The uncertainty of our daily progress makes it difficult to Couchsurf but sometimes, like this time, it works out. I received a message from Manish a few months back asking us to pop by if we happened to pass his town Kannur, North Kerala. It was on our route so we made sure we timed it right so we could meet him as he seemed like a cool guy and was in to cycling too.
Super tired from the days cycle we headed to bed around ten after a good feed from Manish. He was the perfect host and we decided to spend an extra day in Kannur to spend time with him and learn more about life here. Little did we know that later that evening, some neighbours made their way into his house and complained that we were there.
Manish explained that Kannur is a very orthodox town and the views of the community are strong. The religion is predominantly Muslim and foreigners are often seen in a negative light, hence why the neighbours didn’t want us there. I was quite taken aback by the fact that this poor young chap was being outcast by a community he has only just moved into, just because he had western friends. I felt bad for him.
Sadly this meant Manish couldn’t spend the day with us nor take us to his family’s village around 10km from town as there would be too much “talk” and most certainly some sort of outcry if he was seen with a western woman. I was amazed these extreme views still exist, what with the increasing “westernisation” of the world – selfie sticks, Facebook, cornflakes, MTV music etc.
We headed to Payyambalam beach as it was our last day by the sea before we cycle inland towards Hampi. There wasn’t a great deal of people or rubbish on the beach compared to the others we have visited but there were still no bins or anywhere to put rubbish so you can imagine how it looked. We were the only tourists and received plenty of attention and strange looks from everyone. I wasn’t too bothered.
Just off the beach next to the sewage pipe, there was a tattoo “artist” doing tattoos with a battery powered gun. There was absolutely no cleaning material apart from a dirty old rag and a bottle of Dettol. Not really on my list of things to do at the beach, it must have been popular as there was a queue. Hoping to witness a talented work of art in the making, we stayed and watched one guy have the below lion on his arm.
As you can see below, the finished tattoo looks exactly like it’s meant to :/ We were in hysterics and I still crack up at the thought of it now. How can someone get something so wrong?! And more importantly why would you get a life-long scar at the beach by a guy who clearly must have been blind or off his trolley on drugs. We were shocked to see the next guy follow, not only seeing his friend’s disaster but watch the needle casually cleaned wiped on the dirty rag. You had to see it to believe it!
While Hugo was getting a drink, a young lady called Shethal approached me. She couldn’t speak much English but we spent a good hour or so chatting. She told me that everyone, especially men, we’re giving me strange looks because I am a foreigner and foreigners are considered bad people. Interesting.
She told me about an Australian lady who visited a few years back and wore a bikini in the sea which did nothing to help the image of westerners. Luckily I had been advised by Manish to cover up. As unnatural and frustratingly hot I found it, I didn’t want to draw even more attention to myself. Shethal and her husband were so insightful telling me about life in Kannur, it was a real eye opener.
That evening Hugo and I cycled along the coast to try and find somewhere to eat whilst watching the sunset. It took us a while as every road or alleyway we sneaked down, we were met by armed guards as it was “defence land”. We eventually found a proper hotel and asked for a table by the cliff edge. I enjoyed the best curry I’ve had so far, rich in creamy coconut sauce and tender fish too, not bad for £3!
I had an enjoyable day in Kannur where I learnt an awful lot about the community and this very conservative Islamic part of Kerala. I probably wouldn’t recommend it as a tourist destination for westerners but I’m glad I stopped by. A big thank you to Manish for having us to stay and to the mechanic at his bike store who made a few adjustments to my bike which is, yes, still slowly falling apart each and everyday. 🔫