I should admit that I was quite skeptical about venturing out to Thekkady, after a visit a good four years back had left me entirely exhausted. Almost everything about the place appeared chaotic back then, right from the queue for the entry pass into the Periyar Tiger Reserve to the celebrated boat ride that wasn’t any great shakes either.
The excellent reviews of the KTDC Lake Palace at Thekkady were however reason enough to give the place a chance, and I am glad that I gave it a try. The Lake Palace is luxury redefined, and that too right on a piece of land that juts out into the lake, away from the mainland, in the midst of the Periyar Tiger Reserve.
Things have changed for good at Thekkady, thanks to the tremendous initiative of the Kerala Forest Department, who have brought the unruly crowds (mostly private vehicle services like the taxi and the autorickshaws) under check. Private vehicles are not allowed beyond the Tiger reserve check post any more, but you are permitted to drive your car in, if you have a booking with either KTDC Aranya Nivas, which is a slightly smaller establishment on the mainland, or with the KTDC Lake Palace. You drive straight in, and finally reach Aranya Nivas, beside which is the Lake Palace Transit Lounge, from where the Lake Palace staff will assist you.
Having been there around 10 in the morning, my wife and I were told that we will have to wait for the boat that leaves around 11 30. We had a quick breakfast and roamed around the place a bit, when we were requested to head down to the boat dock. It takes about twenty minutes by boat to get your first glimpse of Lake Place that is tucked away behind a pretty fine expanse of lush greenery on a piece of land that suspiciously looks like an island. Once you have got down from the boat, you are greeted by the Manager of the Lake Palace and introduced to Mr. Saji Mathew, the caretaker of the place.
The Lake Palace proffers spectacular views and we had opted for the superior Lake View room that offers a stunning scenery of the forest across the lake from the verandah. The other rooms, it should be noted are equally good, and all you need is to walk down to the side to savor the wonderful views. The Lake View room has been tastefully done with exquisite furniture and elegant design, and we weren’t really surprised when we were told that this used to be the bedroom of the former Maharajas of Travancore. The Lake Palace itself had been built by the Maharaja as a summer resort, and was frequented by members of the royal family!
Mr. Saji Mathew, the caretaker of the place, is courtesy personified and sees to it personally, that none of the guests at Lake Palace have a reason to complain. The gentlleman is around all the time, and is all too glad to help. The food served is excellent, and the dishes could wreak havoc on your taste buds; and I mean it in a very positive sense! 😉 🙂
A whole lot of it probably depends on luck, but we were fortunate enough to have some terrific wildlife sightings during our stay. We had a family of elephants graze around for half a day, while plenty of Indian Gaur were spotted all day long. Add to it a large herd of Sambar deer and a group of langurs, and our Animal Planet dream was finally coming true! 😛 😀 The Lake Palace even has a resident peacock who comes over from the forest once in a few days, and we were lucky that we got to see him as well, in all his radiant glory, on the second day of our stay!