I had really no idea as to what to expect when I was dropped off by my houseboat in front of a large Keralan style house. But I was soon seated inside a lovely living room sipping my grape juice and being warmly welcomed. This 150 year old house, as explained to me by Mr. Vijo Job, the young and affable proprietor of Emerald Isle, was built by his Great Grandfather. Converted about 10 years ago, the four guest rooms in the main part of the house used to be storage for rice and coconuts. The house sits between a river in the front and 7.5 acres of rice paddies in the back. It is also surrounded by a beautiful garden Vijo’s father planted and has several small ponds where the family now farms fish. Vijo was kind enough to walk me around the property to point out various plants, trees, and explained the history of his house to me. He was also proud to show me some of the guidebooks where Emerald Isle is prominently featured. With his father passing away 2 years ago, Vijo, his brother, and his Mom now run the homestay. The house features a Keralan style roof, dark carved wood doors and furniture, and felt like a lovely holiday retreat. While they offer massages (ayurvedic massage is done in a separate hut, near the back garden), fishing, and other activities, I knew that I would simply lounge about and take in another lazy day. Vijo asked me to treat his home as if it were mine and relax, so that’s exactly what I did.
My cozy room used to store coconuts and a wall was taken down to modify its configuration. The original doors now serve as beautiful windows and a platform bed has been created where the coconuts used to go. The room was spacious and felt very cool and shady, but the best part was the outdoor shower and the bathroom. The outdoor shower had river rocks as floors and solar panel generated hot water. Just like the rest of the house, it was rustic yet modern and all so tastefully done.
All meals were served in a lovely dining room and all the guests ate together. The day I was there, a young couple from Amsterdam, a family from Australia, and another family from London were the others who dined with me. Vijo’s Mom was in charge of the food with some help from the local ladies, and Vijo and his staff insisted on serving us. I was not to lift a finger… After almost 3 weeks in India I finally got to taste some real Keralan home cooking, and I was thrilled with what I got to eat. After lunch, I escaped the afternoon heat by retreating into my room for a bit and then headed out to the back garden to have my yoga practice. Sandwiched between rice fields and a small pond, I was blissfully happy.
I mentioned to them that I ate fish but not meat, so for dinner I had a special egg dish just for me. It was awesomely spicy and delicious. Vijo had mentioned that sometimes his Mom gives cooking lessons but during their busy season (January) it’s not easy to do so. How fun would it be to cook with his Mom, in her kitchen?! After dinner Vijo arranged for two local kallu (alcoholic beverage made out of fermented coconut sap) makers to come and sing some Keralan folk songs for us. We sat on the porch and listened to two guys perform what they would sing when they’re tapping and harvesting coconuts. With one tambourine as their only instrument, the two men sang in their language, Malayalam, in unison. I loved it and it was a fabulous way to close out yet another beautiful day. I was heading out the next morning, but I delayed my departure time by an hour so that I could practice yoga once again by the pond and have breakfast with everyone.
Although my morning practice was short, I felt at peace and tried to soak in all the light, sights, and sound around me. On the way back towards the house, I saw one of the singers from the night before who was expertly climbing up a coconut tree to start his workday. He gave me a big smile when I waved to him, and before I blinked twice he disappeared into the coconut tree towards the clouds. For breakfast, we were offered something Indian (gingery coconut chutney and steamed bananas) and something Western (spicy green chili omelet and toast). Of course I ate both!
Having just one day at Emerald Isle definitely wasn’t enough. I told Vijo that I will return again one day and will stay longer the next time. He walked me out and saw me off as I got on a small row boat to cross the river (you can only reach his house by boat). Everyone at Emerald Isle went out of his way to make me feel at home. I was envious of the other guests who were staying on longer… I really do hope that one day I will make another visit to the Job family home.
Emerald Isle: firstname.lastname@example.org