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Eudaimoniacs RTW Series: Leg 1 India (Gokarna) Day 29 to 37 – Thosai and Chai


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We have finally reached the much raved about beach in Gokarna called Paradise. Instead of trekking the dangeorus terrain, we were offered a ride in an antique Volkswagon car. While going out for breakfast, we were invited by a Sadhu called Swami Giridar whom we met at a temple on a cliff dividing the Main Beach and Kudle Beach. He in turn was invited by the driver, an Australian lady, a Sadhu herself called Swami Yogaratna (obviously not her real name).

Cruising along the coast of a fishing village in a vintage Volkswagon, accompanied by two Swamis.

Swamiji Giridar from Rishikesh and Materji Yogaratna from Australia.

Finally, we reached Paradise.

They were planning to visit an old saint living on an island only reachable by boat and only during low tide for he sits in meditation in a cave conveniently carved off from a cliff overlooking the Arabian Sea. We agree it sounds far-fetched because we ourselves took a few days to digest the overwhelming coincidences and timing of everything that happened.

When we reached the jetty, our noses were greeted with the aroma of diesel and drying fish. The jetty was primarily used as a fishing vessel berth and the fishermen were busy either refueling or doing maintenance works. The rest were occupied with laying dried fish leftover from the morning haul.

At the fishing dock, waiting for our ferry.

A 5-minute ferry crossed us safely to the fishermen’s village. We were surprised to learn that most of the island residents were Muslims and they spoke the best English I’ve heard so far in my short term in India. Another suprise, though unfortunate, was that the saint the two Sadhus intended to visit had passed away 3 years ago. The fishermen offered us a private tour around the island on their fishing boat for a small fee before returning us back to Gokarna.

From there we drove about 10 minutes to reach a dead end. A local told us Paradise Beach was only accessible through a 15-minute trek of which you need a guide (obviously he was making a rehearsed sales pitch but we had no regrets for we would really be lost without him).

The journey was extremely fun. Dangerously floored with dangerous red dirt, adrenaline was a constant companion during the trek. Tall bushes, coloured flowers, dancing butterflies and grazing cows added to the picturesque humid weather. Finally, we heard crashing waves and beneath a downhill slope lies Paradise Beach.

Frankly, we were disappointed. All we saw were dilapidated shacks and plenty of empty glass and plastic bottles. Our guide told us that the police banned any sort of business or residential property here for it used to be saturated with drug abusers from the West, polluting the holy vibe of this temple town. There we sat in silence digesting the isolation and the strong playful waves making a symphony by crashing onto the nearby rocks.

The infamous Paradise Beach

We left the place and received an inspirational quote from within about life:

“The experience of the journey is the Paradise. The destination is just an excuse”.

India

Eudaimoniacs RTW Series: Leg 1 India (Gokarna) Day 29 to 37 – Thosai and Chai


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Gokarna. A small South Indian village lies at the coast of the Arabian Sea. Sharing God’s creation with the Middle East – Yemen and Somalia. We stood on a cliff infront of Sri Rama Temple. What we saw was breath-taking. Sea hawks and butterflies decorate the skies and sounds of crashing waves brought peace to the ears.

It’s 4am and fishermen were getting their nets and boats ready for the day’s catch. Thoughts circle about on what I want to do today. Trekking the four ghats (Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats, they run parallel to the coast on either side of the Deccan plateau and meet at the southern tip of India) or just sitting still inhaling the salted air. Gokarna is a town unified yet, divided by 4 ghats. We are now at Gokarna Beach. Beyond this beach lies a beautiful green plateau leading to Kudle Beach. At Kudle, you can see a little bit more foreigners. Shacks and Chai shops occupy the whole stretch of Kudle. However, the sound of “OM” resonates in everything and everyone with an invisble melody, calling out to sunseekers who dare trek through it’s unchartered, rocky domains. This is where the party begins. Western and Indian foreigners flock to OM Beach, basking in it’s glory. There’ll be bonfires at night and hippies playing guitar under the moonlight.

The plateau leading to Kudle Beach

Beach No. 1:  Kudle Beach

Sunrise at Kudle Beach

Villagers gawking at fishermen’s catch of the day

Beach No.2:  OM Beach

But wait. There’s more to Gokarna than just this. Enlightenment can be found everywhere if you look hard enough, or ironically, not at all. Curiosity besiege us to discover what lies beyond OM. Prettier beaches? A more magnificent landscape? or just the journey itself. Only the bold will dare to cross the thick forest leading to Half-Moon Beach. One have to pass through the thick forest, barbed wire and cliffs. At Half-Moon, we hardly see any other foreigners. It’s just us. For now. There were some shacks, more black, sharp rocks and bigger crashing waves. I feel like I’m in the movie, The Beach.

