The rugged abandon of a beach and the secret serenity of the backwaters come together in one of Kerala’s most exquisite resorts – The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal. Spread across a magnificent 26 acres on the Bekal coastline at Kasaragod, the resort is resplendent with lush coconut trees, vibrant birdsong and luxurious villas and suites with private Jacuzzis.
From one of the towers at Bekal Fort, I spot various locals practising rowing on slim, long boats typical of Kerala’s rivers and beaches. This is Bekal Beach, not as ferocious as Kappili Beach back at The Lalit but not exactly gentle either. The rowers instantly remind me of Kerala’s famous boat races and I get excited. But Joy, in charge of sports and leisure at the resort lets me in on an even more interesting revelation – boating is a family pastime in Kerala. And all members participate in the rowing of a longboat. At just 9km away from the resort, Bekal Fort treats me to a variety of fascinating sights like little boys dragging miniature boats on the coastline, waves crashing against gigantic rocks into millions of soap suds and couples nestled in the gaps of the walls. The fort is the only reason I spend an entire morning away from the resort. Obviously, it had to be compelling.
I arrive at The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal in time for lunch, after a pleasant flight with Jet Airways to Mangalore Airport and a two-hour drive during which I cross the Karnataka border and find myself in the charming green environs of Kerala. It’s my third visit to one of India’s most beautiful states but the first to Bekal. I have to admit, there is only a minor shift in landscape when I cross into Kerala. Mangalore was much the same with its engorged rivulets, dense foliage and little brick paths and cottages. It feels refreshing to find myself in the unrivalled beauty of Southern India, after spending many of my previous holidays in central and northern India. The staff at The Lalit welcomes me with two large coconuts harvested from their own trees. This has to be the best welcome drink I’ve ever had – the water is cool, sweet and delicious.
A room with a Jacuzzi
My deluxe room is on the first floor of a two-storey unit and comes with a spacious bedroom, veranda and bathroom. I am overjoyed to see JBL speakers in the bedroom, an inviting Jacuzzi in the bathroom and a tranquil view of the Nombili River backwaters from the veranda. And how can I forget the welcome chocolates, cookies and fruits in the entrance area? The room is ideal for 2-3 people as there is a comfortable sofa alongside the double bed which comes with a fancy pillow menu.
So you can choose between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ pillows although frankly, they are all equally good to sleep on! There are three other varieties of rooms at The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal with minor differences. The luxury suite is situated on the ground floor and comes with an outdoor Jacuzzi, the spa suite comes with its own garden and the private villas accommodate four people and have their own swimming pools. All rooms are fitted with a mini bar including wine and beer.
Kerala cuisine and more at Nombili Restaurant
Named after the Nombili River running through the entire property, the restaurant has both indoor and outdoor seating and is located right next to the gorgeous infinity pool. I am to have all my meals here, so it’s a good thing that I like the décor. Other dining options at the resort include the Nombili Bar next to the restaurant (serves wine and beer) and an upcoming snack bar overlooking the beach. The restaurant serves a selection of local, north Indian, fusion and continental cuisine.
Over several lunches and dinners, I sample Allepey vegetable curry prepared with Malabar spices; ulli theeyal, a tangy shallot curry with a hint of coconut; the flaky and layered Malabar paratha, fluffy appams, paneer makhani with generous portions of paneer, a decent brownie and ice-cream dessert, an exquisite meal comprising a cottage cheese steak and biryani served with tangy sauce, vegetable pizza, garlic naan that could have been better, good old roti and a spectacular tender coconut panna cotta.
Breakfast and a rainy exploration of Bekal Fort
I wake up early after my first night at The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal and enjoy a tranquil cup of coffee in the veranda. I haven’t brought my telephoto lens along, so I have to be content with listening to the peacocks and feasting my eyes on birds I cannot name. A lavish buffet breakfast awaits me at Nombili Restaurant before I head to Bekal Fort. I gorge on warm and fluffy idlis and masala dosa with coconut chutney and sambhar, vermicelli upma, spongy carrot cake, sweet and juicy watermelon and filter coffee. There are north Indian delicacies such as parathas, chole bathure and puri bhaji on offer as well.
