The Secret Garden Heritage Hotel is aptly named as I find out on my twisting and turning tuktuk drive to find my final hotel of this amazing trip to southern India. I'd found the hotel by chance online and as soon as I saw the photos showing off their gorgeous antique Indian furniture, the elegant balconies, the wooden carvings, the four poster beds with beautiful Indian design coverings and the pool I just couldn't resist splashing out and treating myself to three extra days on my own at the end of my G-Adventures trip.
I am welcomed with a freshly squeezed pineapple juice and then taken to my gorgeous room. The standard is quite a notch up from those I'd gotten used to on my adventure travel tour. So I'm blown away by the luxury and attention to detail. It's perfect and I actually bother to unpack, something I've not even attempted on my trip so far. We've been on the move so much it hasn't seemed worth it. Next stop the pool, and I have it to myself. In fact I almost have this tiny hotel to myself. There is just one family and two other single women as
I find out when I meet them at breakfast the next morning.
I while away the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the pool, reading, catching up on my blog and just enjoying some quiet time. Don't get me wrong, I loved sharing my Indian adventure with my travel group, but my introverted character now needs some time to recharge and enjoy some much needed time on my own. And the Secret Garden is the perfect place to do it.
The next day I have a wonderful breakfast out on the terraced area. As I'm going to get myself some more fruit the other guests suddenly shout out and I look round to find a cheeky crow trying to steal my omelette! A fresh one is brought out and this time I wolf it down quickly before the crow comes back to try its luck again. Naughty boy! I spend some more time just relaxing, swimming and treating myself to doing just nothing before I figure I should get out into town and find myself something to eat. It's close enough to walk but far enough to have to make sure I make a mental note of the
turns I take. This is the Secret Garden Hotel after all so it ought to be hard to find! The restaurant I want to go to isn't open yet so I go for a wander along the beach. At this time of day, as the sun is starting to set, there are crowds of people all gathering to enjoy the beach and watch the sun go down. I'm the only non Indian there so get lots of people taking a second look. It feels odd not to be inconspicuous like I normally prefer in such situations. It's lovely watching people enjoying themselves, some swimming in the water, others paddling. The Chinese fishing nets guys are getting people to come onto their platforms to take photos. I see a group of people carrying placards encouraging visitors not to drop litter - you'll be lucky, but good on you for at least trying to change attitudes. As the sun sets over the sea I make my way back to the restaurant I'd chosen and have myself a delicious aubergine curry with coconut rice and poppadoms (into the oil 1, 2, 3, 4 turn and back for 1, 2 ,3, 4 - I
learnt that in my cookery lesson in Thekkady!). All washed down by my new favourite drink, fresh lime soda with sugar syrup to sweeten it. The walk back to the hotel is not as easy as I'd thought it would be, everything looking slightly different in the dark of night, but luckily the hotel has placed some handy pointer signs so I know I must be on the right track and do make it back ok.
The next day I have a repeat of the last with more relaxing, pool, reading and writing up my blog. I find a folder with photos of the hotel's restoration project and it was quite an undertaking. I get chatting to a lady from Iceland who is staying at the hotel and it turns out she is friends with the lady who carried out the restoration. What a brave and visionary thing to do in a country so different to her own. Iceland and India are like chalk and cheese. It must have been extremely hard to get the builders, materials, crafts people needed to get it all to come together. Amazing lady.
As I sit having some dinner in town at
my favourite Cochin restaurant I can't believe this is my last day in India, probably ever as I've so many other places in the world I'd like to visit it's unlikely I'll be back now that I've visited both the north and the south. My taxi arrives on the dot the next morning and I'm whisked off to the airport to stand in line for hours while the many staff do pointless checks that aren't needed, very slowly. I'm eventually on board my plane and I wave a fond farewell to India.
It's been an amazing trip, one I'll never forget. Thank you and namaste.
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