Paradise In Kerala: Day 1

It's been a while since I've let myself truly get away from it all, and for a while now I've had friends and colleagues from India tell me that next time I'm in India, I really should spend some time in Kerala (a state in the southwest corner of the country).  So after some serious thought, I decided to treat myself to a weekend of pure relaxation and pampering at some place near a beach in Kerala.  That place turned out to be the Leela Kovalam Beach Resort, as you can see from the previous blog entry.
George Checked Into the Leela, With a Soothing Welcome Drink

Here is what I looked like about five minutes after checking into my room; I was greeted by about five people who were ready to give me a red dot on my forehead and a nice shell necklace, plus a cool glass of coconut juice.

But Let Me Back Up...

It's been a full day.  It started with breakfast at the hotel in Bangalore where I ran into a great guy who's returning to Sun-India after a short leave (welcome back, Hasham!).  I had a brief scare on the drive to the airport: I picked up the local newspaper which had a front-page headline about a potential Al Qaeda plot to bomb several airports in India.  (don't worry Mom; it didn't happen and I'm just fine)  The plane flight to Trivandrum was fine, and waiting for me at the airport was my own SUV from the hotel, with newspapers, chilled water, and music of my choice.  The driver asked me about thirty-seven times if I was comfortable, liked the drive, if I was alright (yes I was, although after about the thirtieth time is when I asked for him to play one of the music selections).

If You've Been Spoiled Before, Skip This Section...

...because you probably won't be interested in the least hearing how I was pampered.  Otherwise, check this out: I check in, meet my personal butler (please stop and read those two words again, slowly, and with emphasis).  He takes me to the room and asks if he can give me a tour of the room's features.  It's a gorgeous, comfortable room with its own balcony with a view of the Arabian Sea.  (I'm giggling just typing that sentence, which is making me almost spit out my tea with milk and biscuits that Pankaj-the-butler just brought to me)  I think he's about to leave, but he asks if he can unpack my bag for me.  Uhhh, yes he may!  I'm still uncomfortable with this kind of service, but I'm trying really, really hard to get used to it while I'm here.  Anyway, Pankaj asks what I'd like to do next so that he can prepare; I tell him I'll shower then get some lunch.  He makes a reservation at the restaurant that is available only to guests of the wing where I'm staying (called "The Club").  He also asks if I'd like to schedule an appointment for a massage at the spa; I ask him if 5:00 is available and he checks (I'm picking the time pretty much out of thin air; the only schedule I have is when I want to eat lunch and dinner, with enough room in my stomach for high tea at 4:00).  Two minutes later, Pankaj returns to my room to apologize: the spa didn't have any free appointments at 5:00, but would I be willing to go at 5:30?  It's all I can do not to laugh.  5:30 it is.

After lunch (the chef comes out to ask if I'd like any special modifications to the meal he's preparing for me, and we chat for a bit about the similarities and differences between Mexican and Indian spices), I decide to take a stroll around the property.  I'll post photos later, but if you want to get an idea of what the place looks like, look at these photos provided by the Leela web site.  The photos are pretty accurate; this place really is God's Own Country, as they say here about Kerala.  (I have to tell you, this was a little tough to swallow as I often refer to my home land of the Pacific Northwest as God's Country.  I guess God can have a summer and winter home.)

(just took a break; I'm sitting in a room called "The Living Room" which again is available only to guests of The Club.  Pankaj dropped by to see if I needed anything.  I do; it's time for me to pack up the computer and go upstairs for high tea.  Back in a bit...)

...And, We're Back.

The Leela Club Library

Anyway, after touring the place I dropped in on The Library for high tea; it's a gorgeous room with soft, grooving music playing and comfortable furniture everywhere.  And here is where I finally discovered what I believe is my favorite word (as in James Lipton's questions from Inside The Actors Studio).

That word is "snacks", as in "Sir, would you like me to bring you some more snacks with your tea?".  Oh, that word makes me feel so good.

