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A few years back, I got an opportunity to visit this beautiful resort as part of a corporate engagement and since then had been wanting to go back. Couple of weeks back, my wife and I decided to celebrate our anniversary away from the city and Kumarakom came up as one of our options. We were primarily look for weekend getaways with good air connectivity.

After scouting for a few options on the banks of Vembanad Lake (one of the largest fresh water lakes in the country), we decided to stay at Zuri Kumarakom for their world class property and hospitality. Zuri has one of the best properties in the region with a large artificial lake covering almost half of the resort. We got a good deal from the resort under the MAP plan (breakfast and dinner) along with some discounts at their signature Spa and a complementary sunset boat cruise. There was however one deal on Goibibo.com which was even better, but we were not really sure if the resort would honor this booking. So, we took the safe route and booked directly.

View of cottages and rooms by the lagoon at Zuri

View of cottages and rooms by the lagoon at Zuri Kumarakom

Cochin/ Kochi is the nearest airport and is about 90kms away from Kumarakom and about 20 kms outside of Cochin town. We had already pre-booked a cab from ITS Cabs which offered the best rates and we were very happy with their service. Veena from the cab company was constantly in touch with us to ensure everything was in order. The trip cost us Rs 2100 one way and took about 2.5 hours. There is a pre-paid taxi counter at the airport which will charge about Rs 2300 for the same distance for an air conditioned sedan.

Zuri Reception

Zuri Reception

The moment we entered the resort property, we were treated like royalty with warm towels and a huge tender coconut while we were being checked-in. Our request for an early check-in was prioritized and we were able to get our room almost 2 hours in advance. Our high ceiling deluxe lagoon view room / cottage on the first floor was well appointed with all the usual luxuries (LED television, kettle for tea/coffee, mini fridge, locker etc) that a 5 star property offers along with a see thru bathroom and a large bath tub.

Fully furnished room with view of the lagoon

Fully furnished room with view of the lagoon

View of the lagoon from our room at Zuri

View of the lagoon from our room at Zuri

Since their in-room dining options are limited, we decided to have a quick bite at their all day cafe followed by a stroll around the property to catch a glimpse of the massive Vembanad lake which is beautiful during sunset. Their lounge bar facing the lake is also a good place to chill in the evening with a couple of drinks. Caution: Kerala does not allow sale of liquor on Sundays and first day of every month.

View of Vembanad Lake from the resort

View of Vembanad Lake from the resort

Evening buffet dinner at the restaurant has a good spread which includes both western and traditional kerala cuisine. Since a large percentage of the resort guests are foreigners, I guess this is essential to cater to their varied taste buds.

After a good night’s sleep, day 2 was to pamper ourselves with some of their signature massages and time at the pool, sauna and jacuzzi. Breakfast spread was good with live counters for dosa and egg preparations which filled us up. Massages at their signature spa are priced starting from Rs 2000 and going all the way up to Rs 7000. The evening cruise in a traditional boat took us around the lake to catch the sunset. This 45 min cruise costs Rs 350 if not added into your package. The resort also offers complimentary evening tea and cookies to all its guests either by the lake front or in their restaurant every evening.

Sunset on Vembanad Lake

Sunset on Vembanad Lake

Day 3 was a rush to start packing and getting to the breakfast counter before it shuts down by 10.30. Before we realized, it was time for us to head back to the airport with our trusty cab ready to pick us up on time. Check-out was again smooth and uneventful with everything billed according to usage. They accept all major credit and debit cards.

Island inside the resort for yoga and relaxation

Island inside the resort for yoga and relaxation

Costs: Deluxe lagoon view room – Around Rs 12,000 per night with taxes, includes breakfast and dinner, 15% off on signature massages

Flights: Bangalore – Cochin – Bangalore: Approximately about Rs 7000 per person (Will be cheaper if booked 10 days in advance)

Houseboats: An overnite stay in an air conditioned houseboat costs anywhere from Rs 7,000 – Rs 15,000

Other properties in the region: Kumarakom Lake Resort (5 Star)

Vivanta By Taj (5 Star)

WaterScapes Kumarakom (By Kerala Tourism – 4 Star)

Backwater Ripples

Abad Whispering Palms

Your escapist,

Brian

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Here is a quick attempt to share our experiences with the various resorts, homestays that we encounter during our many travels. If you have recently visited a resort and would like to share your experience, feel free to write to us at brian@greatescapes.co.in

Traditional map of Coorg district also known as Kodagu

Traditional map of Coorg district also known as Kodagu which is 250kms from Bangalore

A few weeks back, we managed to get the old gang together and booked a few rooms at the newly opened Club Mahindra Resort at Virajpet in Coorg. Coorg is one of the most visited tourist destinations in South India for its thick vegetation, natural beauty and rich coffee estates. Club Mahindra members get preference but non-members can book this resort too.

