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Reaching Nirvana at the Vivanta by Taj, Kumarakom, Kerala

By alison - June 10, 2011 (Updated: November 23, 2016)

This entry is part 7 of 10 in the series Incredible India.
Nirvana - The Taj Kumarakom

Nirvana – The Taj Kumarakom

“What do you mean the train is 16 hours late?” I looked, in shock from my friend to Andrew.

“Well, it comes from Delhi so maybe this one just got cancelled,” she shrugged. “I’ll go call the travel agent.”

With only 48 hours left in India, Andrew and I were eager not to miss the Kerala portion of our travels. Our friends had managed to score us an incredible rate on what promised to be a beautiful resort. I was also very excited for our houseboat tour of the Kerala backwaters. But now I wondered if we’d get there at all.

“Ok, there are no direct flights between Goa and Kerala, but you can fly back to Bangalore with us and then back to Kerala from there,” said my friend, the miracle worker. “You’ll be there tonight instead of tomorrow, so you have an extra night at the hotel.”

From the relief on Andrew’s face, I knew he was happy with the plan. This time, we surrendered to India, and she bestowed a wonderful gift on us – an extra night at the Vivanta by Taj, Kumarakom.

We arrived in Kerala after two relatively easy flights and were picked up by our driver. Although he was perfectly nice to us, he was a warrior on the road. He swerved; he honked; he passed everything in sight, as Andrew and I sat in the back watching the tropical scenery fly by.

Kerala is lush, almost tropical rain-forest lush. You feel it as soon as you step outside. The air is so humid it’s like a solid wall. It sucks the life force out of you. Luckily, where we were headed didn’t require exertion.

After a few hours of driving through increasingly smaller villages, we arrived and stumbled groggily out of the car and into paradise.

We were warmly greeted, by half a dozen staff, and handed face towels and coconut water as we checked in. With the paperwork sorted, we were led through the immaculate grounds to our room in a long, lake-side bungalow.

Bungalows beside the bird sanctuary at Taj Kumarakom

Bungalows beside the bird sanctuary at Taj Kumarakom

Our room was beautiful, with a cathedral ceiling and rich mahogany crossbeams and the huge, plush bed looked inviting. Our first need, however, was food. We hadn’t eaten since our panicked breakfast, and it was now dark. The room-serviced menu beckoned.

Luscious bed at the Taj Kumarakom

Luscious bed at the Taj Kumarakom

An hour later we were wrapped in bathrobes and enjoying two of the most delicious curries we had in India. We felt so extremely lucky to have an extra night here. If our plans hadn’t fallen through, we’d be trying to sleep on a train right now.

The next morning, as we were getting ready to head for breakfast, the phone rang.

After a moment, Andrew covered the receiver and said, “They want to know if we want a free upgrade.”

An upgrade from heaven? Hell yeah!

Ten minutes later, a smiling young woman arrived to lead us to our new ‘room.’

She asked all about Canada and us and told us the history of the 140-year-old property, built by English Missionary Henry Baker.

Then we arrived.

Our Luxury Villa at the Taj Kumarakom

Our Luxury Villa at the Taj Kumarakom

Andrew and I were speechless as she opened the door and led us inside.

She pointed out the four-poster bed;

We slept here

We slept here

The dining room;

Dining room

Dining room

The sitting area, where I noted an actual grandfather clock.

Tick tock

Tick tock

Then she led us into the bathroom, and I nearly shed a tear of happiness. It had a beautiful claw-foot tub and an open-air rain shower.

Part of the enormous bathroom

Part of the enormous bathroom
Open-air rain shower

Open-air rain shower

Then she opened another curtain to reveal the icing on our already over-indulgent cake – our very own private pool.

Our own private pool

Our private pool

If last night was heaven, then today was absolute nirvana. India was rewarding us for our submission.

We could have happily lived in that room for the rest of our stay, but we wanted to see what else the Taj Kumarakom had to offer, so we headed for breakfast.

Because of the hot weather, meals were taken outdoors, beside the small man-made lake. Andrew happily scarfed down dosas while I opted for a lighter option. I marvelled at the mangos growing right beside our table.

Mangos

Mangos

After breakfast, we explored the grounds. There is a bird sanctuary in the pond area, filled with nesting birds. We then walked by the pool, complete with swim-up bar, but we were anxious to get back to our own pool.

Taj Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary

Taj Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary
Bird watching at the Taj Kumarakom

Bird watching at the Taj Kumarakom

We spent the afternoon lounging lazily in the pool jets and being thankful for our good fortune.

Despite not wanting to leave the room again, I was eager to enjoy some of the activities offered by the Taj. The first was a sunset cruise on Vembanad Lake, so we headed for the boat.

Traditional Kerala houseboat or kettuvallam at sunset

Traditional Kerala houseboat or kettuvallam at sunset

There were only three other couples on board with us. In fact, in the entire resort of around 30 rooms, about six were occupied, but the staff was eager to keep us all blissfully happy.

After a tour around the lake, we were led to lakeside benches, where we were served tea and snacks. I was eager for the next event to begin.

Enjoying a snack by the lake

Enjoying a snack by the lake

Back in our room, I had read in the day’s newsletter, each night at dusk, thousands of flying-foxes take to the air from the nature sanctuary next door. Having a particular affinity for bats (not normal for most women, I know), I couldn’t wait to see the spectacle.

I was not disappointed. After most of the other guests had wandered back to their rooms, Andrew and I remained to chat beside the lake. I glanced up, and suddenly I saw it – a swirling cloud of black in the distance. It was incredible. Within five minutes, it was gone. A few bats made it our way and flew overhead, but most had gone out over the lake in search of food.

Thousand of flying-foxes take to the sky in Kumarakom

Thousand of flying-foxes take to the sky in Kumarakom

With the bat spectacle over, we headed to the outdoor dining room for a drink and to watch the evening’s entertainment. It began with some local musicians playing traditional instruments. Later, the men were joined by a woman in a beautiful gold costume. She proceeded to do an intricate dance to the soft music.

Traditional music and dance at the Taj Kumarakom

Traditional music and dance at the Taj Kumarakom
Traditional dancer at the Taj Kumarakom

Traditional dancer at the Taj Kumarakom

When the dancing was over, we ordered our supper. Choosing from all of the exciting Indian dishes was impossible. In addition to some of the more commonly known curries, there was an entire page of Keralan specialities, we were unfamiliar with. The tastes, however, were incredible. The depth and freshness of the spices blew us away. We haven’t been able to enjoy curries in Brussels since.

The Envy

The Envy – I won’t tell you how many of these I had that night…

We also fell in love with the Kerala Naan bread. Take a traditional Indian naan and cross it with a decadent French croissant. Their love-child is the Kerala naan – heaven.

Night at Taj Kumarakom

Night falls at Taj Kumarakom, and hundreds of candles line the lake

The next morning, as we checked out, the manager pointed to the young women who had led us to our villa, the day before. “She is the reason for your upgrade,” he said. “She wanted you to have it.”

She smiled shyly as we thanked her profusely. I still have no idea why she chose us, but I hope she is blessed with a thoroughly enchanted life this time and the next time around.

We nearly wept as we got in the car to leave. Only the thought of our houseboat trip was keeping us going.

If this is the reward for surrendering to India, I will do it again in a heartbeat.

Note: I have so many more photos of the Taj. Join us on our Facebook Fan page to check them out.

Looking for more of our favourite hotels in Belgium and beyond? Visit our Hotel Reviews page to find out where we’ve been sleeping.

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Alison

Alison

Big Cheese at CheeseWeb
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of Cheeseweb.eu. She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison
Cheese + Goats = My personal heaven. We discover an oasis in the cheese desert. https://t.co/Os8U86UEiX - 37 mins ago

11 comments

  1. Comment by Amy

    Amy June 10, 2011 at 16:23

    OMG! You’re killing me! It all looks amazing! I can see why this was your favorite part. 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison June 10, 2011 at 22:16

      It was definitely the most luxurious place I’ve stayed. Absolute heaven 🙂

  2. Comment by paris (im)perfect

    paris (im)perfect June 10, 2011 at 19:46

    Wow. Just wow. I can see why you’d be weeping to leave. Surrender and good things happen, indeed.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison June 10, 2011 at 22:17

      I wish it worked out like this all the time 🙂 We really felt blessed to have such a great experience.

  3. Comment by Lee

    Lee June 10, 2011 at 21:22

    Wow. What an incredible experience – your karma was definitely blessed by your “submit to India” attitude. A lesson for us all. 🙂 Great photos, too!. Now, a flying set of bats is definitely worth seeing (I remember the time I saw it in Austin), and the houseboat sounds like it should be interesting to read aabout but seriously, I would have considered just movng into that villa indefinitely. 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison June 10, 2011 at 22:18

      I seriously considered barricading myself inside the villa and living on room service for the rest of my life 🙂

  4. Comment by Angela

    Angela June 12, 2011 at 04:58

    Wow, this looks gorgeous, not exactly the guest house I booked in the Indian Himalayas last month, but I admit, the view I had was priceless 🙂

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison

      Alison June 13, 2011 at 15:37

      Haha, it’s definitely a far cry from the places we usually stay in too. Sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself, especially when it comes at such a deep discount 🙂

  5. Comment by Leigh

    Leigh June 13, 2011 at 19:34

    What a magical looking spot. Not so sure about the colour of your drink.What’s in The Envy??

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison June 14, 2011 at 10:01

      Haha, yes, green is not normally my first choice of colour for a drink, but it was great. The colour was because it was blue Curacao mixed with fresh pineapple juice, with a shot of vodka. Pretty but deadly 🙂

  6. Pingback: The Kerala Backwaters by Kettuvallam Houseboat | Expat Life in Belgium, Travel and Photography | CheeseWeb

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