This wasn’t really a planned holiday, but thanks to my AmEx card, we had a Taj voucher to use. That sum being reasonably insignificant in the Taj scheme of things, we wanted to limit the amount we spent for a ‘free voucher’, and that was how Kovalam was chosen as a destination. That, and a chance to see relatives we hadn’t met in over a decade! In line with our miserly approach to this trip, we decided to get there by train. Through some excellent inattention to detail, we ended up in a 2nd Class Sleeper and not the A/C ‘Garib Rath’. It had been a while since we made a summer train journey, and the lack of practice showed! Meanwhile, train journeys are an excellent discovery process – of towns one never knew existed – and this one was no exception. But to cut a long story short, Kerala in the morning was quite a welcome sight!
At 9 AM we reached Trivandrum, on the day that it happened to be hosting what’s arguably the biggest festival it experiences every year – the Attukal Pongala. The roads of Trivandrum are pretty much taken over by women from all over the state, and the city grinds to a halt. Thankfully, it wasn’t a surprise and we had planned to spend the day in a cousin’s place and make our way to Taj late in the evening. But even then, on the way to Taj Green Cove, we could see the remnants of the day’s festivities, and the traffic on the other side of the road was clogged for kilometres! Green Cove is a lovely property, and after enduring the embarrassing welcome ceremony, one can spend many peaceful hours on the balcony watching the sea’s mood swings.
A short walk (or a buggy ride) will take you to Bait, their seafood restaurant on the beach. They only have a rocky beach in the property, so if you want sand, you will have to move around a bit. Bait had a rather limited menu, but they made up for it with a lot of enthusiasm and friendliness. A good time to point out that you will find it really difficult to procure alcohol outside of beer and wine. Green Cove does have a bar, but that’s in the main building. In any case it was a dry day thanks to the festival. Meanwhile, dinner at Bait consisted of rasam on the house, some very good masala squid and a coconut brûlée for dessert.
The next day began with breakfast, served at Jasmine, a multi cuisine restaurant on the property. The buffet had both continental and South Indian options and comfortable seating and a good view meant that breakfast was a slow affair.
The plan for the day was to go to the Lighthouse and Hawa Beaches. Under normal circumstances, this would be a simple Uber ride away, but in God’s Own Country, unions make every trade complex. Uber drivers stay away from Taj and the like, and visitors are at the mercy of the union’s rates! We negotiated rates with a cab driver who dropped us near the beaches. Hawa and Lighthouse beaches are right next to each other, with the former seemingly popular with locals. We checked out the lunch options that we had spotted online earlier in the day. It was very sunny and hot, so we finally chose Fusion, which offered shade and a view. I got myself a pasta and a ginger ale and D asked for a fish dish. We had a leisurely lunch, watching the sea. As we left, I spotted what once would have been a well stocked bar. Now it had fruits! After lunch, we walked up to the lighthouse. For a small amount, you can take a tour of the lighthouse itself. The higher ground offers a splendid view of the beaches.
Finding a ride back was fun, since auto guys seemed to mistake Green Cove for a property in the city, and demanded insane fares. We walked a bit away from the beach and found someone at less than one third the price! Later in the evening, we got ourselves a complimentary boat ride and watched the sunset before heading off to Leela for dinner. We found an auto driver who agreed to take us there. As he left us, we realised the property was quite big, and it would be a better idea for him to pick us up later than for us to walk till the main road. He gave us his phone number with instructions for a 10 minute heads up.
Dinner was at The Tides, by the beach. The menu was Asian, and the quality of the food didn’t really justify the prices. It didn’t help that beer and wine were the only options available! I think this would be really affecting tourism! We also perceived a huge difference in the hospitality of Leela and Taj, with the latter scoring much better in terms of attentiveness and friendliness. Something brought out again at the Taj next day for breakfast, when the staff at the restaurant remembered our room number in a crowded buffet area.
We lounged in our room until our extended check out time (1 PM) and then spent a while in the reception before taking an auto to our lunch destination – Villa Maya, a heritage restaurant. A lovely, relaxing setting to enjoy some wonderfully cooked traditional Kerala dishes. While we had two main course dishes – fish and beef, my advice would be to share a starter and a main course unless you are really, and I mean really, hungry.
The airport was less than 20 mins from Maya, and Uber was an easily available commodity in this part of the city. And thus ended our brief Kerala trip on 13th Monday – Holi day!