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March 07, 2017

The Dreamy Quietude Of Kumarakom Lake Resort

Text by Mala Vaishnav. Photographs by Shaista Vaishnav

The sprawling resort in Kerala is like a soothing balm for sun worshippers, water babies and homebound NRIs

Architectural Legacy
Populated with villa-style rooms boasting their own verandahs, plunge pools and al fresco bathrooms that open to voyeuristic squirrels and the odd dragonfly, each villa has been reconstructed using the original wooden materials of 100-year-old ancestral houses scoured from across the state. The salvaged pieces are apparent in the carved door frames, traditional brass locks, latticed ceilings and wall panels. Furnished with temple-style lamps, coir matting and antique chests that double up as baggage rests, the rooms are a reflection of cosy luxury with bed headboards decorated with authentic vegetable-dyed murals depicting scenes from Hindu mythology. The plush Presidential Suite, graced by the likes of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, opens out to a private panorama of Lake Vembanad. Thirty cottages had been booked for the royal couple’s entourage who, along with the hotel’s affable personnel, ensured that the prince had a memorable 65th birthday party.

Southern Staples
The chefs at Ettukettu are multitasking gems. The two centuries-old, eight-sided structure, formally dedicated to the martial arts, is now a culinary haven. Breakfast on a multitude of offerings from cone-shaped dosas fresh off the skillet to an organic oats porridge. The vadas are as soft to the palate as the bacon is crisp and curled. And watching an expert hand swish filter coffee from glass to steel without a single errant drop is truly photoworthy. Lunch on pepper mutton, fluffy appams, grilled prawns and the local backwater delicacy, karimeen, cooked in Malabar spices. Top up with the traditional payasam. Post sunset, nurse a flute of house wine at the lakeside seafood restaurant and allow yourself to be spoilt with the chef’s signature dishes of peppery prawn rasam and banana leaf-encased seer fish while a mild summer breeze flutters over the waves below.

Soul Stop
Ayurmana, housing the resort’s Ayurvedic centre, used to be the home of the Chathamangalathu Mana family, famed Ayurvedic pratitioners, in a previous birth. The four-sided mansion has been lovingly recreated, beam by beam, tile by tile, into a serene retreat where masseurs noiselessly pad about, leading guests to fragrant cubicles to unblock their energy channels. The Pathrapotala Swedam, where magical hands rub a muslin-wrapped, oil-dunked bundle of medicated herbs onto scalp, back and limbs, releases tension and promotes complete relaxation. The spa’s signature abhyanga balances the three elements of the body and is a therapeutic massage performed by the rhythmic synchronised movements of two masseuses. The Beauty Clinic unravels traditional beauty secrets that are rooted in herbal extracts and fresh fruits, made available through rejuvenating facials, scrubs and head packs.

Languid Days
The peaceful environs seduce the senses into relaxation mode. Rise with the birds and glide along narrow canals in a small boat or cruise across the lake in a bigger one to watch the orange sun melting into the horizon. A traditional houseboat (kettuvallam) is also on call for overnight stays on the backwaters, itself a unique experience. Swim a few lengths in the infinity pool and spend the afternoon snoozing in a hammock. Sip cutting chai on the waterfront lawns and nibble on banana fritters as the in-house coconut-seller-cum-photographer guides you to the best naturally-lit corners for that memorable selfie. Watch the fascinating sunbathing ritual of a resident iguana and in these days of mosquito-generated ailments, rest assured that the lushly draped resort is subjected to a daily dose of spraying and fogging with an organic rapeseed oil.

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