But alas, I can't stay long; the spa beckons.  So after only a few glasses of tea and a couple of plates of snacks, I tear myself away and head toward the spa.

The Spa

They're ready for me; there's not a whole lot to say except that after a hour's massage, I'm completely relaxed and ready to...well, ready to do more relaxing.  That means some time in a quiet place, reading, before heading down to the beach for dinner (of course, Pankaj has made reservations for dinner while I was getting a massage).  The chef comes out to greet me and asks me which of the fresh seafood sitting in front of me on ice that I would like him to prepare.  I suppress a giggle as I walk away to my table, watching him take giant prawns with tongs to prepare for my pleasure.

Rain.  Lots Of Rain.

Raining on the waterfall wall

When I arrived in the early afternoon, it was sunny and wonderfully clear.  Temperature was about 10 degrees warmer than in Bangalore.  As I was sitting in the Library, drinking my tea and munching on snacks (tee-hee), I asked one of the staff if it would rain during the weekend.  Within 30 seconds, I saw a few drops of water; we both looked outside, and the droplets turned to torrents.  It began dumping rain, beautiful, warm rain.  Soon came thunder and a little bit of lightning (I guess saying "a little bit of lightning" is kind of like saying "a little bit of a hurricane", isn't it?).  The hallway outside The Library is exposed to the open air and has a waterfall for a wall; it's kind of a small infinity pool that turns into a wall where the water drops off.  It's beautiful, but even more spectacular with rain falling into it.

By the time I finished my massage, the rain had pretty much stopped.

Americans Are (unfortunately) Everywhere

There was only one thing that spoiled what was otherwise a perfect day: Americans.  Or rather, one particular American guy who I'm sure is, like me, a techno-nerd on vacation (although certainly with a much worse sense of fashion and decidedly less couth).  Here's what happened: I'm enjoying my dinner and this guy sits down at a table near me.  His appearance screams Ameri-nerd, which is fine so far although I didn't come to Kerala to see other nerds (I was hoping to have a corner on that market).  The chef comes to ask him what he would like to eat from among the delights.  There is no menu for the entrees; you talk with the chef about your fish and he suggests several ways he can prepare it for you; you should trust him or you're an idiot, I figure.  I mean, this is Kerala!  Are they going to do fish badly?  I don't think so.

(ah, interruption: Pankaj just dropped by; he needed to know where I'd like to eat dinner and for what time can he make my table reservation by the pool?  So sorry...back to our story)

So...the guy picks out something and then says "I'd like some vegetables with that."  The chef seems a bit confused: what does Ameri-nerd mean by "a side of vegetables?"  The guy insists that he'd like a side of vegetables; you know, vegetables.  The chef finally offers perhaps a spring roll; Ameri-jerk cattily responds with "I don't want spring rolls; I want vegetables that I can see and taste.  What kind of vegetables are local?  Give me a side of those."  I didn't bother to look at what he ended up getting; I did everything I could to avoid eye contact which was tough because he was trying to engage me with one of those "What is with these Indians" looks that I found embarrassing.

I don't think it needs to be difficult travelling abroad, and in a thirteen-star resort where they are falling over you to serve your every whim I figure you can pretty much trust that whenever the staff makes suggestions for you, you're going to love them.  You just gotta go with the flow a little bit; this guy is just losing out on a magical experience, and he'll end up learning almost nothing important about how what other cultures have to offer.  Quelle domage; his loss.

I've decided to avoid this guy at all costs; I'll ask Pankaj to keep an eye out for him.

Thanks, enjoyed reading your post :)

Posted by Saurabh on November 11, 2006 at 03:28 AM PST #

Hi George Loved your blog. I'm coming over to the Leela on the 23rd. Some people have been whining that there is building work around the club area. Is this true? More moans about the club rooms being small an with no bath. Hope you are having a lovely time. best regards Simon

Posted by Simon on November 13, 2006 at 07:28 PM PST #

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