Kumarakom Lake Resort, the finest luxury heritage resort in India, nestles on the banks of Lake Vembanad, the vast stretch of Kerala’s famous tranquil backwaters. Sprawling across 25 acres of greenery, Kumarakom Lake Resort, the winner of the World Travel Award as India’s Leading Resort for no less than five years, exudes the charm of Kerala’s heritage while offering a range of New Age amenities for a luxurious stay. One traveler discovers for himself the joy of this resort.
When the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall visited Kerala, they stayed here, at the Kumarakom Lake Resort. Once you set foot in the place, it’s not hard to see why.
Kumarakom village is beautiful, with abundant coconut trees, a vast lagoon and paddy fields in between. On our way through it, to the resort, my friend Nicholas, for who the trip is maiden to Kerala, never stopped marveling at its charm.
While Nicholas lounges on a traditional swing in the reception at KLR (as they call the resort), I decide to walk around a bit, finding myself drawn to the wooden deck ahead of me. I am welcomed by a vast body of water, the lake silvery-grey under the evening clouds, houseboats lazing on her surface, birds flip-flopping in the air, occasionally diving into the water for a catch. A breeze wafts by; I am entranced. Nicholas comes and joins me and he, too, is beaming with joy.
“You have a Meandering Pool Villa, sir. This way.”
A lad comes with our luggage and leads the way, past manicured lawns and neatly-trimmed hedges and crossing the frequent canal bridges that intersperse the landscape. We are surrounded by greenery and water. The 250m pool meanders to the lake like a beautiful, big green snake. The pool has couples lazing in the water. On either side of the pool, the villas are neatly set, the architecture in traditional Kerala style which suits the climate and aesthetics of the place (there are twenty-two villas in total plus four duplex villas).
At a little distance from these, he shows us the Presidential Suite, named in honour of the English ducal couple’s stay. We are naturally curious to see how the villa is. ‘Later’- We decide.
Our villa has all the trappings of a great resort. Cool clay-tiled floors, comfortable bed, pretty wardrobe, sky shower, an open bathroom, a verandah overlooking the pool, private access to the pool, besides many thoughtful touches in the room to assure us a comfortable stay. We are delighted to see such a high international standard in a remote Kerala village.
After a short nap, we take it easy. A Kerala cultural programme is the order of the day. When we watch the show, we are told the story is about a woman pining for her beloved. A pretty girl dressed in glittering creamy- hued clothes is dancing – Mohiniyattom, a traditional Kerala dance – to the rhythm of slow-paced music. I am reminded of Thai classical dancers. But the movements are even more graceful, and the girl delightfully pretty. As I watch her face shining in the yellow light of the candles and the host of emotions it expresses, I find myself filled with a rare joy.
Seated at the dinner table at their coastal cuisine restaurant after the show, with Lucy and Tim from Australia we met at the resort, we quickly break the ice as we are embraced by the cool night breeze off Lake Vembanad, after which the restaurant is named.
The restaurant is built on the water as an open deck with a wooden floor. The tables are arranged in such a way as to give everyone a view of the lake.
The cuisine is Kerala coastal with a variety of offerings from all over the state. In Kerala, cooking is as varied and diverse as the region. You get the same fish cooked in different ways in each area of the state, which dramatically changes the flavours. The conversation and the table soon get hotter with our crab curry, Karimeen, and lobster steaming in front of us, accompanied by fresh Appam (flat bread made of rice powder so soft that it melts in your mouth) and a delicious bottle of wine. The lake looks like a dark blanket spread over the land, shining faintly in the moonlight. The candles on the tables illumine the restaurant with the magic that only candles can bestow.
Next morning, we have breakfast in Ettukettu, the resort’s buffet restaurant, along with Lucy and Tim, now officially friends. The mood here is celebratory, with people running around with plates, the chefs moving from group to group to enquire about desires and preferences. We are offered a mixed cuisine ranging from European to Kerala.
”We make everything in small quantities, as though to order, to keep the taste intact,” the chef explains. It’s a good policy – everything tastes as though from an A La Carte menu.
Ettukettu, made mostly of wood from the floor to the walls to its many intricately carved columns, used to be the house of the Trivandrum Maharaja’s tutor, and the whole structure has been taken apart and reassembled piece by piece here in KLR. No detail was overlooked; one can still see the granary, the Puja room and small wooden statuettes on the walls. The private pavilion on the roof used to be where the womenfolk watched dance performances in the ancient past. A canal runs under the small bridge that connects the open kitchen to the dining area.
