Travel writer R.K. Pillai writes about the memorable two weeks he spent at the Krishnendu Ayurveda Hospital in Alappuzha, Kerala.
Ayurvedic wellness and special treatment programs are getting more and more popular, especially among aging populations. Medical tourism is mostly being focused in that area now. The southern Indian state of Kerala is the number one provider of this service now. Early this year, I experienced this service at a popular Ayurvedic center in Kerala’s Alappuzha district.
I have previously visited about five such facilities in the state. I must say that Krishnendu Ayurveda Hospita was unparalleled in its service. Located in Chingoli, an ancient village, it is about 24 kilometers (15 miles) south of Alappuzha, Kerala’s housing boat capital. It is approximately 117 kilometers (73 miles) to the south of the Cochin International Airport. The distance from the Thiruvananthapuram International airport, which is to its south, is roughly the same.
Krishnendu is unique in the sense that it’s in natural rural environs, surrounded by orchards, Travancore-style architecture and terracotta-roofed buildings, which, at the same time, offers modern living facilities. It is a crown jewel among the ever-growing medical tourism facilities of Kerala, billed as “God’s Own Country.”
Kerala is one of the most highly literate regions in the developing world. Its body politics reveal its culture and traditions. Education and healthcare have been of paramount importance to its people from time immemorial. Shri Adi Sankara, a Vedic scholar and reformer, was born here about 1,200 years ago.
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Ayurvedic lifestyle has been prevalent among the elite classes in the area since the origin of Veda shastras (500 BCE). It is the land of abundant herbal medicinal plants and shrubs because if its tropical weather all around the year. Everyone in the world envies Kerala’s geography, which is amazingly beautiful with coconut-roofed terrains, wide lakes and backwaters, spiraling paddy fields, plantations of rubber, tea, coffee, cardamom and the wild forest on the eastern border. Exotic spices and herbs were being exported from here from the time of the Greeks and the Romans. They were naturally grown in its rain forests and costal plane land. A kind of humid weather of the coastal region, and pleasantly cold and dry hill stations are tourist attractions. Unfailing monsoon for several months a year is an experience in itself.
In January 2019, I had an opportunity to experience Krishnendu’s hospitality for 14 days. Although my visit was for a general wellness program, the doctors there intriguingly found out that I had some chronic problems that normally exist among retired or senior people. I gladly agreed to undergo their treatment plans. Now looking back, it was a wise thing to do so. They provided me a detailed write-up of all the procedures that will be administered on me in advance. That kept me aware of all their daily routines and schedules so that I could use my time effectively for my normal reading, writing and outdoor activities. I must say that some of the therapeutic procedures have to be experienced to have an idea how blissful it can be.
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The initial day’s treatment for me was Abhyangam and Shathawadi kizhi, the application of warm medicinal oil massage followed by massaging with a warm pouch that contains some medicinal compound. These procedures continued for 60 minutes. Thereafter, for another five days, I had Abhyangam plus Snehadhara for 60 minutes every day. This was a blissful experience. As the therapists gently pour the warm medicinal oil in a systematic way, one feels that every cell in the body is being activated. That was followed by Abhyangam plus Godhoomadi Pindaswedam and Karaskara Ksheeradhara for 60 minutes. All these therapeutic procedures were amazingly enjoyable and relaxing. A hot water shower after the therapy sessions cleans not only the body, but the mind, too.
At this ISO Certified Ayurvedic facility, one can see the “people and process” interactions clearly. The therapists and the doctors know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and the importance of keeping the schedules meticulously. They knock on your door on time, every time, to get you to the treatment room as scheduled. Doctors visit several times a day to check on your status. All are encouraged to take part in the morning yoga session conducted by a yoga specialist. General purpose gym equipment are available in the physiotherapists’ area, which adds value to the daily living in Krishnendu.
I also loved the variety of food options, from no carb to controlled carb, besides all the traditional Kerala cuisines. Here the foodies can have vegan or limited non-veg items of their choice. Kanji (Kerala rice porridge), payaru (lentil curry) and pickles were my favorite for dinner. The availability of various varieties of low glycemic index cut fruits platter is a great healthy choice any time.
Another interesting aspect of my Krishnendu experience was the social life there. I met several people who come to the place , year after year, from countries such as Mexico, South Africa, Zambia, Serbia, the UAE, Kuwait, Russia, the United Kingdom, and, of course, the United States. People were very friendly and appear to be well placed in the society they come from.
Of the two people from Russia I met there, one was the finance director and other the human resource director of the largest grocery shops-chain that employs 280,000 Russians. Another person was the head of human resources of a leading engineering and construction company that employs 9,000 engineers and technicians in the Middle East.
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I noticed that foreigners that come there for treatments also get to visit Alappuzha for houseboat experience, and visit holy temples, and ancient churches in the area. Sun-set beaches are only a few kilometers west of the place. To my surprise, the total cost of my two-week treatment, including boarding and lodging, with a bath-attached air-conditioned room, and the entire treatment plan were under $100 per day. Altogether, it was a great memorable experience for me, which is worth trying at least once in a lifetime.
(R.K. Pillai, who is based in northern Virginia, has been in the forefront of information technology and business management for over 30 years, both in India and United States.)