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Kerala's North Forntier

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With the launch of the Vivanta by Taj, Bekal, the state’s unexplored north coast is thankfully opening up to visitors.

“Holidays can either be active or lazy; a vacation here invariably falls into the latter category,” says Samir Khanna, general manager of Vivanta by Taj, Baklal, as we drive around the resort in a golf cart. The property boasts 71 palm-fringed villas and rooms sprawled across 26 acres of tropical countryside, through which the Kappil River flows on its way to meet the Lakshdweep Sea. Back in the 18th century, Bekal was an important maritime port; now it’s an agrarian hub. And while the hotel’s concierge has come up with numerous imaginative ways for visitors to explore this uncharted beach destination – from kayaking and lunch with a local family to trips to Bekal  Fort – I, like most guests here, preferred staying in.

Description: Vivanta by Taj

Vivanta by Taj

The property’s  pic turesque location and laid – back charm could well  have been responsible. Strong emphasis has been placed on incorporating natural themes in to Vivanta’s design;  tranquil water gardens and fragrant frangipani trees are scattered across the grounds.

Everywhere you look, the resort affords views of emerald water, interrupted only by the peacocks that routinely descend on its lawns.

Description: Everywhere you look, the resort affords views of emerald water

Everywhere you look, the resort affords views of emerald water

Architecturally, the guest rooms draw inspiration from the kettuvallam houseboats unique to Kerala’s backwaters, and have high – vaulted bamboo ceilings and decorative stone columns. I checked into a Premium Indulgence room, one of the better lodgings on offer. Designed as a private sanctuary, it comes with its own plunge pool, sundeck and daybed. There’s also an outdoor soak tub that’s connected to bathroom. The interiors are styled with custom-made brass chandeliers, copper and gold murals.

Description: Designed as a private sanctuary, it comes with its own plunge pool, sundeck and daybed.

Designed as a private sanctuary, it comes with its own plunge pool, sundeck and daybed.

The resort has several secluded nooks and corners along the water’s edge that take private dining to an entirely new level. On the Sunday evening I visited, many couples were out enjoying the intimacy this setting allows, including table maestro Zakir Hussain. Guests can even experience dining on pontoon out on the river.

Wherever you eat, the food is exceptional; chef Valentine Athida is an expert in the region’s distinctive Malayali Muslim cuisine. “With lesser emphasis on coconut and more on spices, food here is prepared differently from that of southern Kerala,” he explained as he offered me steamed seer fish marinated in tamarind sauce, wrapped in a banana leaf.

Description: Guests can even experience dining on pontoon out on the river.

Guests can even experience dining on pontoon out on the river.

‘The resort affords views of emerald water, interrupted only by the peacocks descending on its lawns’

Though still in its soft launch phase when I visited, the resort was already playing host to a pleasing mix of people: local couples, families looking for a quick getaway from nearby Mangalore and Calicut, as well as international visitors keen to discover a new side of Kerala. With the launch of the Java Grande Spa – the Taj group’s largest spa at 1.65 lakh sq ft, with eight treatment rooms, a yoga pavilion and a wellness cuisine restaurant – the hotel is well on its way to becoming a destination in itself.

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