Everyday at five thirty in the evening there would be a great bustle around the Kumarakom Lake Resort. After a leisurely tea, it would be time to board the sunset cruise boat which left at the appointed time.A kid would stand say, “Don’t go daddy is coming.” Someone else would request to wait as their friend would be around in a minute. When there were no more such requests the Sunset Cruise at Kumarakom Lake resort would finally leave!
I went on the cruise twice, alas but the clouds ruled on every occasion! Whatever I have from the muted sunsets, I am going to share for today’s Skywatch Friday.
So what happens if you go on a sunset cruise and the sunset doesn’t happen the blazing way you want it to happen? If you are like me, you sulk royally! There was live music on the ferry, but I was so downcast by the muted sunset that I hardly paid any attention. It rained for a short while, the red umbrellas of the resort added some colors to the sky for a while but that was it to the evening sky.
This was the brightest that the nature offered on my first day. I was wondering why is it that everyone else gets blazing sunsets on their trips whereas I get the muted ones! And then I thought it is just that I share all kinds of sunsets and experiences and not the only ones that set the sky on fire! After all that is life, even while traveling you do get your share of muted sunsets. Nature just doesn’t care! I walked back to the resort in a pensive mood.
The one day when I didn’t go on the cruise, it made no difference, the sunset was muted still. In fact, it was a trend on all the days that I was at Kumarakom.
On the last evening there was a faint blush of pink in the sky! And then I discovered the HDR filter on the XperaZ3 phone. And this is the result. The faintest of the pink blush became a blazing sunset but that is not what the eyes saw! This is the magic of the HDR filter alone! The HDR filter since then has become pretty addictive, particularly on Instagram.
I am not a morning person! And the canoe ride started at 7.30 am. That meant I had to get up at 6.45 at least. I don’t take much time to get ready anyway. When I turned up at the reception of the Kumarakom Lake Resort, they took pity on me and told me to go and have a cup of tea/coffee. I am a tea person but the coffee at the resort was divine, so for a very short while I switched loyalties. I left like a different person with a cup of coffee inside me. I concluded after the trip that a canoe ride in the Vembanad Lake is thing of beauty for observing the life in the backwaters up close.
True to the theme of the trip to Kumarakom, I had the whole canoe to myself. As we got out into the waterway I sat on the first chair. The canoe was covered and the chairs seated in the shade. As soon as we gained a little distance I asked if I could sit at the front of the boat. The permission was given to me and that is where I firmly remained for the rest of the journey, even though the spot had no shade.
By now I have been in the backwaters in a houseboat, canoe and a kayak (on a previous trip). Each has its own advantages but then that is the topic of a separate post. A canoe can get into narrower water channels than a houseboat but a houseboat offers luxury.
I wonder how the residents of the backwaters feel about the boats of tourists with their cameras? I mean they come to the canal to wash something and their goes a tourist, click! However this bunch of kids had fun and wanted me to click a picture of them splashing about.
A canoe can take you closer to the birds. When you take a trip through the backwaters, do expect to see birds up close. The trouble is that the canoe is always moving and it is difficult to get focus right. This was my first sighting of a Darter.
It is looking at the pictures I realized that the Vembanad Lake is a mirror, it doubles the beauty of the Kerala Backwaters! As it was the monsoons, the greenery was even more startling, if that is possible!
I had visited Alleppey in 2013 but I do not remember seeing so many lotus before. They were such a joy, and the joy was double because of the reflections!
It is more probable on a canoe to catch a duck shaking off water from its body. And if I manage to get a half way decent picture, it is an added bonus. I saw a Kingfisher with a small fish in its beak, but that delight is mine only. The picture is so blurred and bad and I do not dare to share it!
If not a yellow submarine, how about living in a yellow house by the backwaters? I would say it could be the next best thing to the yellow submarine!
By going around in the lake for a few times, I got the feeling that Kumarakom has many resorts. But even then, they are tucked away in various corners. At no point I got a feeling that the place was overrun with resorts!
The most common site on a canoe (or any other) trip are the houseboats. After all there are about 500 in and around Alleppey alone!
