A Week In Retreat

Once upon a time, there was this charming young woman, who came back to her home town in Kerala, after many years in New York. She was passionate about travel and she decided that her work has to be all about travel. She started a boutique travel outfit called Silk Route Escapes that designed unique experiential itineraries for the world traveler. One fine day, while on a boat (but of course), she chanced upon a little island, and spotted the perfect piece of land. She sighed and wished that she could get that perfect piece of land to live on and to work from. And then as her wish turned into firm resolve, she made it happen. She took that perfect piece of land and step-by-step, brick-by-brick, created a sublime abode. And if you thought that this was the happy ending, wait for more. She not only created this beautiful retreat but also opened it up for fellow appreciators of charming spaces, to stay in. And then, the happiest part of the story for me, she invited me to join her and experience the quiet little heaven, that is Kayal.
Maneesha Panicker and I have been in touch since the time Kayal was just an idea. She had ‘heard‘ me exclaim over Kochi, and knew that I would love her little nook on the island of Kakkathuruthu – the Island of Crows.

And what a lovely experience I had! It started with a magical pre-dawn
boat ride across the back waters of Lake Vembanand to the secluded
shores of the island. The early morning peace and the gentle lull of water was the perfect backdrop to practice the yoga and meditation that my friend and I got initiated into earlier in the week. Simple yet beautifully done up rooms, open air bathrooms, traditional Kerala architecture, restored antique furniture, vintage pictures on the walls, friendly & helpful staff and best of all, a kitchen supervised by Maneesha’s mom! With finger licking delicious food being churned out from the kitchen through the day and warm conversations at the dining table, we felt completely at home!   

As the sun set, we decided to take a boat ride to the other side of the island and then walk through the village back to Kayal. The leisurely boat ride was followed by walking through the meandering paths, taking in the local village life and a pit stop at the chai wallah by the shore. I also had to make cat-dog stops to befriend each fur ball that crossed my way. Or not cross my way. I went out of my way to say hello to the cats of Kakkathuruthu, and well, they weren’t very impressed by my friendly overtures, as you can see from the pic below. Balan, on the other hand, our cheerful boat man, regaled us with local tales and ramped us up on the local flora and fauna.
I am now back home, after two superb days at Kayal, and am yet to get over the Kerala hangover. The good part (yes, the good stuff just doesn’t end!) about Kayal Island Retreat is that it’s a quick thirty minute drive away from Kochi. And Kochi being one of my favorite cities, I know that I am going to back very soon to this Island of Crows and again enjoy the amazing hospitality at Kayal. A shout out to the team at Kayal, Rupa, Maneesha and a big thank you hug to Maneesha’s mom ~ I now have a second home in Kerala! 🙂
Here’s how you can get to Kayal and find more info:

~ And then there was also Coimbatore & Kochi ~
My travel last week actually started with Coimbatore. My friend and I went to the Isha Yoga Center and spent three intensive days at the retreat. It was an unique experience and I loved the fact that apart from the yoga & meditation, we got to do so many outdoor activities, along with a bunch of fellow Damn-will-I-ever-learn-how-to-meditate enthusiasts. Walks in the foothills of Velliangiri hills, treks in the surrounding forest and a thorough pounding beneath the cold waterfall located deep in the forest complemented perfectly the physically & emotionally intense Yoga & Meditation sessions. I have come back rejuvenated with the resolve to continue the practice. Though my boy cat seems to take a personal affront to my doing the cat pose and every morning along with the yoga, I also practice hand to paw combat to ward off his attack on my legs & arms! Clearly, my cat doesn’t like me all calm and zen.
And how could I go south and not spend atleast a few hours in my favorite city – Kochi! As I drove around Jew Town and the Fort Kochi area, just a few hours in hand before we caught the evening flight back home, I spotted old favorites & new boutiques, cafes and galleries. I caught up with my friend & midnight badminton partner (story for another time), the very talented corporate chef at Malabar Escapes, over a fabulous lunch of tapas and chilled white wine. And as promised, I shared snippets from the entire trip over at instagram, as it happened!

I can go on and on about this trip of mine, but I need to get up and start packing, for I am traveling again tomorrow morning. I will be back with you, later in the week. Till then, see you here, here and there!

[Images: All mine. An Indian Summer]


  1. Loved the post. Can I post your page on my blog. 🙂 let me know.. Maneesha owns the small island ??

  2. These are certainly the best captured pictures!

  3. What a beautiful place…..lovely captures

  4. kkp

    also i am drooling over your kochi photos.

  5. kkp

    coimbatore! wow. never made it out to the waterfall, despite having lived there for 6 months. we got too comfortable on racecourse road. 😉

  6. Thank you Bhavna for introducing me to this little piece of paradise. You introduced me to Abode in Mumbai and I loved every bit of my stay there. You have a way with photographs… You images are just stunning… Ones that I can look at forever and forever!

  7. Absolutely gorgeous!!!

  8. Oh, that looks sublime! So peaceful and beautiful!

  9. omgudness girl! this is awesome.

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