Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Wherever I oil my head, that’s my Om

I’m now in week 3 of my trip so I’m going to recap my experiences from week 2 (at the Beth Saida Hermitage) and get up to date on my travels this week.

Far from going insane in solitude last week, I actually found some partners in crime and together we chuckled the latter half of the week away, improvising wry commentary at the goings on around us. My fellow guests Tina (Cologne), Norina (Basel) and I had no shortage of material between the guests and staff to keep us in hysterics.

The biggest drama though was the Russian woman who had slipped poolside and fractured her hip. This was most inconvenient for me as the hotel representative who accompanied her to the hospital was also the only guy who could process my mobile phone top up. I had to wait a whole afternoon- some people are so inconsiderate!

Other funny moments included the old German woman who kept pulling the male staff aside one by one and making them pose for pictures; one under a tree, one by the pool etc. We imagined she was working on a “Men of Kerala” calendar 2011 (think dark skin and moustaches as a theme). And then we saw her walking with what was surely to be Mr. December- a 4-starred security guard whom she escorted back to her quarters, no doubt for a more intimate photo-shoot.

I got non-stop entertainment from trying to explain English idioms to the staff. Like “That’s the way the cookie crumbles”. It was impossible as they kept thinking I was being literal. Then there was the Bugs Bunny incident- the last guy thought I was saying “Bagbani” but then one waiter thought I was saying “Pakistani”- he thought I was asking him if he’d ever seen a Pakistani cartoon about a rabbit. I now realise that in an Indian accent “Bugs Bunny" and "Pakistani” actually do sound similar. So from then on, Tina and I were convinced Bugs Bunny was Muslim.

I’m pretty sure Tina and I will see each other in Hell.

I left the Bethsaida Hermitage thoroughly relaxed, mind cleansed and body massaged to the point where I couldn’t handle any more massages (The last one was the nail in the coffin- a sort of Rice Pudding rub!!).

I was also tired of South Indian vegetarian curries. I sent the staff into shock by Friday as I ordered an omelet at lunch and by Saturday I broke up with Vegetarianism and dug into some Tandoori chicken. Crispy dead bird had never tasted so good!

I also left knowing a lot of Malayalam swear words, taught to me by the waiters. They all seemed to enjoy it when I swore at them!

So in summary- there were lots of sunset pictures, a short trip to Kovalam beach, daily swims, massages, yoga classes, lots of food, talking and laughing, a couple of Keralan entertainment shows, and a lot of Malayalam swearing…and my stay was over.

My next destination is Varkala, further up the west coast of India, past Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum). A little like Kovalam in that it is a favourite of hippies and travelers, it’s unique in its setting on the top of (red) cliffs. There is a narrow walkway on the clifftop that stretches for at least a couple of miles, full of places to eat and shops selling every trinket ever made in India- from elephants to Saris, to elephants wearing saris. They’re all here.

I am staying at The Kerala Bamboo Resort, recommended by my friend Ankit. It’s quaint- a series of bamboo huts surrounding a courtyard with a koi pond and just a few steps to the cliff-top walk. A nice little oasis just a few steps from the people watching.

Varkala is a great place to connect with my inner backpacker (you know, the one that is lugging this giant backpack around, constantly wondering if a Tumi wheeled case wouldn’t have sufficed nicely thank you). There are a lot of skinny, hippie looking travelers in their 20s, the type of people who don't question the fecal matter count of the ocean or what species of jelly-fish are present before swimming in it. The type that rent motorbikes without a license and drive in the pouring rain without a care in the world. I'm not sure I will ever find that inner back packer in me. But it's fun to hear their tales!

The beach itself is a little disappointing only in that in comparison to my oasis in Kovalam (I know it’s such an unfair comparison), it’s filthy. The beach is littered with garbage; mostly empty plastic bottles. India has got some catching up to do.

I whiled away the evening chatting with fellow travelers, breathing in second hand pot smoke and listening to reggae. At one point we all had to run for shelter as the heavens opened up for a 5 minute downpour. I’ve never been so happy to feel rain; it’s very very hot and humid here. At least 34C. I am just constantly sweating, and not just a ‘dab it off with a moist towellette’ sweating… I mean profusely. Like drops and drops of sweat, constantly pouring down my face, all day. There was no point applying any moisturizer to my face, hair product or even sun tan cream this morning. I did, only to feel everything get washed off in an instant by a tsunami of sweat beads.

So I spent the hottest part of the day playing “Valet Hero” on my iPod touch. It’s quite addictive. I am now sitting on the terrace of my bamboo bungalow looking at the koi pond and listening to Barber’s Adagio for Strings… that bit of music heard during the soppy scenes of nearly every love story ever made.

Und! Now I wait, for ze inferno to become ‘just a sauna’ before heading out for a cold coffee or two at Abba Café.

I'm meeting up with Sarah from Pinner, Middlesex tonight for dinner. She was in the online media business and left her job to travel. How bizarre :).

I love not being the only crazy one here- she's travelling around for 8 months :)


  1. carry on buddy....we are just cold and grey here!!!

  2. and just think...when you get to see us in SIN and KL, you will continue to sweat buckets ;) haha!

  3. Honoured I get a mention in this "oh ever so popular" Blog! (Takes a bow)

    Elephants in Saris....Youre hilarious!! Trekking to Malana (look it up on the lonely planet),himachal, this weekend. My inner backpacker is a Wild untamed animal that threatens the existence of this Laptop wielding, pen pushing desk monkey.

    Will be good to see you on the 10th.

  4. Stumbled upon your blog and got a hearty laugh about the Russian. Real life is the funniest.

  5. i had a keralese cab driver in dubai last week who spoke english as fast and with the exact melody as malayam. as a result it sounded exactly the same. i must admit, for a moment i was intensely tempted to try on him the pondi-you-know-not-cherry-word, just to check, whether he'd be as pleased as 'your' waiters were. then i decided, that waiting for you in hell all alone for too long would be less fun than i'd appreciate, so i just thanked him with a proper 'nandi' to cheer up his far from home dubai day (so in the end he liked me a bit more, he looked a bit skeptical before, with me having the city map on my lap...;-))