June 1, 2015

Of wanderlust, drapetomania and Oyster Opera

Wanderlust can be a very dangerous thing. It can make you question everything you have going on in your life, and want to run away to unexplored shores, in search of adventures, in search of the "Great Perhaps". It can make you stumble upon words like "drapetomania" and instantly identify with it. I have reached that point where wanderlust is driving me insane (or maybe it's just the humdrum of life). I'm ready to kill someone, if I don't get out of Chennai soon. 

On that cheery and not-at-all-morbid note, hi there!

This post is long overdue. Like, waaaaaaaaaay overdue. This trip happened in December 2014, and the draft has been lying unfinished since February. I was going nuts wanting to travel (I've been under a strict do-not-travel restriction since April because of a bad back condition. My last trip was a short one to Jaipur), and when that happens, I usually go through pics of my previous trips. That cheers me up. This time, I decided to complete the damn draft and post it, for the benefit of other travelers. So here goes... 

I was born and brought up in Kerala for the most part. And yet, I have never seen Kerala the way a tourist sees it. I have never been in a houseboat in Aleppey. I have never posed in the midst of the famous tea estates and taken photos. I have never walked languidly through lush paddy fields while gazing dreamily upon the wonders of nature (actually, this one's not entirely true). I've never jumped in the middle of a koodiyattam performance and attempted to mimic the artiste's moves. In short, I've never seen God's Own Country the way god intended it to be seen and how the rest of the world sees it.

We never saw much of Kerala beyond Kochi (of which I have vague memories. I was four when we left Kochi for Pune),Trivandrum, and my native place. My earliest memories of Kerala involve seemingly endless two-day train journeys from Pune to Thalasherry during summer holidays. Two months of gorging on mangoes and fried mussels, grandma's homemade wine, roasted cashews, inventing our own games, reading books by the dozen, playing cricket with makeshift bat and ball, long naps in the afternoon, the small table fan providing temporary respite from the infamous Kerala summer. My mom's native place, Nadapuram, is a quaint little village (well, was. Now it's become one of those places where the youth wear neon-coloured pants and spike their hair).

I realised how little of the state I had seen when I started living in Hyderabad. Ironically, the first ever Telugu ad that I recorded was a tourism one for Munnar. When people came to know that I'm from Kerala, the first response was,  "Ooh, Kerala! Beautiful place, no. Munnar, Aleppey, Ponmudi..". And I'll be like, "Umm..ya. So I've heard. I've never actually been there." And they looked at me as though I have wasted my entire life( I wouldn't argue with that, really).

Once the travel bug bit me, and I started going on trips with friends and S, it was always to other places of the country - Goa, Coorg, Cuttack, Jaipur... Never Kerala. So when it was time to plan our next trip, we decided, let's go back to Kerala and see what the big deal is all about.

And that is how we landed up in a little piece of heaven called Oyster Opera, an island resort in Kasargod district, the northernmost part of Kerala. One of my friends discovered the place on a travel site. We quickly made enquiries, booked our rooms, and waited impatiently for December.

To be honest, I went there with zero expectations. I mean, the pictures of the place on their website were gorgeous, but the cynical me refused to believe them, thinking “This is Photoshop. It CAN’T be this good”. So imagine my delight when I reached there and discovered that it wasn't Photoshop after all. It was God's Own Country, in all its picture-postcardesque glory.

Oyster Opera Resort

I got there a day earlier than my friends and a few hours earlier than my husband. Soon as I reached, I was given a welcome juice and then shown to my cottage. Clean, well maintained, with a verandah that looks out over the backwaters. As I mentioned, it’s an island resort, so the place is surrounded by backwaters and backwater lakes. The washroom opens out into an open-roof bathroom, so I showered under an impossibly bright blue sky. I wandered about the property, waiting for lunch to get ready. They had hammocks tied to coconut trees here and there, swings, a play area for kids.

