Monday, April 18, 2016

Kannur: At Road's End

Quite literally the end of the road.
Now, to sell Blue Mermaid to you, I could exaggerate to the level where it may sound akin to poetry. But that will either be insufficient or rendered redundant. Surely, if there is ever a place which can goad you into a romantic, this is it. Yet, I will restrain my literary pursuits for another place. Along with the place I will also like to talk about the people around because a place can only be as good as its people (or the lack of it!).

If you are on this page, you must have set your sights on Kannur. To get done with the essentials:
  1. To truly enjoy – drive, ride or hike down. Train should be a distant second. Although I have overheard that an airstrip is in place, I am hoping you find flights as boring.
  2. If you are travelling by train, do not take a cab. Take an auto rickshaw a.k.a. ‘tuk-tuk’, from the station. Cabs are mostly Ambassadors (Indian classic Austin) and without AC. They will charge you a bomb of Rs.500. Practically useless. The auto ricks can be pre-booked from a counter adjacent to the station’s ticket counter. They will take Re.1 to book. The rest of the money will be written in the token, which one has to pay once you are your destination. The printed amount on the token was Rs.118. It took Rs.150 to make the drivers leave contended. Deal done for an airy, fun ride. For directions, seek help from your very graceful host, Indu. Call up and put her onto your rick driver. For desperate times (read, when something has gone abjectly bust and you cannot connect with her) ask to be taken to THOTTADA beach via ADIKADALAI village market. Insist on the latter because there is another route to THOTTADA beach – one in which you take a right from THOTTADA town market. But, on the latter route, you will have to walk across a backwater to reach your destination. A walk too long to take on after a journey. So, ask to be taken to the beach via ADIKADALAI village market. You will be at your destination at the end of the road.
  3. If you are a student or running on super thin budget and adventurous enough, you can even try the bus. Come out of the station on to the main road. There will be many private buses plying (really colorful ones at that!). You have to wave and ask for the place ADIKADALAI. If the conductor nods you board it. Ask them to drop you at the ADIKADALAI market bus stop. In 15-20mins you are there, all for Rs.9 per person. There will be auto ricks at the ADIKADALAI market bus stop. Ask to be dropped off at the nearest end of THOTTADA beach (hardly 2 miles from the market place). You have to take a left from the main road and wind down to the beach. Blue Mermaid is at the end of the road. It should not take more than Rs.50.
  4. Alternatively, travelling by bus, you can ask for THOTTADA market. You get down there and ask a rick to take you to THOTTADA beach via ADIKADALAI market (as described above). An auto will take Rs.80.
Now that you are at Blue Mermaid, let’s talk about it. First thing you know about Blue Mermaid is that you don’t talk about Blue Mermaid!

No, really. You don’t want to. It’s that good. You just hope, beg, pray that it doesn’t change one bit. We were there in the craziest of summers. The heat was at times unbearable and otherwise obscene. However, on my way out, I can only talk about the wonderful experience I carry forth.

If you are looking for white collar service and luxurious hospitality, look for somewhere else – maybe The Taj, Bekal. But if you are yearning for an unforgettable experience, it has to be Blue Mermaid. Overlooking a near pristine beach, wedged between nook of a backwater and the sea, the location can get you doing this.

Indu and Pradeep has been the most generous hosts. They have been frank and forthcoming with their limitations and hospitality. Being a culinary enthusiast myself, I have nothing but adoration and regard for Indu’s culinary skills. The chicken in coconut curry was satiating, the ginger curd was delectable and the grilled Meen fish was divine! You rock.

I have spoken about the people and the place. Now let me put before you the place and its limitations. Let’s agree to a fact that for an experience there are extents to which you will be ready to compromise and work around a few things:
  • It’s a home stay – not a hotel, a fact that our host has made aptly clear. Do not set expectations on room service at your beck and call. But the couple of boys who run the errands for Indu are more than helpful when you ask them politely. Yes, that forgotten art of politeness – never harmed anyone and takes you places, smoothly.
  • There are 4 AC rooms and 4 non-AC rooms for two people. Except for that there’s an isolated wooden cottage, again for 2 and much envied. There’s also another larger non-AC room that can accommodate around 4 people.
  • Breakfast is complimentary and dinner is Rs.300 per head. Indu herself cooks these fantabulous delicacies. Based on your preferences the per head cost might differ if you want something special. They don’t serve lunch. You either have to inform Indu a day prior to enjoy her home-cooked delicacies. Else, you put forth what you want before her and she will arrange for the same from one of the town side restaurants.
  • If you are from abroad, you will have no qualms about the place. Enough said.
  • If you are an Indian, you will need to adjust your meal timings. You have to understand and acknowledge the fact that most of the tourists that Blue Mermaid entertains are from abroad. Majority of them belong from England but I have noticed left behind paraphernalia, in form of books and magazines, from France to Scandinavia.
  • The folks from outside usually have a strict meal regime. They have early breakfasts, skip lunch, delve in snacks and are done with their dinner by 6:30-7:00pm. If you are expecting to come down over winter or the New Year’s you will have to be amenable to these timings. You see, it’s a homestay which becomes unmanageable for Indu, if she has to cook round the clock just because someone feels like having brunch or midnight diner.
  • You might be welcome during off season or when there are no people from abroad. Till then you will have to hang on to your odd gastronomic timings. That’s why she prefers not to entertain Indians in the peak season. However, if the timings are amenable, I am sure with reasonable politeness they will welcome all and sundry. You will be getting to meet wonderful souls from across the world.
    Iona from Leicester, it has been an absolute pleasure. What a season for the lads! This season my bet’s on them (except for the matches against us!) and do connect when in Bangalore.
    I thought I will never see this in my life but thankfully I have met a sensible Manchester United fan at last. And that goes much beyond football. George from Manchester, I look forward to more such intriguing conversations. Check your mailbox. 
Lastly, but the most important bit. See it to believe it. So, I leave you with only a whiff of the amazing we witnessed on our trip to Blue Mermaid, Kannur.

Thanks Indu and Pradeep. Update your calendar. We are coming back this winter.

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