WHAT’S IT LIKE? Suddenly from the main highway, the hotel car turned into a small palm-fringed road with the Arabian Sea on one side that wound its way up to end by the entrance of The Club, the hotel’s specially designed accommodation for premier customers.
The traditional garland of jasmine was placed around my neck and the daubing of the forehead was performed on me for blessings and good luck before I was led to the intimate lobby, filled with oversized candles and fresh flowers. A drink and chilled hand towel were offered to help me cool down from the ride. Pintu, my butler-cum-personal assistant (he was also Richard Branson’s some months ago), was part of the welcoming committee, but it was he who ultimately led me to my room and walked me through my itinerary for the next five days.
WHERE IS IT? Built on a rock face, it was designed by renowned Indian architect and activist Charles Correa to take advantage of the stunning Kovlam coastline. The entire complex comprises 17.7ha of headland, coconut plantations and landscaped gardens (the work of resort expert Bill Bensley). The palace of the Maharajah of Trivandrum, a few metres from the main building, had guest suites with the best views on the premises. But they’re no longer in use.
The resort is 15km from the domestic airport and 15km from Trivandrum City.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 182 guestrooms spread throughout three wings: Beach View, Pavilion and Sea View. The Club product, opened in 2006, is housed in the Sea View Wing and features its own lobby for exclusive check in and check out and 49 Sea View Club Rooms, six Club Suites and one Duplex Suite.
Located on a clifftop, Club guests have the length and breadth of the ocean spread out before them from their private balconies. The sound of waves crashing endlessly on the awesome boulders below reminds one of Mother Nature’s power and majesty, and how small, we, human beings, really are in the great scheme of things.
My favourite space was the elegant Residents’ Lounge, stacked with handsome table books. I passed several hours there, lost in the magic of photography, a welcome change from being glued to the computer screen.
ROOM FACILITIES The predominantly ivory interiors and floor-to-ceiling windows “opened up” my 33sqm guestroom. When the glare of the noonday sun grew fierce, the chestnut brown window louvers were then put to good use. As for traditional artwork, there was none really to speak of, instead sleek wooden furnishings and ambient lighting provided the right accents, whether during the day or at night.
Other useful amenities were the wall-mounted flat-screen LCD TV, high-speed internet access, minibar, bathtub and shower, full-length mirror, electronic safe and printed bedroom slippers.
F&B As a Club occupant, I took most of my meals at the Café, which is exclusively for residents, and one night, I had dinner at Tides, the rustic beach restaurant. The Terrace in the main building features a wood-fire pizza oven and buffet set up, while the Pool Lounge nearby does light snacks. The Bar and Sky Bar has a wide stock of liquors, liqueurs and fine wines.
BUSINESS FACILITIES The Rajiv Gandhi Convention Centre is Kerala’s largest seaside meeting facility, able to take up to 1,000 delegates theatre style and includes a smaller conference room for 100 delegates and an adjacent traditional pandal (hall) for 400 people theatre style. Secretarial services are available in the business centre which has internet access.
LEISURE FACILITIES Besides the award-winning Divya Spa, a destination in itself for its Ayurveda programmes, there is also The Spa at The Club for western treatments. On some nights, the hotel invites over the Kalakeli Kathakali Sangam troupe, which puts on excerpts from Indian classics such as the Mahabharatha and Ramayana as well as kalarippayat (martial arts) demonstrations. Tours around Kovalam can be arranged.
VERDICT Impeccable service from arrival at the airport to departure. The staff was outstanding but I must single out Senior Sous Chef Thomas Joseph and my butler Pintu for their care and professionalism.
PRICE Until April 16, 2010, a Club Room costs from US$514 nightly and from December 23 to January 3, 2010, it’s US$643.
CONTACT Kovalam Beach, Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram 695527, India, tel 97 471 248 0101, www.theleela.com
Margie T Logarta