On Tuesday (the 6th), Michael finished up the last of his teaching duties in India so we took a few days off to do some serious R&R. Based on various travel shows we had seen, we really wanted to visit the Kerala Backwaters, a chain of brackish lagoons and lakes lying parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. Trying to wade thru all of the possible trips was a monumental task, so we contacted our friend, Shirley in Bangalore and asked if she had any suggestions of someone to help us. She pointed us to Jai at Sanchari Holidays and he did a magnificent job organizing our 4 days of fun.
We were picked up by our driver early on Wednesday morning, having no real idea of where we were going. The only clue was that it would take 4 to 5 hours to get there so we figured that we must be heading North (since 5 hours South would put you in the ocean!!)
The trip was difficult with several detours and lots of traffic jams. There were very few stoplights and the traffic was being directed by policemen. Most of them were pretty ineffectual, waving their hands around with no one really obeying them.
Seeing snippet views of the ocean and a myriad of fish sellers reminded us that we were following along the western coast of India.
Our first stop was at the Coconut Lagoon Resort, which can only be reached over the water. Our ferry arrived about 15 minutes after we got to the jetty and we started our journey…..
We looked excitedly at a a series of small cottages that we passed, saying that those looked like fun. Suddenly, we took a sharp turn into a narrow canal and realized that we were staying at the resort with the cottages….how perfect is that!!!
….with a magnificent room…….
As we were oohing and ahhing over the room, she proudly opened the door to the bathroom (which I thought looked like an outside door) and exclaimed that “it’s an open air bathroom”……
I had a nap while Michael spent some time sitting on the front porch. The manager happened by and started talking to us about the resort. He was basically apologetic that it was more rustic in nature but we assured him that we loved it that way. We had noticed that various trees on the property had signs saying who had planted them. Michael asked about it and the manager asked if we would like to plant one . When we excitedly said yes, he immediately sent over the grounds manager and a time was set for the next morning!
As we were sitting there, I noticed that the sky was starting to get a wonderful red tinge to it, so I grabbed the camera and headed to the edge of Lake Vembanadu, the largest lake in the Kerala Backwater. The views as the sun went down were magnificent…..
….and became increasing brilliant as time went on…..
This was my favorite photo of the evening……
It was well worth the walk!!
We enjoyed an excellent buffet dinner, a great sleep and awoke the next morning ready for our daily adventure.
We were met at 9:30 by the groundskeeper, Jijo, and hurried off to plant our banana tree. He had already dug the hole and had the tree ready to plant. He told Michael that he must first take off his shoes and face to the East as he put the tree in the ground……
Michael only scooped in a few handfuls of dirt before Jijo moved him away and finished the job for him. I guess that you cant let the paying guest get sweaty and dirty!!!
….and the deed was done. Jijo told us that a plaque will be printed and put with “our” tree!!! We found where Jude Law had planted one (Michael swooned over this one) and it was rumored that Paul McCartney had planted one as well, but we never saw it. So, I guess we are in good company!!
The next task of the morning was to visit the Butterfly garden. This was unique because it wasn’t an enclosed area but, instead, was a natural area that hosted plants that the butterflies loved and returned to religiously. We had fun trying to catch the butterflies with the camera lens…..
They were fairly elusive, although we did get a good photo of this beauty….
While we were sitting in the gazebo we also caught sight of another of the local inhabitants…..
We continued to wander around the property, taking photos of the beautiful scenery. I really like this picture with the reflections in the water…..
There was always a steady stream of fishing boats along the shore…..
At lunchtime, Jai had organized for us to to enjoy a traditional meal called the Sadhya. It is served during the Onam festival which was actually going on while we were in Kerala. It is a 10 day festival that commemorates the home-coming of King Mahabali….more about that later!!
We were escorted to a private table by the lake, a banana leaf was placed on the table and the food started to arrive. We were assisted by the Executive Chef (Naveen) and he talked us thru each of the foods that we were presented, telling us the history of the food and why it was part of the meal.
Before long our banana leaf was full of delicacies…..
….and it was time to start enjoying the flavors. Naveen told us to eat from left to right initially and then to eat anything that we wanted. He also told us that we must use “God’s Utensils”….ie our hands….. to eat with. The dishes included dried Plantains, Jaggery, pickles, bitter gourd, and a whole host of curries, each with its own delicate taste. The item on the upper far right is white Pumpkin and we were told to use that one as a palate cleansing food. Our drink was Sambar which is a Yoghurt with spices and herbs.
We ate until we couldn’t have another bite. It was such a fun experience to enjoy the food and a beautiful view of the lake!!
By the way, all of the tables in the resort had the same centerpiece….a little pot of rice plants!! It was simple and very effective. I may have to try it at home sometime!!
I have found one design that HAS to become a quilt some day……
I will add it to my idea list!!
Before dinner, there was a program of traditional dance called “Kathakali”……
It is in the “story play” genre meaning that the sole dancer (usually male) tells the story thru dance, song and speaking. Here is a bit of it…..
We didn’t stay for the entire performance but moved over into the restaurant for desert and coffee. We were still full from lunch so there was no need for additional food!!
The entertainment in the dining room was a little more to our taste……
As we walked back to our cottage, we marveled at the beauty of the resort…..
It was the end of a perfect visit and we left with the thought that we WILL return….for longer next time!!
Now, before we go further, let me talk about the Onam Celebration. As I said, it celebrates the the homecoming of King Mahabali. The entire festival lasts for 10 days with each having it’s own importance. One of the interests of each day is the building of a Pookkalam which is a floral carpet. Tradition dictates a few basics of how the Pookkalam should look, but individual touches are added.
We saw our first Pookkalam at the hotel in Trivandrum on Sunday……
It was very simple and fun.
Tuesday brought this one…..
And, Wednesday dawned with this lovely 3 dimensional beauty……
Unfortunately someone had already scuffed it up!!
This was the day that we arrived at Coconut Lagoon and this was their offering for the day…..
I failed to get a photo of the one for Thursday, but Friday was made of vegetables and was amazing…..
When we left on Sunday, this wonderful peacock was on the floor…..
This photo isn’t great because it was VERY early in the morning and I hadn’t realized that my camera lens had fogged up until it was too late!!!
They were such fun and I eagerly looked forward to seeing the new design each morning. I would really have loved to see them making it but it was always done late at night.
IF we come back next year (which is possible), we will look forward to celebrating Onam in the fullest way possible!!