Jan 10, 2005

Kumarakom - a place to be

A place which has touched my heart so much. Not only because it was my honeymoon trip.But the serene atmosphere, taking me back to our traditional countryside, lush green paddy fields, coconut trees lifting the spirit, quiet backwaters and above all free from polluted city.

My husband, Karthik and I started our trip from Chennai on Sept 5th 2004. We boarded Allepey Express from Chennai Central at 8 pm. I had R.K.Narayan's "Bachelor of Arts" to give me company till I fall asleep. The train departed at 8.30.

I could feel the unique smell of Kerala, God's own country when I woke up next morning. Kerala has always fascinated me from my childhood. My father has taken me on several trips to places like Munnar, Cochin, Allepey in Kerala.

The train was an hour late and finally we got down at Ernakulam Junction railway station. We had arranged for a car to take us to Kumarakom. The driver was on time.It was an hour long drive from the station. We bought some biscuits and chips to compensate for our breakfast. He dropped us in a place called jetty for Coconut Lagoon resort. A jetty is a place where boats stop for picking up the visitors. Coconut Lagoon is the best resort in Kumarakom. It has all the comforts, though a bit expensive.

We boarded the jetty. A slow, calm boat ride through the backwaters with trees on both sides of the bank. There was a small passage by which we entered Coconut Lagoon.Brown and white ducks were lazing in the waters early afternoon.

A bright lady in a traditional Kerala white saree welcomed us with flowers and tender coconut water. I have never tasted such a sweet tender coconut ever in my life. A musician was playing tabla in the background while we were having our welcome drink. He offered a gentle smile.

We filled up our registration forms and the lady explained to us about all the activities that we can engage ourselves during our stay of 2 days. The way she explained made us feel very energetic.

Since we went on a off-season, there was not much of crowd in the resort. Add to our surprise, they upgraded our booking to a pool villa. It was at the corner of the resort. We reached the villa and the first thing I noticed was a hammock besides the banks of the backwater. I had always dreamt of spending time in a hammock with my favourite R.K.Narayan's book. I was so anxious that my dream is about to become a reality.

The lady opened our villa. Wow...a big hall with a French door opening to a pool. The pool was so beautiful with the four walls surrounded by bushes...I first thought the walls were made out of leaves.

It was 12 pm by then. We took a bath in the pool. I tried to swim in 4 ft depth. My husband was floating as he knows a bit of swimming. We didn't feel like coming out of the pool. It was relaxing.

We dressed up and went to the dining hall. Again the traditional art and decoration showed up. We were offered a drink called as herbal water made of tulasi and other herbs. It tasted good. The lunch was sumptuous. My hubby loved the food. Apart from the usual preparations, there were a few traditional Kerala items as well. Though I didn't like the smell of coconut oil which is mainly used in Kerala dishes,I tried a few of them. The beetroot raitha was awesome.

After lunch, we came back to our villa and rested for a while. We had booked for village walk at 4 pm. I loaded my camera and we were all set. A guide accompanied us. We walked into the village and he showed us different kinds of species. I saw cocoa and coffee plants for the first time. Different kinds and colours of hibiscus, lemon grass were waving on both sides of the narrow road. We enquired about the land prices and my goodness, the guide in a cool way replied that a 60*40 site would cost 50K. We just thought about the state of land prices in a polluted,crowded city like Bangalore. There were very few houses in the village. Their main occupation is fishing.

We came back to the resort after an hour and half long but healthy walk. Our next appointment is Sunset Cruise. We went to boarding point, taking snaps on our way. The musician who was playing a tabla was having a flute in his hand now, sitting in the middle of a small boat. We sat on the boat. Many foreign tourists were also present, holding a cigar and polluting the 100% oxygen zone.

A slow boat ride with my favourite musical instrument, flute being played on the background.A chill air blowing my hair with my husband sitting besides me. There couldn't have been a better moment. we went to the center of a lake, waiting for the sun to go to sleep. It was a cloudy day.So it was not very clear. We came back with a sense of peace in our hearts.

