Thursday, 29 October 2009

Old Harbour Hotel, Fort Kochi

From the Kumarakom area my wife and I drove down to Fort Kochi for the next leg of our holiday. I enjoy travelling through Kerala. The landscape is always lush and green, and there is so much to see regardless of which part of Kerala one is in. But this time the drive was not as pleasant as I had hoped it would be. Some major pipe laying project was in progress and the road was in very poor shape for most of the distance.

When I was a teenager, and even into my mid-twenties, I used to visit Fort Kochi at least once or twice a year. Since I used to live only a few miles away across the backwaters, these were day trips. I recall that there were very few hotels in the area and it was difficult in those days to get food to my taste over there. That was not the case a few miles away at Ernakulam. This was about 35 years ago. Since then Fort Kochi has transformed itself into a tourist destination with plenty of hotels and cafes.

We stayed at The Old Harbour Hotel, a small but exquisitely furnished hotel, very close to the waterfront. This building was originally built by the Dutch and used as a warehouse. Later it passed into the hands of the British and was used as a tea auction house and also as a residence. Recently it was bought by an Indian and converted into the present hotel with the help of a Dutch architect. My friend, Mohan Pulimood was involved in the project, and it was he who recommended the hotel to me. I am glad I took his advice.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

One final look at Coconut Lagoon

These days many up-market hotels, and most resorts, offer massage & sauna facilities. Coconut Lagoon too has such a facility, but there is a difference. What this resort has is an ayurveda centre with an attending ayurvedic physician. And the massage that they offer is for its healing value tailored to the needs of each individual. Many guests come here specifically for this treatment which can last for weeks. Of course, you can also go in for just one massage. Even then, the physician checks you out and prescribes the type of massage and what you should do before and after to derive the maximum benefit from the massage.

The ayurveda centre, as you can see in my sketch, is also a beautiful, airy structure. The inside is spotlessly clean, and you have a view of the lagoon from every part of the ayurveda centre, including the massage rooms.

The bathrooms at this resort are quite unusual. They are very tastefully designed with modern fittings, fixtures, & tiling, and they all have running hot and cold water. But, they are all open to the sky.

My sketch shows the type of cottage that we stayed in. The entire inside was panelled in wood, and fitted with traditional Kerala style furniture. The portion where you see the coconut tree emerging is where the bathroom is located.

And, even though the cottage was air-conditioned, the verandah that you see in my sketch is where I spent a lot of my time sitting in a comfortable chair, drinking tea, and sketching the sights around me.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A Lazy, Refreshing Holiday

My wife and I lazed, and rejuvenated ourselves at Coconut Lagoon for a couple of days. For those who are interested, the resort does offer several activities. But I was primarily interested only in wandering around, taking in the sights, photographing, and sketching and I did a lot of these. My wife's interests were the ayurveda centre, the curio shop, cooking lessons, and music lessons. Of course, we were also well armed with iPods and enough reading material.

I have always been an admirer of the traditional style of timber construction of Kerala, and it was wonderful to see so many examples of this form of construction, so well preserved, and in such a nice setting.

The cottage that we stayed in had a very comfortable, shaded verandah. I was therefore able to sit and do a detailed sketch of the view outside - a luxury rarely available in a hot, humid, dusty, and crowded land like ours.

During our stay at Coconut Lagoon we discovered that the resort was also hosting a national painting workshop. This was a two week workshop attended by artists from all over India. We were able to go to the venue and watch the artists at work. Most of them were working in acrylic and were quite willing to talk to us about their paintings and the techniques they used.

We also found that Coconut Lagoon had set aside 5 acres for farming. Two crops are raised on these 5 acres - fish and paddy. That's right. For about 6 months of the year the land that has been set aside for farming stays under water and is used to breed fish. At the end of the 6 months, the fish crop is harvested, water is drained, and rice is planted. We were told that the soil is found to be particularly fertile after it is used as a fish farm and that the rice crop is therefore exceptionally good.