A stroll on the sandy expanse of Kovalam beach brought back memories of the Padmarajan movie ‘Season’. The Mohanlal-starrer was singular among Malayalam movies for capturing the beauty of Kovalam on reels. The picture perfect Kovalam – with three crescent beaches laid out back-to-back, a rocky cliff and a lighthouse looming on the horizon and all but 13 km away from the Trivandrum city- was in high spirits that evening. The sounds and sights were of fun and frolicking. Beach umbrellas put up by sunbathing tourists dotted the blue and white landscape; couples were busy clicking selfies with the ocean in the backdrop; those spellbound by the sea lazed around lost in thought -the holiday buzz gave it the air of a beach carnival.
A trip down the sandy lanes
It is said the Ay dynasty of Sangam Age had its administrative capital at Vizhinjam. It stayed in the limelight along with its neighbor Kovalam well into the time of the Travancore kingdom. In the 1920s, the then regent Sethu Lakshmi Bayi constructed the beautiful beach resort Halcyon Castle in Kovalam. By the 1930s, the beach was catapulted into fame as a tourist destination.
Gazing out at the endless blue from your beach facing resort and being lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves – isn’t that the idea behind a beach holiday? We were looking for just that when heading to KTDC’s beach resort at Kovalam. And welcoming us from the edge of the waters was the beautiful Samudra. The plaque at the entrance told us that the resort was in its third decade, having been inaugurated by Vakkom Purushothaman in 1981. We were led down the beach-themed lobby – the walls lined with wooden oars and a catamaran lounging near the lift. The settings ensured that the seaside magic was intact even when we were indoors. Past a life-size painting of Raja Ravi Varma, we entered the lift and headed to our deluxe room.
Resort Manager Ajith briefed us on the vital statistics of Samudra. The resort, sprawled on 44 acres of land, has a total of 64 rooms – 2 premium suite rooms, 52 deluxe rooms and 10 budget/avenue rooms. More rooms were added to the original structure when it received a facelift in 1996-97, he said.
The windows of our room opened to the landscaped garden, beyond which lay the Kovalam beach in all its glory. We spotted large rocks in the garden that served for truly beach-style lounge chairs and plenty of inviting hammocks. Set off by the azure backdrop, the lush green coconut fronds swaying in the breeze made for a soothing play of colors.
The path leading down the garden from the back of the room led to the swimming pool. Two cottages stood near it, away from the rest of the building. These were the suite rooms. We were allowed to check out the rooms as they were vacant. The tastefully done up rooms had an up close view of the sea and the swimming pool. With premium fittings in the bathroom, the suite rooms promised a stay worth every penny.
Dusk fell on the beach and the lamps propped on stone pillars lit up the walkway. We walked down past the little-thatched hut on the far end of the landscaping that served as the security guard’s restroom. Adjacent to it was a small iron gate that opened to the beach. We discovered that the whole pie called Kovalam beach comes forked out as three portions – Eve's Beach, Lighthouse Beach and Samudra Beach. And that Samudra is the quieter one of the lot, giving it the epithet ‘honeymooners’ paradise’.
We opened the gate and walked out onto the beach. The signboard warned of high tides and forbid visitors from bathing in the sea. A walk uphill took us to a landscaped portion of the property modeled on Titanic. Stand on the deck of this make-believe ship, Rose-and-Jack-style, to watch the ocean stretched all the way out to the horizon as the sea breeze ripples through your hair.
Climbing over the huge rocks, we headed uphill and reached what looked like a portion of a stage. On asking the staff what the place was meant for, he explained that we were at the venue for beach weddings. Cultural events were also held here, he said, and showed us pictures of weddings and parties on his mobile phone. The pictures vouched for the charm that evening at Samudra beach added to weddings.
Back in the room, we freshened up and went out to the restaurant which was right across our room. Although they have a 24x7 room service, we decided to check out the restaurant. You could also opt for a seaside dinner out on the lawns. The menu has a variety of spread – from traditional Kerala food to Chinese and Arab cuisine. The restaurant staff told us that seafood delicacies were the hot favorites among tourists. The hotel staff who earlier showed us pictures of beach weddings came by to ensure we were having our fill.
We were also given a guided tour of the 1000-seater G V Raja convention center, the adjoining dining area which can seat 200 people at a time, and the ayurvedic spa and therapy center run by Santhigiri. In answer to our queries about seasonal rush at the resort, he went off to the office and brought back a log book containing photographs and notes from regular visitors. Some of the notes were from visitors who have been coming back to the resort for over 20 years. For many, like Derek June Cox, Andy, Hilda Small, Ian and Rowe, Samudra seemed to be a second home. As the evening wore on, we knew we would come back too.
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Places to visit
A climb to the top of the famed lighthouse at Kovalam and some seaside fun at the beach
The cave temple at Vizhinjam, Vellayani Lake, Sankhumukham beach,
Boating at Veli Tourist Village, Sree Padmanabhaswamy temple, Mosques at Beemapally and Palayam, Attukal temple