When we arrived at Thiruvananthapuram’s (also known as Trivandrum) airport near the southern tip of India our driver, Arun, was magically waiting for us even though we’d given him the wrong arrival time and flight number. Arun works for SITA and was very personable, spoke English well, and was the source of great conversation throughout the trip. I told him we wanted to do a bit of sightseeing in town before heading out to Varkala beach, so we stopped to look at Sree Anantha Padmanabha Swamy Temple (non-Hindu’s cannot go inside) and then explored the city palace museum which had some beautiful ivory pieces including a basinet made entirely out of ivory, some nice paintings, and a large throne-like chair adorned with huge crystals from Slovakia.
When we got to Arabian Soul, our guest house in Varkala, Navneen (one of the owners) was there to greet us and help us with our luggage. He was very friendly and showed us to our room, offering us fresh coconuts as a welcome drink. We enjoyed them on the balcony as it promptly started pouring. Arabian Soul’s very kind employee Sanju brought us umbrellas so we could go out and explore. We walked down the dirt path where all the restaurants and shops are, all the while having the beautiful view of the beach below. We ducked into shops when the rain became worse and eventually chose Café del Mar for dinner. The cafe had tasty food and a trendy atmosphere, but was overpriced and served small portions and drinks without much alcohol. We hung around for a while and then headed back to our guest house.
We woke in paradise. Our room had a view of coconut trees swaying in front of the sea. We had a breakfast of fruit salad, eggs and toast on the balcony, served by Sanju, who covers his heart with his hand when he speaks. Unfortunately, it began to rain again and we waited for the sky to clear, but when it became apparent it wouldn’t, we changed our plan from a day lounging on the beach to a day of reading books in cafés. Varkala is the perfect place for this activity with loads of cafés overlooking the sea.
We stopped at the Ayurveda Panchakarma & Yoga Therapy Centre to arrange massages for later in the day and then spent a leisurely afternoon at Claufouty Café where we had delicious lemon ginger honey tea and lunch. After a quick trip to downtown Varkala for its ATM we went for our body treatments.
My fiancé had a deep tissue massage while I opted for a traditional Ayurvedic Sirodhara treatment where warm oil is poured over your forehead for 45 minutes. The process itself was relaxing except for the mosquitoes that had a field day on my naked flesh. I told my therapist about it, but she didn’t close the door or cover my arms and legs. After the treatment my hair and body was drenched with oil. The therapist told me to take a shower, but when I asked for a towel I was given a paper thin piece of cloth slightly larger than a dinner napkin. I said “How am I going to dry off with that?” Frustrated, she told me to sit on the toilet, threw the dirty oily towel that had been on the massage table over my shoulders and put my head forward and proceeded to wash my hair. It was uncomfortable as the water was rushing down the sides of my face and up my nose. I definitely was more stressed out after the treatment. However, my fiancé did have a good massage, so I suppose it depends which practitioner you get and which procedure you choose.
We went to Harmony Restaurant for dinner which was excellent – the best meal in Varkala. We had fish tikka baked in a tandoor oven and fish cooked in a banana leaf with spices and coconut rice. The food was delicious and very filling with huge portions.