My last trip to Varkala in 2003 had left a great impression on me. For many years the memories lingered on, and Varkala beckoned me on several occasions after that, unfortunately I was not able to make those trips. Finally, fate intervened and I once again found myself standing at the Varkala Shivagiri railway station. Memories of my earlier trip came flooding back, and to my surprise not much had changed at the railway station. I was greeted by the same old rustic station, the sound of the local dialect, the few vendors, and the seclusion associated with Varkala as not many trains stop here. I could smell the banana fritters fried in coconut oil, locally called Pallampuri and was overcome by the sense of longing. It was like coming home after a long vacation.
I knew I must make my way to the hotels in Varkala, freshen up then make plans for the day, but that was not to be. I gave into my instinct and headed straight to Varkala beach, bags and all… The drive was a big surprise. The roads are now lined with pubs, hotels, antique shops, coffee shops, local restaurants and all kinds of shops. This was not the route that I remember. Ten years ago there were no permanent shops. Varkala was open till the monsoons and then everything disappeared. Rains in Varkala are torrential and structures were not permanent. Now it’s different, fancy restaurants and bars line the roads and Varkala has become a hub for night life.
As soon as I reached the beach I was spellbound. This shallow slopping beach with cool blue waters and golden sand is a beach lover’s delight. I stayed in the water for hours and lost all track of time, before I knew it the sun was beginning to set and I realized that I should make my way to the hotel. As I dragged myself out of the water I was getting a glimpse of the Varkala night life and I knew that this trip was going to be as memorable as my last one. The beach was getting empty and last of the honeymooners and few foreigners were still enjoying the beautiful sunset. Looking at this striking sunset, I realized why people come to Varkala beach. There is nothing more beautiful than the sun setting on the horizon, the salty breeze on your face, surf at your feet and the thought that this is what you are going to enjoy over the next few days, is all that you need to unwind.
Over the next few days I discovered a lot more of Varkala. The little flea market where you can put your bargaining skills to test; just don’t forget the next time you visit the flea market you can get things for almost half the price they quote you, all you have to do is bargain hard, stick to your price and don’t get bullied. For musicians who have a fascination for different instruments, there is an amazing musical instrument shop that stores instruments from across India.
The next day I took off to the Old Portuguese settlement – Anchuthengu or Anjengo as it was previously known. It is a coastal town in the Thiruvananthapuram District of Kerala. The place is of great archaeological and historical importance. This is where the British East India Company set up their first trading settlement in Kerala. The British established churches, fort and a factories here, so there is a lot to see and discover. Walking along the old ruins, you can almost feel a part of the long lost world. Anchuthengu also has a very clean and beautiful beach with quaint fishing boats dotting the coast line and nets all across the sand. The ambience is one of tranquility and contentment, not meant to be rushed or pushed around. Besides if you are a sea food lover, you can buy fresh catch from the fishermen and have a local cook it for you right before your eyes. Sea food doesn’t get any fresher or tastier than this. Just the experience is fun and exciting to go through.
Now I have to make my way to my family home which is what I came back for, to settle family matters. But don’t forget the next time you plan your visit to Kerala, don’t forget to add Varkala to your list of places you must visit in Kerala.