Life Mag: Destination .... Kerala, India - A Little Taste of Paradise
Byline: DAVID JONES
THE sun was just dipping beyond the rice fields as we dropped anchor for the night.
I dived into the warm water, scattering the flecks of orange light that danced across the surface.
The smell of fish frying in coconut oil wafted from the barge as we swam in the fading light, the only sound the hollering of a lone fisherman as he peddled his catch to the riverbank villagers and the gentle lapping against the bow of the boat.
And, from somewhere in the distance, the clear, angelic voices of a children's choir drifted softly across the water...
Normally, I would expect credits to start rolling at this point, delivering a jolting reminder that I'm really in a crowded multiplex on a rainy Birmingham night.
But not this time. This was Kerala - unimaginably beautiful, enchanting beyond belief . . . but definitely real.
Down on the south-west coast of India, it's one of the country's smaller states, but Kerala's natural riches together with the hospitality of its people guarantee surprises and delights at every turn.
My wife and I were staying for two weeks at Marari Beach - a cluster of 50-odd apartments in a tranquil coconut grove alongside the Arabian Sea. But this was the first of two nights we were spending on a converted rice barge which we had hired, complete with three-man crew, to explore Kerala's famous backwaters.
Teeming with life
The waterways are spellbinding, but they're more than some scenic boat ride for tourists. Indeed, they're teeming with life, kids lining the bank to wave at the funny-looking visitors while mums and dads wash pots, clothes or themselves on stone steps leading from their homes to the water's edge.
Marari Beach is more of a village than a hotel, with guests staying in individual thatched cottages. These blend well with the local fishing hamlet, Mararikulam, but are actually just two years old and come complete with air-conditioning, mini-bar and twice-daily room service.
It's the perfect place to unwind as you potter between beach, pool and bar while a canopy of palm leaves rattles overhead and the friendly staff attend to your every need.
Most guests take the opportunity to visit the resort's Ayurvedic Centre, where expert masseuses use ancient combinations of herbs and oils to soothe away every ache or ailment.
Everything is laid on in Marari Beach - there's tennis courts, yoga, a wonderful restaurant with live music - you need never leave the resort if you want to be treated like royalty. …