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GESINE GLAESER • Phone: (49) 6221-160 122 • E-mail: info@girija-yoga.de
How / Travel Guide

The mysterious sea world

Fishermen & Boats

Rikshaw & Comedy

Backwater & Temple

Gifts

Racism & again money

Accomodation

Water & Food

Climate
Water and Food
Clean water is a scarce resource in Kovalam. Don't generally trust the tap water. Drinking water is available in plastic bottles, but to contribute to a cleaner Kovalam it is advisable to get a 20 liter canister from your hotel. Thus you can refill your bottles in your hotel room and have the comfort of always having water available. In this climate you always need more than expected. The frequent power cuts also paralyze the water pumps and then you can be happy to have your canister. Water comes from out of town and is pumped to huge containers on the house's roof.
Most local restaurants in all of Kerala offer drinkable boiled water with a slight pink or yellow taint, due to herbs. Should the water be cold, you can always ask for boiled water. This is quite common. It can be nice to drink some non-plastic water for a change.

Liquor, for some also a form of water is widely available in Kerala, on the quiet or not, depending on the license of the restaurant or bar. The cheapest way to buy liquor is in one of the government shops. The traditional distilleries that produced arrak have now been banned.
Food
The offer of the tourist restaurants is more or less the same everywhere in Kovalam: continental, Chinese, and North Indian style. Most restaurants offer fish, lobster, calamari and mussels. Unfortunately the seafood is not locally fished, but is bought from the wholesaler.
Whole sale dealers as well as local fishermen, who work from their boats for weeks, have to work with ice to maintain freshness. Deep sea fish as well as local fish can be "put on ice" until the market price rises. Like geese, lobsters are fattened just before Christmas in little basins. During this season lobsters are the most popular export good.
The original, local cuisine in Kerala offers a wide assortment of ayurvedic spices and is based upon the ayurvedic principles without labeling these or selling the food at overpriced rates. Kerala, literally the land of the coconuts, lives up to its name. You won't find a traditional dish without some parts of this nut. The slightly sour taste in the food comes from the tamarind fruit. Altogether, Kerala's dishes are light food, easy to digest and perfectly adjusted to the climate.
Contrary to most other beach villages, Kovalam has splendid restaurants where the locals eat. It is important to know the times when meals are served (see below). Here, as opposed to tourist restaurants, tips are not expected.
The way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
To discover the love for the land and people, visit a chai shop, a perfect hangout to meet the locals.
Mallayalis (the people from Kerala) are joyous and curious people, like to chat and gossip as well.
Breakfast: Served till 09.30 am. Pancakes, made from ground rice and lentils, in various forms, fried in a little bit of oil. There is uppam, dosa and many more, all worth trying.
One variety of beans or lentils and grain is all the human body needs apart from a few vitamins.
This combination can also be found among the locals in Africa and Latin America.
Furthermore there is puttu, made from ground rice. It is cooked in hot steam and is served along with chammanthi (coconut chutney) and sambar (vegetable gravy). Both of these are spicy. If you don't like it too spicy, have a banana with the meal as well as pappadam, a thin, crisp cracker like bread. Nothing of the mentioned items lies heavy in the stomach and it is all part of the ayurvedic cuisine.
You should try bananas wherever and whenever you can. Apparently there are over one hundred different varieties available in Kerala. Fresh omelet is also available for breakfast. In addition most places serve a "curry of the day". This could be a tomato, potato, egg or onion curry.
The money you spend on a complete vegetarian breakfast at a local eatery will just about buy one glass of tea at the beach restaurant.
Lunch (12.30pm - 2.00pm): India's all time favorite
"All You Can Eat" is the Thali. It consists of a load of rice, various vegetables, lentils or beans, and in non-veg restaurants fish or meat. You can get free refills on anything except the fish or meat until you tell the waiter "madhi" (enough) or make a gesture with your hands.
Speaking of which: Always use your right hand to eat. The left one is reserved for your visits to the toilet and other unclean activities. To be on the safe side, carry an emergency spoon with you.
If you're living in a small hotel or pension, you can ask the owners if they can cook for you for a small compensation. Tasty vegetarian meals are waiting for you just about anywhere, usually including coconut.
Supper starts with sundown. It is similar to breakfast with the addition of chicken parothas that seem to be gaining popularity. Parothas are made from wheat flour and the preparation is quite the show itself. "Kung Fu Parotha" is what Gopan from the Kukku Restaurant called it. This description fits pretty well and you'll know what he meant, once you see it.
Local restaurants, where also local people eat are to be found on Kovalam beach. Two of them are unmissable near the Devi temple. Furthermore there are two closer to the beach: "Keerthi" and the more hidden "Varshas", which can be found right behind "Karuna". "Karuna" finds mentioning in the guide books for its great whole meal bread.
Further away from the beach at the main road, near the bus stop there are three local restaurants, just in front of the Leela Hotel: "Uddhaya", "Kukku", and a bit down the road "Reeshma". Uddhaya, the oldest one still used to serve their meals traditionally on banana leaves until last year. Reeshma has the great advantage of having tables outside.
Or you can always ask your rickshaw driver where he likes to eat.
Afternoon (3.30pm - 6pm) Even if you prefer the comfort of eating in your hotel, you still shouldn't miss out on the afternoon chai, black tea with sugar and milk and various herbs like cloves and cardamom.

A nice snack like deep fried bananas or pastries, sweet and salty, made from lentils go well with the afternoon chai.
A suggestion: You take the catamaran boat from the lighthouse to Leela Beach. (You can use this taxi service also on your way back). From Leela Beach you walk (or take the Rickshaw) uphill in the direction of the bus station. On your right hand side you will see a local restaurant at Panchayat Park with a wide selection of afternoon snacks. Nearby you will also find little shops and a public toilet. Alternatively just take a stroll until you pass a chai shop.
- Fishermen and Boats
- the mysterious sea world
Warnings to be careful with deep fried food in "these" countries should be considered. But if you see how the food is freshly prepared, especially here in Kovalam, sold until there is nothing left you can assume that it is safe to eat. Have a look at what the locals eat, how they drink their daily tea and see how fit they are, and you shall resist no longer.
The vexed question of cleanliness strikes most tourists. Yes, most local restaurants might look a bit dingy, but have you ever dipped into your favorite 3-star restaurant's kitchen? Since many of the local restaurants do not have a fridge, the food is always freshly prepared and served.
Mallayalis normally don't like to address negative topics. To express that the fish is not fresh, for instance, the local will tell you that "the restaurant has a fridge".
Not only do Christians and Muslims eat fish, also most Hindus in Kovalam do, dwelling in a coastal region. If you want proper fresh fish, go buy it in the morning from the fishermen personally who are just returning from their fishing, and let your host's family prepare it for lunch or dinner. If you are not sure if your host will do this, you can ask the fisherman personally. Some of them grill their fish right on the spot at the beach.
Or ask Gopan in his recently opened Shamrock Restaurant on the main road, nearby the bus stop. He can fry the fish with the adequate extras or serve you a nice fish curry.

Fruits are available plentiful.

A small tip: If you are suffering from
constipation, the flesh of the papaya, sprinkled with lime juice is a well-tasting relief.
If it is
diarrhea, the papaya seeds will help.