That awkward moment when a mother uses you to threaten her child! I was in Malpe waiting for a boat along with an Indian family and suddenly I realised what she was saying to her sprog;
“Do you want her to take you away? Do you want to go with her? Or do you want to stay with momma?” I looked up. She continued, “You must behave or she will take you away.” She looked right at me, “Won’t you?” I nodded in mild confusion. I’m not sure who was more terrified, me or the kid. I didn’t even know what atrocities the poor little bugger had committed in order to be threatened with the scary, white, stapled monster, but whatever it was the look on his face said he’d never, ever do it again. I wouldn’t be surprised if he has nightmares well into his teens.
But Malpe. Or Udupi which is where I’m actually staying on account of a last minute decision made on the bus when I decided I’d jump off here if I could find somewhere vaguely affordable to stay on booking.com. I’m at a hotel called Shri Krishna Residency and it’s the poshest place I’ve stayed at in India. I have a TV, room service, a bathroom with a hot shower which I’d pretty much forgotten existed, and the toilet comes with a tiny hose so you can wash your bits properly. Now if that’s not a measure of poshness I don’t know what is. This place is so posh they even have a fucking shoe shine machine in the lobby! I even got a demonstration on how to use the key to my room because clearly people of my calibre usually have minions to to perform manual tasks such as securing the door. Might not be used to it ay. I’m going up in the world, me. I made a mental note to ditch all my friends on account of them not being upmarket enough for the likes of me. One cannot associate with riff raff now one stays in hotels with bum-hoses. I shall make new friends with names like Tarquin and Quentin and other names with QU in them because they just sound classier and these friends shall consider Möet (or Moët? Fuck it, I’ll stick to Jägermeister, at least I know where the dots go) an appropriate breakfast champagne and they shall pronounce “scone” incorrectly because that’s just how the upper classes roll dontcha know. Maybe I’ll buy a corgi.
Anyway. Udupi is another place which seems to have had the hectic sucked out of it. I guess it’s because they don’t get an abundance of foreigners here. I don’t know, but it’s weird not being hassled at every turn after spending a few weeks in Rajasthan. Rickshaw drivers will still slow down if they see you, inquire if you need their services with a slight raise of the chin, before heading off on their way if you decline. No one, not once, asked me if I wanted to eat at their restaurant or look at their shop. People will still smile and say hello and wave at you across the street if they see you because that’s what Indians do to foreigners, but no one thrust a camera in my face and I wasn’t mobbed by teenagers wanting “one photo, one photo, one more photo.” You can pretty much just get on with your day. I think it’s the palm trees. I think anywhere in a region where palm trees grow naturally, it’s just gonna be more chilled out. Most trees suck the CO2 out of the atmosphere, palm trees just suck the crazy out. They instill a feeling of calm joy in me when I see them anyway, I fucking love palm trees. I wonder if I could get one to grow in Brighton…
So on my one full day here I caught the bus to Malpe on account of the fact I’d read you could get a boat to St Mary’s Island to look at some rocks. This is where ticked “traumatise a small child” off my To Do list whilst we waited around for more people to show up to meet the minimum of 30 people quota. I looked around. There were three of us. Yeah nah, maybe I’d come back later.
There’s a beach in Malpe but I wouldn’t go breaking out the swim wear and the inflatable dolphin. It’s a grubby beach covered in rubbish and it’s mainly used by fishermen I guess. I saw a massive crowd of people in the distance though, and were they boats heading out to the island? Well bugger me backwards, I think they were! I headed towards the colourful throng of people. Turns out there’s a resort there and this is also a popular place for school trips it seems. I handed a man ₹150 and sat down on the beach to wait for another load of people who wanted to go to a tiny island for an hour. I was sat there for ages. A couple of times they came up to me and were, like, “No one else madam. Only you.” I said it was cool, I didn’t mind waiting. There were loads of people, some of them would want to go to the island.
Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you’re sat waiting for over half an hour in the blazing sunshine, if a bunch of students show up they’ll take priority over you and you’ll be left on the beach, possibly having a minor hissy fit and demanding your money back. Yeah. That happened. Hell hath no fury like a Brit whose sense of queuing has been challenged. The only way to fill the boat was with students anyway so the chances of one person getting on were slim. I took my refund and headed (kinda stomped a bit) back to the first place to see if anyone else had shown up. There were seven of them and more were filtering around the corner all the time. I will go to my island! And eventually, once we had the minimum quota, off we went as incredibly loud Indian dance music blared from the speakers. I don’t think there’s much call for a party boat in Malpe but if they ever decided to add a bar and a BBQ they’d have that market nailed.
But this island. St Mary’s Islands actually refers to a collection of four small islands and this one is called Coconut Island and the reason people come here (apart from the hoards of school kids who come here to paddle up to their knees in the shallows and scream a lot) are the rock formations jutting out of the beach. They reckon they’re 85 million years old and formed by lava. You know how when a lake dries up and polygonal shapes form on the bed and it cracks? This is like that except it’s where lava cooled then the polygonal shapes cracked into columns. It’s like the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland. Except they’re way smaller. And it’s stupid hot here. And there are palm trees. So yeah, not really like Giant’s Causeway at all then ay. Though there are only five of these natural formations in the world, this being one of them and Giant’s Causeway being another, so they’re same same but different (which is one of my favourite Indian sayings). Kinda like distant cousins several times removed. Like, it’d be ok for them to have babies together and their offspring wouldn’t have an extra leg growing out of its shoulder blade or anything but the neighbours would definitely talk and everyone in the pub would go quite when they walked in and they might be written out of great-grandma’s will on account of it not quite being the natural order of things and I’m so so sorry, I have no idea where that tangent came from. Buuuut yeah, this place is well worth a visit if you’re particularly fond of rocks and I’ve realised over the last few years that in fact, I very much am.
Let’s have a little chat about the weather shall we? It’ll make me feel at home. It’s fucking hot here, guys. Winter in Rajasthan means glorious, hot days but it’s a lovely dry heat. It’s searing underneath the sun and you can kiss your top layer of skin goodbye, but at night the temperatures drop dramatically and you catch yourself uttering the words, “Well it’s gone a bit chilly, hasn’t it? I’ll go put a shirt on.” You have the best of both worlds in a winter desert, with days good enough to spend them with your face in a vat of ice cream and nights cool enough to get a full nights sleep without waking up because you moved a little bit and it caused you to overheat.
Once you’re south of Mumbai, all of this changes. The mere act of breathing causes you to sweat like a paedophile in a Barney suit. The sun doesn’t feel as intense but you only have to walk a few metres up the road and the humidity will suck all of the moisture from your body and deposit it in an unattractive sheen on your skin. It doesn’t matter how much you wipe it away, the muggy air can play this game aaaaall fucking day. You pretty much have to get used to being damp all the time. I generally find this kind of heat easy to get used to in the day time, it’s at night when I play my favourite tropical game of lying very still under the ceiling fan after having a cold shower that it gets to me and sleeping becomes a luxury I’m not entitled to.
And in other news, I appear to have gotten myself addicted. It… it just kinda happened. I thought I could stop after the first one. I thought I had it under control. But I wake up thinking about it every morning, it’s my first thought of the day, I’m a woman obsessed. If I don’t get a masala dosa within the first hour of consciousness I have a minor breakdown. The first time I had one I didn’t even know what it was ay, I’d asked the dude in the guest house in Mumbai if he could recommend a breakfast place and he directed me to Madras Cafe with instructions to order one because they do the best. So in I wandered, asked for that and a chai, kind of expecting that puffy bread stuff you see everywhere, and this massive fucking tube was delivered to my table. I stared at it for a minute. How was I meant to get that from the plate into my facehole?! I tentatively peeled back some of the bread stuff and inside the tube is this stuff which I believe may involve potato and oh my god, it’s amazing! You’re meant to tear bits off the tube which I guess is kinda like a pancake or a crepe and use that to shovel the deliciousness within into your gob and there’s usually a sauce or two that you can pour over it too. It’s an early morning assault on the digestive system. A perfect start to the day. If you can take on a masala dosa in the morning and win, you can take on the fucking world.
Udupi, Karnataka, India
Stayed at: Hotel Shri Krishna Residency