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A day off in Thiruvanthapuram… yeah never mind

The nearest city to where I’m living at Soul & Surf in Varkala, Kerala, is Thiruvanthapuram. Confusing westerners with the pronunciation since BC.

Thiruvanthapuram (let’s go with TRV) is the largest city in Kerala, referred to by Mahatma Gandhi as the “evergreen city of India” (which I’m not too sure about) and is where most of us fly into when visiting deep southern Kerala in India.
To be honest, its much like the other busy, relatively smelly, dusty towns and cities in Kerala, but for one day I decided to get the train down there, for a reason other than to go to the hospital, and it was quite expensive and cost me Rs10 (10p).

This was an odd day trip, in the way that it pretty much went to plan. I grabbed a cup of chai and a slug of banana fry, made my way to the platform and – get this – got on the train that was 5 minutes AHEAD of schedule.

I love the Indian Railways, thick with dust, mice, chai and rubber seats to facilitate you to sweat more. But really they’re magical, the smells, the wind coming through the holes where doors and windows should be, with travellers getting on the train from both sides at each stop from the middle of the tracks.

Chai & Banana Fry

Where I visited when I got to TRV – and if it was worth it:

I got off the train, found the exit eventually and played with the traffic until I managed to cross the road to this little building that looked like an upside down clay tea light holder.

The Indian Coffee House.

The Indian Coffee House was started in 1936 in Bombay, and now has nearly 400 outlets and is the largest restaurant chain in India. It’s a traditional coffee house with the waiters wearing traditional dress.

This was so easy to get to from the station, and pretty striking inside and out. It’s a bit like being in a squashed lighthouse that’s been turned into a restaurant. You architecture geeks would enjoy it. The entrance has a small kiosk and then seating runs all the way along the sides in a tight spiral to the very top, then ends in a grand finale of a stinking toilet. It’s great – and you will definitely want to run all the way to the top to see how far it goes, and use the toilet if like me you drank too much coffee.

The staff are all in traditional dress and carry gold trays which they serve the drinks from. I had an iced coffee as I was so raging hot from the train, and to be honest I wouldn’t have another one. Like with most food and drink in India, it was so sweet it was barely digestible. So 1 out of 5 for the actual coffee, although perhaps I should have gone for a normal coffee. Anyway whatever it was only 55p for that and some shit scrambled egg.

Good for: Costume, architecture
Bad for: Ironically, coffee

Upside down clay pot

Upside down clay pot

 

I paid a whole 55p for that?

I paid a whole 55p for that?

Steez yo

Steez yo

– Chalai Bazaar Market (get a rickshaw to take you here from the coffee house – will cost around Rs50, try to use the meter!)

Chalai Bazaar (Market) covers 2km and sells everything you would ever need.

I was expecting some sort of Moroccan style amazing spice market, this it wasn’t. But what it was was pretty damn cool.
It was largely outside and started on cobbled streets with traders lining them, a bit like a gross version of the Flower Market in London. And it didn’t smell at all good. I found some delicious sweet mangoes, the best thing about Kerala in Feb-April, if you go and don’t try the mangoes, shame on you. There are also vendors selling fresh dates, various fruit and veg,

I even found a room/stall filled up entirely with pineapples. It stank.

Past that I ended up exploring a fish and meat abattoir where there were cows heads, intestines and all sorts of stuff all over the floor. The butchers started chatting to me through the stinking flesh as I held my breath, I took these photos then went down a side road and wretched into my bag of mangoes. It was possibly the worst thing I’ve ever smelt. Think I’ll lay off beef for a bit.

Good for: Mangoes
Bad for: Cows and chickens, and being chatted up amongst cows and chickens

These stank too

These stank too

These stank

These stank

pineapples carrying man

pineapples carrying man

mmmmm mangos

mmmmm mangos

So did this..

So did this..

butchery india

I decided to bypass my friends recommendation of visiting the TRV zoo that the Life of PI animals were based on, as honestly I hate zoos and can’t imagine in a hundred moons this would be a kind one, and secondly, isn’t that just fucking stupid? A tiger is a tiger?

Instead I jumped in a rickshaw and decided to do something much more culturally interesting and go to a..

-Loreal Salon.

Yes ladies, good hair care does exist in Kerala. It was the cut of a lifetime and it cost me Rs700 (£7)

My hair looked great, smelt great, and I’m pretty sure it tasted great too.

Check the website & go and see Biju, he’s the best.

Good for: Happy hair
Bad for: Old sad hair

Feeling like a Bollywood movie star I jumped back into the dusty rickshaw and we headed, well swerved, across town to Fab India.

#really?

#really?

Fab India

Fab India is a slightly poncey homeware store for Indians with a little more dollar. They have some lovely ‘bohemian’ homely things, and to go into a nice shop was a bonus for me. I bought some flower pots for the cafe, and some hand printed cushion covers.

Good for: Nice shopping and Indian gifts
Bad for: Feeling like a rich twat

I got the train back to Varkala feeling very happy with myself, with my salon fresh hair, in general class eating a £1 biryani I bought through the window of the already pulling away from the station train. Nice!

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