pretty, haha. (and a few hours later it was completely dried out)...




Our tuctuc driver for the day told us there was a festival going on in a small town, about half an hour away from Varkala. We decided to go, because what is a visit to India without having seen a festival? In this village - I forgot the name - clearly no tourist ever sets foot. I felt a bit guilty as all eyes were on us whiteys and not on the people dancing in the festival. However, luckily the attention on us faded away after a while. The festival was quite similar to the one we saw last year. This festival was held to honor Shiva, one of the Hindu gods. Men wearing massive costumes (costumes of about 5 meters high! - must be so heavy, no?), boys playing drums, trucks with statues and music, it's really something. I love how you would never see such festivals in Luxembourg, or any other Western country for that matter. The feeling you get sitting there, feeling the drums in your stomach, seeing all the happy Indian faces, it's really something.


I love rickshaws so much, why is the weather in Luxembourg so bad why can't we have tuctucs why why why




Aaaand this was about the time I started feeling ill. As much as I love Indian food, my stomach thinks differently... I stayed in bed until 3pm the next day, inevitable getting sick in India (often), but it sure is a shame. I would have preferred spending my day outside in the sun, discovering as much as I possibly can of India, rather than in bed. But I had no choice. 

Part 3, the last two days, will be up soon, I promise! Stay tuned xxx

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Varkala, India | part I

Heyhey! Waking up every morning at 7 am, without being dead tired, is such a wonderful feeling! I'm enjoying my jet lag for as long as it lasts. I've been back home a week now, and boy, how I miss India already! The weather, the food, the people, the nature, the culture... 5 days in and around Varkala with my mom, sister and my camera. In total I took about 400 photos, so making a selection was really hard, and therefore I decided to split my India post in three parts, to still be able to share as many photos with you as I can, without making this post too long. So stay tuned for part two and three!



After a long flight of 10 hours with no sleep, we arrived in Thiruvananthapuram at 4 in the morning. Even though my mom and I were keen on taking the train to Varkala, we took a taxi, as it was really early and we were quite tired. The second you step out of the airport, you just already know you are in India. The smell of the air, the warmth and being greeted by the dozens of people standing outside, despite the fact that it was in the middle of the night, definitely India! When going to India (or any other Asian country for that matter) it is always quite stressful when driving on the road. I suppose you get used to the crazy driving after a while, but if you have just arrived from Luxembourg, it sure is a major difference and damn terrifying, haha. Indians seem fearless, when it comes down to driving. Driving like a madman honking about every 20 meters, overtaking every car or truck or tuctuc and nearly killing 5 people every 100 meters? I swear my heart stopped for a second when nearly hitting a dog... But, we arrived in one piece and no casualties had fallen *relieved*. 



Having slept a few hours and then waking up and realizing you're in India, ahhh what a great feeling! As we were in India for only a few days, we didn't travel around like last April, when my mom and I traveled through Kerala for two full weeks. We stayed in and around Varkala, and our days consisted mostly of drinking fresh fruit juices, walking up and down the North Cliff and the beach, and also a little sightseeing - as there isn't that much sightseeing to do in Varkala anyway. Our first day we started doing exactly this. Doing nothing. Letting the sun soak in. At noon we decided to go eat something in one of the many lovely restaurants. All the restaurants are really nice there, all with sea view and delicious food. When seated at a table, the waiter came and said "Were you here perhaps last year?", to my greatest surprise, he had recognized us. 10 months ago my mom and I were in Varkala as well, for 4 days. "When I saw you (pointing at me) walking towards the restaurant, I thought I recognized you!", he said. What a great memory he has, haha! In a place like Munnar it wouldn't have surprised me as much, but, many many tourists (and white people) come to visit Varkala, while in Munnar for example, it is more of a rare thing for the locals to meet or see white people. 

Lei Li deciding whether she likes India or not...
School trip? Afterwards they went fully clothed into the sea (Indian swimming lessons maybe?)
Varkala beach is not only famous for its beauty, but also for the daily rituals being held by the locals
Kingfisher

Eden Garden

Our second day in India we went to our next hotel. The first night we stayed in Eden Garden, where we had stayed last year as well. When you walk off the road and enter the hotel grounds, it seems like you are entering a different world. Such tranquility, calmness, serenity... (definitely recommend the place!). We were planning on staying in a different hotel each night, and so we went to Shiva Garden the following day (where we ended up staying the next 3 nights actually, as it does take some time to change hotel and we would rather spend our time doing other things than changing hotels). Eden Garden was more a place to, how shall I say... A place where you can find peace at mind and inner calm, haha. Whereas Shiva Garden is a 'backpackers paradise'.
Half of our day was gone as we had to wait 2 hours for our room, but when chilling in one of the hammocks with a refreshing juice in your hand, two hours fly by. The other half of the day we spent on the beach, enjoying life, to the max.
Besides the many restaurants on the North Cliff, there are also many small shops with a variety of things; from all different kinds of nice souvenirs to traditional clothing and much more. My mom and I have this obsession with these silk shawls, which are handmade in India. Also in Dubai last October, we came across many shops where they sold these shawls which were made in Kerala. Being unable to resist, we had to go inside one of the shops and see what treasures we could find, to add to our growing collection, haha. The owner of the shop also recognized us from last year, way to go! Having stayed in the shop half an hour, chatting to the man from Cashmere, we left with three shawls. Irresistible.

I found this photo more interesting upside down
Photographed this exact palm tree last year as well, hah


More to come soon

*** Link to the post of my visit to India, traveling through Kerala, last April ***


UPDATE

Check out this awesome website where you can see the backwaters of Kerala from the sky!
http://greatbackwaters.com/

Kerala Tourism