This swank new property is located about 15 kms outside the town of Virajpet surrounded by coffee estates and perched on hill at an incline. The lobby is located right at the top to give you a 180 degree view of the valley.

Lobby at Club Mahindra, Virajpet

With constant rains and two infants traveling with us, we managed to reach the property at around 5pm which is about 275kms from Bangalore. That was a good 9 hour drive from Bangalore which would ideally take 6 hours. Patches of the road are in bad shape once you take the detour from the Mysore – Madikeri highway but manageable. The property however was a sight for sore eyes and is very well laid out with cottages and studio apartments tucked away on one side.

Cottages at Club Mahindra, Virajpet

Cottages at Club Mahindra, Virajpet

We got lucky to be housed in the first cottage complex which meant minimum walking distance to the restaurant and entertainment centre. Yes, they have a fully furnished entertainment centre to engage both the young and the old with games like carom, table tennis, chess, air hockey along with special shows for kids during weekends.

The most important part of our holiday is food and clean accommodation and this place lives up to its reputation. All meals are buffet styled with the entire food package (breakfast, lunch and dinner) working out to about Rs 1200 – 1300 which is decent considering the huge spread they offer. We also loved their dedicated kids section where special food is offered to children in colorful cutlery. A la carte options are also available if you do not believe in buffets.

Outside seating at the restaurant

Outside seating at the restaurant in Club Mahindra, Virajpet

The cottages are spacious with a living cum kitchenette stocked with utensils, refrigerator, coffeemaker and a flat screen TV. The living room comes with a dining table and a sofa cum bed and the bedroom is also well appointed with a common balcony. This is where we spent most of our time socializing with friends or just lazing around admiring the greenery outside. (Do note that their club house is under construction and hence there is a barricade put up which kinda obstructs the view. But this should be sorted in a few months.)

Sofa cum bed in the living room

Sofa cum bed in the living room

Overall we had a relaxing time at the Club Mahindra resort with courteous staff who are always smiling. This is one property worth visiting if you are looking for some peaceful time surrounded by green cover. Non-members are charged between Rs 6800 – Rs 9000 per night depending on the time of the year and the type of accommodation. Use this link to know more about the property – http://www.clubmahindra.com/our-resorts/club-mahindra-virajpet-coorg/

You can book online via Makemytrip or booking.com but do plan in advance as there is heavy demand during weekends.

Main lobby with restaurant and entertainment area

Main lobby with restaurant and entertainment area

Greatescapes score for Club Mahindra Resort, Virajpet: 8.5/10

your escapist,

Brian

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Credit crunch, credit crunch, credit crunch, that is all that the media seem to be focusing on.  2009 starts with news of credit crunch and recession around the world. What effect this will have on the travel industry we are still unsure.  Are things going to get as bad in 2009 as they say they are? Perhaps it will be tough for the travel industry.

Well, we’ve all heard about the sad economic state – but for those with a little bit of money to spend, this could be the perfect time for travel. Sounds Crazy? Well may be not!

Recession means less money in our pockets and fewer people taking trips. And that has hotels and airlines offering major deals to try and keep the travelers coming. The good news for consumers is that they can take advantage of some amazing discounts that large companies–including travel agencies, airlines, and hotels are offering to help boost their sales. Combined with the weak economy, fuel prices have drastically reduced, which means that airlines can cut fares further and this could well be worth your while.

So if you are thinking of traveling, this is the time for you. If you are delaying your plans till the economy comes back to track you might be right but you aren’t gonna find cheap rates again. As the economy improves, rates will go up as well.

A couple tips to help score that recession deal:
* Avoid holiday travel or book well in advance for long weekends
* Be flexible with dates
* Book early
* Consider all-inclusive resorts

And don’t forget to check Time.com’s article ‘5 best places to travel in a recession’ http://www.time.com/time/travel/article/0,31542,1855690,00.html

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