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Visiting India was a wonderful experience especially as I have never travelled outside Europe before. Exploring new cultures, incredible nature and learning about people and their traditions is something I’m passionate about.
My first stop was Cochin airport in Kerala, where I met my colleagues in our Cochin office for a few days of hard work introducing the new integrated systems. During this time, I visited one colleague’s house and tasted home cooking, including monster prawns!
At the weekend Shreedevi and I left for Coconut Lagoon, an incredible property where I felt like Alice in Wonderland. You can only access the hotel by boat and Coconut Lagoon is surrounded by the tropical backwaters.
After a long drive from Coconut Lagoon we arrived at another impressive property, Spice Village in Kumily. The property consists of neatly arranged small cottages. Unfortunately this time we did not have time to visit the nearby Periyar Tiger Reserve, I will have to visit the area again soon. It has an incredible mixture of elegant and natural style and as designing things is one of my big passions I felt instantly attracted to this place.
Each cottage decoration was inspired by the native tribesmen of Periyar. Mountain spirit and tribal wisdom is evident in each of the cottages. Ours was very beautiful; the roof was thatched with the same elephant grass used in tribal huts, woven using the same traditional techniques. However, the comforts of a modern hotel exist, but they never intrude. Modern plumbing, comfortable beds and hot showers find their place, but in a setting stripped down to its natural essence.
On the table was a selection of the spices that give the village its name. Each cottage overlooks its own patch of greenery, with individually labelled bushes and trees. The Fern palm group are prehistoric relics, with relatives only in Africa and Australia.
The lemon grass oils are marvellous. Not only do they smell fresh but they are also biodegradable pesticides, and you'll hear the sprayer most afternoons actually helping the ecology, not harming it. Little clay pots dotted about the grounds provide natural mosquito control, as did the camphor burner in our room. Even the strings of Aloe Vera plants hanging from the thatch serve a purpose, keeping flying pests away from the dining areas. They are also very proud of their organic garden, putting fresh produce on the table each day.
Spice Village's popular cookery classes for guests are conducted most evenings. We picked up some tips which the chef unveiled. In the evening we enjoyed a nice glass of wine, surrounded by tropical lushness and spice- scented breezes wafting in from the forests enjoying the performance of Kerala dancers.
We couldn’t wait to wake up next morning and go to one very special place to meet the elephants.
Elephant’s are mysterious animals. Humans are only just now beginning to understand them. The notion that elephants might be as smart as humans is a relatively new one, putting elephants on par with other sophisticated animals like dolphins. Still, there is remarkably little research to see just how smart elephants are, due in part to their daunting strength. Nevertheless, scientists have now adapted an experiment commonly used with primates to test elephants' understanding of cooperation.
Blessings come in many forms and from many sources. However, in the south of India blessings are dispensed by elephants. Due to the association of elephants with the wildly popular God, Lord Ganesha, their blessings are considered holy.
One of the mahouts offered us a ride on the back of his elephant between the spice plantations. Of course this was unforgettable experience. After the walk the elephant blessed us so I believe Shreedevi and I will be lucky to the rest of our lives.
The next day I flew to Delhi where my adventure in Incredible India continued....