Day 1: So I am staying in this small no-name village that spills over from a seaside cliff on to a rough beach, 8 kms south of Kovalam. Kerala, during the monsoons, is some sight to behold! Looking down at this vast spread of green from the airplane was breathtaking after witnessing the barren dusty brown of the North.
I had found this gorgeous room in a villa on the beach, thanks to my son who insisted I try AirBnb instead of settling for some touristy resort. This is going to be my first solo vacation – I have decided that although it is great to travel with friends, group travel does not give you a chance to interact with your surroundings as much as travelling alone. I'll get the opportunity to travel according to my own schedule, linger in places that I like for as long as I want, make friends with locals, and have a different travel experience from what I'm used to.
I arrived here yesterday and was greeted by my charming hostess at the villa, a French woman who is an accomplished Kathakali dancer and has been living in India for over three decades. She chattered away about her life during lunch; she has one daughter who is an artist (the person I spoke to on the phone when I booked, but who is travelling right now). The artist daughter is from an ex-Indian boyfriend she said but her current partner is German -- who is also travelling but with whom she made me talk over Skype (this is going to be an interesting holiday for sure...).
The other resident is a marvelous Malayali cook (who I oddly do not see wearing anything other than a nightie during my entire stay), although she seems to have watered down the spice level in her cooking for European tastes by now. I was told that I was the first Indian guest to stay in this villa in the 20 years they have been hosting!! This came as a bit of a shock and my hostess described how they have turned down Indian guests in the past because "they were too demanding" of discounts and other requirements over the phone. So why and how was I ‘chosen’? Apparently with a lot of trepidation. I don't think she realised that she was being insulting to Indians when she said she liked me as a guest but it was probably because I was ‘different’ due to my having lived in the West. It was a little too early to get into an argument so I let that slide for the moment...
I was given a tour of the house and shown to my room, which is nicely furnished and has a private balcony. The living room in the main house opens onto a beautiful porch – perfect for sitting out front and watching the rain or reading a book while sipping on coffee. As if on cue, the Malayali cook brought me a cup of freshly brewed espresso. My hostess, who had been very generous so far in plying me with cookies and fruit, abruptly announced though that I would be charged for the coffee and tea I drank while staying at the villa. Fair enough, I thought, except for the peculiar way in which I was informed about it!
I was asked about my plans for the following few days (a little too curious of her I thought), which include taking day trips to Kanya Kumari further south and Varkala beach to the north. My hostess looked delighted. She would, she declared grandly, accompany me to both places and also come with me for the dinner I plan to go to at the Ayurveda resort next door! There goes my solo vacation I thought and made a mental note to ask my son if it was common practice among AirBnB hosts to offer free tour guide services as well?
But then, I asked myself, had I not decided before embarking on this trip that I would welcome new experiences and people I met along the way? So be it then. More adventures from Kerala tomorrow...
(These Kerala diaries are from a trip I made to the Kovalam area in June 2017).