The Zuri Kumarakom, a slice of romantic paradise!

Early last year, I was a guest at The Zuri Kumarakom for a day. To be honest, it might have been too short a stay for me to write a review about any hotel, but I decided to make an exception this one time because this wasn’t just any hotel… this was THE ZURI KUMARAKOM!

I have stayed at a few luxury hotels in the past even though on most days I would choose the chatty confines of a hostel dorm over the quiet plush comforts of a star hotel. But every once in a while, when you have been traveling quite a bit, you feel the urge to pamper yourself. Well, whether tired or not, five star pampering is always welcome, especially when it is from the heart of God’s Own Country.

As part of the first KeralaBlogExpress, I was part of the group of travel bloggers that was chosen to stay at the impressive Zuri Kumarakom. Though our time there was really really short, from 6 pm on day 1 to around 11 am the next day, it was enough for most of us to realize that we had just experienced hospitality of the highest order. The team at the hotel led by the General Manager Mr. Sarat Valsraj left no stone unturned to ensure that we had the most incredible time at the hotel.

Amongst the many amazing luxuries offered by the hotel, I managed to try a few which included viewing the famed sunset over the Vembanad lake from the hotel’s jetty, a swim in the surreal pool, an ayurvedic massage session, a four course dinner and of course an amazing night spent in one of the hotel’s lavish cottages. In more ways than one, I think the hotel would be the perfect honeymoon destination. The Zuri Kumarakom, like its name (Zuri in Swahili means ‘far beyond expectation’), was a hotel that had given me a taste of luxury far beyond my expectations!

Here are the top 5 reasons why I think that The Zuri Kumarakom is a Slice of Paradise that you must definitely visit with your partner.

THE ARCHITECTURE & THE SPACES WITHIN

The Zuri Kumarakom kerala resort & Spa (5)

The building that houses the hotel reception and lobby.

The Zuri Kumarakom kerala resort & Spa_ Lobby (33)

The reception lobby and guest lounge area.

THE LAGOON

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The lagoon that connects to the magnificent Vembanad lake.

THE MAYA SPA

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The couple massage area at the Maya Spa.

The jacuzzi at the spa.

The jacuzzi at the spa.

THE ELEPHANT POOL

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The pool that looks over the lagoon with the Vembanad lake in the distance.

MAYA SPA

The Maya Spa and the Elephant pool at night.

THE DREAM COTTAGES

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Some of the cottages have their own private plunge pools with a view of the Vembanad lake!

A cottage with a balcony opening out to the lagoon.

A cottage with a balcony opening out to the lagoon.

A private plunge pool in one of the cotages.

A private plunge pool in one of the cotages.

 

*All the photographs posted here have been provided by the hotel management on my request as I did not have enough time to shoot photographs of the hotel during my stay. Though my stay at the hotel was complimentary, the thoughts and views in this post are my own.

10 Portraits from Jordan

Jordanians are some of the warmest people I have come across during my travels. Whether it was the taxi driver who welled up telling me about his kids who were at university in America or the young boy who gifted me a bunch of postcards just because I offered him half the sandwich that I was carrying during my visit to Petra; every person I met had something personal to share.

I did not mind getting lost in Amman at night or even losing my phone (which was amazingly returned to me later!) because the experiences I had during my time there would make up for everything else. Never in my craziest dreams had I imagined that I would spend 20 minutes of my life singing the title song of ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ (a 1977 Bollywood movie featuring the legend Amitabh Bachhan!) with a cab driver while we were both trying to find the way to a cheap hostel in the heart of downtown Amman! (You may want to check out the video of the original song here… it will help you understand what an incredibly hilarious experience it must have been for me!)

I could go on and on about the experiences but I will limit this post to sharing the portraits that I managed to capture of the beautiful people I met in Jordan. The stories will follow in later posts!

At Petra, he gifted me a bunch of postcards and 5 minutes of his time.

At Petra, he gifted me a bunch of postcards and 5 minutes of his time.

The Bedouin woman who along with her friend shared cups of tea with me.

The Bedouin woman who along with her friend shared cups of tea with me.

He didn't speak a word. Offered me a smoke and we sat quietly in the Siq soaking in the rays of sun streaming in.

He didn’t speak a word. Offered me a smoke and we sat, absolutely silent, in the Siq for a few minutes soaking in the first rays of the morning sun streaming.

Yasmin only wanted sweets from us. She sat by the rocky steps leading to the Monastery as her mother swept the ground nearby. She broke into this smile when I gave her a packet of cake.

Yasmin only wanted sweets from us. She sat by the rocky steps leading to the Monastery as her mother swept the ground nearby. She broke into this smile when I gave her the slice of cake I was carrying.

The first man I photographed in Amman. Was standing by his stall in the downtown area. He was smiling all the while but put on this look when I asked him if I could take a photo.

The first man I photographed in Amman. Was standing by his stall in the downtown area. He was smiling all the while but put on this look when I asked him if I could take a photo.

He wanted me to buy some 'original' antique coins and wasn't very happy when I refused.

He wanted me to buy some ‘original’ antique coins and wasn’t very happy when I refused.

One of the confident young Bedouin men from the Wadi Rum village. They all loved to pose for the camera!

A young Bedouin man from the Wadi Musa village. He knew a thing or two about fashion and how he wanted his portrait to be taken. They all loved to pose for the camera!

Hussain, my cab driver for a day in Amman. Ex-footballer and university coach, now an honest hard-working cab driver.

Hussain, my cab driver for a day in Amman. Ex-footballer and university coach, now an honest hard-working cab driver.

