Bekal is a small coastal town in northern kerala just off Mangalore. The Bekal fort is best recognized as the fort where Arvind Swamy in that iconic white and blue T-shirt sings “Uyire” against the backdrop of crashing waves and it is all you can do to not run to the screen and hug and pacify him. It is still about Bekal that we’re talking about.
We travelled to Bekal earlier this year after our customary visit to Mookambika temple. It is just off the border of Mangalore, about 4 hours from Kollur, Karnataka. It was late March and it was hot. We stayed at Taj Bekal which sits just off the beach and on the sides of a lovely stretch of backwaters. This place was so charming, so tastefully done, there was little reason to venture anywhere else. We stayed busy the whole time. We ate, sat, gazed, ate, laid down, sat, watched, fell asleep, ate, sat, watched … all day. We did this out on the grass by the backwater, on the swing bed in the patio, in the pool and on the beach.
The green all around soothed my eyes. I couldn’t have enough of the coconut trees, the gentle flow of the backwater, the silence interrupted only by birds and my kids. I sat there drinking in the quiet relishing the delicious prospect of doing nothing the rest of the day. I wanted to hold on to it, take it back with me.
The property has lovely touches of kerala all over the place. Kerala houseboats are called Kettuvallams. These Kettuvallam style bamboo awnings adorn every entrance, veranda and roof. Little statues of elephants with the most adorable little umbrella stand guard in front of every room bearing the room number. Striking Pillayar (Vinayagar/Ganesh) sculptures greet you at every turn.
People were canoeing in the backwaters, getting Ayurvedic spa treatments, making friends with other guests, dressing up for meals and broadcasting real-time to their social circles. I slept.
You can try your archery skills, play cricket or stand in the pool and order cappuccino. Women had shopped specifically for this holiday. They wore tie-around the neck swimsuits, one side sleeved swimsuits and sunglasses and walked into the pool to stand and chat. They ordered cappuccino and fries. I was wearing Saroja Devi’s swimsuit with the frills at the thigh. I took in a long deep breath, dunked my head in, held my breath and swam across the shorter end of the pool, looked up gasping for air and realized I was only half way across. It took two bursts to get across the shorter end of the pool. I tried to better that.
The hotel set up a thallu vandi style tea kadai (pushcart style tea shop) in the evenings on the banks of the backwaters just across the swimming pool. They served some excellent chai, bajjis and pakodas. The tea kadai stayed busy all evening. Hasini found her love for tea in Bekal.
One afternoon we drove out to the fort not wanting to be the ones who didn’t visit the “Uyire” fort, sorry Bekal fort. Several shops outside the fort sold wide brimmed hats. We quickly realized what we were in for. We bought a hat each and trudged in. There was absolutely nothing between the sun and us except our new hats. We held on to our hats and climbed up humming “Uyire” inside our heads. A group of youth went past us, singing it in Malayalam, it seemed. A couple of girls were taking turns clicking pictures of each other at the top of the tower.
We were ready to go back in about 10 minutes. I forced my family into a few pictures that I hoped would capture the memory. We headed back having completed our duties. The girls were still clicking pictures at the very same spot.
We hurried into the AC confines of the car and drove to Viceroy restaurant for lunch. We got so carried away looking at the menu card that we ordered Malabar biryani, Pepper chicken, chicken coconut viceroy and every 3rd item on the menu until there was no space on the table. This was hearty, delicious food that we licked the last morsel of.
We walked over to the beach in the evenings, sat and watched the waves. They had run out of beach toys. So Hasini and Yuvan used their hands to build a sand fort that could stand the waves. They were so engrossed building their fort they didn’t notice the waves that sneaked up and wet their bums before they could jump out of the way. It was super funny.
At Taj, breakfast was at “Backwater café” the one that provides a buffet option for every meal. It’s the one time you cannot avoid meeting all the different people – the one guy who has travelled with a whole bunch of ladies and kids and needs to register his authority, calls the waiter and ticks him off for the “terrible pasta” he has made, the chic woman behind you who very confidently booms “excuse me” before you grip the ladle (you jump and make away) who clearly believes she is sophisticated and well-mannered and has a fast pass to the buffet table, the ladies at the adjacent table who speak loud and laugh even louder but you cannot bring yourself to forgive their joke.
If you’ve had enough of people and would rather stay far from the crowd, you can have dinner at the tandoor restaurant by the poolside or “By the bay”, a restaurant by the beach.
My absolute favourite was “By the bay”. You climb up to a dining area that opens out to the beach on all sides. You can smell the salty air and hear the waves. It is inky dark outside, darker because of the lights in the dining area but you can see silhouettes of the coconut trees in the distance. This is a small restaurant and therefore fewer people. The menu is a wonderful mix of kerala and mangalore fare. The vattappam, kal appam and mangalore fish curry were sublime, so unbelievably perfect, it’ll be a meal we remember for a long time to come.
Taj Bekal is a serene haven set in a small coastal town. The location is stellar, the property itself is so very elegant as we’ve come to expect from Taj and the food absolutely delicious. I’d love to visit again when it’s raining.
I hope you found this travel guide useful. You may like my other travel posts on kodaikanal, Chidambaram, Tharangambadi. If you enjoyed reading this post, like/share on facebook, Instagram and subscribe to the blog.