The view from my cottage

The open bathroom

Live a little, laze a LOTTLE

It was finally time for lunch. Please excuse me a moment here while I wipe off some drool. The Food. Unbelievable. They set down a clean banana leaf in front of me, and for a minute I thought they were going to serve me veg fare. Then came the generous chunk of spicy fried fish, quickly followed by prawns and squid. I was in seafood heaven by now. The main course arrived. Kappa with meen curry. The Malayali in me almost wept with joy. I completely ignored the vegetarian dishes and devoured everything else. I could hardly move! I slowly made my way back to my cottage and sat in the easy chair on the verandah, gazing out at the water. It was quiet, calm, peaceful. Just what I needed. It was so quiet, I could hear the water as it made soft little ripples.

Fried fish for the homesick Mallu's soul

I urge you to zoom this pic and take a look. Go on. You know you want to.

Kappa meen curry

The sunset was even more glorious. They have installed a small wooden pier that goes out a little distance into the water. I sat there for a long time, just taking in the silence. I sat there till the sun dipped below the horizon. At night, we could hear the waves crashing the shore at the beach that is a short distance away. Yes, it’s that quiet.

The stage is set for a glorious sunset

The pier - perfect place to watch the sunset

The beautiful morning light

Swing by, will ya?

Morning glory. No filter.

I thought dinner would be a simple fare, since lunch was so heavy. Na-ah. For dinner, the choices were – chicken, mutton, beef, crab, fish, roti, ghee rice and some veg stuff. Breakfast was no less, with idly, dosa, puttu kadala, bread, omelette, etc.

The next day, they took us out to the middle of the backwater lake and let us jump in where the water was shallow! So we swam around for a bit. All we could see around was miles and miles of water and coconut trees. In the evening, we headed to the nearby beach. Clean, pristine, almost virginal.

On the third day, we headed to Bekal Fort, where Arvind Swami once moped around waiting for Manisha Koirala to reciprocate his love. Beautiful place. There’s a lot to walk around, and we got some truly spectacular view of the beach.

Like I said, there's a lot to walk around

Yet another gorgeous sunset at Bekal

How to get there: From Chennai, take a train that goes to Kasargod and get down at a station called Charavattur. From there, the resort is just 6-7 kms by auto. From anywhere else, the nearest airport would be Mangalore and the nearest station would be Kasargod. I think it's very well connected by bus too. For more info, check here.

When to go: The best time would be October- Feb. Any other time of the year, it would be terribly humid. Even when we went, it was pretty hot. Don’t even think of going there in the summer.

What to take: Lots of sunscreen, loose cotton clothes, swim suits, sun glasses, a great camera. Don’t take your laptop. Instead, take a book along.

There isn’t anything much to do around there. The rooms don't have a TV either. So if you’re looking for an action packed holiday, don’t go. Go there only if you’re looking forward to some quiet time, where you want to unwind. If you’re like me, who can sit and stare at the water for hours and likes to watch sunsets, then this will be perfect for you.

Will it burn a hole in your pocket? Not really. The package (during non-peak season) is 6000 per night per couple / per room (the rooms are all double occupancy, from what I know). This includes food (drool alert), accommodation, boat ride, visit to the beach, and a trip to witness mussel farming. The food alone is worth the money. If we had to eat out, the same kind and amount of food, we would’ve ended up paying double the money.

So pack your bags, leave your worries behind, and soak in some God's Own Country your next holiday. You will thank me for it.


  1. That first paragraph is the EXACTLY where my life is at right now :'(

    And these photos are adding to the fire :/ Whay, Dibya, WHAY? :'(

  2. Divs, I love the way you have expressed your mind, body and soul and finally you wrote your heart out...good luck to all the planned and unplanned travels still to come...Its time to let go of your soul into the wilderness and happy traveling...

  3. My next destination is Kerala for sure. Long overdue :)

  4. I was born and brought up in Trivandrum, and I have visited places during summer vacation. But Kerala is nostalgia. And these pics look like they were clicked from heaven. Wow !


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