Friday, October 11, 2013

Home away from Home

 Given the amount of time I've spent here, I haven't commented much on the hotel. It's my first 5 star hotel, and certainly the most posh place I've ever stayed. Manicured gardens, patio seating, a well appointed lobby, a spa that I was guaranteed never to see... all this for a daily rate that translates to about $80 per night, our about that of a red roof inn.
 The most striking thing about the hotel is how staff intensive it is. This is generally true in my observations about India ("why have one person do a job when you could hire three?"), but taken to the extreme here. Entering the hotel cannot be done without interacting with a minimum of ten people - half security and half hospitality. When you drive up, your car is searched by three guards who check the underbelly of the car as well as the trunk. At the door, there is someone who opens your door, and a separate guy whose job seems to be to wear cool outfits, have a funky mustache and say Namaste to everyone who approaches. Then you and any bags or briefcases you have go through separate security manned by separate guards. Once inside, there is another greeter, at least one concierge and someone who calls the elevator for you.... literally just pushes the button so you don't have to. All female staff are in identical ornate saris. 
 There were multiple cleaning staff just assigned to my floor who were constantly in my room emptying the trash, adjusting the bed and curtain settings for early morning, late morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime, replacing the lily, or organizing my toiletries. They got creative at times and made animal sculptures out of my hands towels, paper flower arrangements on top of the tissue boxes, or leaving a pottery bowl filled with water with what appeared to be the head of a pink sunflower floating in it. Whenever I encountered any of the cleaning our concierge staff, they would engage me in a five minute conversation about how I was enjoying Hyderabad, how my project was progressing and whether there was anything at all they could do in order to make my stay more pleasant.
 Although the area of Banjara Hills is considered posh, given the rest of the Indian milieu, it's still bracing to see a Cartier store in the hotel lobby. Other high end shops (Burberry, Helvetica, etc.) are in the rear of the hotel.
There are some strange aspects to the place like the clown that sits in the lobby each Sunday making balloon animals or the fact that staff are always plying you with business cards. Overall though, it's a pretty magnificent place to hang out.
 My main caveat has less to do with the hotel itself and more to do with visiting India. My typical M.O. when I travel is to finish my business and then explore. Once the whistle blows, if there's a museum, a park, a minyan, a minor league ballpark or a piece of roadside eccentrica, that's where you'll find me. When you have to schedule a driver, because driving yourself is insane, walking is severely limited and public transportation is out of the question, it cuts down on the whimsy. I felt trapped, especially in the evenings, and that - among other factors - would restrict my enthusiasm about any return trip.

No comments:

Post a Comment