By Sanu George
Mepra (Kerala): In a village discovered 500 years ago, 1515 Mepra is a farm-stay retreat with a difference, where one is spoilt for choice with miles and miles of paddy fields, gardens rich in ayurvedic herbs and lush green farms producing pepper, bananas and coconuts. It’s also the place where you can catch live fish for your lunch or dinner.
It was in 1515 – hence the name – when Mepra, located about 12 km from the bustling Thiruvalla town that is 130 km from state capital Thiruvananthapuram, came on the radar of Kanianthara Thommen, the ancestor of the present owner, who shifted here and made the place habitable. Today, the Kuttanad region, where it lies, is popularly known as Kerala’s rice bowl.
A little over a year ago, Thommen’s descendant Ashwin Punnen, a journalist based in Mumbai, decided he needed to do something different. With his younger brother and under the guidance of their mother, what emerged is a tastefully refurbished more than one century old ancestral home, along with an additional building which has just opened to tourists as the 1515 Mepra resort.
There are now four spacious bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. All the bedrooms are accessed through the main courtyard and each room connects to the garden.
Once in this ancient farm retreat, tourists can go angling in fish farms and stroll through sublime gardens rich in ayurvedic herbs, or in the lush green farms producing pepper, bananas and coconuts.
For those who prefer a houseboat ride in the backwaters, the family’s traditional rice boat has been converted into a houseboat. For those who prefer a canoeing experience, there is one on hand for going solo or assisted.
Then, one can go cycling to explore the quaint village, visit its ancient temples and churches and those in its surroundings, feed ducks in the duck farm, watch a classical dance form or ride an elephant into the countryside.
As for the the cuisine, it’s the traditional Kerala variety that is the speciality here but other choices are also available.
If one is so inclined cookery classes are at hand.
And, for those who want an ayurvedic body massage, experienced masseurs are on hand.
“We just opened a few weeks back and we got a good spread of clients. Those who have experienced us at the moment are our brand ambassadors and we feel that’s the best publicity. We have decided to promote our product in the social media too, besides the conventional marketing through the travel trade industry. Bookings have started to come in,” Punnen noted.
How to get there:
* Mepra is 130 km from Thiruvananthapuram by road. A cab costs Rs.3,000 and the journey takes three hours. Alternately, take a two-and-a-half hour train ride to Thiruvala and cover the remaining 13 km by road.
* Accommodation: All-inclusive package ranges Rs.6,500 and goes up to Rs.8,500 per couple, per night, depending on the season.
* Must eat: Appam and stew; different varieties of fish, duck, chicken and beef.