Story and photos by Sharon King Hoge

Coconut Lagoon A boat delivers guests to the lobby

Coconut Lagoon
Kumarakom, Kottayam, 686 563 Kerala, India

Anyone who thinks ecological awareness and luxury are mutually exclusive has a lesson to learn at Coconut Lagoon, a resort in India's magical province of Kerala. Just two hours drive southeast from the historic seaport of Cochin, the hotel is a "village" of authentic traditional homes perched on the shore of India's longest lake, Vembanad. A charming wooden boat meets guests at the jetty and floats them down the canal lined with  bamboo houseboats past residents catching fish and washing clothes along the banks. With a flautist piping reedy strains, disembarking guests  are presented orange marigold flowers, refreshing towels, and coconut  drinks before dispersing to their bungalows.

Coconut Lagoon Open air lobby reception

Each structure is built in traditional style, many of them historical homes  that were dismantled, brought here, reassembled, and updated for  guests. Besides featuring authentic dark wood trim, louvered window  shutters, elaborately carved ceilings, pristine white walls, the  bungalows have outdoor bathrooms with the sheltered shower, sink, and  toilet surrounding a gravel terrace and green plant growing under the  open sky. Herbal scented toiletries and amenities are provided in  charming ceramic bottles. Free wi-fi is available round the clock.

Coconut Lagoon Bungalows are fashioned after traditional local homes

Besides air conditioning, an overhead fan circulates air over the classic  wooden bed with immaculate sheets and pillows.  Several outlets at the  desk provide power for the free wi-fi.

Coconut Lagoon Bungalow guest room

The mini bar contains $3 packets of cashews, $5 beer and $12 mini-bottles  of Indian wine. Rattan slippers, white cotton robes, and a safe are  concealed in the built-in wooden armoire. Fifty rooms include standard  Heritage Bungalows, larger Heritage Mansions which accommodate groups  with up to four bedrooms.  Pool Villas, (Paul McCartney and Heather  Mills honeymooned in one) are lakefront bungalows which include sitting  and dining areas, private outdoor pools, and open-air back balconies  where guests can relax while enjoying views of the bright green rice  paddy beyond, alive with insects, birds, and fishes. 

And viewing wildlife is one of the resort's attractions. Guests on early  morning bird watching excursions with the resident naturalist catch  glimpses of kingfishers soaring overhead and cormorants preening their  feathers.  In special preserves planted with the favorite bushes and  flowers of each species, butterflies and dragonflies dart and flutter  about as guests stroll by. Fish are bred in rectangular nets lining the  shore, and coconut shells strapped to the trees serve as planters for  decorative orchids. The whole 30 acres is interspersed with canals  interlaced with arched bridges and from morning to night bamboo  houseboats and fishermen in canoes glide silently by.

Coconut Lagoon Houseboats glide by

At one end of the property is the waterside Ayurveda spa. Attendants clad in the hotel's gold trimmed white sari "uniforms" don gingham aprons to administer massage. After Dr. Blossom takes your blood pressure, you lie on a bright colored  mattress while hot oil is dripped down your body. Then in a "spa des  deux" two attendants massage you simultaneously and symmetrically up and down your body. From there you are escorted to a wooden steam box  where you're enclosed from the neck down to sit for fifteen minutes with steam swirling around your lower body. Finally you are escorted to the outdoor shower and scrubbed with a powder paste to remove the oil  leaving your skin lusciously soft and shiny. 

Coconut Lagoon massage table

For guests who want more than pampering and relaxing beside the bright  clear water of the scalloped swimming pool, there is a full range of  daily activities. Early morning yoga sessions are held in the tranquil  screened villa on the edge of the paddy where birdsongs and the splashes of fishermen accompany the yogi's instructions. Walks with the  naturalist illuminate local plants and wildlife. At the shop,  instructors demonstrate how to tie on a sari and wrap the men's  diaper-like dhoti. The intricacies of Kerala's cuisine are demonstrated in cooking classes conducted by the chefs.

Coconut Lagoon Open-air dining room

And cuisine is one of the resort's big attractions. In the Ettukettu  Restaurant six chefs present three inventive buffets of tantalizing  local dishes curries, dosas, salads, breads -- three meals a day of  different arrays -- crunchy rings of bitter gourd, grilled cheese balls, potato-like khurkhas. Midday the open air Aymanam restaurant  specializes in crisp fermented rice "dosa" pancakes with stuffings  specified to order -- tomato-onion or pineapple-coconut. Afternoons, cups of frothy tea are served waterside from the Chaaya Vallam tea boat

Coconut Lagoon Teaboat serves afternoon tea

Every evening night-meal is preceded by a cultural presentation. Beautiful dancers in saris sway gracefully or in the traditional Thullal dance an  astounding dancer uses gestures and facial expressions including  undulating eyebrows to tell traditional stories. 

Coconut Lagoon Sunset views from the beach

The resort is one of 17 operated by the CGH group -- the initials standing  for Clean, Green, Healthy. Composting, recycling, waste management --  every effort is made to live in harmony with nature. Rainwater is  collected and purified. Cow dung is converted to methane gas which the  chefs use for cooking. Signs in the bathroom remind guests that  running the water for five minutes while brushing your teeth can waste  44 liters of water per day. Mosquito control is natural -- nightly  circulation of the canal water augmented by the appetites of birds and  fishes on the premises. Media-starved guests can watch television on a lounge near the fitness room, but each bungalow is TV-free, inviting  guests to fully experience the lush, tropical natural world.




© October 2015 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.


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