There is a small place named The Shop in the middle of the resort. There were many antiques and pictures depicting backwaters. They were very expensive, main motto being to attract foreign visitors.

We had a light dinner together, with violin being played by another musician. Day 1 ended with a sense of joy. Our next day was a tight packed schedule.

Karthik got up at 6 am to watch Kalari, a Kerala special martial arts. I wasn't too interested. I wanted to learn some Yoga being taught at the resort at 6.30 am. Many visitors were practicing and we just watched for a while. We came back and took a bath in the clear pool. We got dressed up and went for breakfast. So many varieties were placed in the dining hall. Only then I realized there were so many things that one could have for breakfast. Be it our very own puffy idlis and steaming dosas or crispy corn flakes with skimmed milk and fresh fruit juices. How can I miss my favourite cup of chai at the end?

After a whole-some breakfast, we started out on motorised canoe. The trip costs 500 Rs. per person for 2 hours. It is worth the penny. The boatman was a very informative and friendly chap. The boat looked similar to a couple boat famous in Dal lake in Kashmir. Karthik started taking more snaps on our ride through the backwaters. The boatman took a lily flower and made a cute necklace out of it. I was very happy to wear it over my neck. The boat went through narrow canals and passed under many bridges. There was a very shallow place where the boatman had to stop the motor and push the boat. The place was actually a small village where the famous writer Arundati Roy was born. Many kids came running towards us asking us for pens. We were amused by the way they were shouting pens. Unfortunately, we didn't carry any. I told myself the next time I visit Kumarakom, I would bring a lot of pens for these kids.

Healthy massages were waiting for us when we came back after the ride. I wanted to take a hair massage while Karthik opted for a body massage. We came to Ayurvedic center. Mesmerizing smell of herbal oils and pastes surrounded the entire area. A traditional lamp was glowing in the center of hair massaging room. Two young girls dressed in traditional white greeted me. I sat on a wooden chair. One of the girls loosened my hair while the other heated the oil. She applied the warm oil on my scalp and started massaging gently. The oil was made out of herbal products and special kind of flowers. It reminded of those days when my grandmother used to get white little flowers and heated them along with gingelly oil for my Saturday hair bath. I was feeling very sleepy during the massage. She applied shampoo and washed my hair with care. I was then waiting for Karthik to come out of body massage room. I noticed a couple of ladies working in Ayurvedic center reading
books on Yoga. Karthik came out with a smile. I heard that body massage included steam bath as well.

We went for lunch and there was a lady who attended to all the guests. She talked to everyone very well. After a healthy massage and a complete lunch, the next best thing would be to take a good sleep. That's exactly what we did. Around 4 pm, we took a walk around the resort.

The musician at the reception called us. He taught us some basic tunes to play in his harmonium. I couldn't pick the tunes and I played badly. Anyways, it was a good attempt. Also I tried a bit of tabla. We came back at 5 pm and made some tea. There was a brewing pot placed in the villa so that we can prepare tea in our room. We sat on the steps outside facing the lake with our tea and a book. The sky was clear with the sun ready to go to sleep. We could hear the flute being played in the Sunset Cruise. A beautiful sunset which we never get to watch in a city.Such a wonderful moment !!. Even after 4 months of this trip, this particular moment pops up now and then in my mind. It makes me feel there are wonderful moments in life to be cherished forever. The sun slowly fell asleep while I was in the hammock relaxing and taking snaps.

We still had the recreation center to take a look. It was a place where one could watch movies, play chess and table tennis. We just spent a few minutes there and went to the Shop. After all,we could not leave this place empty handed. I got a jute purse and Karthik bought a t-shirt. We felt sad that we had to leave this beautiful place the next day. We had our dinner and went to bed. The next day, we packed and all set to leave. We bid good bye to one of the most beautiful places on earth, carrying special moments with us along with our luggage. We made up our minds that we would visit this place again. Still we have farm visit, bird watching, speed boat ride etc. How can I miss learning
harmonium? For people who want to relax and enjoy a week long vacation, Coconut Lagoon, Kumarakom is THE best place.....

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