Monday, 14 October 2013

Bekal - Playing tag with the Waves

Stepping onto the beach, my feet sink into lush golden sand. Not just sand, it is something more, something soft and delicate, yet robust and sturdy. On closer inspection, I see translucent amber coloured granules, cool and soft to touch, blending in with the sand like gems; making it a rich, heady mixture, heaven for my feet.

Welcome to Kappil beach, at Bekal on the Malabar coast of Kerala.
Playing tag with the waves at Kappil beach
Translucent amber coloured granules and shells  
Relax, refresh, indulge – that’s what I wanted at my next travel destination. The idea was to laze around while exploring a little and indulging a lot! Indulge in coconuts, South Indian cuisine, be a water baby all day long, Bekal was my perfect get away.

About Bekal
Browsing through the Malabar Coast of south India, you will see a tiny little destination called Bekal at the northern tip of Kerala. It is lush with coconut tree plantations and fishing villages, When you are in Bekal you are literally snug in an embrace between the backwaters, the western Ghats in the east and the Arabian sea in the west.  

Getting There
Mumbai - Bajpe Airport Mangalore, followed by a drive about 60 kms to Bekal (the route I took)
Mumbai - Karipur International Airport, Kozhikode, about 200 km from Kasaragod town onwards to.

Kappil beach forms the perfect border to the few luxury properties in the area.
I for one stayed at Vivanta by Taj, a property by India Hotels. "Why does the Elephant God at the entrance look so fierce?" I asked in a bewildered voice, my first in many questions to our host Aditi for the evening. With a charming smile she explained, "The statue you see is not an Indian version of the Elephant God. Design elements in the property have been inspired by Balinese culture, you will see symbols of which throughout the property." 

I can tell you the statue is probably the only intimidating presence at Taj Bekal, the rest of it spells pure indulgence, I was in heaven.

A golf cart ride around the property helped me set my agenda for the next few days: short walk to the beach, followed by an indulgent appam and coconut veggie stew at the restaurant, snooze, repeat. My ears heard the guide talking about kayaking along the backwaters, a fully equipped gym, some target practice along the way, etc. but my mind chose to ignore any reference to activity. When he used the word - spa, I woke up and made a beeline for it. 

That done, we were escorted to our rooms, wait call them luxury havens! With a plunge pool just as you step out of your room, a majestic swing to lounge on with a book, without a care in the world. Ahh!

Being the water baby I am, it is safe to say I spent many an evening simply indulging here. 

Food, yes that came next. Did I mention I am crazy about South Indian cuisine? Especially appam, rasam, gun powder, banana chips, I can go on! So you can imagine my glee when we were invited to a special feast the next day. Kerala's harvest festival Onam is celebrated with Sadya, literally meaning a banquet in Malayalam. It is traditionally a vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf. About 24 to 28 dishes are served on the leaf in a single course and eaten with hands without using any cutlery. 
   I have to share with you the detailed symbolism and significance of eating with your hands, shared with us by the team at Taj. The Vedas say, "Eating food with your hands feeds not only the body but also the mind and spirit. Our hands and feed are said to be the conduits of the five elements. Each finger is an extension of one of the five elements. The thumb is Agni (fire) the fore finger is vayu (air), the middle finger is akash (ether), the ring finger is prithvi (earth) and the little finger is jal (water). While you eat with your hands, they all come together thereby stimulating all the five senses. This improves your digestion and making you more attuned to the textures and smells of the food being eaten."

I still remember every flavour of that meal. All I wanted to do post this feast was curl up with my book on that oh so awesome swing and rock my self to sleep. It wasn't a dream, I did exactly that.

Of course I explored around, what kind of a traveller would it make be had I not! So I trailed my footsteps back to the beach this time exploring the sand bars that connect to the backwaters and estuary.
Backwaters merging into the Arabian sea on the other side
To my left was a calm river winding its way through coconut groves and to my left lay the excited Arabian sea. Needless to say the pictures don't speak for the magic I experienced.

Top Picks:
Foot massage at Jiva Spa
Coconut cream Panna cotta at the restaurant Latitude

Around the Area:
If you are in the mood to explore, visit Bekal fort and head out for a trek amidst coconut plantations near by. I was not impressed by temples I visited a few kilometers away, one of which had a 'Hindus Only' notice at the entrance. 

Also I noticed some communial tension around the area in Kasargod town. Our last night turned quite adventurous as a leader from the opposing political party had been murdered. We received a call at 2 am with the news and were told about roads being sealed off for a curfew.We were to head to Mangalore at 10.30 the next morning but took a call to check out immediately. It was quite a hush hush, rush rush affair with the Taj team escorting us to their Mangalore property. I was looking forward to the sun rise the next morning at that magical beach, but for the time being will have to do with my memory of the southern sun set. 
Last rays of sunlight, Kappil beach
Sun set at Kappil beach

No comments: