on December 28, 2012
The bathroom was very odd. Almost all bathrooms in the type of hotels we use in India are pretty similar but this one was trying to be very different. The most noticeable thing was the glass wall between the main room and the bathroom. That's not all that unusual in Europe where I've seen it done several times but for India it's very avant garde. This is the land where married couples barely know each other and people wear almost as many clothes in bed as in the street. It's not a place for titillating glimpses of flesh through a glass window. It's not a swanky risqué New Yorker like the Hudson Hotel (the first place I saw a glass bathroom wall nearly 10 years ago) Perhaps the hotel had realised that this wasn't going to fit their demographic and had added Venetian blinds to divide the bathroom and the main area. My suspicion that they were looking for the honeymoon trade was further piqued by the whirlpool bath. Baths are rarer than hens teeth in budget and mid-range hotels. Normally you get a shower head sticking out of the wall, no curtain, no cubicle and if you're lucky there's no electrical socket directly in the flow of the water. Not only was there a bath but a whirlpool. Very interesting! But then the reality of being in India kicked in and we noticed that there was no plug in the bath or the sink and therefore there would be no bubbling going on. The shower head was one so low that you could really only have used it to rinse the shampoo out of your hair and any ideas of a normal 'over-bath' shower were clearly not going to be fulfilled by this arrangement. My husband was in improvisational mode and managed to create a 'plug' by wedging part of a hot water bottle into the hole. (Don't ask – the reasons for the water bottles will become apparent in later reviews of this particular holiday. Just accept that for rather odd reasons we did have not one but two hot water bottles with us).The rest of the bathroom was fine and more conventional. The tiling was in monochrome black and white with a strange pattern of pebbles on the tiles. The vanity unit was highly polished black basalt with a mirror above. The toilet was entirely normal and was clean and provided with lots of toilet roll. Best of all there was plenty of hot water. This might all sound like stuff you should take for granted but it isn't. Our visit was at the end of October and we got our free wake-up every morning provided by the sun streaming through the windows. The curtains were useless at stopping this and I can imagine in the summer months when the hotel would be much more busy, nobody would get much sleep.Our package included breakfast and dinner and on our first evening they rang to check if we wanted to order. We like to go to hotel restaurants to eat whilst it seems that most Indian guests prefer to eat in their rooms so we told the person on the phone that we'd be down shortly. The receptionist had told us that there'd be a buffet each evening and we could find it in the basement dining room but on our first day we assumed that there was no buffet due to the wedding guests all eating at the wedding party. The dining room is enormous and we were the only people in it. The waiter showed us the details on the back of the menu which explained what we could have on our package. The best way to describe this would be that we were entitled to more food than we could have eaten if we each had three stomachs. On the first night we had a soup, three different curries – a dal, a veg curry and a paneer dish) plus rice, naan bread, salad or papads and a pudding. The food quality was excellent although we were at the start of our holiday and more enthusiastic about tucking in than we would be a week or so later. The dal fry came in a brass bucket and there was about twice as much as we could manage. The aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) was spectacular whilst the paneer pasanda was too creamy and bland for me but my husband liked it. For pudding we had hot gulab jamun which was a recurring theme of our holiday. There were other puddings available but it takes little more than the words 'hot gulab jamun' to make me deaf to everything that follows. On the second evening we skipped the soup and pudding and repeated the dal fry and aloo gobi which were both as good as the first time although the alternative paneer dish (paneer makhani) was just as bland and disappointing as the previous day's dish. Neither alcohol nor meat were on the menu but I can't rule out that beer might have been available if we'd asked. It's often the case that a hotel restaurant will 'send a boy out' (often a little old fella of retirement age) and sneak a bottle or two under your table. We didn't try so I can't be sure.Breakfast in the mornings was always a bit confusing and a lot more busy than dinner time. We took my cafetiere mug and ground coffee with us because my husband is sick of me moaning about crap coffee every time we go to India. The daily request for hot water was dealt with after some initial confusion and I was also able to get some hot milk from the breakfast buffet where it's the standard issue for your cornflakes. We ordered toast with jam and butter each morning and I skipped the buffet. I knew we wouldn't starve.I don't know what our bill would have been if we'd paid it directly instead of as part of a package but the indications on the website give a standard rate for the dinner, bed and breakfast deal of approximately £71 for the two nights. There's an additional 7.42% tax on top which we had to pay when we left as it wasn't included in our package.If you want to visit Shimla – and I highly recommend that you do – I would recommend staying in the city and not out at Tara Devi. It's about a 20 minute drive from Shimla and has the advantage of being a quieter area, but you'll miss out on the atmosphere by being so far away. You should not consider staying in Tara Devi unless you've got your own transport as anything you might save on the hotel bill will be swallowed up by taxi fares. My assumption was that the company put us out in Tara Devi because we had a car and driver and they needed a place with a car park and driver accommodation and the city hotels tend to have neither. However, you can get a place out of the town with both that would be a lot closer. The Sukh Sagar Regency has fantastic views, a restaurant serving really good food, and the rooms are more than acceptable especially if you get a room that doesn't have such an awful bed as room 404. I suspect we got more for our money than we would have if we'd been more centrally located but I still wish our tour organiser had been more willing to listen to what we wanted. The Sukh Sagar Regency is a nice enough hotel with very pleasant staff. Note – there is a second hotel called the Sukh Sagar which is much closer to Shimla. Take care that you know which of the two hotels you're booking.
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