While I am was a short canoe trip, people actually live around the backwaters. They have to do many of their daily chores with tourists gliding around! I had a zoom which I was using for most of my photographs. But I was somehow reluctant to point it out at people. I would exchange a smile with them instead!
We took a circular path and I was deposited back in time to have my breakfast at the resort. The good folks had kept refreshments for me in the canoe but I truly didn’t budge from the front of the boat for the while trip! My eyes were glues to the camera and the scenery. The trip was soothing to the eyes. The fresh air did wonders for my appetite.
As I entered the one bedroom houseboat of Kumarakom Lake Resort, I knew the deck was going to be my favorite place. The bed room was air-conditioned, the dining area was air-conditioned but the deck was weather conditioned!
And as I said before, I had the whole houseboat to myself with a three member crew. Two of them would command the boat, taking turns. The third person was an equally important member, the chef! What I did is known as the houseboat lunch cruise at the Kumarakom Lake Resort.
I had been on a canoe tour in the morning and I had reviewed my photos. I was determined not to make the same mistakes as I did in the morning. I also sort of knew what to expect. A canoe can enter in narrower lanes than a houseboat but the latter is built for comfort! A kayak can enter into even smaller waterways!
I had a discussion with the head chef Deepak at the resort and we decided on a Kerala Lunch along with beer. A little after we pulled out of the resort the chef on the boat asked me if I would like to have my beer. I pleaded with him for tea and sure enough he had masala tea ready for me within no time! It was a good start to the tour.
As we glided by the huge Venbanad Lake, we had many other houseboats for company. The weather was beautiful, sun was hiding safely somewhere behind the clouds. The coconut trees loomed far away in the horizon looking like stick figures.
Traditionally the houseboats were known as Kettuvallam. They were huge and primarily used to transport rice from one part to another. It is said that they could carry the weight of three lorries! The traditional boats would have a room for the boatman and sometimes the family would also go on the journey. The ancient houseboats were wind powered and punted through the backwaters.
Now with roads connecting many parts, houseboats are more of a tourist attraction! They have also become a thing of luxury with air-conditioning and other comforts.
After cruising for a while I realized that a single woman on a houseboat was a bit of a rarity, but to the credit of the people there were only a few cat calls. I think 80% of my time went in clicking pictures, 10 percent in having lunch and the rest in seeing things with my eyes!
In a rare moment of self absorption I was about to miss out on a local church. It was immediately called to my attention by the person at the helm. And I want to kick myself not knowing the name of all the three crew members! And I had not even started drinking my pint of beer!
We would pass through lush green patches of coconut tress when we got closer to Alleppey. I was told that the houseboats need to be parked in the water by sundown as fishermen lay their nets at night. The houseboat movement would damage their nets! It is a local requirement.
I saw a houseboat full of middle aged South Indian men having a merry time. They were dancing to some music, and to dance like that you have to be quite sloshed! And yet they were not bothered about anything else, they were having a jolly good time dancing on the boat! The cat calls came from sober people!
Lunch was a lavish affair. It consisted of ullitheyal (a dry preparation of small onions) pineapple curry, avial, banana flower thoran, vendernna merunnupvrati (okra preparation) chilly sprouted beans, malabari veg curry, mushroom coconut fry (my favorite), Kerala rice, sambar, chips, poppadom, banana and adaprathaman! How do I remember all this? I asked the kind chef to write it down for me! He even prompted me to write out the English names of things that would no sense to me later like the small onions bit! They served it in the air-conditioned area with a pint of beer! I could not take a second helping of anything, the first serving itself was so huge!
After lunch I was back to the deck. We were now passing by the Alleppey town. Like we park our cars near our homes, it was common to see a boat parked in these parts. I asked how much a boat would cost? I was told that a simple boat would cost about 5 lakhs and a houseboat in which we were was priced at about 35 lakhs! I saw people waiting to take the local ferry to their destinations. Kids would be playing near their houses, which is the lake!
Once we crossed the town we were back in open waters, on our way back to the resort. As we pulled back to the resort, I got out with a huge grin on my face. We spent 4 hours on the lake, from 12 noon to 4.00 pm. I am sure it would be very difficult for anyone to match the luxury of my first houseboat lunch cruise offered by Kumarakom Lake Resort!
