April 10, 2006

(February/March, 2006)  Taj Garden Retreat, Thekkady

The reason to visit Thekkady is the Periyar Game Reserve, but the game has long gone. We did see a few elephants as we were driving into the heart of the preserve to start our three-hour jungle walk, whose highlights were a woodpecker, a squirrel and masses of leeches.

Kumarakom Lake Resort, Kumarakom

The 3 ½ drive from Thekkady took us through some of the most spectacular mountain scenery. The hotel is a heritage property because many of the buildings are historic ones that were brought to this location. We splurged on the Presidential Suite, and it was totally worth it, with its private pool looking out to the lake, two bathrooms with open air showers, plasma TV’s in both the living room and bedroom. We ate Indian buffets in the main dining room and fish in the a la carte seafood restaurant. A four-hour boat on Vembanad Lake in a kettuvallom houseboat took us into the famous backwaters of Kerala, where villagers live along canals reachable only by boat.

Taj Malabar, Cochi Cochi is made up of several islands, one of which, Wellingdon, is home to this Taj. We visited Fort Cochi and Jew Town on the island across the bay, traveling by hotel speedboat. The best restaurant in the hotel was the Thai one, where the chef prepared a tasting menu for us.

Bangaram Island

We were hoping to find the perfect beach resort, but were disappointed. The island is fringed by beautiful white sand, but El Nino decimated the coral in 1998 and it is only now beginning to come back, so there is not great snorkeling.

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