There are two pointers to keep in mind when going to Kerala. With 400 miles of coastline, you might be many hours’ drive from your resort. Make sure ahead of time that your driver knows where he is going, and that his English is good enough to be able to answer your questions.
Next, when you get to your chosen lodging, bear in mind that Kerala’s official electricity is about the worst in the world, which means that it goes off altogether with unbelievable frequency, like on occasions several times an hour. This is a strong point in favour of staying at a luxury resort that has its own generators.
The first time there was a momentary blackout at Vivanta by Taj – Bekal, Kerala, the gal was a bit surprised, but no-one else seemed bothered, and sure enough less than a minute later the hotel’s generator kicked in. After that she knew what to expect, and regularly.
Villa 643, a Premium Indulgence PIC area, 1,200 sq feet including the outside terrace and a totally private 20-foot pool, became a temporary home immediately. The building is rectangular, with an extension one end for the outdoor bathtub, lit at night by a ten-foot ‘bookshelf’ of lighted candles.
Inside the villa. two-thirds is taken up by the bedroom. Lie in bed, looking up at a five-blade electric fan, or straight ahead or to the left, both through ten foot-high sliding glass doors. Ahead are two loungers on the private terrace, then 80 feet of grass and then the river, shortly to flow into the ocean.
To your left is your terrace and pool. The wall to the right is completely covered with a Chitra Pothi-style painting, as behind front desk when you arrive. With excellent WiFi, I was able to lie on my outside lounger, or on the double swing, and compose.
From time to time I took the seven steps down into my pool, to cool off. I borrowed one of the hotel’s scarlet no-gear bikes, prominently marked Hercules, for spins around local villages to look at the amazing local red earth, and bright-coloured houses.
Ten minutes after leaving home I was asked by elegant visitors in a smart car if there were any ‘bungalows’ for sale around! Just like when running in a strange place and someone asks you directions…
Back home, I headed right across the 25-acre resort to the other side of the river, to the Jiva Grande Spa, for a much-needed backrub.On the way back I noticed teenagers kayaking in yellow craft, and archers arching, which reminded me of Bhutan, where all the royal princes shoot, bows and arrow style naturally….
Others just rested and relaxed in the many scenic seating areas (domestic visitors to Kerala resorts are not exactly anorexic, by the way). I am told that a family party of 46 arrives soon. They are taking 20 bedrooms, have chosen one set menu per meal and have been told they must eat in specific time frames – Indians are known for turning up five minutes before a restaurant closes.
We are dining tonight at By The Bay, the 73-room resort’s dinner-only second restaurant. Up 19 stone steps, the rooftop of a flat-roofed bungalow has been turned into a floodlit seafood haven. Fish and chips, Kerala style, came with juiciest snapper and thinnest fries.
I am also told that Indians must have a PAN number to pay for anything above a given limit they must not exceed. Sometime I will find out how they manage because surely they cannot get away only by handing over cash. Do they check in and out of hotels every day? No time to find out.
In the morning I run around the fief of this beautiful place, listening to birds and distant trains, marvelling at how beautifully everything is kept. There is a daily yoga class but fortunately I had two yoga mats in my room and there is no time for a class anyway.
At breakfast I find beetroot juice, the elixir that always makes me think of the marvellous breakfast at Orient-Express’ Grand Hotel Europe in St Petersburg, and of Four Seasons Seychelles..
I should have counted the Ganeshes from the moment I arrived but now it is too late. I am headed for yet another airport, this time Mangalore rather than Bangalore. The latter is capital city of Karnataka.
Mangalore, that state’s main port, is the second city, and its airport, which sadly cannot take wide-bodied aircraft, is point of arrival and exodus for some of the hundreds of thousands of local men who are on annual contracts to working luxury hotels throughout the Middle East. So I say goodbye to Ms Sikkim and Mr Was-Afghanistan, and wonder where I am going to next…