We have been MIA for a while now, all is well (it couldn’t have been better), just a few changes on the personal front. A baby joined the ranks 2 years ago, the pooch is still crazy and we are now calling Bangalore home. Apart from that, the baking and the cooking continues, though with a slightly more pronounced inclination towards ice-creams, chocolate cakes and a bolder foray into different types of cuisine. As is usual in our type of situations, finding time to sit down and blog in the midst of the chaos we call home is a tad unrealistic. But that said, the drive still remains (hence this post).
We made time and a whole lot of stars align in our favour and take a break from the said chaos and headed to the sunny, beachside town of Bekal, in Kasargod, north Kerala. Kerala shares a border with Karnataka in the north and Mangalore is the closest airport. Bekal is an hour and thirty minute drive away from Mangalore airport. This idyllic town is famous for the Bekal fort and its scenic beauty. Picture a coastline that stretches as far as you can see and colourful painted fishing boats right out of a movie anchored on the beach. Needless to say, a haven of photo opps.
The largest fort in Kerala, the Bekal fort is also located here. Enormous and with almost three fourths of its exterior being drenched by waves that continually play tag with it, it is a must-visit when visiting. The observation point in the fort offers a panoramic view of other towns in the vicinity. During the monsoon, the entire property including the walls and ramparts are covered in lush green moss and dew and and looks magical. (For reference, the song Uyire from the movie Bombay was shot here.) During the rest of the year, the laterite soil and the exposed brick lend a different aesthetic to the fort.
It was going to be a short 3 day get-away and we couldn’t have made a better choice with the Taj Bekal Resort and Spa.
This property is like a well-kept secret, it's so far removed from the usual equation of open spaces, green cover and great food. The Taj Bekal Resort & Spa is much more than that. To say that the place oozes and drips luxury, but with a characteristically Taj vibe is an understatement.
We must address the elephant in the room. Kerala, infamously, has only two seasons, the beautiful monsoon, and the humid, tortuous summer. The monsoon lasts 2 months and the rest of the year, well, is maths a child can do. We went in May, when summer is at its infuriating peak, BUT, I didn’t mind it one bit! I’m guessing the expansive green cover all over the property has something to do with this magic. Thank you for the foresight and the execution of all that meticulous green cover planning, Taj!
The ecosystems that co-exist harmoniously make sure that birding will be a rewarding activity. The city boy had so much fun returning bird calls, it felt almost cruel to bring him back home.
First off, the picturesque environs. The resort is set in a lush green, immaculately maintained 26 acre property that rightly boasts of the confluence of beautiful backwaters and the Arabian Sea. That in itself is a marvellous holiday spot in itself for me, I mean, imagine, all that expanse of green foliage, interspersed with the gently rippled water of the backwaters and on the horizon, the point where the magnificent ocean meets the backwater. Unreal on paper, but so so real, and no pinch of salt too! The Kaapil beach is literally a few minutes away from the hotel lobby, within the hotel premises, so its thoughtfully equipped with beach chairs, beach umbrellas, fresh towels, water bottles (a God sent) and the rinse-off showers as well!
Their rooms and villas are inspired by the design of Ketuvallam houseboats, and emanate a clean, sophisticated feel with their unique room décor, be it the earthy Chitra Pothi-style painting on the wall or the intricate jaali woodwork doors (They will actually leave you spellbound). The amenities are state of the art (as is to be expected), and I have always loved the Forest Essentials range of toiletries that the Taj offers.
The 24 hour dining, Multi-cuisine restaurant Backwater Café offers a buffet breakfast every day, and buffet dinners as well during the weekends (depending on occupancy). Their spicy karuveppellai chemmen fry, fish moilee and the Syrian Fish biriyani are on the must-try list. The other restaurant, By the Bay, situated by the beach, is their signature seafood restaurant. The restaurant offers delicious seafood fare and to devour the same listening to the acoustic delights of the ocean waves is an experience like no other.
The private plunge pool was one of our highlights, considering we have a water baby who would rather be in water than on land, anytime of the day. The ornate outdoor bathtub and the gorgeous double swing add oodles of oomph to the aesthetics.
The Jiva spa is the other highlight of the resort. With Ayurveda and therapies as old as time itself as the cornerstones, the Jiva spa offers not just massages and manicures, but wellness and healing therapies. Yoga sessions happen every morning and those with the inclination can also choose to indulge in beauty rituals.
The inimitable stamp of Taj hospitality and personalised care is intact here as well, and for folks traveling with toddlers, that is a HUGE plus. They are thoughtful, accommodating and go out of their way to make us, especially the toddler, happy. In fact, that is one the main points that stood out for us during the stay there. The Taj Bekal is extremely, amazingly child-friendly! The well equipped crèche with a small outdoor play area and the modestly utilitarian Activity room are just two of the thoughtful offerings. Multitudes of activities for kids are planned through the day and the schedule keeps changing, and the activities range from Dumb charades to painting. The sheer number of families that were staying at the resort was a testimony to this.
Cycles are provided to run amok in the sprawling property, kayaks are offered along with rafts that take you for a cruise on the backwaters, right up till where the backwater meets the ocean. They also offer moonlight cruises on the backwaters. Dreamy, right?
I for one, know where to head to the next time I want to sit back on a double swing with a view and get lost in the tranquility and serenity of nature.