Behind the screen of big trees, evergreen foliage, tropical creepers and orchids there are standalone old houses, some very grand and some simply minimalist. One often wonders about Kerala that it’s less a province but more a continuous tropical garden. There’s no place where nobody lives but these houses give a feel of being in isolation. These are the places to slowly enjoy the days, the infectious days that cause deep sense of relaxation and rejuvenation. There is almost always a pleasant exploration into some deeply curated spice garden to walk through and realise the richness of beneficial vegetation that nature has provided in one place. A stunning verdant landscape comprising of water bodies, narrow pathways through vegetation and little houses can be found as one walks further.
Inside, almost always there is a resident family taking care of you with the help of pleasing retainers. The owners take great pains in creating facilities in the guest rooms and use imaginative approach in making beautiful modern bathrooms. Unfailingly, the food cooked and served is so full of richness in flavours and aromas that one doesn’t miss outside food in any length of stay. The resident family, the caretakers and the relics of the history present inside carry no air of prevention and everything seems in place as naturally placed. Keralans are not known for being over the top, they let the outsider to express and blossom. No matter one decides to go and explore outside or prefers to stay back for days as a genuine resident, the feel of stay remains that of soulful bliss.
Sumptuous freshly cooked meals, the perfect feel of warmth in the hospitality and facility of Ayurvedic massages in some idyllic setting are the key takeaways as lasting memories of such personalised stays. The astounding variety of old houses of Kerala can broadly be found in the following peculiar settings.
There are many beach houses which function as very nice Ayurvedic Spa. There are houses turned into boutique hotels which have every conceivable kind of interior designs and luxuries. Kerala’s tropical seasides like Varlala, Neeleshwar, Bekal, Marari and Kovalam have great options of such private stays. Kerala is most densely populated close to the seaside and most historically important cities and towns are found in the coastal belt. This offers proximity to airports as well as great explorations to famous temples, churches, elephant processions, wooden palaces and art Centers.
The most signature of the Kerala experiences is to stay near the backwaters and watch the world go by. While there almost nothing to do but nothingness is so complete when we find n ever shifting panorama of landscapes as if we were the center of such universe. The most luxurious houses can be found along backwaters, those one with grand wooden walls and open to sky bathrooms. A Kerala experience, where you don’t do anything to the world. The world does everything to you, so magically.
Kerala has the history of intellectuals and nobilities living in far off places where nobody expects. Every inch of Kerala was known as economically important and its own independent trading behaviour through sea saw a variety of settlements happening everywhere. For sensing real heritage of Kerala in which not much looks like have changed in past 100 years or so, staying in such houses is a must. For example, there are old Namboodri Brahmin houses which still have own temple and bathing pond. The Moppla houses of Malabar care a lot about the aromatic food they serve. There are always some odd pleasant surprises in store like a nearby elephant camp, waterfall or exotic plantation.
Many plantations are owned by Syrian Christians, a very friendly and progressive community who proudly bear the shared values and heritage of Kerala’s composite cosmopolitan culture. Their houses of long colonnaded verandahs and polished antique furniture are simple idyllic. Being in plantation estate, the scope of self propelled exploration is immense. There are several trails to explore which often lead to wonderful spots like natural plunge pools and mini woods.
The Fort Kochi is almost a museum of old houses living in which makes possible to walk to the Jew Town and the Chinese Fishing Nets. The place in past few years has begun to throb with art galleries, installations, fine restaurants, curio shops and bars. The Kochi Biennale is a huge draw. Howsoever sleepy it feels like, the Fort Kochi has been a cosmopolitan place right through with Dutch, Portuguese, Gujarati and Jewish influences on buildings existing side by side with the native forms.
Gardens full of plants of tropical flowers, orchids and exotic spices, cool misty mountain air and extended breakfasts in open are specialities of life in mountain houses. These houses are either found in tea estates or in extensive gardens of spices. In both, the fun is to enjoy a different living style with local planters and harvesters. Another pleasure of living in mountains is the adventure of trekking, walking through villages and trips to waterfalls.
Many houses are fine specimens of preservation of Kerala’s heritage. The wooden palaces bear amazing carvings and some have beautiful murals on walls. The traditional tharawads and courtyard houses are are treated to eyes. Some of the houses still function as classical art Centers and old Ayurvedic pharmacies.