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December 2008 - January 2009


Travel

Kerala - Cradle of Ancient Indian Culture in the lap of Benign Nature

by Vijay Ralleigh



The paroramic view of the Arabian sea and Chinese fishing net from the rear of hotel ‘Brunton Boatyard’

The opportunity to go on Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airline inaugural flight to Bangalore was a godsend for me, not only for the fun of travelling on a brand new aircraft but also the fulfillment of my fervent desire to see Kerala. The well-known travel writer Aline Dobbie was instrumental in introducing us to the eco-friendly cgh earth group of hotels who have several resorts in Kerala suited to the needs of the discerning lover of unspoilt nature. We stayed at three of their hotels and resorts during our short stay in Kerala. Our journeys from Kochi airport to the resorts and back organised by the cgh earth group were seamless, hassle free and enjoyable. What impressed me most was not just their warm welcome and excellent service but also the exemplary policy on safeguarding the environment and involving the local community. Solar panels powered the hot water, organic waste is converted into bio-gas and water is recycled. Fresh vegetables and fruit are grown for use in the kitchens. The Group’s eco-friendly measures enable them to put to maximum use the local natural resources, vegetation and spices.


The main entrance to Brunton Boatyard Hotel


Over a hundred year old tree in the courtyard of Brunton Boatyard

Our first destination ‘Brunton Boatyard’ hotel was a colonial building with long corridors decorated with portraits of Vasco De Gama, other explorers and scenes from that era. We were greeted with garlands and shown around the hotel and our room, set in the colonial style overlooking the beautiful Arabian Sea. Our hostess although fom Delhi was well informed and knowledgeable about the history of the hotel. We were personally greeted by the manager of the hotel which was certainly impressive.


Bridge over small canal leading to the dining area at Coconut Lagoon.


Chakra restaurant at Marari Beach Resort


View of a houseboat on the Backwaters overlooking our Hut, at Coconut Lagoon

In the evening we attended a cookery demonstration of a Keralan fish curry. The hotel guests are invited to go on the sunset cruise which sails from the back of the hotel. Imposing Chinese fishing nets against the backdrop of sunset on the Arabian Sea while cruising on the boat was an unforgettable experience. Later we were invited to have dinner in the ‘History’ restaurant where we were invited to try some most delicious Keralan dishes with unparalleled hospitality from the chef and the staff. We reluctantly had to leave quite late to retire to our room afer a long day of travelling; but I could have stayed up all night listening to the most enchanting violin and flute recital of classical ragas adding to the magic of the evening.


The young Kathakali dancer applying her elaborate make-up


Musicians at the ‘History’ restaurant at Brunton Boatyard


Kathakali performance on the Open Air stage of the village school.

Our polite and helpful taxi driver took us to our next stop at Marari Beach Resort showing us some historic relics in Kochi on route to our next destination. One ‘Hut’ style room set in the middle of groves of mango, cashew and other exotic trees and shrubs reminded us of the sublime way of living of our ancient Rishis in Ashrams. However, the resort is set in huge grounds by the beach with all the modern comforts. Here again the hospitality of all staff was untiring. We took a trip to the nearby town Allepey where we visited the Jain temple.


The ‘Tiger Dance’ being performed in the village school.

Our next and last stop was Coconut Lagoon which can only be reached by boat. ‘cgh earth group’s own boat came to fetch us and as we reached the resort we were again welcomed with enchanting sound of flute . Fresh coconut water was offered which was most refreshing.


The welcoming floral ‘Rangoli’ depicting the face of a Kathakali dancer

There is a whole array of activities offered to entertain the guests at all the resorts including Yoga, Ayurvedic massage, cruises, fishing etc. We were shown around the resort including the most impressive butterfly garden. Our ‘Hut’ was overlooking the back waters where we would see houseboats sailing throughout the day. One of the highlights of our stay at Coconut Lagoon was our visit by boat to a nearby village to see Onam celebrations in the grounds of a school. We saw the young Kathakali dancer doing her make-up which is an arduous task taking hours followed by the vigorous dance performance with such intricate facial gestures, each telling a story.


Mural of a goddess in the village school hall near Coconut Lagoon

It was indeed a memorable holiday being surrounded by the beauty of unspoilt nature and experiencing real culture. The smiling, welcoming staff at all the resorts made us feel so loved, cared for and important which was a bonus.

The striking features of all the three places we stayed in was that no sooner we arrived and were duly garlanded, the faces of the staff were lit with always-willing-to-serve smile.

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