Kanyakumari: the Indian Brighton

Trip Start Nov 29, 2013
Trip End Jan 09, 2014

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Flag of India  , Tamil Nādu,
Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A few lines from Chris this time.

Some 25 years ago I was in Kanyakumari. I arrived by train, got a cycle rickshaw to the Government Guesthouse on the beach road, almost the only place where you could stay with only a limited possibility of being eaten alive by bedbugs and fleas. There were no other tourists in the guesthouse. The few rupees they charged was too expensive for everyone else such as the backpackers from Europe and the hundreds of villagers that came to the spot where you can see the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian see at the same time.

Unfortunately that sight of all that water forced the Indians to empty their bladder and deposit their night soil right at the moment they stepped from the bus, as villagers did at that time and most likely even do today. And that all in front of the Government Guesthouse. The stench was so overwhelming that I still remember it.

This time the scene had totally changed. There were many thousands of tourists, almost all middle class Indians who stay in reasonable hotels. It shows the progress India has made in those 25 odd years. People now have some money to spend, and they do so. They buy souvenirs in the hundreds of shops and wait with thousands in line to get on the ferry for the little crossing to a small temple out in the Bay of Bengal on some rocks. The temple had been enlarged from the little one I remember to what is now the Kanyakumari temple. Next to it also on a few rocks, a statue that was built for Swami Vivekananda one of the great Hindu reformers. He came here in 1892 and sat on the rock, meditating, before setting out as one of India's most important religious crusaders.

To the beach
To get to the temple and the statue would have required a few hours standing in line as we were not the only one’s with that idea, so we decided to ask our driver Baidu to take us to a beach a few kilometres outside the town. I left all my cloths and othet things in the car. No one else was there and the temperature of the water was excellent, although the sun was very hot. An hour at the beach is enough for us unless you want to be totally sunburnt. Indians of course never get into the sun, matrimonial advertisements often spell out that the skin of the applicant has to be fair or 'whitish’, the colour of wheat,

After about an hour we went back where we had left the car. No car and no Baidu in sight. So we waited  a while and when we saw a white car a bit further down on the road we went there. For me that was not easy as I am limping a little. My right leg is giving me troubles, I have had not too long ago a knee operation, the knee is more or less fine, but something has happened to the calf muscle. Maybe I used a gym in one of our hotels a bit too enthousiastic. As one might expect it was not our car.

Baidu is not the ideal driver, his driving is ok, but he has the attitude that we are there for him and not the other way around. Almost every morning he is late and I have to phone him. Yes, he has a nice car and he is a big boss, but not my boss. There are several ways when enough nonsense is enough, to communicate that. My way and that is after all my years in India quite special, to take an auto rickshaw back to the hotel. The slight problem of course that I had only my towel with me. Dick luckily was better dressed.

In south India lots of men wear a piece of cloth in many colours wrapped around their middle, I did the same with the towel, so that was alright. But a white man in a white towel is rather strange, to say the least.

For the auto rickshaw driver it made no difference, he did not overcharge us and dropped us at the hotel. I sneaked around the hotel to the swimming pool in the garden, did my 50 laps or one km and went up to the room as of nothing had happened. I phoned the travel agency and left it to them to have a word with the driver. When he apologised it turned out that he had gone with the car to a nice place with lots of shadow and had fallen asleep. I am sure that the conversation with his boss was not a very pleasant one.

In the evening we went up to the roof of the hotel, a marvellous place to see the sun go down in the Arabian Sea and at the same time over the Bay of Bengal the moon coming up. An almost pink coloured sky, Christmas carols sung from a little church at least one kilometre away in the background. The church had flickering lights all over and looked when it got totally dark, like the Eifel tower. A nice ending from another eventful day in India.                 
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Frank Everaarts on

Dat zijn weer mooie avonturen!
Gezegende kerstdagen daar in ver India! Frank

Saskia Poorter on

Leuk om nu ook eens een stuk van jou te lezen Chris.....vanuit het frisse maar droge NL wens ik jullie fijne Kerstdagen en nog een geweldige voortzetting van jullie reis!

Najma Haque on

Wishing you both a peaceful and joyous New Year,2014. Enjoying your travel reports. This entry by Chris is quite funny. I was in KK about 18 years ago when I was in Kerala for about a year doing a UNDP sponsored diploma course in Population growth and sustainable development. We asked one of our professor to arrange it for us and the whole goup went there. On the way we stopped at several tourist spots which were unknown to us and were marvellous. By that time already there were many hotels and tourists there, so much so that we had to compete for a good spot to watch the sunrise over the Bay of B. We also had to wait quite some time to get the ticket to go to Swami Vivekananda's temple. It was a serene place ideal for meditation. Irresponsible drivers are a way of life in the sub-continent unless you're lucky to get an exceptional one.
Chris coming back in a towel'lungi' is really funny. People most probably thought these crazy foreigners(Americans, any white person is thought as such) is trying to be a Malayalam. They would be pleased but may wonder why isn't he getting a lungi?
I was in many of the places you're visiting and it makes me very nostalgic. Kerala somehow mystifies me. Did you go sailinmg on the backwaters? You could also visit CDS at Trivandrum where we were, it is a beautiful place where they have low cost housing like my father's. Have fun in the sun. We're experiencing a cold wave at the moment. Take care. Looking forward to your next reports.

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