Kumarakom Lake Resort - Kerala
For the fifth time we went to our favourite Keralan Resort in January. To escape the cold, the wet and the winter misery of Great Britain we flew once again to Kerala where we stayed for three whole blissful weeks at Kumarakom Lake Resort on the vast and beautiful Lake Vembanad. Emirates or Qatar are both airlines that fly to Cochin and the hotel sends a driver and car to greet you and bring you in two hours to the tranquillity of this heritage resort. Kumarakom Lake Resort is officially considered a heritage resort because its major buildings were actual Kerala homesteads that were dismantled and brought to this site and rebuilt and all the villas and pavilions are built in the traditional way with careful attention to detail. Well, Johnson was there to meet us and it was such a good feeling to be back and anticipating our arrival at KLR… that is what we call this special place! Our welcome from the Manager Sanjay Varma and his Staff was so warm and it was that special feeling to be back in a second home.
The morning starts at 06.30 hours with me making us a pot of our favourite breakfast tea; I had requested a teapot for our heritage villa with its plunge pool and Jacuzzi. I had also specified a jug of fresh cold milk in the fridge…. these are essentials for a tea purist such as myself! Out on our little veranda of the heritage villa I would sit and observe the mist clearing on Lake Vembanad with the fishermen gliding out in their canoes about their daily tasks, then the sun would nudge in at about 06.50 and the soft sunshine would bring the whole garden and its water channels alive whilst the birdlife tweeted and chirped and made themselves busy. The birdlife is outstanding and the dawn chorus is loud. The garden staff would be working and always wish with a smile as they picked up leaves and left the beautiful surroundings immaculate. The newspaper girl would come with our daily paper and those intent on Yoga would walk to the Pool Pavilion for their morning session. Yoga is a focus for many people who come here; I have not participated but I love swimming. Meanwhile, I could read my tablet with its emails and the paper and Graham would go on his daily constitutional walk around the property. Then there would be a dip in our plunge pool with a burst of Jacuzzi followed by a glorious outside hot shower and the prospect of a superb breakfast. Again, we had asked for fresh orange juice despite the many others on offer and a bowl of curd. After that … well the buffet delights with freshly made dosas – the huge rice pancakes that the chef makes while you wait, eggs of any sort, bacon, breakfast dishes, fresh fruit like papaya and pineapple and masses of breads. By this time the resort is busy with people departing or arriving or deciding on their morning’s activity but we would return to the villa and josh the Housekeeping Team about their latest towel artistry on our bed and go off to the infinity pool and find where we wished to sit. The tranquil Lake is just right there, the pond heron is watching for fish, we even saw an otter and another time we watched a water snake. The kettavellums would arrive with disembarking passengers or ready to take people out for a day or overnight…. others would arrive to lounge or swim and me…. well I would be in my beloved infinity pool in lukewarm water swimming, relaxing and looking out onto the beautiful lake with all its activities.
At mid-day, we returned to our little villa for fruit and cool drinks but others ordered snacks and drinks from the Pool Pavilion; we had decided we would become spherical if we ate too much so contented ourselves with fruit and a swim in our plunge pool in bright sunshine. Having brought two Kindles full of books we were not short of reading material and so the afternoon would be spent either in the cool of our room or on the veranda. In the late afternoon there is complementary tea and snacks served on the lawn and that is a nice time of day and an opportunity to meet other guests and exchange information or just enjoy the coming and going. The tea is masala chai or a tea of your choice or even coffee if you so wish. The snacks …. are freshly made banana fritters, savoury eats, and more prosaic items like shortbread biscuits if that is what you want. In the late afternoon light it was a most attractive venue with the greenery, the flowers, the birds and the guests’ comings and goings. Then at 5.30 the Sunset Cruise departs daily for those wishing to observe the sunset. We have done this previously but instead would return to the infinity pool and watch the sunset from there in the warm water and it is spectacular.
There is also a pleasant cocktail hour and drinking a significant cocktail watching the sun slowly sink on the horizon whilst the birdlife gave us the evening chorus is a pleasure worth repeating. I should add that Kumarakom Lake Resort has another huge pool in the meandering pool with villas alongside and others like that very much and it always looks most inviting. Whether in a Pavilion Room (which they consider their most basic provision) which is large and luxurious with beautiful bathroom with its own heated Jacuzzi, or the Pool Villas or the Heritage Villas (such as ours) or indeed the two Presidential Suites, now renamed after the Prince of Wales and the Duchess as they came here for HRH’s 65th birthday in November 2013; there is something to satisfy everyone. In the evening if there was a large party of guests they might be given dinner on the lawn preceded by a cultural show of dancing or martial arts; sometimes the guests were encouraged to don Indian cultural clothes which seemed to work a treat with a party of Americans. The Buffet Dinner also has a la carte and there is the alternative of the Seafood Restaurant. Our favourite entertainment is the classical Ottanthullal Dancer called Kannan who is very skilled and amusing with everyone loving his antics. The food is multi cuisine so most people are satisfied and the a la carte takes care of anything special. The Executive Chef and his Team and the Maître D are always keen to give you what you want and all the waiting Staff soon know a guest’s likes and preferences. In no time at all they knew what we liked and when and anticipated our needs…..the senior management, junior management and all the staff are particularly friendly and attentive. They are a happy crew who work hard and add to one’s enjoyment and we enjoyed getting to know one or two of them and chatting daily…. our lives and the western world are of great interest as many of them have relatives working overseas and long to visit Britain and Europe. This year we asked to be shown how to make that classic Keralan fish dish Fish Moilee. Chef Deepak showed us and with chicken; it was a delight, though at home here in Scotland we will have to do without the appams and just substitute basmati rice.
Naturally there is Ayurveda which people really enjoy; this time I gave myself the treat of a whole-body massage and the Ayurvedic Physicians are both knowledgeable and keen to help. I believe that in the Monsoon, Ayurveda is supposed to be very effective and it would make a lovely holiday to escape to Kerala in late August perhaps? A little lady demonstrates weaving from a little hut near the dining area, and the potter encourages you to try his skill; these two attractions prove popular with children. The shop is well stocked for gifts and jewellery, female clothes, antiques and the usual requirements. The Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary is nearby and there are other visits that can be arranged. I would definitely recommend a night in a kettavellum (spice boat) or at least an afternoon with lunch if that has never been experienced. There is also a smaller craft which if hired early in the morning takes you to the narrow water channels and waterways to observe the start of the day in Kerala… this was enjoyed by everyone who did the two-hour trip. Kumarakom Lake Resort has become a favourite with Indian honeymooners and it is interesting to observe these young couples getting to know each other and therefore still rather shy. Honeymoon couples are a ‘giveaway’ because the young lady is still covered in the henna on her arms and hands and feet and is almost always wearing an enormous amount of ceremonial bangles on each arm. Kerala has much to commend the State. It is a green lush friendly place with lovely homestays, hotels, beach and lake resorts…all of which usually offer Ayurveda for those who seek an alternative to conventional medicine. But, if you want luxury and comfort but without the ‘bling’ KLR as I call it will tick all the boxes…. good service in immaculate amenities in a beautiful location and with good food, lovely swimming pools and nature all around you with the tranquil lake and gardens and wildlife. A great choice for a Destination Wedding too!
It should be noted that The Paul Group has a lovely boutique hotel in Bengaluru and is currently developing a resort in Coorg which will I am sure be just as beautiful as my beloved KLR. Their new boutique hotel Forte Kochi in Kochi has recently opened. It is a gem and so beautifully located, with the usual good service of this Group.