Joanna Lester-George

A Blissful Escape in Old Goa - Review of the Champakali Boutique Homestay

KOKOindia Luxury Travels | January 13th, 2018 | Visit the original article online

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Champakali - A Blissful Escape for a Relaxing Getaway.

When I first heard about a new luxury boutique homestay not far from the pocket sized capital of Goa , I was thrilled at the idea of zipping off for a solitary weekend escape. The spot on directions required to find Champakali made it feel all the more exclusive and my taxi had to navigate through a smart looking residential area until we eventually found the right address. When I entered the 'reception' area, a table overlooking the garden, the first word that sprang to mind was ‘serenity.’ The next two were ‘fabulous taste.’

Tucked away just ten minutes from the thronging city traffic, Champakali consists of two beautiful homes perched high up on a hill and overlooking the heart of Old Goa. I was greeted by a team of smiling staff and instantly given a tour of the homestay with a welcomed iced green tea in hand.

Facing two acres of rolling green lawns, the two elegant colonial style villas gleamed white against a cornflower blue sky. The grounds offered a vast expanse of uncluttered space and yet also hosted a spa, a four feet deep swimming pool (ideal for Little Ones to splash safely about in and where Grown Ups can cool off) and coir hammocks strung between the Champakali and Banyan trees. My tour of the hotel ended just as dusk began to fall and as the sky turned a pastel pink, the trees became all lit up with trails of twinkling lights.

The word 'champakali' means sweet scented flower and when I checked into my room I found tiny frangipani flowers, fresh from the garden, delicately placed on all the soft towels and crisp linen sheets, as well as in prettily scattered bowls. Outside, lotus ponds filled with fuchsia petals created a gorgeous colour pop amongst the grass, and the dining tables were simply decorated with tangerine stems of Birds of Paradise. Exotic birds native to India were the inspiration for naming the six rooms, such as Kauwa and Kaboota, as well as little duos of hand carved Love Birds in every one.

The two villas, Teak and Banyan, are identically styled and offer fabulous living spaces - a lounge with comfy sofas, a spacious double bedroom with a hugely comfortable double bed, a dream of a communal kitchen with a mirrored island and antique dining furniture and verandas galore. The interior decor is mainly white but with hues of soft green, blue and pink artfully brought together in details such as beautifully coloured tiled floors, hand printed cushions and objets d’art from the owners’ travels around Asia.

Which brings me onto the good taste part. I was in luck that the charming owner Bindu Sethi and her son Gokul were in residence during my stay. Whilst running an inspirational and international career from her base in Delhi, Bindu constructed Champakali as a holiday home for her family and friends. Although they all still love to get together there, it is only recently that Bindu partnered up with friend and talented hotelier Mathieu Chanard to open the villa doors up to guests. Lucky us.

Champakali is clearly the perfect place for a family holiday, a romantic getaway (the villas feel exceptionally private) and also as a safe, secluded paradise for solo travellers like me. On both evenings, I ate dinner at a cosy candlelit table for one, where the staff were happy to stop and chat about where they were from (far and wide). A choice of delicious dishes could be selected from the table d'hôte menu, such as an entrée of smoked aubergine soup, a main course of creamy butter chicken with a spicy vegetable curry, creamy raita and cucumber salad on the side and all topped off with a creme brulee (and several glasses of chilled Indian Sauvignon Blanc.

Breakfast here is served all day - a thoughtful option if you’ve had a Big Night Out or tend not to get hungry till later. After an excellent night’s sleep, I chose to start my day with a gentle morning stroll up to the neighbouring and iconic Church of the Old Mount. The 360-degree view over Old Goa, with the tips of cathedral spires shrouded in dense palm groves, was genuinely breathtaking.

I returned to a feast of exotic fruit salad, buttery scrambled eggs and bacon, fresh bread from the local bakery, homemade jams and the finest South India coffee. As I live in Goa and know Old Goa and Panajim well (guided day trips are available for those who wish to explore), the rest of my stay at Champakali was very relaxed. I mainly spent reading in my favourite hammock, cooling off in the pool and enjoying all that yummy food.

Later when I read through the hotel website more thoroughly (I often wait to see if the experience matches up), I loved the use of the word “generous” to define the hospitality principles of Champakali. This was clearly evident throughout my stay - in the approach of the excellent staff (for whom nothing was too much trouble), in the leading lights of the managerial team and in the sheer abundance of all things good and organic with which to nourish your soul.

It was altogether a very relaxed and refined experience, and one that I cannot recommend wholeheartedly enough to anyone seeking a restorative break from daily life. I would have loved to extend my stay there indefinitely in fact, just feeling utterly looked after, peaceful and stress free - but that would have involved far more luxury of time. Instead, I planned to return with a few girlfriends for a luxury retreat weekend another time.

As I had taken my laptop along to Champakali, with often no choice than to combine business with pleasure, I was quietly relieved when the Wi-Fi occasionally faltered. I found myself simply daydreaming out into all that lush open nature, lulled by the chirruping sounds of happy birdsong. And why wouldn’t those little birds sound so content? What a beautiful place to live!