Beach No. 3:  Half-Moon Beach

A tired Linda after trekking through the jungles to reach the isolated Half-Moon

To get to every beach, one must be able to cross mountains, forests, cliffs and plateau. The terrains get harder each time. However, the ability to reach our destination and see the magnificent sights, makes it all worthwhile.

Just one more mission to achieve: To reach Paradise. Paradise Beach. The best out of all the beaches, was so they claim. Located at the far end of Gokarna. The fourth and final beach, where sands are barely untouched and white as snow, water as blue as Lake Camiguin in Philippines. To reach Paradise, one must learn to stay calm and trust his/her own instinct and follow the signs. And for that, we’ll leave it to another day.

Now, we need a “Thumbs Up”.

India

Eudaimoniacs RTW Series: Leg 1 India (Bangalore) Day 20 to 28 – Thosai and Chai


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Equipped with a 39-year old Japanese name Hideaki (long story), the three of us made our way in a taxi on the bumpy roads of India for 6 hours from Tiruvannamalai to Bangalore. As hours pass, the countryside slowly turned to valleys and plateaus of granite used for extraction. Eventually it all melted to city life. Urban buildings, shopping malls, gyms, orderly traffic (compared to Tiru) and all the usual stuff you have in Singapore.

Hideaki, our Japanese IT & software guru from Tiru

Our first stop was at Hotel Empire in the City Centre along a busy road called Mahatma Gandhi Road – (MG Road for short). After dispatching our baggage, the second stop was a sumptuos buffet lunch costing $3.30 located conveniently at the hotel lobby. Having refrained from eating meat as much as we would love to, we devoured the Halal chickens and muttons like zombies in Resident EVil. The staff tried to con us while paying. For the first time ever, i saw the smiley Hideaki lost his cool. Trust me, you do not want to see an angry Japanese. (Hell hath no fury like a Japanese scorned)

After ingesting meat protein back to our systems, we’re up and about exploring the city of Bangalore. Lanes of shopping malls and branded stalls lined up the streets. The people here looks more well off and the women are more attractive (and arrogant as well). We observed a stark difference in the level of humility, warmth and manners compared to the more welcoming Tiruvannamalai.

We went on to explore the Cubbon Park, Post Office and more administrative building along the way the next day. Halal food is easily available here in Bangalore and we had happy tummies all day long.

To summarise our stay in Bangalore, we would highly recommend this for expats trying to get their feet wet, for it is one of the more metropolitan cities in India. The interesting thing is that if you look hard enough, there are many historical sites and natural places to see in Bangalore. Unfortunately, we pass out on this opportunity because motorbikes can’t be rented here and drivers tend to overcharge.

Bangalore tip: When taking the auto-rickshaw, ensure that they’re using the meter before alighting. For Muslims, you definitely should check out Ammi’s Briyani. Slightly pricey Briyani but extremely tasty.

We managed to roam around the busy and colorful KR Market

The largest mosque in Bangalore, Jama Masjid

Unfortunately, we were unable to enter the mosque as the entrance is closed. Closed? -_-”

The main entrance of Jama Masjid

McDonald hotcakes in Bangalore

Bangalore’s Wild Safari at Bannerghatta Biological Park

The unique thing about the wild safari is that we can get really upclose with the animals as seen from the pictures, but of course, in the safety of our safari van. Park entry cost SGD 5 per person. Heeee~~

We managed to catch two shows in the cinemas: Heart-warming Bollywood movie, Barfi & the action-packed, Resident Evil: Retribution. Both were great shows. One thing that’s different is the movies in India have intermissions (a 10min break halfway through the movie) – something we’re beginning to get used to. Kinda reminded me of the cinema in Thailand where everybody have to stand when the national anthem is playing and slideshow of the King is screened, before the movie starts.

Some terminology that might interest you:

In India, “TAPAU”, “PACKET” or “TAKE AWAY” is known as “PARCEL”.

To top up your pre-paid card, you say “RECHARGE” instead of “TOP-UP”.

Traffic lights are called “SIGNALS”.

Restaurants are called “HOTELS”.

At traffic light junctions, when it’s green light, locals called it “OPEN”.

Well, there it is our 9-day stay in Bangalore.

Next stop, the picturesque coastal town of Gokarna and Goa!

From the mountains, to the plateau and now to the coast.