Bekal Fort is only a short drive away and includes a pretty garden and several towers with stunning views of the coastline. It is the largest fort in Kerala and spreads across 40 acres. As I walk along the snaking path, a sudden downpour descends on me, soaking through my clothes in seconds. I run for cover and stand shivering, under a little hut. But then, I am surprised by a frantic phone call from the driver sent with me by The Lalit. He comes all the way from the car to the interiors of the fort just to hand over an umbrella! That’s one of the nicest instances of hospitality I’ve ever experienced. The best part of the fort is an outcrop that stretches into the sea, accessible by a winding path hewn into the hillside. From here, I have a closer view of the seawater colliding with the rocks and the sandy shores of Bekal Beach.
The beach, backwaters and pool
It promises to be a water-filled day for me. I have the beach, a boat ride on the river and a session of splashing around in the outdoor pool ahead of me. Post lunch, I head to the placid Nombili River. Here, it is quiet and green and time seems to stand still. I don a life jacket and hop into a medium-sized boat with a swarthy boatman. Coursing through the river’s olive green expanse is an experience accompanied by the rhythmic lap-lap of the oars. The dense clusters of coconut trees cast their beauteous shadows on the water, as my boatman rows with all his strength. Boat rides and other water-related activities are offered free of charge to guests at the hotel. And the best part is the ride continues, come sun or rain.
After the short boat ride, I walk down to the beach (there are several cycles on the property for use as well) and drop down on the soft sand, several metres away from the boisterous waves. You cannot go into the sea because the waters are too choppy but this stretch of the coast is always deserted and there are beautiful little shells strewn across the sand, for those who enjoy collecting them. Sometimes, you can see a bunch of boys playing a game of basketball. Once I’ve had our fill of the sea, I head back to my room to recharge my batteries. The outdoor infinity pool shuts at 7pm so I make sure I get there by 6. Swimming around is made more fun by the sudden downpour of rain – I am surrounded by water from all directions!
Bespoke dining by the pool
After the exciting and activity-filled day that I’ve had, a candle-lit bespoke dining experience by the pool is just what the doctor ordered. The excellent staff at The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal has set up a beautiful table for me in a secluded alcove overlooking the glimmering swimming pool. All that’s missing really, is some live music. I dine on the aforementioned ulli theeyal, appam, paratha and tender coconut panna cotta. It is with a heavy stomach and light heart that I head back to the room.
The magic wand of the ‘bath butler’
But I’m not off to bed immediately. The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal offers a mysterious sounding service called ’The Bath Butler’. Before I left for dinner, I had heard the butler bustling around in the bathroom, setting up the Jacuzzi for me. But the sight that greets me on my return leaves me completely spellbound. Mellow candles, essential oils, fragrant bath salts, rose petals and flowers have been artfully arranged around the Jacuzzi for a supremely sensual experience. The water temperature is just right when I slip in and the relaxing soak takes all my worries away.
Ananthapura Lake Temple
It’s my third day in Bekal and I really don’t want to leave. Time is never enough in a place like Kerala – its unearthly beauty and the omnipresent rivers and foliage offer a natural embrace unrivalled by any other. But there is a silver lining to my cloud – the famed Ananthapura Lake Temple lies en route to the airport. Apart from its wondrous location in the middle of the lake, the temple’s unique feature is the resident vegetarian crocodile fondly named Babia.
Legend goes that Babia is the guardian crocodile of the lake and a new one appears every time the crocodile dies. A cluster of ardent devotees are gathered around the lake awaiting Babia’s appearance. I join in after clambering barefoot over several slippery rocks but Babia isn’t in a mood to meet us today. Thereafter, I head to the temple for the magical Aarti with its hypnotic sound of conches and bells. Ananthapura Lake Temple is open to people of all faiths but men are required to remove their upper garments while entering the sanctum.
I return home with A R Rahman echoing in my ears – for he is the preferred choice of music for all the Malayali drivers of The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal!
Good to know
- Mangalore Airport is the closest airport to The Lalit Resort & Spa Bekal. The flight time is 1.5 hours and the drive to Bekal takes 2 hours.
- Alcohol is prohibited in Kerala but allowed in five star restaurants. However, The Lalit serves only wine and beer. You are free to bring alcohol of your choice if you wish.
- This is an all-year round property. Heavy rainfall can put a dampener on your plans but the monsoon also adds to the allure of the river and the beach.
- There is a luxurious spa that you can utilise for Ayurvedic, weight loss and beauty therapies among others. There are facilities for gaming (billiards, table tennis) and a gym as well.
- Rooms begin at Rs 15,000 per night, exclusive of taxes. For bookings, visit http://www.thelalit.com/the-lalit-resort-spa-bekal/.
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