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October 17, 2013

Tranquil Getaway

The Kumarakom Lake Resort in Kerala takes your breath away with scenic lake-views, traditional architecture and fine cuisine

Winner of prestigious travel awards and accolades and a member of the elite Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the Kumarakom Lake Resort is a jewel of lush greenery and graceful architecture on the banks of the serene Lake Vembanad, in the country’s beautiful southern state of Kerala. Accredited as an ISO 22000 certified organisation, the resort owned by The Paul Resorts and Hotels, ensures gracious hospitality as well as world class facilities. Pamper yourself amidst serene surroundings and refresh your senses in peace and quiet.

ARCHITECTURAL HERITAGE
The resort has been carefully and painstakingly reconstructed using materials sourced from age-old traditional homesteads so that the 59 luxuriously ethnic rooms and heritage villas resonate with the quiet magnificence of Kerala’s traditional style of architecture. And yet I discover that every modern amenity has been catered to, under the magnificent wooden ceiling of my villa by the lake. To add quite another dimension is the outdoor, discreet bathing area and private plunge pool which remains enticingly open to the elements.

Revelling in the luxury of the Heritage Villas, I discover the resort’s unique meandering pool villas, quite perfect for a family with children who wish to spend their time in the 250-metre-long meandering pool that winds its way across the eastern part of the resort. The traditional-style villas on either side open straight onto the pool on one end.

Ultimate luxury is served in the Presidential Suites, immense villas that have access to the meandering pool as well as the tranquil lake waters, while flaunting a private pool each. The view over the lake is unhindered and feel assured that you will enjoy all that you survey.

APPAMS AND HISTORY
The two-hour drive from Kochi has made me hungry and I head to the large restaurant, Ettukettu. Here too I enjoy the intricately worked wooden ceiling, wondering at its construction and am a little surprised to discover that this heritage building has been transported piece by piece and reconstructed at this site, taking over three years to complete. Built under the commission of King Marthanda Varma and gifted to his martial arts tutor, whose family portrait hangs to one side of the structure, the impressive construction is a fine example of the palatial eight-sided ettukettus unique to Kerala.

The highlight of my lunch today is the South Indian fish curry (full fish) that has been served in a plantain leaf accompanied with the fluffiest appams. If you are interested in food and build a rapport with sous chefs Gejo Joseph and Deepak Sundaram, be assured of the finest suggestions and great enthusiasm to feed you with amazing creations. I go through Kerala fish curry with appams or Kerala rice, prawns grilled in South-Indian spices, Kerala grilled fish, seafood rasam, a typical chicken stew, molee fish curry, amongst other dishes. At tea time, I gulp down shot-glasses of brewed Kerala tea with delicious banana fritters made in the local style.

Dinner at the resort’s lake-facing seafood restaurant and bar, The Vembanad, has me replete to the gills. Right on the water’s edge, I dig into delicate raw fresh oysters from Kochi served with a signature horseradish cocktail sauce, a squeeze of lemon and a drop of pepper sauce. Followed by grilled scampi done in two marinations – garlic and coriander and a traditional South Indian masala. Both are wonderful, the former gentle on the taste buds, the latter more punchy.

DEEP RELAXATION
No visit to this resort can be complete without at least one experience at the Ayurmana, the property’s heritage retreat of Ayurvedic healing. Again, the beauty of the building that grows onto my awareness leaves me feeling tranquil and happy. The 200-year-old Ayurmana had been the home of the Chathamangalathu Mana, a family of renowned Ayurvedic practitioners. This exquisite nalukettu or four-sided mansion has been transported from its original location and recreated here with careful expertise, so that every beam and wall pulsates with the power of one of India’s oldest sciences. I indulge in a synchronised massage with two young ladies in white cotton saris melding my tired muscles in near-perfect tandem. This is bliss indeed and I tell myself that I must be back soon for more….

BACKWATER EXPLORATIONS
If you can bear to tear away from your peaceful villa, there is much to do while at the resort. I am on a backwaters cruise and we are weaving our way through canals of water, some narrow, some wide, through villages with women washing their clothes or utensils, through green paddy fields and finally, out of the water channels onto the enormous lake, moving slowly along the water. The boatman tells me that his covered ‘rice boat’ is 10 years old and made of the wood of wild jackfruit trees. The next day, I drive into the nearby town of Kottayam, rich in culture and history and visit ancient churches and historical temples, visiting the popular spice market as well. And then there are of course the sari shops that one may wish to drop into.

HOUSEBOAT CAPERS
An experience worth indulging in is a cruise on one of the resort’s luxurious houseboats. Strongly built in the traditional way, the houseboat is inspired by long-ago kettuvelloms and held together by coir ropes without a nail in sight. It however boasts of every amenity inside including a glass-fronted, air-conditioned dining area and spacious rooms. You can have it for the day or a week or longer, according to your wishes. Two experienced boatmen navigate through the tranquil backwaters and onto the lake itself. I am off to Alleppey and back, with my personal chef on board, who plies me with grilled prawns, curry with appams and a succulent chicken stew.

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