HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Kovalam: To the Edge of the World

Green line = Alleppey to Kovalam
The next stop on our trip was Kovalam, a beach town just outside of Kerala's capital city, Thiruvananthapuram, thankfully referred to as Trivandrum by everyone. We decided to take the public bus plunge for this trip and, sadly, it was far worse than the ride from Cochin to Munnar.

It seemed as though everyone in Alleppey was getting on the buses heading south, so we had no choice but to pile into one. Much to our chagrin, there wasn't a single seat available. We shuffled to the back of the bus, propped our bags up against the emergency exit, and grabbed onto whatever support was available. Within 10 minutes, we had picked up at least 20 more passengers, and the aisle was becoming uncomfortably full. At one point I was smashed up against the back of a seat, with the left leg of the man standing in front of me firmly planted in my crotch. Every time the bus hit a bump I gave him an unintentional dry hump. Kevin was at the very back, arms outstretched as if he were being crucified, hanging on to opposing handrails. Whenever a person got on or off the bus, someone ended up stepping on our feet, elbowing us in the ribs, and causing general bodily discomfort. We weren't really sure how long we would be able to endure such suffering, and we started wondering what our other options were.

After about an hour of this torture (which felt like 17 days), two people in the row right next to us miraculously got off at the same time, so Kevin and I immediately took the vacated position. If anyone else had tried to take it, they would have had to fight us. Once we sat down, the journey became rather normal, and after 5 hours we stumbled off the bus and into Trivandrum's bus station; just a 15 minute auto ride away from Kovalam.

Kovalam is Kerala's most developed beach resort but, oddly enough, we didn't see the beach the whole time we were there. Our two days there consisted of two highlights: the spectacular Chettinad buffet at our hotel, which will get its own post; and our side trip to Kanyakumari, which is actually in Tamil Nadu, two hours south of Kovalam.
The Arabian Sea, at our hotel's private "beach". By beach they mean "jagged seawall".
An utterly nondescript town, Kanyakumari is famous for one reason: it sits on the southernmost tip of India. Travel south from there and the next landmass you hit would be Antarctica. The Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, and Arabian Sea meet off the rocks that form the end of India. For a period of just a few days every year, you can actually see the sun set and the moon rise simultaneously, on opposite ends of the horizon. We weren't there for that, but we did go for another popular reason: to see the sunrise. Hundreds, if not thousands, of Hindus visit Kanyakumari every day to see the day begin at the edge of their country. Once the sun comes up, many bath in the revered waters.
The end of the Indian subcontinent.

We actually got quite lucky on our trip: the sky was cloudy, thanks to the onset of the monsoon season. However, there was one small opening just above the horizon, and the sun happened to rise right through it, allowing for some good picture opportunities. It was a pretty surreal experience to stand on the steps leading down to the water, surrounded by Indians, watching the birth of a day, knowing that you are, almost literally, at the edge of the world. Seeing one of the great countries of the world simply end isn't something that I'll soon forget.

Two small islands sit just off the coast of Kanyakumar, and one of them hosts a 133 foot-tall statue dedicated to Thiruvalluvar, a famous Tamil poet. This imposing structure was a sight to behold, and I wish I could say that it is another example of incredible, ancient, building techniques, but it was actually erected in 2000.
With the sun rising quickly, we wandered around the point a bit more, taking in the temples, watching children frolick in the surprisingly cold water, and trying not to step in the numerous piles of garbage that littered the area. We then walked back to our taxi for the two-hour drive back to Kovalam.

On the way we stopped to have a look at the Suchindram Temple, which was a pretty amazing place, especially considering the fact that it is located in a no-name village off of a terrible road. I visited far more impressive temples later in the trip, in Tamil Nadu, but this one was a great introduction to how Hindu temples typically operate.
Kovalam is the one town from this trip that I don't have an opinion on, largely because we didn't actully go into the town. We stayed at the Taj Green Cove, a luxury resort a few minutes north of Kovalam proper, so we really had no need to go into town. I would highly recommend that hotel, but I can make no such recommendations for anything in Kovalam. Sorry.
The Green Cove's infinity pool
In my next post I'll cover the mouth-watering special buffet that the Green Cove just happened to be hosting during our stay. After that, it's on to Tamil Nadu: Kovalam was our last stop in Kerala, and actually our last stop as a duo. Kevin had to go back to the U.S., so I would be on my own for the remainder.
I love this picture

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