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Monday, 25 April 2011

Kerala: 'God's Own Country' - Page 5

Written by Brian W Fisher
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After arriving and taking a brief wander around the hotel's immediate surroundings and a half-hour 'recce' of the beach and adjoining roads, I came up with an addendum to the name Varkala. It is...'Varkala, the Land of Linear Litter'. It was appalling to witness such filth and rubbish everywhere I looked. The beach was strewn with it, including piles looking a bit like unlit UK bonfire stacks on 5th November.

A semi hidden stream (if one could call it such) made its way from the local surrounding homes and businesses, downwards to empty into the sea at a point directly opposite the hotel. Closer viewing of this 'stream' showed it to be almost black in color, foul smelling and carrying with it the detritus tossed into it by the local population. One can only imagine the effects of this kind of pollution day after day, year after year. It was little wonder that the beach sand was streaked with black. Only once did I observe two European tourists venturing into the waves. One wonders how their health is now?

Bringing this dreadful state of affairs to the notice of the General Manager of Hindustan Beach Retreat, Mr. Rajkumar Varma, I was told that despite numerous pleadings to the Varkala Municipality, nothing was ever done. I promised to contact both that Municipality as well as the Kerala State Tourist Authority and present my findings.

The state of the surrounding area aside, my stay at Hindustan Beach Retreat was overall a pleasant one. All twenty-seven rooms face the sea and have uninterrupted views to the west. The hotel is only eight years old, so its infrastructure is still crisp and functional. I found the rooms to be of a much higher standard than expected for the class and price advertised. Hand crafted hardwood featured in all areas and guest room floors were laid with beautiful quality marble, as opposed to the usual ubiquitous carpet.

The hot water was hot, showers were powerful and the mini bar was functional. Room service was among the fastest I had ever experienced and the bed one of the most welcoming. The staff were a happy bunch, no doubt due to the 'laid back' nature of the hotel's Mr. Varma. Nothing was too much trouble either for him or his workforce.

Meals could be taken either on the ground floor near the swimming pool or on the fourth floor terrace where dining was accompanied by a view out over the Arabian Sea. Dozens of bobbing lights dotted the horizon from the local fishermen’s canoe type boats.

The hotel swimming pool was indeed first class and it too overlooked the sea. Kept spotlessly clean by a full-time attendant who couldn't do enough to ensure guests enjoyment, the pool was a sanctuary for those not venturing into town. I took full advantage whenever my crammed itinerary would allow.

My rating: On this occasion I need to split it between the hotel and the location.

Beach and location...1/10

On the last morning of my stay, my original driver John was sitting patiently outside the hotel at 8.30 a.m. He'd left his home in the middle of the night so as to be ready for my departure from Varkala. Ahead of us was a five and a half hour drive north to Cochin Airport where I had reserved a room for my last night in Kerala. Knowing the distances involved and the inevitable slow progress of traffic, it was a sensible choice.

The Abad Airport Hotel is perfectly placed a five minute drive from the departure terminal. I arrived in the early afternoon, giving me the opportunity to unpack all my belongings and sort them in preparation for my journey home.

Having stayed at many such 'airport' hotels around the world, what I found here was not the norm. It did not have the feel of a transient hotel, one of mere convenience and basic facilities. Instead, it was fresh and welcoming, had a large swimming pool, a fantastic restaurant, top class furnished rooms and a helpful staff. Courtesy cars were parked ready to ferry guests to and from the airport at five minutes notice. It was a slick operation that worked efficiently. Being Muslim owned, the hotel did not serve alcohol, but in no way did that detract from the overall ambience and comfort of the place.

With a wake-up call the next morning, a cup of strong coffee, a smooth check-out and the brief drive to the departure terminal, I was ready to return home.

©Brian W Fisher

(Page 5 of 5)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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