A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about beaches

Valiyaparamba

We are here with Hitesh and Ruchi, on a tiny spit of a an island, with a wild, totally undeveloped beach on one side, and a wide, series of backwaters on the other. This place is really off the beaten track, and we have seen no other tourists except for a couple of German girls, who joined us on an excursion around the backwaters. The beach goes on for miles and is lined with coconut palms. The surf, while still a delicious temperature, is, if anything, rougher than Kannur. Even though the sea appears calm, near the shore, short waves crash into each other both coming and going, and produce a powerful wave sandwich with a great deal of spray. It is easy to get tossed and body slammed. Despite this, we have managed to get in and get wet every day, as the heat seems to increase almost on a daily basis.



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Usually as the day goes on, there is a fresh breeze and and the upstairs terrace provides views of the palms and the beach, as well as the backwaters. Sunsets are particularly spectacular.



Beach view
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Backwater view
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On the down side, the place itself could use a few more creature comforts, like real sheets and more towels. Also the water is almost the color of mud, and does little to clean the body after a dip in the salt water. Clothes come out dirtier when they are washed than before. We hear it is a problem with the well, but clearly they need to invest in a serious filter. Also, despite the mosquito netting, sand flies and mosquitos seem to find a way into our rooms. The food on the other hand is quite good and plentiful, but we shall make our way into town for the last night, and stay in a place with ac and better water.

A local ferry makes the trip up the main backwater route into town, and then back again a few times a day. It takes about 3 hours, but the journey gave us a chance to see how the locals travel.





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Up until a few months ago, the only way to get to this narrow island was by ferry, but now they have completed a new and substantial bridge. The backwaters have a wide assortment of birds, small fishing boats, like canoes, and areas where the locals are cultivating mussels with the aide of the government.

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After the ferry dropped us, we had about 20 minutes to stock up on various snacks, especially calicut chips. Made from tapioca, they taste like very crunchy potato chips. We have been enjoying them every night with beer we brought from Payannur. Finding and purchasing booze in Kerala is quite a chore. When we arrived in town a few days ago with our driver, it took about 15 minutes to find the only liquor store, which was up three flights of stairs and unsigned. They would only sell us five beers, but Hitesh and our driver were there, so we managed to purchase a case, which we have made short work of in these hot, sticky nights.

Yesterday we hired a boat to take us on a tour of more of the backwaters. It started with the engine failing. After half an hour or so, and with the help of the boat owner, our somewhat hapless drivers finally got it started.

Boat driver
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We toured around, but because of the shallowness of some of the narrow backwaters, they were reluctant to proceed too far. It was unfortunate, as that is part of the reason we hired the boat in the first place. Nevertheless, it was still an enjoyable ride.

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Earlier in the day, we walked down the island to check out another hotel, and see where the road ended. More than half a mile past the road, it was nothing to rave about. It was, however, interesting to see the villagers living simply in their thatched and concrete houses, coconut shells piled high. Everyone seemed quite friendly, and although they are not that used to foreigners, they seemed happy to see us. Perhaps that was why they were happy to see us. Last evening, an older woman was walking along the beach with a child, who I assume was her granddaughter. She was more than happy to pose for a picture.

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Tomorrow Hitesh and Ruchi head back to Delhi, and we shall go on to Kochi. They have have made excellent traveling companions, and we shall miss them. Although not everyday has been entirely comfortable, overall things have been pretty relaxed, and I feel the sense of gratitude that I usually do, when I have the opportunity to travel to out of the way places. At home it is hard to sit still, but I seem to be able to do this more easily on the road, in part because the traveling life is simpler, and there are fewer things that we have to attend to.

Pramila continues to help us with various travel arrangements from her home in Mumbai. She calls most everyday, and we have taken to calling her mom, even though we are almost twice her age.

Posted by jonshapiro 13:02 Archived in India Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches Comments (5)

Thottada Beach, Kannur (Kerala, India)

Blue Mermaid

We have now been at this lovely beach resort for six days. Pramila, our friend and caretaker extraordinaire, left yesterday to return to Mumbai. The beach itself is completely undeveloped, although there are several guest houses that line an adjacent small road. There is clearly some house building going on up the hill, and I shudder to think of what the next ten years will bring. Isn't that always the case with deserted beaches. The water is a perfect temperature, just cool enough to be refreshing, although the undertow and surf can be rough. The lack of shade and the scorching sun tend to restrict our beach time to early mornings and late afternoons.


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Tapping tree for palm wine, photo by Nanette
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There have been a number of interesting guests staying here, at Blue Mermaid.



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View from our terrace
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One of the more interesting couples live in Scotland. They have spent the better part of their retirement, 26 years ago, on the road. The first three years of which, they didn't return at all, except for their daughter's wedding. They are really intrepid types, always taking local transport, even carrying their own gear up to Everest base camp. Now they have paired their luggage down to a mere 6 kilos each, roughly two changes of clothes. I thought they were ten years older than we were, but as it turns out they are about the same age.

Another younger British woman, staying here with her husband, used to work for the UN in Sudan, and is now a development consultant with plans to go to Afghanistan.

Staying right next to us is Henry, a Swiss gentlemen our age, who runs a cross-cultural architectural firm in Bangalore. He has Swiss students do an internship with him in India, and in turn, sends Indian students to do the same in Switzerland. One of his major projects is building an eco-resort for a non-profit NGO in the hills of Wayanad. He is here to visit a factory in Kannur that makes fabric, some of which he is hoping to use with this project. He designs the interiors as well as the exteriors of the buildings. From his description, the place sounds fascinating, and as we are headed to Wayanad from here, perhaps we will stop by.

