From the pristine Alleppey beach, to the recreational Shanghamangam beach and finally to the commercialized Kovalam beach; each evening bestowed hubby and me with a feeling of awe at nature’s beauty and magnitude.
Alleppey is more famous for its backwaters, houseboats and boat races. It is also a sleepy little town, mostly unruffled by commercialization. May be this is the reason the Alleppey beach has remained largely unspoiled by commercial tourism.
The beach is not manned by lifeguards, and is not clustered with beach resorts and hotels vying for your attention. The golden sand, the greenish-blue Arabian sea, the 150-years old broken pier and Uncle John’s ice-cream carts are the omnipresent view in this idyllic place, as families gather to hear the bellow of the waves.
While hubby flirted with the tides, I sat on the shore, listening to the sound of the water and watching the ebb and flow of the tides grow tumultuous as twilight drew closer. We were warned by a friendly local visitor that the Alleppey beach may get unsafe after dark as there is no monitoring and policing of the area, so we left the beach by 7:30 pm.
The lure of the Alleppey beach pulled us back early next morning, where we were greeted by morning joggers. Once again, I sat down, soaking up the light morning sun that fell on my back. I watched the gurgling waves leave white foam on the shore and I recalled that one of Kahlil Gibran’s brilliant work is titled, “Sand and Foam”.
Our next beach visit was to Shanghumugham beach adjacent to the Trivandurum airport. The moment you drive into the beach area, you see the humongous sculpture of a mermaid (Samudra Kanya) reclining on a sea shell. The mermaid sculpture and another male sculpture that embellish the landscape are made by famous sculptor Sri Kanai Kunjuraman.
For some time, you tend to forget the beach and linger around the mermaid sculpture trying to capture its beauty on camera. When hubby and I were amply fascinating by the beautiful sculpture, we moved towards the beach-side. Shanghumugham beach is also not manned by lifeguards but it is be-speckled by local hawkers. The sand is reddish in color and the flow of the tide leaves blackish sediments on the sand. Fishing boats are more active in this area of the sea, which the locals called Lakhswadeep sea, though it is a part of the larger Arabian Sea.
Facing the Shanghumugham beach is an old coffee house. In days bygone, the building of the Indian Coffee house was a place where members of the royal family gathered to view royal sports like man-lion wrestling in the sandy grounds. Today, the same grounds have been converted into a park.
From lazy, conservative family-holiday beaches, our next and last beach stop was the world renowned tourist beach of Kovalam, 16 kms from Trivandarum. Flanked by antique shops, cottages, ayurvedic massage parlors, hotels, and restaurants and accessible only a steeply-inclined slope, the crescent-shaped Kovalam beach is actually a conglomerate of three beaches.
The three beaches at Kovalam are separated by the rock that protrudes into the sea. The larger part is called Light House Beach and is marked by the towering existence of 30 meter high lighthouse. The second largest one is Hawa Beach, named so because of the topless European women who used to throng the beach. At a certain point in time, it was the first topless beach in India. The northern part of the beach is known as Samudra Beach and is more restricted to local fishing activities. The sands on the beaches in Kovalam are partially black in colour due to the presence of ilmenite and thorazite.
The Kovalam beach is strictly watched by lifeguards who told us that by May the beach closes down as the rising waves soon cover most of the sandy area. The best time to visit this place is Novemeber to February, when the sea is calmer and the sands expansive. Since, Kovalam was a less-restrained, more tourist-friendly beach, I also took the liberty of playing with the waves and getting wet to the core, in celebration of the last day of our visit to Kerala.
While the commercialization of the Kovalam beach may irk some travelers and they may find in the nearby Verkala beach a quieter haven, I recommend a day’s stay at the Kovalam beach side. You can soak up the entire experience of the play of sea and sand, while lazing by the beach side with a cocktail and book in the day time and surfing in the evening … and your dream vacation will be fully realized.
“Looking at the sea makes me feel sad! Its so vast, infinite, without a destination – one feels lost and aimless.” The hubby commented.
While I could understand the feeling that he described, I could not relate to it.
“The wide expanse of the sea represents independence, freewill, and magnanimity to me! Why should one feel sad looking at so much of gay abandon?” I said. “But, yes, the expanse is scary at times too, specially when the sky is covered by dark clouds.” I observed as it became cloudy.
May be this is the kind of conversation that Gibran was refering to in “Sand and Foam” – “It takes two of us to discover truth: one to utter it and one to understand it.”