Ancy's Bookstore, run by the friendly and helpful Joy, has a good selection of books in English, German and Swedish and a few titles in French and Dutch. Books are for purchase, rent or exchange.
What to buy: Here you can find a book to help you while away the hours on the beach.
What to pay: Books range from about a hundred and fifty to several hundred rupees depending on newness, popularity, condition and language.
You'll no doubt soon encounter the sarong sellers along the beaches/pathways of Kovalam. Some are very persistant!
On my first day in Kovalam, I encountered Babu, a sarong seller. I explained that I wasn't buying until nearer the end of my hols, when I'd completed my Spice Tour etc. He was quite chilled about this.
On my return to Kovalam, I was pestered by quite a few sarong sellers to buy their wares, but I told them I'd promised to buy from Babu. (whereby they accepted this!)
By the end of my hols, when I wanted to purchase some silk sarongs, I hadn't seen Babu, but after asking around, he turned up.
I looked at his selection, shortlisted a few, then we settled down to some bargaining, eventually reaching a price we were both happy with. I paid, we shook hands and walked away.
Soon I was facing another sarong seller, who tried to convince me I needed more sarongs, and his were cheaper and a better quality. I didn't believe him!
My friend had earlier encountered Babu, and had explained she wanted a top to wear under a sari she'd purchased in Goa a year ago. Babu had promised a suitable top would be ready at an appointed hour. Doubting him, she did make the rendezvous, and true to his word, he produced the required garment and for an acceptable price.
Result..2 happy customers and a happy Babu!
Babu was probably the least pushy vendor I encountered during my stay.
What to buy: Silk Sarongs, a variety of colours and quality/ weight.
What to pay: I think I paid equivelant of £8 for 3 sarongs. No doubt you can get them cheaper elsewhere, but I was happy.
Lighthouse Beach in particular has lots of shops selling all kinds of things, from jewelry to rugs. I also saw shops scattered throughout town behind the beach and along the roads. The salespeople didn't seem too pushy, so that was nice.
Various in Kovalam and Trivandrum.
What to buy: Everybody is trying to sell you something although they are not too persistent and a simple NO will suffice. Prices are cheap by UK standards but expensive by Indian standards around the resorts. Cheap lightweight clothing can be made although not all tailoring skills are high so shop around, probably best to buy clothing in Trivandrum the standards are higher, choice better and prices cheaper but haggle hard. Plenty of souvenir shops around lighthouse beach and beach vendors selling sarongs and lunghis.
What to pay: Normally not the asking price!
In many ways I didn't like this shop in the Meridien, but unfortunately not for the shop itself but rather for the guy who was allowed to manage it.
As soon as we arrived I think he had identified us as "rich" westerners and was determined that we should relieve ourselves of any excess riches at his shop. It was a pity, because this made him so very pushy that I tried to avoid him and his shop at any cost. This was tough as we really had to pass the shop to get to the restaurant. It was also unfortunate by reason of the fact that the shop really did have wonderful stock.
What to buy: I eventually bought several hand carved wooden boxes. These are quite amazing as they are each carved from one single piece of wood. Each box is unique and a work of art in itself. Most of the boxes are puzzle boxes, so that there is a little nack in opening them. A great place for hiding gifts from your secret lover ;-)
There are also fantastic authentic Indian antiques and artifacts in this shop but beware - the little shopkeeper will torment you with stories of what the very wealthy Russian who was in just before you was prepared to spend. It was almost as if he was trying to spark off some international jealousy spending competition!
I wandered into this shop as I'd spotted a silk dress that I liked.....About GBP3, and it fitted!
Outside the shop were a couple of men, busy working at sewing machines, surrounded by rails of clothing..silk, cotton, linen etc.
Inside..bales of richly coloured materials plain and patterned and more ready made clothes..
I hadn't intended having any clothes made, but, didn't take me long to decide that I NEEDED a new wardrobe! I
t took me a lot longer to decide on style and material!!..so much choice.
My outfit was ready as promised by the next day,and neatly wrapped in newspaper and string. I was so pleased that I ordered another outfit.
The tailors were efficient, polite and helpful. They didn't pressurise me to buy anything.
This shopping experience was one of my many holiday highlights
Of course they sell mens/childrens clothing too..but only 1 category to tick
What to buy: Cool loose fitting shirts/skirts/trousers.
Your favourite outfit copied in silk.
Design your own individual outfit
What to pay: For a skirt suit, vest top and dress in silk I paid about GBP28. the suit jacket was interfaced too.
For the trouser suit (3 pieces) and wrap, I think it was about GBP 25.
Was told by others that this is expensive compared to Trivandrum.
I liked this shop though, and it was more convenient for me than travelling too and from Trivandrum.
Although I had purchased spices, during my Spice Route tour, I was looking for jars/boxes to store my spices in. The owner didn't have any of these.
I asked what local people would use and he described a flat tin which contained upto 6 smaller tins, he also said he could get one for me for the next day. I ordered 2, which arrived as promised.
In the shop are a variety of packaged spices and teas. The owner is very knowledgeable about spices. Those sold here are all grown in his home village 220kms SE of Kerala, and are fresh and of good quality.
I purchased a packet of masala tea, which contained a useful information sheet about its uses (good for fever and digestion). He also gave me a leaflet about the spices he sold, which contained recipes and lots of useful information.
I enjoyed shopping here, chatting about the spices etc. I wasn't pressurised to buy anything, and the shop smelt wonderful!
What to buy: Spices.....Cardamom, saffron, coriander, vanilla pods, cinnamon, dry ginger, fenugreek, mustard, nutmeg and mace, star anise, turmeric,tamarind, aniseed, asafoetida, palm jaggery and more .. All for making authentic tasting keralan dishes.
teas... masala, cardamom...a change from PG Tips!
What to pay: I think I paid about GBP1 for each of the tins. Can't remember how much the spices were, probably more expensive than if bought out of resort, but cheaper and of better quality than if bought in UK. I paid about GBP 5 for a tin of saffron in Kumily....picked in N India, but will last for a long time...