” We have another eight luxury pavilions and twenty eight heritage villas” Sanjay, the affable manager informs us. While on the tour of the resort, Sanjay gives us a running commentary on the superior facilities, service and clientele, ranging from Indian and international celebrities, to captains of industry, to famous sportsmen.
The Heritage Villas charm us with their clay-tiled roofs, four poster beds and plunge pools with Jacuzzis in an open private space and panoramic views of the backwaters. The Luxury Pavilion is a host of superbly-furnished spacious rooms with private Jacuzzis at the far end of the resort, offering the privacy, seclusion and space not always easy to find at a resort.
The ducal suite has a big bedroom with all the amenities a prince could require, the regal interiors that exude the brilliance of a bygone era, a larger dining hall, a separate bathroom with a Jacuzzi and a swimming pool on the outside verandah overlooking the lake. I could picture Prince Charles and Camilla sitting there in the evening and smoking their pipes. How romantic!
” They are a bit more expensive.” Of course, you pay for luxury.
We skip the ongoing Yoga class by the big infinity pool even though the pool beckons us with its breathtaking beauty and go to the houseboat waiting for us. It’s the time for water. Lucy and Tim go for a massage.
I am a seasoned houseboater. I love the initial slight sense of suffocation when confined by the water, and the final calm and relaxation only offered by the expanse of lake. Water leaves you with no choice but to surrender and relax. We have a bright sky and the usual birds circling by. Passing houses on either side of a canal, we set out to the lagoon. People go about their daily chores, uninterested in us. Some women clean their fish, some are washing clothes, children bathe in the lake. A whole ecosystem is here, untroubled by external interference.
Passing them, we enter the lagoon. Soon, we are reclining on our chairs, occasionally raising our eyes from a book to gaze at the calm lagoon. We have a crew of three, one man at the wheel, a chef, and another man just to attend to all our whims. For lunch, we have Karimeen wrapped in banana leaf and fried in Kerala masala along with rice and vegetables – and of course cold beer from the ice box we took along. Sheer Umami!
The stillness is therapeutic. After a long day of idling, reading and relaxing and being embraced by the incessant breeze and the life of the lake, it’s evening. The setting sun turns the lake to gold. Birds fly by leaving their day’s abode. We are back in the canal to berth for the night. We have a delicious dinner in the house boat. The lamps in distant homes flicker out one by one, the silence broken only by our conversation and the symphony of crickets and toads. Soon the water rocks us to sleep like a giant cradle. We sleep.
Waking feels blissful. Morning is eventful at the lake. Birds are busy. All the households are hives of activity. About eight o’clock, sorry to leave such beauty, we start our return journey. Back at the resort, we have a soothing shower. The architecture of the place blends ingeniously with the surroundings, I noticed while in the shower. Water surrounds us. The villas are almost floating on the water, the resort seeming like an extension of the lake. I felt like a merman who just came on dry land from water.
Sanjay recommends an Ayurvedic massage in the Ayurmana, the place for rejuvenation.
The pleasant Ayurveda-qualified doctors explain how careful they are with their guests. They write down my medical history before I am ushered to the neat and spotless massage room. Nick chooses to join a group of guests in the pottery practice next to the massage place. (He actually ended up learning to weave a screw pine mat from the woman next to the pottery man) I fall asleep half way through my soothing and relaxing massage. When I am woken up, I regret missing half the experience. But they do say a good massage makes you fall asleep, so I should be happy. I see Nick in the curio shop next to the lobby,examining artifacts with the air of a serious collector.
In the evening, I am surprised to see a traditional tea shop-Thattukada- magically sprung up on the lawn with a man in a lungi mixing tea with the dexterity of a juggler. The scene is complete with an old cinema poster, bananas hanging by a coir rope, and the scent of freshly fried local snacks. We are offered tea with some Kerala nibbles to go with it.
When we check out that evening and say goodbye to our friends, it seems unbelievable that we spent two nights in Kumarakom Lake Resort. Time stood still here. On our way back, my mind is slowly filling with targets at work, payments to be made, people to be met, chores to be finished.
”We will be back!” Nick assures me.
PS: The Cochin International Airport is 70 km away from the Muhamma boat jetty. From here the KLR is 10 minutes boat ride away. You can drive straight to the resort as well in about an hour and 45 minutes. The Trivandrum International Airport is 171 km away – approximately 3 hours by road to the Muhamma boat jetty. The nearest railhead & bus terminal is Kottayam, 14 km away from the resort by road.
Contact for reservations: Mr. Sandeep Dumale (Sales Manager)
Tel: +91-80-40477777/ Mobile: +919902021001