Variety

Boat to Bekal!

Updated on: May 03, 2012
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Taj Hotels' new property in this heritage nook of Kerala is perfect for a luxurious getaway.

Here I was, standing mildly forlorn on a deserted road, oblivious to the red velvety sun serenading the sky when, all of a sudden, an electric car crept up silently by my side. At the wheel was none other than Raymond Bickson, Managing Director and CEO, Indian Hotels, with his trademark aloha smile.

He graciously invited me to hop onto his buggy. I was in Bekal, a sleepy nook of Kerala at the confluence of the Kappil river and the Arabian Sea. With pristine beaches and a rich cultural heritage, which includes a 17th century fort, Bekal in Kasargod district is 90 km from Mangalore airport. Before I could even sample the newly built Taj Vivanta Resort, he had won me over with his warmth and generosity, the true hallmarks of hospitality.

Beautiful Bekal is certainly a great choice of location as it's one of the less-explored spots in God's Own Country. “This picturesque and delightful destination is waiting to be discovered. The name Vivanta draws inspiration from the term bon vivant , signifying vivacity and appreciation for the good things in life,” says Deepa Misra Harris, Senior Vice-President, Sales and Marketing, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces.

Past and present blend seamlessly in this heritage town defined by its lazy lagoons with sun-dappled backwaters and towering forts with imposing structures. Sitting atop the Bekal fort, if lucky, one may spot dolphins springing out of the waters with a marvellous splash, only to dive gracefully back into the sea.

Nestled in this secluded and refreshing environment is the resort with its luxurious rooms and villas designed on the lines of Kerala's famous Kettuvallam boats. “The Kettuvallam defined the hotel for us in the design stage. The property, thus, was a combination of villas and rooms with the Kettuvallam architecture,” says Nick Juniper, Project Architect/ Design Architect for Vivanta by Taj. More heartening for a city-dweller is the absence of obtrusive steel-and-concrete structures.

The architect has skilfully woven what is special to the region — fabrics, murals and shutters — into a modern luxurious hotel. The Chitra Pothi art and the stone sculptures of Garuda that adorn the lobbies and courtyards are a feast for the eyes.

The lounge and retail area are designed with natural materials and surrounded by scenic ponds, in a nod to local architectural styles.

“It is important that when you are inside the room, you are able to experience the courtyard,” explains Juniper. This illusion of being both inside and outside the room at the same time, a concept inspired by the Pandavas' Indraprastha palace built by Maya in the epic Mahabharata, can leave you dazed by the sheer ingenuity of it. The Superior Charm rooms, with an outdoor shower in the balcony and an inviting daybed in a private courtyard, offer breathtaking views of the backwaters.

The rooms have interesting names — Delight (large and luxurious), Indulgence (with a plunge pool) and Temptation villas (with steam shower, terrace sit-out and private courtyard with a plunge pool). The ultimate in luxury and space is the 5,000 sq. ft. Nirvana Suite (opening soon) with living room, spacious bathroom, large private courtyard with a plunge pool, a daybed, steam shower and an infinity pool.

The wellness treatments at the resort's 1.65 lakh sq ft Jiva spa include ayurvedic massages, aromatherapy, scrubs, wraps and beauty rituals rooted in ancient Indian practices. The architecture here incorporates several water bodies, both for their therapeutic sound and calming visual effects.

My initial hesitation vanished as the therapist, Dolkar, gently worked on my tired and sore muscles with her skilled hands. The fragrant kewda , frankincense and Brahmi, infused in sandalwood and sesame, helped me relax further and drift into tranquillity. The spa is equipped with single and double treatment suites, beauty treatment rooms, medication pavilions, yoga studio, relaxation and vitality pools, a fully-equipped gym and a beauty salon. By the backwaters is an ayurvedic centre that resembles a traditional vaidya 's house, complete with a dining lounge, landscaped relaxation spaces and a wellness library; authentic physicians ( vaidyas ) are on hand to prescribe comprehensive ayurvedic programmes.

After the rejuvenation at the spa, it was time to head to the all-day diner, aptly named Latitude. On offer was a s adya — the traditional vegetarian feast of Kerala served on a plantain leaf, which included the welcome drink s ambaram , parboiled pink rice with an array of typical Kerala dishes such as parippu curry, erussery , avial , olan , ullithiyal , papadam and a dessert spread of pradhamans .

The highlight of the inaugural evening was the homam ceremony, which guests attended in traditional attire.

Published on May 03, 2012

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