Vivanta by Taj

Trip Start Sep 08, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of India  , Tamil Nādu,
Thursday, January 27, 2011

We must be the first guests to have arrived at 'Vivanta by Taj' (to be said in a camp Liverpudlian accent) on foot for many a long year but, to the credit of the well-trained staff, there is only the briefest shadow of doubt passed from face to face as we rock up red and sweating and announce that we have a reservation.

We got off the local bus from Mamallapuram one stop too early but, not knowing this, began the three kilometer walk along the coast road in the heat of the day, our bulging backpacks counterbalanced by the bulging rucksacks on our chests.

The hotel resort is at the tip of a spit of land spurring off the coast road and separated from the mainland by an estuarial backwater where we spot egrets and pond herons, a spot-billed pelican and a painted stork in flight. A purple sunbird rests on a telephone wire and watches the slow progress of a pair of orange-rumped eurasian hominids, their pale hides growing more and more crimson with every step.

A local couple emerge from the thorny bushes and walk toward the motorcycle propped at the side of the road, she straightening her hair.

We arrive at 'Vivanta by Taj' dripping with sweat and smile at the Nepali security guards.

You have lunch here?

No, no. We have a room reservation.

The gates are opened, we walk through, heads turn.

Under a canopy of bougainvillea a petite lady in a beige uniform enquires again:

Are you here for a meal?

No, no. We have a reservation. We are checking in.

We are told our bags must go through a scanner. The tiny woman offers to take Beth's backpack and is almost flattened by the weight of it. A small old gent in matching uniform strains his back as he struggles with mine and I expect to see him like an upside down beetle, arms and legs waving in the air, when I turn round. With my pack removed, its straps and padding remain imprinted as darker peels of sweat where my t-shirt clams to my sticky skin.

In the reception foyer we are greeted with a table display of tiger orchids, necklaces of varnished sea shells are draped over our sweaty necks, a tray of ice cold face flannels is offered along with a glass of peach juice, squeezed from the fruit, or so my imagination tells me, between the thighs of virgins.

Beneath my shirt, my money belt has absorbed vast quantities of sweat. When I remove my passport, the covers soggy, the edges of the leaves capillary wet - a litmus test of body odour - and hand it to the crisp-shirted manager, he barely even flinches before instructing an assistant to escort us to the deluxe suites.

The golf buggy silently rolls along the paved path, weaving between palm trees and bungalow cottages. Dark-skinned Tamil women in yellow saris sweep the patios and water the grass. The spa is pointed out to us, the tennis and badminton courts, the kingfisher-blue swimming pool sparkling between the shade of palms, the private beach along whose golden length the rollers come crashing in, the beachside terrace of one of the three restaurants, this one specialising in fresh fish.

The deluxe suites are in a curved wing of modern elegance. The concierge welcomes us with an almost sickly warmth. All his staff smile and wish us good afternoon as if we are not imposters and genuinely deserve to be here.

We are shown up to our room. The porters carrying our backpacks - awkwardly holding these bizarre and wonderful objects as if to say: what will these Westerners come up with next - follow behind and it is not until after we are given the tour of the suite; shown the Philippe Stark bathroom and the sea view from our balcony; talked through the scene settings of our mood lighting and the air conditioning control panel, and are finally left alone that we can burst into laughter, jump up and down on the enormous grown-ups bed like five year olds sneaked into mummy and daddy's room and gorge ourselves on the complimentary chocolates and cashews.

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