Today, an American family showed up with two young kids. They have been traveling for six months with plans to continue for another six. Being here, is once again a reminder that there are lots of folks doing the same things that we have been up to. Sometimes this is easy to forgot when we are home.

There is indeed, not a lot to do here, and we spend our time lazing about, finding shade where we can, talking to the other guests and to Pramila, when she was here. This is punctuated by two extended dips in the Arabian Sea. The south Indian food, largely vegetarian, is quite good, and our host, Indu, most hospitable. She made us feel at home.


Indu, her husband, and lovely daughter
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Posted by jonshapiro 07:31 Archived in India Tagged beaches people Comments (2)

Palau Pangkor, Malaysia

Following Malacca we took a bus back to KL and then on to Lumut, where we caught the ferry to Palau Pangkor, a small island on the Straights of Malacca.

We stayed at the Anjungan Resort, the most expensive hotel, outside of Hong Kong, on our entire trip, at $60 a night. And the place was misnamed. It should have been Faulty Towers. Right off the bat we had to switch rooms because the ceiling was covered with mold. The managing staff was surly,and refused to give us beach towels, and this, at a beach resort. The next day our AC blew a fuse three times before they allowed us to switch rooms, and then didn't offer to help us move our things, and I had to walk back and forth several times in the hot sun to switch keys at reception. Not that big a deal, but service was not their middle name, or their last name for that matter. Some of these issues could have happened anywhere, though in the most upscale place in Pangkor, you don't expect it. Mostly, it was their attitude that was the problem. Not exactly hostile, but Indifferent with a capital I. In short it was pretty much of a disaster, and affected our experience on the island somewhat, despite the nice beach.

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The water was just short of bathtub temperature, but relaxing nonetheless, and Daddy's Restaurant, right on the beach, served up some tasty morsels and cold beer.





Dinner at Daddy's with the Gang
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Fisherman at Sunset
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This place is somewhat off the main tourist circuit, though as we found out, popular with locals from KL on weekends. On our last night, Saturday, it was quite the party scene, with an influx of food stalls and music on the "main drag." Though we were happy to leave after three nights, we felt fortunate to be on the island for this.





The Main Street Scene on Weekends
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Nanette Chatting it up with Street Musicians
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Crepe Maker
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Muslim Female Bathers
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Muslim Sand Burial
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Posted by jonshapiro 09:51 Archived in Malaysia Tagged beaches people photography Comments (2)

Danang, Vietnam

My kye Beach

We arrived in Danang by train, which would have been a beautiful ride along the mountainous coastline, were it not for the rain. It was also raining here as well, and fairly dismal in this seaside resort area that is now being massively built up. However, we received a warm welcome from Huan and his family at the rather spartan Eena Hotel. They have gone out of their way to take care of us and make us feel welcome. We also quickly made the acquaintance of two young Japanese, around 20, who are spending a month here. Huan's wife is Japanese, and the place has a number of Japanese touches, including miso soup and an optional Japanese breakfast. Also staying here, is a very bright and articulate young Aussie named Darian, after the Persian emperor of the same name. Darian says he was given this name three weeks after his birth in a rainforest, from his rather eccentric mother, who had a dream that this is what is name should be.

To most Americans of a certain age, (mine to be exact) Danang conjures up images of a huge airbase, full of GI's arriving and departing, and used as a major staging area for the war. There is still a large airport here, now used for commercial flights, and thanks to a relatively uncorrupt mayor, the city is a thriving and growing business center.

The next day brought an improvement in the weather. Han, a friend of Huyen, came to our hotel, and so once again, we had our own private tour guide.



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At first she told us that she didn't think that her English was good enough for such important personages as ourselves, despite that Huyen told her that we were just ordinary people. We tried to reassure her that her English was more than sufficient, and I think she gained confidence as she spent time with us.

The tour began with a taxi ride to a temple at the foot of Monkey Mountain. Recently built, there was an expansive view of the sea from the temple courtyard, as well as an enormous statue of Guan Yin or Guan Am, as they call her here. She looked like the statue of liberty in size and girth.




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Shoreline of Danang from the temple
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From there it was off to the Cham Museum. Cham culture is one of the oldest in Vietnam dating to 400 or 500 AD. There are still some Cham people, but most have been assimilated into Vietnamese culture.




You can see both Chinese and Indian influences on the Cham
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We ate a lunch of various types of local noodle dishes, the names of which elude me, let alone the pronunciation. While we try and say a few words in Vietnamese, with its six tones, it is more or less a continual tongue twister. We then went to a local market,

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followed by a visit to the Big C, (not unlike Big K) but more upscale, with a large US style supermarket. We returned to Eena in the late PM, exhausted but happy. Huan, the hotel owner, prepared a dinner of fresh tuna, veggies, rice, and miso soup.

Han had classes the next day, and with perfect weather, we spent most of it sitting on chaise lounges on the beach. It's interesting to note that we, and the few other white foreigners, were virtually the only people on the beach during mid day. The Vietnamese only come at the end of the day, as the sun is going down. It seems the white people want to get darker, and the Vietnamese, just like the Chinese, want to get lighter.




Beach with Monkey Mountain and faint Guan Am in distance
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In the evening we sat around drinking Mojitos, made with New Zealand vodka that Darian had brought in KL, Malaysia. Tomo and his Japanese friend were there, along with Han, his wife, and their adorable daughter. We listened to old Rolling Stones takes on my phone, which they all seemed to know quite well. I also brought out my Howling Wolf, John Lee Hooker, and other Chicago blues. They, or at least Darian, a music school graduate, knew this stuff quite well. We danced, we talked, we drank. It was quite a night, and a good time was had by all.

Posted by jonshapiro 08:33 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beaches people postcards Comments (6)

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