|Sunset at Kovalam beach|
The first stop on our epic Southern India trip was the Marigold Mini House on Kovalam beach for New Year 2016. Not to be confused with the Marigold Hotel of film fame, which is not real anyway, the Marigold Mini house is a charming and real establishment run by Manesh and is right next to the Indian ocean and the very beautiful Kovalam Lighthouse. I do love a lighthouse, and this one is as fine a red and white striped example as you can find anywhere.
Our small balcony overlooked the crashing surf on a correspondingly mini beach and it was literally two minutes walk to the beach front road, with all its restaurants, shops and people watching opportunities. At midnight we had our very own firework show, just like the firework displays at home only much, much closer. At one point one landed on the roof of the mini house but obediently extinguished itself immediately.
|The Marigold Mini House|
All the restaurants were vying for our New Year rupees and we had a delicious meal at the ABC beach café. Recently taken over by Rajesh, the ABC café has the most gorgeous menu at the cheapest prices. Prawns in coconut sauce, fish in banana leaf, and caramel chicken with coconut rice, are just a small sample of their to-die-for dishes.
|Georgeous ginger mojitos|
|Boys began to appear|
Quite a lot of boys soon did appear as the sun went down, in small groups, sauntering along the beachfront with their arms about each other. They were preening themselves, taking selfies and checking their man bags. Then some more appeared doing lots and lots of drumming. Conversely, girls, not afforded the same freedoms in India, were conspicuous by their general absence. We saw some amazing Bollywood/street dancing at one of the hotels where we snuck in for the show. Yes we were definitely in India!
Kovalam is a fantastic place for seafood and we saw some huge specimens. Mighty large swordfish were humiliated by ending up on an ice platter with a tomato stuck on the end of their fine sword to alert passers by to the danger of being spiked. King fish with their great bull heads were also everywhere – rather an ugly fish which tastes a lot better than it looks.
|Big fish face|
Kovalam beach is a shopper’s paradise. You may think that this a cliche but in this case it is an incontrovertible truth, and as a professional global shopper I should know.
|The Master tailor|
Here, everything can be tailor made for you in a day. Prescription glasses at a fraction of the UK cost (got some) Beautiful made to measure sandals in coloured baby soft leather (got three pairs) shirts and shorts (got some) and beautiful hand made silver rings with huge (semi precious) stones like lemon and smoky Topaz (we got quite a lot of those.)
Clock the rocks!
A totally convincing leather Mulberry bag can be yours for only £28 of your English pounds and if you want to go down the sari, t shirt, caftan. souvenir sacred cow beach bag route, you could be in negotiation for some hours.
|Saris with a smile|
The scarves are totally gorgeous and we had a lovely chat with the proprietor of the Pashmina House who had just arrived from Kashmir (where it was snowing incidentally) He showed us a picture of his little brother Bir among his two hundred goats from which the very fine fleece is sheared.
|Bir and his goats|
I had to buy a beautiful silk one in chocolate and iceberg blue, which I took to wearing draped about my personin order to create what I called my ‘sub continent’ look.
|Kashmir scarves from the Pashmina House|
As in many poor countries, pets are considered a luxury here, and so there are lots of street dogs roaming around which live on the beach, but they are collared and cared for. Signs explain that they are not dangerous – ‘if you remain calm, we will be calm.’ I liked the shapes they threw after dark when they collapsed in the cool, looking as if they were flying though the night to street dog dreamland in suspended caninmation.