Kollam is Better

We got hijacked on the way to the bus station. No, really. Okay, not exactly. We flagged down a rickshaw, dickered for the price, and settled on something I was okay with. As we were doing this, a car pulled up behind us. After some talk in Malayalam between the drivers, the car’s driver came up to us with the rickshaw driver. The offer was a taxi ride from Varkala to Kollam for rs. 300. That sounded pretty good to me, though I really have no idea what it should have cost. We accepted the offer, and took the easy ride to Kollam. Except for the usual hundred near-death experiences, it was a very easy trip. The driver is very fond of the “Hugging Mother,” a woman who has an ashram around there. As near as I can figure out, she believes in hugging people. Yep. We managed not to get sidetracked to stand in line for a hug and made it to Kollam in the early afternoon. We had the guy take us to the Government Guesthouse, a 200 year old mansion in a park area. After walking around with raised eyebrows at the twenty-foot ceilings and enormous rooms (including the cavernous bathroom), we wandered out to the Amusement Park. We were more looking for the jetty (you know, boats and water, we like that kind of thing), but it was only rs.5 each, so we said what the heck. The concessionaire waved us in with a “Happy Onam” and we replied in kind, surprised and tickled that he didn’t charge us. It was more or less a kid thing, of course, so maybe he just knew we weren’t going to stick around for long. Nice guy either way. We wandered along the stretch of shore inside the park,[…]

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Take Varkala, Please…

Do you remember that scene in “The Baron Munchhausen” when they finally find the rest of the Baron’s gang of heroes and they’ve all been stuck in the belly of a whale playing a stupid card game for YEARS!? And then the Baron, as if under a spell of some kind, sits down at the card table, gets dealt into the game, and from that point on he starts growing old, do you remember that? Well, that card game is Varkala, Kerala, India and the belly of the whale for us was the Sky Lark Guesthouse!!! I mean, from the outside Varkala looks like a fun card game, with all the right elements like a beautiful warm black-sands beach on the Arabian Sea littered with coconut palms and big breaking waves, a cinder-block walkway along the red cliffs 40 feet above that aforementioned Sea and a ton of beautiful old guest houses and eateries to choose from but what we didn’t notice right out of the gate was the absence of the most important elements of our travels in India so far… The beautiful, quick-to-smile-and-welcome-you Indian People! What we got instead was the white, underdressed, over-intoxicated, chain-smoking European elite and a non-stop barrage of carnie-style (mostly child labor victims) sales fanatics in front of every shop and restaurant on the strip along the cliffs! It was such an incredible drag that we just had to stay for almost a week… (What-the!?) I know, I know, I make it sound so good I bet you’re asking yourself, “Why stay at all, why not just move on for christ-sake?” Well, I’ve thought about that quite a bit over the last few days of being back in “the real” India and my knee-jerk response to a question of that magnitude would have to[…]

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