Sunday, 21 November 2010

From paradise to nirvana

If the houseboat was paradise then the Varikatt Heritage homestay is complete heaven.

I don't know where to begin with how fabulous this place is, it's pretty damn perfect.

To begin at the beginning: we arrived back in Allepey at about 9.30, after breakfast and a short cruise.

Off the houseboat we had been told to ask for Joseph who would get a car for us and after a short delay this he was able to do.

Whilst waiting I tried to call the homestay but got through to someone with limited English and didn't get very far. It seemed as though we had the wrong number.

The taxi arrived and due to the puddles we were transferred to it by tuk tuk. So off we set with no booking but a plan B if necessary.

The journey passed as usual - offers of shopping which we declined, a stop for tea and the route along rutted roads past villages and hoardings and bright lorries and paddy fields. So far, so India.

At Trivandrum after about 4 hours the driver stopped to ask a few people and with a bit of map consultation we found our way to the gates that the book says to look for. It did not look promising. There was nothing to identify it as a homestay, the gates were closed, no bell to ring, and the nameplate was not the same as the one in the book. As I was about to put plan B into action the driver opened the gate and wandered off and S followed.

Then S came back to say there was no-one about and perhaps we should go to plan B, and then he wandered off again. And then he reappeared to say that it seemed that it was the right place. So I got out of the car and walked through the gates. Straight into an oasis.

The house is a beautiful bungalow built in 1850 with a huge front verandah and lush garden at the front. We were greeted by Col. Roy Kuncheria, 3rd Gurkha Rifles (Rtd) who confirmed we could stay and immediately offered tea.

He showed us the proposed room - in fact a suite of large bedroom, spotless bathroom with huge shower (in fact the best bathroom we've had in India) and a dressing room! A DRESSING ROOM!

The furniture is pretty much all original as the Col's family have owned the house since 1855 having bought it from the original owner/builder.

In 2002 he restored it but didn't change the layout or structure and it's just perfect. Cane chairs for the verandah, dark wood doors, hunting trophies, a case of antique wine glasses, head-dresses of the Naga people (who are headhunters by the way) from Nagaland in the top North-east of India where the Col. served - it's everything one would expect of an old and distinguished family home.

The Col. has taken us in hand and is planning stuff for us including a trip to Kanyakumari at the tip of India but we can do it in a day and come back here.

I am exceptionally happy to spend the next few days here it's completely luxurious in a very particular way that has nothing to do with chocolate on the pillow or fluffy bathrobes - it's in the welcome and the sheer style of the place.

And it's 3500rs a night. Or £50 ish.

Dinner was delicious - chicken curry, potato and cauliflower, okra, dhal and chapattis. All home cooked. He said he will give me a lesson - very exciting.

If you look it up on the Internet - and I urge you to do so you should get an idea of it.

I feel like a cosseted honoured guest and it's perfect. Just perfect.


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