Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Planning a trip to Kerala -VI: Kumarakkom

Kumarakkom was chosen as the retreat for a 5-day vacation of A.B. Vajpayee in 2003. So did Prianynka Gandhi who spent some blissful time here in 2003 shooting this little known place on the outskirt of Kottayam town into prominence.

Adding Kumarakkom to the itinerary was more a spot decision than planned. All I had read about Kumarakkom on the net was that it has a bird sanctuary and is one of the options for houseboat trip on backwaters (the other being Allepey). On my return I was to catch a train to Bangalore where my brother lives and I found the nearest railhead from Allepey is Kottayam, the town made famous by the Malayala Manorama, published from here. Kottayam is also famous for it was the first town in India to achieve 100% literacy. I had planned to spend the last night at Kottayam, but Anthony, the travel agent suggested me to stay at Kumarakkom. So, after getting out of the houseboat, we proceeded to Kumarakkom, 34 km from Allepey. The taxi charged 600 bucks. Here I realized a mistake. I should have booked the houseboat from Allepey to Kumarakkom rather than the common Allepey to Allepey one. This resulted me in the additional taxi journey and associated expenditure.

Kumarakkom is around 12 km from the Kottayam town and in fact is the tourist destination here rather than the town. It was like Ernakulum and Fort Kochi in Cochin. The place is located around the sprawling Vambanad Lake that spreads from Kumarakkom to Cochin. It is seen at its maximum size of 25 km by 4 km at Kumarakkom. Here you will not find hotels. Only resorts. They are costly, but you have very little option. The first one I went in was not by the lakeside and still quoted rates upward of 2500. After a little asking here and there I was directed to a hotel by roadside. As we were dithering on staying there, the owner suggested me whether I would like to stay in cottages costing around 1000 bucks. He gave me a phone no. A lady picked up on the other side and I explained to her that I am having a family of 3 persons and I am on my last day of travel in Kerala. She told that she has a resort named Illikkalam Resort located by the lakeside with both AC and Non-AC rooms. For non-AC rooms the normal charge is 1700 bucks. I told her about my tentative budget of Rs.1000, but somehow she told me to come and gave directions to the driver. We were driven through a village to a farmyard where a young guy greeted us. He told me that madam had informed him about us. It turned out to be a private resort and the lady operates it from home. There were 4 cottages, all separately located amidst a spacious garden having variety of plants. It was right on the banks of the Vambanad Lake and our cottage was hardly 20 feet from the lake. I felt quite nice about the place and was ready to shell out upto 1500 bucks. But when I went to the office and asked about how much I would have to pay, the guy told me that you have already discussed about it with madam. That meant I paid only 1000 bucks. I was really lucky to stumble upon this. But one should be ready to shell out anything between 1500 to 2000. And remember, stay at a resort that is by the lakeside. Else it will be waste of money.

A strong breeze from the lake was lashing us all the time. Hammocks were provided on the garden to enjoy the beauty of the lake. All the four cottages were occupied – one by a foreign tourist and the other two by honeymooners. The resort arranges for boat rides in the lake and one of the honeymoon couples went for a country boat ride in the afternoon. We were just back from spending a day in houseboat, and as such we had no such plan to go out but to sit, relax and enjoy. It was so peaceful and cool on the banks that provides you such blissful solitude. This is why people come here. We relaxed watching numerous houseboats that passed by our resort refreshing our memories of the day before. Look at the photograph above. They are fishermen out in the Vambanad lake for that early morning catch. I took it while having breakfast at the resort garden.

Food was made to order. You are given the options to cook if you want. You may not like to cook, but after having too much of curry leaves in last few days you would definitely like to advise the recipe. It was just like home away from home. We felt totally at home there. Had we had such a cottage of our own at such a beautiful location!

Staff at the resort arranges for taxi and autos as per your requirement. Interacting with taxiwala and autowala both on way in to Kumarakkom and out, I understood the utility of Kumar, the driver we had for 3 days. Most of the taxiwalas and the autowalas here could not speak Hindi or English and I had to use every mean, including sign language to interact with them. The driver who brought us here from Allepey seemed know only one hotel – Taj, and despite telling him what kind of accommodation I am looking for he still took me to the Taj, where Vajpayee stayed. I had to yell at him – Are bachhe ka jaan lega kya? Something similar happened on our way out to station as well. We left for Kottayam station on our way to Bangalore. Believe me, there was no coolie in the station. The train arrived on time. The engine chugged along pulling us slowly out of God’s Own Country. Like all good things, a memorable vacation had come to an end.

Before concluding I am giving the phone nos. of Illikkalam Lake Resort : 0481-2525234/ 2525651.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing articles on your kerala trip. Truly Insightful! Keep up the great work..