Zidane Al-Zalabieh, the owner of the Bedouin Meditation Camp in Wadi Rum and one of the most interesting people I have met.

Zidane Al-Zalabieh, the owner of the Bedouin Meditation Camp in Wadi Rum. An amazing host and a very interesting man who has hundreds of stories to share.

I lost my phone a few hours before I was supposed to leave Jordan. He spent almost 3 hours helping me find the phone and getting it back to me. He only spoke Arabic and I don't understand a word of the language, but we communicated just fine! :)

I lost my phone a few hours before I was supposed to leave Jordan. He spent almost 3 hours helping me find the phone and getting it back to me. He only spoke Arabic and I don’t understand a word of the language, but we communicated just fine! 🙂

3 New ‘Things To Do’ in Fort Kochi

Like the exceptionally flavourful food that you find all over Kerala, the tiny region of Fort Kochi seems to have been created by putting together a bunch of wonderful ingredients that were slow cooked over a gentle fire to create a powerful sensorial experience.

Enhanced by an essence of rich cultural heritage that carries influences from the Dutch and the Portuguese colonizers it saw in the past, Fort Kochi has over the years developed into a vibrant tourist destination that entices travellers from around the world. Whether to capture the 14th century Chinese fishing nets against the fantastic backdrop of the famed sunset over the Arabian Sea or to walk through the narrow antique shop lined lanes of Jew Town leading to the historically significant Pardesi Synagogue, tourists have found enough and more reason to ensure that this tiny region remains one of the most visited destinations in India.

What makes Fort Kochi stand out though is its constant state of evolution. The region has progressively added to its already rich bounty of attractions by harbouring and nurturing many new age artists and bold entrepreneurs who have showed their gratitude by gifting it with new layers that seem to merge seamlessly with what existed before. An area that was previously known for its history is now being talked about as a cradle for liberal arts. Historically a centre for spice trade and traditionally a region where you could taste some of the best local cuisine, Fort Kochi is now also known for its beautiful contemporary cafeterias that would put some of their better known big-city counterparts to shame.

Even though I write about the present day Fort Kochi with so much enthusiasm, I in no way am trying to suggest that the region’s heritage can be ignored. When you visit, it is a must to experience the sunset at the Chinese fishing nets and do everything that all those ‘top 10 things to do’ lists tell you to do. It would be well worth your time. I have spent hours doing the same and still relish the thought of doing them again.

But like any experienced traveller would tell you, it always pays to leave your guide book in your hotel room once in a while. Go beyond those lists and only then will you see a side of Fort Kochi that will invite you time and again. Here are my top 3 NEW things to do in Fort Kochi.

1) Create Your Own ‘Art Walk’

Spend an afternoon walking along the streets of Fort Kochi exploring the amazing street art that adorns the walls. You can read my post ‘Fort Kochi, Street Art & A New Dimension’ about the graffiti I saw during my time on the Kerala Blog Express last year. Right at this moment, Fort Kochi is hosting the second edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2014 and the city’s fabric is now getting richer with stunning new additions to its street art portfolio. If you can, before you visit, try to read about the artists who have in the past or are presently creating dynamic pieces that seem to have brought in a new vigour to the region. It will add to the experience.

Art on the sea-facing wall at the Pepper House Cafe.

Art on the sea-facing wall at the Pepper House Cafe.

Building wall covered with graffiti in Fort Kochi.

Building wall covered with graffiti in Fort Kochi.

2) Hangout At One Of The Art Cafes

As you might already know, authentic Kerala food is pretty famous and most visitors have marvelled at the complex flavours of the cuisine. But what you might not know is that there is a new breed of chic art cafes that have popped up in Fort Kochi and they aren’t shy about moving away from the taking chances with fare that has generally not been served in the region . You can now find the heavenly chicken escalope sitting comfortably on a menu next to the legendary appam and chicken curry. Cafes like the Pepper House Cafe (which is my favourite), the Kashi Art Cafe, the David Hall Gallery Cafe and the Teapot Cafe have made chilling one of my top things-to-do when I visit the region. What’s there to complain when you can spend some quiet time (in an Indian city!) at a beautiful cafe with some amazing food and some inspiring art to appreciate!

The Pepper House Cafe

The Pepper House Cafe

Art is an intricate part of the experience at Kashi Art Cafe.

Art is an intricate part of the experience at Kashi Art Cafe.

3) Feel Some Musical Vibes At The Springr Cafe

So this one tip comes with a disclaimer. I am a sucker for anything off-the-beat experience that I can find whether I am travelling or not and so for all those of you who think a cafe must have a particular feel or must have great service, ignore this tip!

The Springr Cafe was special for me. It was more like a friend’s home than like a cafe. An old house converted into an art studio like space. The food was good, simple and non fussy. The seating was informal and the chats friendly. The fact that I could, during my time there, walk into the studio and watch a band practice was AWESOME! That is the charm of Springr. It is one of the few cafes were I didn’t feel like a visitor.

I’m sure that there are other similar cafes in Fort Kochi as the music scene is livelier there today than it has ever been before. Try discovering the others too if you have the time.

The dimly lit studio-like interiors at the Springr Cafe.

The dimly lit studio-like interiors at the Springr Cafe.

A band prepares to jam in the music room at the Springr Cafe.

A band prepares to jam in the music room at the Springr Cafe.

Do you have any other suggestions on new things that a visitor could do in Fort Kochi or have you discovered a cafe that you think others should know about; feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section.