Being On Malpe Beach (Story at Top, Guide At Bottom)
We took our swimming togs with us to the beach, but we never used them. On the train from Bangalore to Udupi, apropos (as far as I could tell) of nothing, P suddenly announced he wouldn’t be going in the water after all. Jellyfish, he explained. I told him I didn’t think it would be a problem, whereupon he rightly pointed out that how the heck would I know I’ve never been there before. Damn us for teaching him to critically evaluate his sources of information.
But I’d sown a seed of hope in his mind, so when we struck up a conversation with a fellow passenger who had, in fact, been to Malpe Beach, he decided to ask this greater authority about the possibility of jellyfish.
“Oh, of course!” she said brightly. “There are jellyfish all over this-” belatedly, she caught sight of the signals I was frantically giving behind P’s back, “-part of the Indian coastline,” she finished with somewhat less enthusiasm. And then hastily, and with renewed fervour, she added: “Not near the swimming area though. You’ll be alright near the beach. Swimming is very safe – there’s nothing for you to worry about. People swim there all the time and they never have any problems!” She glanced at me for approval. P regarded us both with skepticism.
P was still mulling over his decision when we came across two guys at the beach giving jet ski rides. Here were people he could trust, P must have thought. After all, not only had they been here, they spent half their time on this water. If anyone could confirm or deny the presence of jellyfish in the local area on this particular day, it would be them. He was right – they not only cheerfully confirmed the presence of jellyfish, they waded into the ocean and scooped one out with their hands, depositing it on the shore for general inspection.
And that would have been the end of any swimming at Malpe Beach, except for the fact that the boat picks you up and drops you off in the surf, and I am uncoordinated even when I’m not carrying an overnight bag on my back. Cheers to my old guide leader (hi Urambi!) for teaching me to always pack everything in ziplock bags so my passports and electronics don’t get ruined when I accidentally fall into the sea. Now if only we could go back in time and get her to teach me what a two-year-old’s face looks like when she’s about to be sick on a merry-go-round, and I might have had a spare change of trousers as well.
But as they say in Mexico (or somewhere else, I can’t accurately remember), “she who gets wet in the morning has all day to dry off”. And if you get wet at lunchtime – I’m not sure if they say this in Mexico – you can always try and speed the process by riding up and down the beach on a quad bike driven by a five-year-old.
As we walked back along the beach in the evening to hail a rickshaw for the station, P told me he’d learnt something that day about fear. “You shouldn’t worry about things like jellyfish or boats sinking,” (boats sinking as well?) he said. “You should just make sure you know about them and prepare properly.” Wisdom to travel by.
Guide To Malpe Beach
Getting There and Away
We travelled from Bangalore City Junction to Udupi station by train. The ride was about fourteen hours by overnight express, with a sleep-friendly schedule (8:40pm departure, 10:15am arrival) – but you should check the latest timetable at the Indian Railways website or via Cleartrip.
Our car was an AC2 class, where sheets and blankets are provided, and there is a socket for charging devices (three round pins – one per six passengers). Toilets and a wash basin with mirror were available at either end of the carriage (there’s usually a western-style one somewhere, with the rest being squats – toilet paper is unreliable so BYO.) A limited selection of cooked food plus tea and coffee was available on board for purchase from attendants who strode up and down the carriages shouting loudly at intervals roughly coinciding with mealtimes. You can read more about what’s on offer in different classes of carriage at Seat61.
Convenience-store snacks and public toilets were available in and around the stations, including the platforms (walk down the road a bit at Udupi for fresh fruit and live chickens).
I read Siri Paulson’s Guide to Train Travel in India recently (focussing on day time travel), in case you want a second person’s take on getting around India by train.
Udupi station is a pleasant 30 minute (180-200 rupees) ride from Malpe Beach by rickshaw. We used the pre-paid stand next to the train station, and the rickshaw driver we hailed off the street on the way back charged us only slightly more.
Eating and Drinking
Malpe Beach is a tourist destination, so the F&B market is well supplied. We loved the street vendors who peeled and cooked our food freshly and in front of us – always feels better when I can do the food safety inspection myself. P loved the BBQ’d corn and the freshly-squeezed juices. We also had drinks and Chinese fried rice at a beachside cafe, whose name I would probably be able to tell you if I was really a travel blogger. We also enjoyed icecreams from a cycling vendor along the beach (listen for the bell).
Where to stay, or what to do about toilets and showers if you don’t have anywhere to stay
We were offered accommodation several times, so I don’t think it’s too hard to find somewhere if you’re not fussy. If you are, I can’t help you – we didn’t stay overnight. Maybe ask Trip Advisor.
Instead, we made use of the pay-to-use toilet and shower block which is near the main entrance to the beach, and well signposted. Toilet use costs 5 rupees per person per visit (you’ll have to pay two if you accompany a young child), shower use costs 10 rupees per person per visit, and probably includes a little sachet of shampoo only there was a bit of a crowd at the entrance when we got there so we missed that trick.
Now, I say “shower” – in fact what you pay for is a little concrete cubicle with a cold water tap, a scoop and a bucket. Even if you’re not the kind of klutz who falls into the sea getting off a boat, you’ll still be thankful your things are in plastic bags if you’re bathing here – there’s few hooks and no benches. It’s not roomy for two people if you’re with a young child, but it’s good enough for a quick refresh and to rinse the sand out so you can return to civilsation with your head held high.
Beach atmosphere and sightseeing facilities; ease of navigation, touting, rubbish
Udupi is a relatively affluent place, and Malpe Beach obviously prides itself on its tourism. Facilities and activities are well sign posted and advertised, without being obnoxiously touted. We were approached by “unofficial” tour guides at the far end of the beach, offering to take us out on a private tour in their fishing boats and bring us back without raping and murdering us and dumping our bodies into the ocean – but they didn’t push when we declined. We chose to visit St Mary’s Island with one of the official services, which leave from the main beach with reassuringly-sized groups. They had some life jackets, although I’m not convinced there was a full complement (I knew where P’s was), and they seemed to know what they were doing.
The beach rubbish was minimal, and I give the credit to a garbage tractor which was in near-perpetual use. The only exception was the bin next to the drinks vendor on St Mary’s Island, which was overflowing. We chose to carry our rubbish back to the mainland with us, where disposal facilities seemed more adequate.
The boat ride out to St Mary’s Island was well worth it, especially if you are with a young geologist (and have read up on the local geology beforehand). Various water sports and beach activities are available. We also spent a lot of time studying hydrodynamics using washed-up coconuts and sticks. If I had an extra day or two, I would have got off the beach to some of the other nearby attractions, such as the temple, lighthouse, and waterfalls. Prasad of Inception has some great photographs of St Mary’s Island from his visit.
This side-trip was part of our holiday to Bangalore and Malpe Beach. Here’s the full week’s itinerary.
Note for Robin of Around The World With Kids
I promised you the story of how we missed Bangalore Palace in favour of cleaning vomit out of our clothes, but I’ve since realised there is no story. T stayed on the merry-go-round for too long and it made her sick. She was sitting next to her brother, I mopped up the merry-go-round and her father took her to the nearest public toilet for a clean. Somehow, we managed to spread the vomit across (count them) five sets of clothes, including T’s new change of clothes. That’s the whole story.
Lesson: the amount of time a young child should spend on a merry-go-round or whirly-gig is less than I would have expected. Must adjust expectations. In any case, here’s a picture of the merry-go-round: