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    With refurbished cottages, a honeymoon suite and unique spa services, Niraamaya Retreats’ Surya Samudra gets a makeover

    t’s 6 am and I’m sitting on my bed, watching a brilliant blue sky leak into an equally blue sea, as I debate whether I should head out for a spot of beginner’s yoga by the beach or accompany the chef to the local fish market to buy fish fresh off the fishermen’s boats. I choose instead to snuggle back into my four poster bed, just managing to surface after three hours for a late breakfast at Cafe Samsara. Such ‘unfrowned’ upon laziness, along with a picnic on the beach (wine  glass in hand) and platefuls of decadent ragi brownies, are just some of the luxuries that make up my two-day break at Niraamaya Retreats’ Surya Samudra property in Kovalam.

    _DSC8062Picture perfect
    Set in the middle of 32 lush acres, the property is well designed. Stone paths run down the terraced hillside, winding between coconut palms and traditional wooden cottages, down to an infinity pool that was once a natural creek. Now, lined with slate and with water that’s copper-filtered (no chlorine here), the pool overlooks the rolling waves. Steps lead down to two pristine beaches (the private cove manned by lifeguards), where you can enjoy a candle lit dinner or a pre-dawn tea.

    Heritage-Premium-1One for the couples
    But my favourite has to be my cottage with picture windows looking on to the Arabian sea. One of 31 on the property, recently refurbished with soft furnishings in bright colours, the space has quaint touches like stone washbasins in their open-air bathrooms and wooden doors with sliding latches juxtaposed with flat screen TVs and wifi. Renjith Menon, the operations manager, tells me there is more to look forward to. “We plan to open a honeymoon suite (latest by December) with perks like a champagne breakfast in bed, a private sound system, mood lighting, a small kitchenette and a spectacular view of the Arabian sea,” he says.
    At the end of my stay—a blur of sampling local mutton pepper fry and Thai grilled fish in banana leaf at its restaurants, Cafe Samsara and Essence; sipping fresh watermelon martinis at their sea-facing bar, Madira; and relaxing abhyanga snana massages—I know I’ll be back, if for nothing more than falling asleep to the sound of pounding waves.
    Rooms from Rs.9,000 (inclusive of breakfast and taxes). Details: niraamaya.in

    SpaFrom oils to jams
    ● Niraamaya Spa retails Ayurvastra—made from hand-woven organic cotton and treated with medicinal decoctions—which is said to be good for people with skin ailments like eczema. From `950. Also pick up specially-created Ayurvedic oils—like nilibringadi and dhanwanthram. From Rs.500 for 225 ml.
    ● There is a new line of organic pickles and jams. Made from produce grown in their organic gardens, you can choose from varieties like gooseberry and snake gourd jams or papaya and pineapple preserves. Or get the chef to customise a special fish/prawn pickle for you. From Rs.300 onwards.

    Beyond massages
    The Niraamaya Spa has long attracted guests for its Ayurvedic massages and programmes like weight loss and detoxification. Now they’ve started two new services: post chemotherapy cancer rehabilitation and corporate stress management. “Chemotherapy destroys normal and cancerous cells, leading to a lot of side effects. We offer rasayana therapy—which includes medicated oil massages, dhara treatments and herbal medication—which will boost the body’s resistance power, enhance functioning of organs and improve a patient’s quality of life,” says Dr Arun Aravind, of the one-month-old service. To combat stress, their treatment combines panchakarma and rasayana, along with yoga, pranayama and meditation—which promises to balance the energies. Seven to 14 days of treatment is recommended. Post chemo rehab from Rs.24,302 and stress management from Rs.25,905 a night on single occupancy (inclusive of stay and meals).

    Quick tours
    Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple: Recently in the news for treasure discovered under the temple.The Napier Museum and Art Gallery: Houses art and artefacts sourced from the rajas’ private collections.Poovar: Meander down the backwaters—spotting egrets, kingfishers and kites—and finish off with a picnic on the Golden Sands beach.

    Back in time
    It all began in 1982, when Klaus Schleusener, a professor with IIT Madras, invested in 8.5 acres of land on a hillside. Struck by the destruction of the traditional tharavdu houses, he bought as many as he could, then dismantled and rebuilt them on his property—for his use and as guest houses for his friends. In 1999, he sold the property to investment company Jupiter Capital, whose chairman, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, and his wife, Anju, then upgraded the property with the help of Bangalore-based architect Gayathri Shetty, German architect Karl Damschen and Bali-based landscape designer John Pettigrew.

    —Surya Praphulla Kumar
    The writer was invited by Niraamaya Retreats Surya Samudra.

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