Things are never what we expect. I had not imagined the experience I would have, arriving without prior research or a plan, as I agreed to an opportunity to visit the state of Kerala in India. It is usually my modus operandi to go on a whim, but this time it was to another level. I put my full trust into a plan that was designed for me, not by me. I let go of the control I had over my time and leaned in fully. All I knew was that I would be staying at the CGH properties, recommended by a friend who was sure that “I would love it.” She was absolutely right.
When I travel, I intentionally seek to stay where I can interact with locals, experience not in a secluded resort, but what the land has to offer in terms of local culture, foods and experience.
So much of current tourist destinations are destructive to local residents and nature. I stay away from those concepts. But, CGH has done exactly the opposite and I consider it a great privilege to have spent seven days experiencing their unique and tasteful properties. Their organizational mission is intentionally aligned and one that I can stand behind:
“Every thought and action is born out of this commitment to the environment and the local communities where it operates. The experiential character of its holidays does homage to nature and engages closely with local people and their cultures.”
With 16 unique properties in southern India, “CGH Earth sees itself as a curator of extraordinary experiences that arise from its intimate bonding with nature and community.” Having had the opportunity to experience three of their properties, I’d like to give you my highlights from each property. So here is how it all began.
I was on an eight hour journey from the mountains of Coimbatore to where I would get to spend one night in a 200 year old palace, Kalari Kovilakom. As a history geek, I was more than thrilled to be staying in an establishment with so much cultural heritage. Once a kingdom established by the direct descendent of Prince Dharmavarman, they turned this region into a kingdom. This palace remains the last surviving remnant of this kingdom. CGH Earth Group has preserved not only the legacy, but has converted the palace to a traditional Ayurvedic residential healing center.
I was given what seemed to be a royal guest’s tour and was escorted to my room. I felt honored to be there for just one night, because guests need to commit to a 21-day stay. I soaked in the yoga practices I had in the short time I was there. The private instruction nestled in what appeared to be a treehouse was heavenly. But, what really touched my heart was the karma yoga that guests could participate, at precisely five o’clock by the pond.
This involved feeding the fish in the pond as mindfully as one could. This really resonated with me. The mindful eating experience and the Ayurvedic meals, the attention of the staff were to a level that went beyond my expectations. I am impatiently waiting for my opportunity to return for the full experience.
Kalari Kovikalom was a stopover in order to cut my car journey in half. The next morning I was picked up by a friendly driver and my destination was to the lush green hills of Panchalimedu for a naturopathic healing experience at Prakriti Shakti. As mentioned, I had not read any information about these locations prior, so as I arrived I was greeted with some delicious smoothie and tea. I would soon find out that I would be eating raw. All meals! This was a first for me and one that felt extremely nourishing. I was lucky to be a part of the process of food preparation in the kitchen, get a tour of the treatment rooms and get my treatment schedule for the next three days. I would spend my time cocooned in this serene space.
The days I got to spend here were rejuvenating, educational and transformative. My mornings began with juices, sun gazing, and placing my bare feet on the misty grass. My day would progress with mud packs, yoga, Ayurvedic treatments, reflexology, raw foods and juices, spinal baths and a consultation with the naturopathic doctor. I felt so taken care of with a level of attention and love that one can not find easily. I did not want to leave this haven on earth. But, as I got into the car to head over to my next destination, descending down the lush green hills, I knew that there was a cellular level of relaxation that had occurred.
The clarity of mind and body was one that I have only experienced only a few times in my life. I had the opportunity to read a book, paint with an in-house artist, interact with other guests and really tap into my soul center. At Prakriti Shakti is where I felt at home, at ease and at peace. And, with that serenity, I was able to carry forward with the rest of my trip in the subcontinent of India. I knew I would be back to Prakriti Shakti in the near future for my personal wellness.
Before I went up north to visit Delhi, the Taj Mahal and Varanasi, I had a few more days left where they would be spent in the coconut groves and the backwaters of Kerala, also coined “A Pearl Upon the Waters.” Coconut Lagoon‘s location upon the Vembanad lake, in Kumarakom has its own distinctive ecology that supports a plethora of natural life, especially birds.
At this point, I had realized that the hospitality at CGH properties had a common denominator: a precision with which their aesthetic glamour is displayed, respect to local cultures and culinary excellence that would create an experience that was rich with every meal. What each property did though to distinguish its unique flavor was to be it’s authentic self, representative of what the local ecology, community and nature lend itself to. My favorite experience was the local farm neighborhood tour, where I got to interact with coconut farmers, weavers, and families.
The local bird expert and I had a morning where we walked through the area to observe the local birds. Our walk soon turned into a conversation on yoga and meditation. He was very curious about it all, so we took a break and I was able to offer a few minutes of guided breath and meditation practice. We were both so appreciative of each other’s presence that morning. The thank you’s were never-ending and what I learned with that moment of human connection was that we are all so interconnected and offer each other so much with merely our presence and personal wisdom. Teachers are everywhere!
On one of the slow-moving days I took a boat ride through the backwaters of Kumarakom on a house boat. Interacting with the crew was my favorite part. We got to sing together and really dig deep into conversations. It was in these connections with those who were employed through CGH Earth that I felt that they do not just hire anyone here. Each member of staff was personable and approachable. The level of vulnerability and courage in the conversations made me realize that I was right where I belonged.
Upon returning and reflecting on my experience with CGH for those seven days, I knew that my expectation as it relates to accommodation and experience had been shifted. The level of love represented in each property is beyond what I could write. All I know is that Kerala is rising and CGH Earth properties are thriving with hospitality excellence. And, for me, I know to just trust and let things fall into place. This was the most excellent example of full surrender and immensely grateful for it all.
If you visit Incredible India, please do not think twice. Support responsible and eco-friendly tourism.