I may have only dozed off for a few minutes, but Kerala&rsquos striking beauty woke me up with a jolt. Gone was the moist heat of Kochi the Idukki hills were bathed in shades of green, a light drizzle and spurts of clouds that strayed too close to the surface.
Driving down the streets, I was a bit taken aback by Thekkady. What came off as a small nondescript town at first glance was a shining jewel of the state, attracting throngs of tourists and packing a number of exciting things to do. My stay at the Sterling Thekkady&rsquos new avatar (it opened on October 25) seemed in tandem with the town&rsquos motto. What was once an expansive resort, is now a swanky 10-floor property with modern amenities and 86 smartly-outfitted suites. But just like the old property, it is quite adept at curating tailor-made experiences for its guests, seamlessly fitting in with my maiden trip to Thekkady.
This was spelt out in a number of ways. Perhaps it started with an over-indulgent Kerala sadya. Served on a banana leaf, the meal started with a pinch of salt, banana chips, lime pickle with some chilly beetroot pickle on the side. Then, came a heap of matta rice and around it, kichadi, pachadi, avial, koottu curry, thoran, and erissery. The combination of dry veggies and curries, with an overarching flavour of coconut, was not something I thought I would enjoy. But much to my surprise, the mild flavours and simple authenticity of the meal was quite impressive. So much so, that I polished off the plate with lightning speed until it was time for dessert. Two steaming bowls were set in front of me&mdashpaal payasam and ada pradhaman. I took my sweet time in deciding which to savour first. Or maybe eat both at the same time.
Later, when I found myself in the local community centre watching the grace and force of Kathakali, I realised that much of Sterling&rsquos hospitality was steeped in all the experiences it could provide to its visitors. It was in the sharp clang of swords in the exhilarating Kalari performance. Or perhaps, found in the more peaceful ventures like boating in the Periyar Lake or opting for an offroad drive around the reserve to spot hidden waterfalls, birds and soft, moving clouds.
Later still, I was ushered to their spa for an ayurvedic massage. Here, I was doused in warm, fragrant and therapeutic oils (neelibringadi for my hair, dhanwantharam for the body and the simple eladi coconut for my face) and pampered until my body went limp like Jell-O and I promptly fell asleep. It is safe to say that I spent the rest of my trip in a dreamlike stupor&mdasheating, experiencing and enjoying till it was time to head back to reality.
The hotel accommodates 71 privilege suites, 6 family rooms and 6 family suites.