After two weeks of busily exploring temples in India, my new husband and I were ready to relax. So we headed to Kerala, a state at India's southern tip, to more languidly check out its rain forests, beaches and spice farms, and to get some spa treatments based on the holistic healing science Ayurveda.
We set out, by water, from the town of Alleppey. Oberoi Hotels & Resorts (800-562-3764) recently launched the MV Vrinda, a luxurious, eight-stateroom ship, but we chose a more modest houseboat through New Delhi-based Indebo (011-91-11-268-616-22). Reclining on cushions, we ate fish in coriander-infused coconut milk prepared by the onboard chef as our converted rice barge, called a kettuvalam, drifted down canals past villages and rice paddies. Next we went to Periyar National Park, a tiger preserve. We didn't see any big cats, but there were elephants plus scores of birds perched on dead tree trunks poking above the surface of the lake. We stayed in Thekkady at Spice Village (doubles from $145; kerala-hotels.indiaserver.com), a comfortable resort with 52 thatched cottages set in acres of spice trees. It was a good base for touring the area's cardamom, clove, peppercorn, nutmeg and vanilla plantations; everything is for sale at the spice market in nearby Kumily.
In Cochin, Kerala's biggest city, we stopped at the five-year-old Brunton Boatyard Hotel (doubles from $210; kerala-hotels.indiaserver.com), which offers majestic four-poster beds. At the hotel's Terrace Grill, chefs cook the day's seafood catch in a tandoori oven. We wandered through Fort Cochin's narrow streets and found marvelous teak and rosewood spice boxes at Crafters (6/141 Jew Town Rd.; 011-91-484-222-76-52). Sadly, while we were in Cochin, we didn't have time to take cooking lessons with TV chef Nimmy Paul (Cox & King's; 800-999-1758) or see the floating cottages at the new Taj Green Cove Resort & Spa (doubles from $150; tajhotels.com), in the town of Kovalam. But we'll be back.