I’ve now gone swimming in everything from Arctic Ocean to the Arabian Sea, after our recent trip to Kashid Beach, India.
The Arctic Ocean was a dare on a media trip to the North Slope oil fields that I couldn’t pass up some 18 or 19 years ago, when I was the business editor at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. I earned a spot in the “North Slope Polar Bear Club,” got a certificate and a jacket with the club’s insignia.
But darn; it was cold. It wasn’t really swimming, either. More like a quick dash in and out so that I wouldn’t freeze solid.
In the Arabian Sea, a person really wants to linger. I’m not known for my swimming abilities (I can manage dog paddle). But at Kashid Beach, I uncharacteristically spent plenty of time in the warm, inviting water with Brian and the kids.
I’ve never been in an ocean or saltwater so deliciously pleasant—not even Hawaii or Mexico. And to think it’s “winter” in India! The sea must feel like a hot tub in summer.
The day after Christmas, our family and our Alaskan-turned-temporary Kiwi friend, Hannah Gerrish, piled into our driver Xavier’s little white Maruti van to bump and jostle about four hours south and west to Prakruti Resort, Kashid.
One never knows what to expect when booking a hotel in a foreign land. Company websites and even consumer-based sites such as TripAdvisor sometimes don’t mesh with reality and expectations. Our German friends from Pune had actually been to this resort last year, and didn’t have glowing recommendations. But it was too late—I’d had to book the place months ago to assure availability during the winter break.
Luckily, it was perfect for us. In our minds, it was everything a resort should be and was extremely family friendly.
Prakruti Resort isn’t actually on the beach, but it’s a short walk or bullock cart ride down to the private beach, which is relatively clean by India’s standards.
We rented a spacious three-bedroom bungalow for three nights and four days, one of 40-some bungalows available for rent along with a standard hotel room type of accommodation. Families were everywhere, with little children, babies, teen-agers, grandparents, aunts and uncles. The entire place had a welcoming, homey feel to it.
Located on a hill, our bungalow had brightly colored walls, beautiful rich woodwork around the leaded glass windows, squeaky clean marble floors, a veranda off the downstairs rooms and terrace off each room upstairs. It was right next to where they keep the bulls for the cart rides. The manure smell would sometimes waft over toward us, but it wasn’t unpleasant. I loved the tinkling sound of the bells around the bull’s necks as their keeper took them past our bungalow each night about 8 o’clock.
The resort also has two clean swimming pools, a spa and a tasty buffet in a large, open-air dining pavilion with views of the pools, well-kept playground and immaculate grounds. Comfy padded lounge chairs around the pool, wooden swings under sun shades and a pool-side beverage service made for all types of lounging and play.
The property also had a golf course, disco dancing place and game room that we checked out, but didn’t care to use.
Our mornings were spent at the pool followed by a leisurely lunch, then afternoons at the beach until sunset, body surfing and eating roasted corn rubbed with lime juice, chili powder and salt. After dinner we played Scrabble or card games. Every night or morning, Brian and I sat out on the terrace off our bedroom or the veranda downstairs, sipping the appropriate beverage of choice (coffee, wine or beer, depending on the hour), with Brian reading and me knitting. The kids played in the yard or living room and had plenty of room to entertain themselves.
This kind of vacation would be too expensive for us in most locations. But in India, it was actually affordable.
Our crazy 10-day Diwali trip in November was a pilgrimage to ancient, famous and crowded holy and cultural sites that required early mornings and a break-neck schedule of road-tripping across Rajasthan and flying half-way across the country.
At sleepy Kashid, by comparison, the entire goal was to relax, eat too much, sleep in and enjoy each other’s company. There’s no air pollution here of any kind; breathing good clean air felt wonderful. No noise pollution either; barely a single horn beep was heard once inside the protected enclave of the resort.
Besides the private beach, we made one trip to Janjira Fort, a sea fort that dates back to the 15th century. Under the rule of the Mughal Empire-allied Siddis, the fort was never successfully conquered, despite attempts by the Portuguese, the British and the fearsome and famous warrior Marathi King, Shivaji. Here we did encounter crowds of tourists at Rajapuri Jetty who were also interested in seeing the fort; dirty squat toilets (no big deal if you’ve ever braved a roadside outhouse near Denali’s Glitter Gulch!); and hawkers wanting to make few rupees. The fort itself was fun to explore, though we didn’t get much time there.
Back in the day, the fort housed 3,000 citizens. It had some 20 watch towers all around it. It also featured a fresh “sweetwater” spring (now covered with a bright-green scum); a large community gathering place; Hindu temples; and a Muslim mosque.
My only gripe is the Indian government, which has declared Janjira of national significance, doesn’t clean up the trash and litter all throughout the monument. There were no trash bins for visitors anywhere, so the empty water bottles and detritus of tourism were unfortunately found throughout. Funds for cleanup schemes get diverted by corrupt politicians, I was told, so even good intensions don’t result in cleaner parks, monuments or historic sites in many places, Janjira Fort no exception.
We wished we had more time to explore nearby Murud Beach, which our friend in Fairbanks, UAF professor Shirish Patil, remembers fondly from his youth. It did look like fun, with a lively beach and carnival atmosphere and many booths serving all kinds of yummy Indian snacks.
All in all, Kashid and the delectable Arabian Sea was a luxurious and much-appreciated break from the constant din of urban Indian life for this group of displaced Alaskans.