IndiaGBnews special correspondent Aline Dobbie has written extensively about India in three acclaimed travel books including the Peacock’s Call. Here Aline travels to the Kumarakom Lake Resort in Kerala with her husband Graham and gives readers an insight of what to expect from one of India’s most beautiful coastal destinations favoured by HRH Prince Charles. Visit: www.thepeacockscall.co.uk Twitter: @AlineDobbie
When I want to have a completely relaxed leisurely pampered holiday my mind returns to Kumarakom Lake Resort and I am back in the sunshine and warmth of Kerala. My Comfort Corner for three whole blissful weeks earlier this year was Kumarakom Lake Resort for the second time.
The morning would start 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 in a private courtyard. 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 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.
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 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 delighted with dosas, 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 Vembanad 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 midday 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.
At 3.30 to 5.30 pm 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…. well they 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 would depart 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 or, lazing on a recliner with perhaps a nice G and T or iced beer.
I should add that Kumarakom Lake Resort has another huge pool in the meandering pool with villas alongside and others liked 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 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; there were quite a few Americans on this visit and they were delighting in it all.
The Buffet Dinner also has a la carte and there is the alternative of the Seafood Restaurant. Our favourite entertainment was the Ottanthullal Dancer called Kannan who is very skilled and amusing and if you haven’t ever seen him is a revelation 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 and there is no question of what can sometimes happen in India where the staff are too busy chatting to each other to see to the guests’ needs! A happy crew who work hard and add to one’s enjoyment.
Naturally there is Ayurveda which people really enjoy, but also a little lady demonstrates weaving, and the potter encourages you to try his skill.
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 smaller channels and waterways to observe the start of the day in Kerala…this was enjoyed by everyone who did the two-hour trip.
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. Even the Prince of Wales loved it here when he and the Duchess spent two nights over his birthday in November 2013!
Karkidakam is the last month of the Malayalam calendar (followed in Kerala), which falls during the month of July or August. With the coming of Karkidakam the monsoon rainfall enters its final phase in Kerala. Traditionally in Kerala, this period of the year is considered most ideal for undergoing Ayurveda based body rejuvenation therapies. The body is considered highly receptive to Ayurveda treatments during this period. Ayurveda, is a holistic system that rejuvenates not only the body but also the mind and soul. Take a plane with Emirates or another airline of choice that flies into Cochin and the hotel will send a comfortable car with attentive chauffeur to collect you… I seriously recommend Two weeks later or even just a week you will be a different relaxed happy person!