PS. I was invited by Kumarakom Lake Resort on this trip.
When I was leaving the Kumarakom Lake Resort, I told Sanjay, “thank you for such a wonderful holiday, it was so beautiful, it was almost unreal!” Since then I have been wondering why I enjoyed my stay so much! I actually closed my eyes and the reasons started popping up one by one. I wrote then all in the random order as they emerged in my thoughts. And that is what I share with you today.
1. Are you sure you want to talk about all this?
When I reached the resort I was somewhat tired. Even though it was a 8.10 am flight, I had to wake at 5.00 am. The flight to Kochi was via Hyderabad. Then there was metro construction going on in Kochi so it took us a lot of time to get out of the city.
But I am so used to working on the trips that I automatically start asking questions. Asa Abraham, the PR manager asked me, “are you sure you want to talk about all this? We will discuss it tomorrow.” After a while when I again slipped into the questioning mode she firmly told me, “you relax, you must be tired.” And I was bundled off to a sunset cruise and then after an early dinner to my room. That really set the tone for the rest of the trip!
Ask anyone at the Kumarakom Lake Resort for how many years they have worked with the property and chances they would tell you something like 10 years, 15 years, 7 years or so. People work there for a long long time. And that reflects in the way they treat guests. My guess is that the resort keeps the employees happy, and the employees, in turn, keep the guests happy.
3. Heritage villa with a pool or when I had the whole pool to myself
I had a luxury heritage lake view villa with an attached plunge pool. In other words, I had a whole private pool to myself that was enclosed within the four walls of my villa, an ultimate luxury for me. I could take a dip in the pool at midnight if I wanted. It was also a first for me. In fact on this trip there were many firsts and there were many having the whole things to myself!
4. Having the whole houseboat to myself
Even though I have been to Kerala before, it was my first time on a houseboat. And then I had the whole big houseboat for myself. I went on a lunch cruise. Chef Deepak and his team prepared a lavish Kerala meal for me accompanied with a beer! My first experience on a houseboat has been out of this world! The weather was awesome and I hardly ever budged from the deck!
5. Having the whole canoe to myself
Before going on a houseboat I went on a canoe ride through the backwaters. A canoe can enter narrower canals than the big houseboats. On my ride, early in the morning, you guessed it right, I had the whole canoe to myself. I sat on the chair for the first fifteen minutes. Then I asked if I could go sit at the front of the boat? When I was told yes, I remained there, firmly sitting on the front of the boat for the rest of my journey! It was a fabulous trip.
At lunch and dinner in the main restaurant, they had 22 bottles of pickle! Need I say more? Well, I will say a little more, we had a staggering variety of South Indian food but they made sure that there were continental and North Indian food available as well. In fact the buffet was so nice that I never ordered anything out the menu!
7. Prince Charles’s Room
Prince Charles celebrated his 65th birthday at Kumarakom Lake Resort. I was told that for his entire team 20 rooms were booked in all. He and the duchess stayed at the presidential suites. And the room is actually fit for royalty! Among other things, it has its own private infinity pool!
8. The Infinity Pool
That brings me to the common infinity pool. My room was the closest to it and I went for swimming every day. I have decided that if I have a pool access and if I have time, I am going to work out on my trips! Otherwise there is no chance of me ever getting fit! And it helps to stay motivated if the pool is set in such scenic surroundings!
9. Beautiful Backwaters
You can view the Vembanad from the various corners of the resort. It is a befitting backdrop to a very beautiful resort. In fact while I was swimming in the infinity pool, I could see local fishermen go past in their boats!
I asked people how old was the resort? They told me it opened in 2000. So I concluded that it was 15 years old. And yet it looked much older and that puzzled me!
When I met the owner Mr. Paul P John he mentioned that his team bought many old Kerala houses, dismantled it piece by piece and then many such pieces were used to build the resort. The main restaurant was the house gifted to the martial arts teacher of the King of Travancore. I then understood why the place looked much older than 15 years!
The resort is constructed such that it gives the feel of being in a backwater village with coconut trees, water lilies, bridges and canals. You will find hammocks and benches to sit and relax! You can go fishing within the premises itself with Kavi, who was happy to teach even the smallest kid!
12. Meandering Pool Villas