Varkala beach is my favourite beach in India. Having been to Goa before, I prefer the chilled out atmosphere of Varkala. The beach is beautiful (with a strong current), there are many small shops on the cliff (in season) and many reasonably cheap guesthouses.
I spent my days doing yoga in the morning on the empty beach, going for walks during the midday sun or drinking chai in a restaurant while reading my books and going to the beach in the late afternoon and enjoying the beautiful sunset.
In Varkala you find both travellers and families. It’s not a party place, but a place to really relax.
As a vegetarian it is not seldom that I hear the comment “ohh so you are a vegetarian, but you do eat fish right?”. No, of course I don’t eat fish. A fish is NOT a vegetable and I am against all killing and suffering of animals – so of course I can’t accept it for fish either. I have never understood how anyone could call them-self a vegetarian but still eat fish?!? Perhaps they don’t recognise (or want to realise) that fish injure just as much pain as other animals when they are caught and slaughtered.
Like other animals, fish feel pain and experiences fear. According to Donald Bloom, who is the animal welfare advisor to the British government, the nerve system in a fish is almost the same as in birds and mammals. This means that when they are dragged from the depths of the ocean, the fish undergo a terrible decompression – the fast pressure change ruptures their swim bladders, pops out their eyes, and pushes their stomachs through their mouths. Then they are thrown onto the ship, where they slowly suffocate, are crushed to death or are still alive when their throats and bellies are cut open. Does that sound like a nice death to you…one that you can just oversee so that you can eat sushi and still call yourself a vegetarian (or just eat fish for that matter)???
Overfishing is also a problem for the commercial fishing industry. Having basically emptied out the sea for “desired” fish, they now raise fish in fish farms. This practise is known as “aquaculture” and uses either cages in the ocean or tanks on land. There are so many fish in one cage/tank that they can hardly swim and bump into each other and the walls of the enclosure all the time. This results in painful sores and damage to their fins. The huge amount of feces in the tanks also lead to outbreaks of parasites and disease (besides the environmental damage of the surrounding area). In order to keep the fish alive in such an unhealthy environment, large quantities of antibiotics and other chemicals are poured into the water. When the fish have reached the desired size, they are brutally killed by having their stomachs cut open or they die of suffocation when the water in the tank is simply drained away.
NB: This article is a tribute to my wonderful sister Gitte, who has always been a strict vegetarian. Happy birthday Gitte.
When it comes to vegetarianism, the number one question on most meat-eaters’ minds is, “What do you eat?” I have often met meat-eaters who says “so you just salad?”. No, I eat everything. There are vegetarian alternatives to almost any animal food, from soy sausages and “Fib Ribs” to Tofurky jerky and mock lobster (if you so desire).
There are also great alternatives to dairy products such as soy ice cream, soy chocolate milk, Tofutti cream cheese, and more.
Today it is so easy to become and be a vegetarian and there is a lot of help and inspiration to find. The American animal organisation PETA is doing fantastic work to promote vegetarianism. They have a website called www.goveg.com which has all the information you need about becoming a vegetarian including: the issues at stake, meet the animals, recipes, literature, famous vegetarians and the most amazing part: A FREE vegetarian starter kit.
It’s a great vegetarian starter kit with information and recipes and they send it to your home address for no cost at all. I have already ordered it for my sisters and my mum and it is really nice.
You can order the free vegetarian starter kit on the following link: http://www.goveg.com/order.asp?c=pfvskvp09
The health benefits of a vegetarian diet are well-documented, as are the increased risks of heart disease and cancer that come with eating meat. But these are “merely” personal benefits, and personal risks. Most people will say that this is a personal “lifestyle” choice. Yes, I agree. What you do with your body – is certainly your choice.
However, the decision to eat meat or not to eat meat is actually broader than personal lifestyle. With the advent of factory farming, other factors have to be considered.Modern meat production is a completely automated, mechanised industry with billions of animals spending their entire lives – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – in tiny pens or cages, never seeing the sun, never feeling fresh air, never being allowed the freedom to walk even one step. By eating meat you not only decide on a lifestyle for yourself – you decide the cruel life of these animals.
How many of us can remain complacent in the face of such institutionalised cruelty?
Did you know, for example, that 70 % of the grain grown in the United States is used to feed animals destined for slaughter? Or that 80% of the water used in the States goes toward animal agriculture? Or that land growing potatoes, rice and other vegetables can support 20 times as many people as land producing grain-fed beef? Or that many leading scientists now rank the environmental damage caused by the meat producing industry as second only to that caused by fossil fuels?
By eating meat you not only decide on a lifestyle for yourself – your decision influences the environment, global hunger and the cruel life of these animals. Don’t be cruel – be a vegetarian!
Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai is the most beautiful temple I have ever seen in my life. I have travelled a lot and I have seen a lot, but this temple was beyond anything i have ever seen before. The temple is Dravidian architecture and was designed in 1560 by Vishwanatha Nayak and built during the reign of Tirumalai Nayak, but its history goes back 2000 years to the time when Madurai was a Pandyan capital.
The temple complex is 6 hectares and has 12 very decorative gopurams (towers) ranging from 45-50 meter tall. These towers are decorated with rich carvings of celestial and animal figures.
Inside between the statues and finely sculpted columns, you will find a frantic activity of tailors and shops crammed into crevices.
There is a free admission to the temple, but there is a camera fee and a relatively large video camera fee. However, the temple is an unforgettable experience whether you take pictures or not.
The video below shows a few glimpses of the spectacular temple.
Munnar (1524m) is famous for its rolling green hills which is the commercial centre of some of the world’s highest tea-growing estates. The crisp mountain air makes it a perfect get-away from the humidity of the coastal kerala.
The town itself is divided into old Munnar and new Munnar. The Lonely Planet describes the town as “noisy and grubby”, but I actually think it’s a fine little town. Well basically any place which is safe is fine for me (after Central and South America).
I stayed in old Munnar which has the cheapest guesthouse options – new Munnar is basically just new hotels (no locals living there).
There are many beautiful walks around Munnar and I also recommend that you visit the DTPC tourist office in new Munnar. They offer fairly cheap tours in the area (much cheaper than the regular travel agencies) – among others the “Sandal Valley Tour” for 300 Rs.
The video below shows the beautiful mountain scenery surrounding Munnar. Enjoy.
Finally, I’ve managed to get around to doing an Earthoria podcast, the first since the Eco Yoga Park in Argentina, in June 2009. In this podcast I talk about what I’ve been doing since leaving Argentina in July 2009 – namely, setting up an internet business in Spain.
This podcast, some of which was recorded on Castelldefels beach outside Barcelona in Spain, includes the following: