Tag Archives: Travel

16 reasons to book a ticket to China

China is impossibly vast, and textured with so much history, that its oriental mysteries are a draw for any serious traveller. The Great Wall of China is one of the wonders of the ancient world and reason enough to book a trip to the country with the flaming red flag. But the many mountain ranges, forests, rivers and deserts make China a truly wholesome travel experience. Here are 16 compelling reasons to start looking up flights to Beijing.

  1. Changbai Mountain in Jilin

Changbai Mountain in Jilin

Bordering North Korea, this is a volcanic mountain with a beautiful crater lake at the centre called Lake Tianchi, some waterfalls, springs and a rich biodiversity. The translation of its name ‘perpetually white mountain’ seems appropriate when it’s cloaked by snow in winter.

  1. Road trips in Dalian, Liaoning

Dalian, Liaoning

Ride or walk along a road that’s reminiscent of the corniche of the French Riviera at the seaside Binhai Road. Stretching from Binhai West Road to Donghai Beach, this 35km road offers many pleasurable vistas.

  1. Elephant Trunk Hill, Guilin

Dalian, Liaoning

Like its name, this hill in Guilin resembles a huge elephant drinking water from the river. The Water Moon Cave between the elephant’s legs and trunk, Puxian Pagoda, Yunfeng Temple, and Sarira Dagoba are some of the impressive sights on the hill.

4. Retrace the Silk Route at Gansu

 

Gansu

Unravel the mysteries of the Silk Route like the explorers of yore at Gansu, a town on the banks of the Yellow River. The Mogao Caves are a treasure trove of Buddhist art. Also worth visiting are the majestic Jiayuguan Pass, Labrang Monastery and Bingling Thousand Buddha Caves.

5. Giant pandas in Sichuan

Giant pandas in Sichuan

If you love these black-eyed furry creatures, don’t miss the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, where you’ll find over 30% of the world’s highly endangered giant pandas. Pandas here aren’t caged; so be prepared to encounter them while you’re driving or walking in the reserve.

6. Great Wall in Beijing

Great Wall in Beijing

This one needs no introduction but let’s just be reminded that the 21,196 kilometers long wall stretches from east to west China, with many deserts, grasslands, mountains and plateaus along the way. We’d love to visit a site that has been around for over 2000 years!

  1. The royal heritage of Hebei

Hebei

Hebei is home to the Mountain Resort of Chengde, which used to be the largest royal summer resort of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). Many beautiful temples lie outside the wall of the resort. In Hebei, one can also visit summery beaches and the scenic Baiyang Lake.

8. Light of the Three Gorges in Hubei

Light of the Three Gorges in Hubei

The historical province of Hubei is strewn with intriguing cultural relics and the Three Gorges. Explore its Chu culture through old towers, grottoes, remains of cities, royal mausoleums and temples. The Hubei Provincial Museum houses the world’s heaviest musical instrument.

9. Mount Huangshan in Anhui

Mount Huangshan in Anhui

Better known as the Yellow Mountains, this is a World Heritage Site with stunning natural beauty. Often cloaked in masses of clouds, the mountains contain strangely shaped pines and rocks and hot springs. The ethereal sunrises and sunsets here are legendary.

  1. Penglai Pavilion in Shandong

Penglai Pavilion in Shandong

Penglai Pavilion is perched on the peak of Danya Mountain and offers spectacular views of the Beibin Sea. It is one of the four great towers of China. Other impressive structures on the mountain include Tianhou Palace, Longwu Palace, lvzu Palace, Sanqing Palace and Mituo temple.

  1. Potala Palace, Lhasa

Potala Palace, Lhasa

Potala Palace in Lhasa is the highest ancient palace in the world and a glorious tribute to the Tibetan people and their beliefs. There are two parts – the Red Palace with its beautiful golden roof and the White Palace, both of which are equally fascinating.

  1. Modern splendour in Pudong, Shanghai

Pudong, Shanghai

Explore China’s dazzling modern avatar at Pudong, a new district in Shanghai. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the world’s third tallest tower and has an outdoor viewing platform with a glass floor that makes you feel like you’re stepping out into the sky!

  1. The beach resorts of Sanya, Hainan

Sanya, Hainan

Sanya on Hainan Island is famous for its serene bays and luxurious beach resorts. Wuzhizhou Island and its coral reefs are renowned for scuba diving, surfing and other water sports. A 108m-high Guan Yin bronze statue can be seen on an artificial island at the Nanshan Temple complex.

  1. Temple of Heaven in Beijing
Temple of Heaven in Beijing
Temple of Heaven in Beijing

This imperial sacrificial altar is the largest and most impressive of China’s ancient sacrificial buildings. Even larger than the Forbidden City, the main structures in the temple are the Circular Mound Altar (Huanqiutan), the Imperial Vault of Heaven (Huangqiongyu) and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest (Qiniandian).

  1. Terracotta Warriors in Shaanxi

Terracotta Warriors in Shaanxi

The Terracotta Army or Terracotta Warriors and Horses were built by Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of all China, for his mausoleum.  Possibly the most monumental archaeological excavations of the 20th century, the museum contains 7,000 pottery soldiers, horses, chariots and even weapons.

  1. The islands and gardens of Zhejiang

Zhejiang

Zhejiang means ‘a winding river’, referring to the Qiantang River in the olden times. It is considered one of the cradles of Chinese civilization. The West Lake is a truly breath-taking sight, as is Mt. Yandang, the Thousand Islets Lake, Tiantai Mountain and the Orchid Pavilion.

Mumbai: An unlikely addition to your bucket list

A lot of people come to Mumbai to find a job, make a life or fulfil a dream. But do a lot of people aspire to travel here? Does Mumbai inspire the same kind of awe that Cherrapunji or Spiti Valley do? Probably not, but it’s definitely deserving of a different kind of awe. Because quite simply, there’s no other city like Mumbai. No other place comes with the kind of chaos, tolerance, haste and multitude that this city does. As a tourist, you might balk at the impossible fullness of Mumbai’s trains and the stench of its seedier areas. But peel back the layers and you’ll also find inspiration in its seafront and stories, its history and heart.

The sea

Marine Drive in the rains
Marine Drive at dusk

The Arabian Sea snakes along Mumbai’s coastline, endowing the city with many scenic seaside spots. The queen among them has to be the iconic Marine Drive, immortalised in numerous films, songs and literature. Be it in the wee hours of the morning when the promenade is full of joggers and dog walkers or at the mysterious time of dusk, when the sea shimmers in hues of pink, saffron and indigo, Marine Drive is ceaselessly lovely. If you keep walking along the promenade, you’ll reach Nariman Point, where you can sit in quiet contemplation. Bandra’s Bandstand and Carter Road offer much scope for romancing the sea as well. You can climb down the steps and make your away across slightly slippery rocks to get up close and personal with the waves (unsafe during high tide). If you’re driving, the route along the Bandra Worli Sea Link will leave you awed. You can also get a good view of the entire sea link from Bandra Fort. The beaches at Juhu, Versova and Mahim (Dadar) are also among our favourite slices of Mumbai’s shoreline.

The architecture

CST station, Mumbai lit up in the night
CST station at night

Time has stood still in the arches and domes of South Mumbai’s stately edifices, with a little help from restoration work. The sheer magnificence and detailing of CST station, the erstwhile Victoria Terminus is enough to put the city on your bucket list. For a small fee, you can explore the inner chambers of the station complex and enjoy bird’s eye views of the city. Other heritage buildings in the area include The Times of India building and David Sassoon Library. The entire walkway on either side of D. N. Road feels like a journey through Mumbai’s colonial era. The Gateway of India monument is a short ride away from CST station and an epitome of architectural excellence. From the ferry point, you can enjoy boat rides on the sea and even go up to Alibag or Elephanta Island. The CSMVS and Bhau Daji Lad museums are also treasure troves of fascinating history.

The gardens

Maharashtra Nature Park
Maharashtra Nature Park

We love discovering little havens of natural beauty even in concrete jungles. While Aarey Colony may be under threat due to the imminent metro line, the gardens at Malabar Hill, Powai and Maharashtra Nature Park in Dharavi are still available for a welcome break from urban life. We wish Mumbai had its own version of Delhi’s Lodhi Gardens or London’s Hyde Park but the charming Hiranandani Garden at Powai with little fish ponds, lakes and stone sculpures is a pleasure to visit. And if you like bird-watching and studying bees and butterflies, Maharashtra Nature Park, overlooking the mangroves of Mithi River is a must-visit. We’ve also spent many cheerful evenings at Kamala Nehru Park and The Hanging Gardens at Malabar Hill.

The shrines

Mount Mary Church, Bandra, Mumbai
Mount Mary Church

Mumbai was, is and will always be a wonderful amalgamation of different cultures, communities, tongues and faiths. One of the best ways to get a sense of the city’s culture is to visit its picturesque temples, churches and mosques. The Haji Ali Dargah situated off the coast of Worli is one of the oldest and best known shrines in the city. Mount Mary Church in Bandra is another well-known landmark, especially during Christmas and the annual Bandra Fair. The seaside Mahalakshmi Temple and ISKCON Temple in Juhu are worth visiting for their beautiful architecture and spiritual significance. We also love exploring little known churches in the by-lanes of South Mumbai.

Need to know

Things to do in Mumbai - history, architecture
Colaba

Eat: Streets take on a special significance in the Maximum City, for that’s where its residents come to shop, and that’s where they come for a flavourful bite. Mumbai’s street food specialities include vada pav, a kind of potato burger, pav bhaji, which is a gravy eaten with buttered Indian buns and various kinds of ‘chaat’ such as bhel, pani puri, sev puri, ragda pattice and dahi puri. If you’re worried about hygiene, try these at small-sized restaurants such as Som at Chowpatty.

Shop: Colaba Causeway has been our saviour since college days for its selection of pocket-friendly, yet trendy clothing, shoes, bags and accessories. Linking Road at Bandra is another option if you’re in the suburbs. But if you’re looking for speciality or bulk items, Crawford Market is your best bet. Here, you’ll find everything from cooking chocolate to decoration items and party masks.

Stay: There are several hotels in Mumbai to suit every budget, as well as homestays and guesthouses. The city is home to several luxurious five star hotels such as ITC Maratha near the airport and ITC Grand Central at Parel. These luxury collection hotels offer fascinating glimpses into Mumbai’s Maratha past and British colonisation and special weekend offers for staycations.

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A fragrance for every country

Fragrances are so potent – taking you back down memory lane, altering your perception of an individual and even doing away with depression at times. We associate every perfume we encounter with a different era, place and emotion. If paintings reach our soul through our eyes and music through our ears, fragrances are an art form designed to touch us through our nostrils. Here are seven intoxicating perfumes for women that are apt for a trip to each of these countries/cities (and there are bonus tips at the end):

  1. Chiffon by Emper for India

Chiffon by Emper

This floral and fruity perfume reminds us of fresh summer days and therefore, it’s perfect for India, a tropical country where the whiff of a good perfume is always welcome! Infused with vanilla, white musk, jasmine, rose, orris, sandalwood, mandarin orange and bergamot, this feminine and citrusy scent is ideal for the day and guaranteed to pep up your mood. We also feel it’s a great starter perfume for adolescents and those who are new to the world of fragrances.

  1. Gold by Louis Cardin for USA

Gold by Louis Cardin

This rich, decadent and luxurious fragrance is designed for the woman of accomplishment and mystery and we think the United States of America is the best embodiment of successful women. The intoxicating, floral and woody fragrance of Gold by Louis Cardin isn’t one that you’ll forget in a hurry. Wear it in the evenings and for a special meeting where you want to create an impression. The perfume comes with the warm touch of orange and spices like vanilla, saffron and cloves, along with lime, lemon, pineapple, rose, jasmin, lavender, Artemisia, iris, sandalwood, white musk and patchouli.

  1. Creation Pour Femme for Singapore

Creation Pour Femme

An extremely sweet and delicious fragrance, Creation Pour Femme reminds us of the nights in Singapore where the sophisticated partied at Marina Bay Sands and the secretive at one of the speakeasy pubs, open only to those who knew the password. This is a very feminine evening perfume that’s almost like an aphrodisiac thanks to the alluring scent of vanilla. The sweetness of the musky, floral fragrance is due to the notes of litchi, golden quince, kiwi, jasmine, white chocolate and orris root.

  1. True Reflections by Chris Adams for UK

True Reflections by Chris Adams

This is a summery sweet light fragrance that’s perfect for summer days in London. We’d recommend this for the day, as a non-overwhelming fragrance for those who like their perfume to be barely-there. The pleasant yet not overfriendly character of this perfume reminds us of the British. This fruity and woody fragrance is infused with a deep aroma of blackcurrant and pomegranate, along with the romance of rose and the curiosity of lemon. Other notes include red currant, raspberry, violet, musk and cedarwood.

  1. Viveca by Maryaj for France

Viveca by Maryaj

Viveca by Maryaj is the quintessential fragrance that all of us are familiar with one on some level. And what better country to associate it with than the birthplace of perfumes – France? This floral day perfume is a surprise performer – it develops depth as the day deepens. So don’t judge its floral, fruity appeal just by the initial fragrance. This young-at-heart perfume lets you enjoy a blend of neroli, bitter orange, raspberry, orange flower, jasmin, patchouli, amber and honey.

  1. Lady Presidente by Emper for Maldives

Lady Presidente by Emper

Walk on the soft beaches of Maldives at twilight with some Lady Presidente to enhance the beauty of the night. This sweet scent with sharp and spicy undertones is sexy, scintillating and alluring. A black sheath dress and wind-swept hair is what we’d visualise while you walk on pointy heels or perhaps even barefoot. This floral and fruity scent is a daring mix of coconut, musk, sandalwood, lotus, water lily, raspberry, mango, nectarine and blood orange.

  1. Sensual by Lomani Paris for Switzerland

Sensual by Lomani Paris

Sensual by Lomani Paris is a sweet, woody fragrance with sinister undertones. Exotic and multi-layered, the perfume has a personality you won’t fail to recognise. To us, it indicates perfection and a femme to reckon with. While the fragrance mellows with time, the notes of ylang ylang, vanilla and musk will ensure that you’re noticed, wherever you go. Other key notes include fruity green, aldehydes, jasmine, lily, orange, spicy sandalwood and cedarwood.

Perfume selfie by Perfumebooth.com

The good news is that you can try ALL of the abovementioned perfumes for just Rs 475 with the perfume selfie pack available on www.perfumebooth.com. The pack contains seven testers, a portable perfume carrier, tips on how to apply perfume and make it last longer and best of all, a 500 rupees voucher to purchase the perfume you love most. There are various combos for men and women to choose from; the one they sent us for review is called ‘Lurve’. Personally, we would go for a bigger bottle of Gold by Louis Cardin and Sensual by Lomani Paris. But it all depends on where you’re travelling next, right?

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BONUS: We’re reproducing some of the perfume application tips from our perfume selfie box.

How to make perfumes last longer

  • A perfume has a top, middle and bottom note so that it smells different at different hours of application.
  • Apply the perfume at the ends of your hair, behind your ears, inside the elbows, on your belly button, down your back, inside your wrists and behind the knees.
  • Spray the perfume from a distance of 5-7 inches.
  • Six to eight sprays at a time are good enough.
  • Never keep the perfume in sunlight.
  • Don’t rub the perfume after spritzing. Let it dry naturally.
  • Reapply the perfume every 4-6 hours.
  • Use the perfume on moisturised skin.

Perfume images courtesy: http://www.perfumebooth.com

 

Delhi in 48 hours

Cover the lion’s share of New Delhi’s architectural marvels, garden paradises and culinary secrets over an exciting weekend.

If you find yourself in India’s regal capital city for just 48 hours, fret not. While you may not be able to explore every single landmark of Delhi, you can get more than just a taste of its atmospheric Mughal-era monuments and stately government headquarters.

Day 1

Parliament, Ministries & President’s House

Rashtrapati Bhavan

The Sansad Marg area, bordering the Southern Ridge Forest is a beautiful quiet neighbourhood full of manicured gardens and palatial political abodes manned by tight security. Citizens are free to stroll across the area and gawk at the magnificent Rashtrapati Bhavan, which serves as the President’s house, the Parliament of India and the Defence and Home Ministries, fronted by lovely fountains that serve as a great backdrop for photos. Yes, you can pose for pictures as long as you don’t cross the barricades. One thing to note is that vehicles cannot be parked in this area so it’s better to park elsewhere and come to Sansad Marg on foot, or keep driving around for a good view.

India Gate

India Gate

As you drive along Rajpath Marg, you’ll see the famous arch of India Gate slowly coming into view, until you’re at its very doorstep. The war memorial pays homage to the 82000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died between 1914 and 1921 during the First World War. Their names are inscribed on one side of the arch. Around the main arch, you’ll also find clusters of bright flowers, gardens, a fountain and minaret. Beneath India Gate is the Amar Jawan Jyoti, or the Flame of the Immortal Soldier, which has served as India’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier since 1971.

Humayun’s Tomb

Humayun's Tomb

This is one of the most beautiful monuments in Delhi and deserves a detailed exploration. The stunning main structure may remind you of the Taj Mahal but here, the marble is interspersed with red stone and the turrets have azure tips. The tomb is housed inside this structure and there are various chambers and doorways that demand examination. Remember to look up, for the domed ceiling is surrounded by intricate latticed windows. There are many other tombs housed inside lovely structures in the Humayun’s Tomb garden complex. The octagonal Isa Khan Tomb enclosure predates Humayun’s Tomb by 20 years and is incredibly detailed as well.

Agrasen ki Baoli

Agrasen ki Baoli

This historical stepwell on Hailey Road has 108 steps and is made of red sandstone. Possibly named after the wealthy Agrawal community, the protected monument offers a stunning view from above. If you’re the adventurous kind, you may undertake the journey to its far-off depths, where bat nests and the dank smell typical of underground places await you. You can circle the stepwell at every level, admiring the inner arches.

Red Fort

Red Fort

End your first day in Delhi with a visit to the iconic Red Fort and perhaps a sound and light show at dusk. The fort complex is vast (over 250 acres) with over a dozen important structures that are often far apart, so be prepared for a lot of walking. You’ll often see eagles circling over the tall red sandstone towers, while happy tourists walk beneath the curved arches. Not all the structures inside the complex are red; some are pure white with grey patches due to age. On the pillars, you’ll often see Islamic style floral motifs. Don’t miss the Freedom-Struggle Museum, which lets you walk back in time to India’s fight for independence.

Akshardham Temple

Akshardham Temple
Courtesy: Pixabay

In case you decide not to go for any sound and light show (there’s a good one at Purana Qila as well), you can drive to the outskirts of Delhi to visit the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, the largest Hindu temple in the world. The opulence and perfection of this temple complex cannot possibly be described in words. Walking around its pools that reflect the surrounding towers is a sublime experience. For a fee, one can enjoy a cultural boat ride, watch the Sahaj Anand water show, visit the three exhibitions and the sunken lotus garden. Photography is prohibited.

Day 2

Qutub Minar

Qutub Minar

The sprawling Qutub Complex, a captivating melange of ruins, gardens, tombs and temples houses the Qutub Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world. You’ll have to walk quite a distance to get the entire minaret in your frame! Seen from up close, the minaret has various inscriptions in Arabic and Nagari characters, which tell the story of its origin. Other landmarks in the Qutub Complex include the Alai Darwaza, Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosquem, Tomb of Iltutmish, Ala-ud-din khalji Tomb and Alai Minar.

National Rail Museum

National Rail Museum

A one of its kind museum of trains and everything related to them, the Rail Museum is a wonderland for children and adults who are fascinated by vintage engines. You can walk among displays of actual steam locomotives built by different companies with placards displaying the details of their mechanics and lifespan. There is also a musical fountain, indoor museum and cafeteria at the museum. The interactive indoor museum is excellently built, featuring many games and quizzes that encourage you to explore India’s fascinating rail history.

Jantar Mantar

Jantar Mantar

At first sight, Jantar Mantar looks like a collection of interestingly shaped structures that seem to be oddly spiritual in nature. But it’s actually a set of 18th century observatories constructed by Maharaja Jai Singh II, a keen lover of astronomy. There are four main yantras, housed within six structures. Back in the day (around 1724 AD), these instruments gave quiet precise readings and enabled Jai Singh II to prepare a revised set of astronomical tables.

Lodi Gardens

Lodi Gardens

This impossibly vast garden and monument complex replete with storybook lakes, architectural marvels, lush foliage and rich biodiversity will truly charm your soul. While locals come here to walk, play, perform yoga, feed the swans or engage in bird-watching and photography, the tourist in you will be drawn to the three-domed Bara Gumbad Mosque full of Arabesque stucco decorations and paintings. Then there are the tombs of Muhammad Shah and Sikander Lodi, after whom the gardens are named. Watching the sun set beyond the Sheesh Gumbad is an ethereal experience.

Lotus Temple

Lotus Temple Delhi

End your two-day tour of Delhi with a visit to the lotus-shaped Baha’i Temple, a place of worship with no affinity to any one religion. 27 free-standing marble-clad ‘petals’ were arranged in triads to form nine sides and construct the temple. The temple complex is spread across 26 acres and includes nine pools and serene gardens. Though it’s not open to visitors at night, the temple looks arresting from the outside when it’s lit up.

Fact file

Stay: Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon and Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport are convenient options for touring Delhi as they offer top-notch five star facilities, city tours in luxury cars and classy accommodation with excellent views. Both hotels have in-house spas where skilled masseurs can bring solace to your tired feet after a hectic day of sight-seeing.

Eat: Bella Italia, a cheerful Italian restaurant with woody interiors and kitschy wall art is a great option for lunch or dinner. Wildfire at Gurgaon is a part of the international chain of gourmet Brazilian restaurants and a must-visit for meat lovers. Enjoy a quick lunch buffet at Vito or Café G and evening drinks at Hangar, an aviation-themed bar in Delhi and Connexions, a 24 hour bar in Gurgaon.

Shop: A trip to Delhi is incomplete without a visit to Delhi Haat, famous for its collection of Punjabi juttis, jewellery, dress material and other artefacts.

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Delhi in 48 hours

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Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon: Artful excellence

It’s proving particularly difficult for me to write about Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon. Frankly, the hotel has SO many redeeming qualities that I really don’t know where to begin. Should I start by describing its arty, renovated avatar with cutting edge interiors, a revolving art exhibition and a calming fountain outside the all-day restaurant that comes alive with mesmerising colours in the night? Or perhaps, I should introduce you to its legacy of winning awards every single year and the fact that it is the flagship hotel of the Intercontinental Hotels Group in South Asia, owing to its consistent excellence. But I guess I’ve already plunged into my review of Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon. It’s one of the best five star hotels I’ve stayed at, not just in India but the entire world. But rather than focusing on my experience, let’s assume that you’re the lucky one visiting Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon. Want to know how it all plays out? Read on, and don’t forget to share and comment!

View from my room at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
The view from your room, at night

You walk in.

You’ve probably driven down from the airport (which is only 30min away), or been chauffeured in a luxury Toyota Camri by the hotel. Either way, you don’t fail to smile when you encounter Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon. There’s a plush purple couch next to the reception (perfect for photos!), lots of grey and purple seating and smooth marble flooring. Tall wooden pillars balance the interiors with a touch of warmth. Beyond the transparent walls, you see water cascading over lovely green hexagonal structures, interspersed by miniature palm trees. It’s always nice to see flashes of green, even inside a hotel. Presently, the concierge tells you your room is ready. You quickly finish your iced welcome drink and proceed to the elevator.

Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
The hotel, as seen from the outside

You take in your room.

If you’re smart, you’ve asked for a seventh floor room, which is right at the top of the hotel. You walk down a narrow carpeted corridor, open the door, and breathe in sharply at the loveliness of the room. A large double bed with fluffy pillows and beautiful maroon cushions, wooden boarded flooring, wide flat screen television, ecru couch, writing desk and French windows that extend across the entire wall are laid out before you. The curtains are remote-controlled, you note. You watch them swish back slowly at the press of a button. The view outside is breath-taking, Gurgaon’s crisscrossing flyovers and skyscrapers in the distance and closer home, a long blue pool, surrounded by umbrellas and deck chairs closer home.

Room at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Your digs for the night!

Table lamps on either side of the bed swathe the room in a mellow golden glow, while a floral painting at the back helps settle your mind. On the table, you spot some fruit, cookies, chocolates and almonds with a welcome note. You almost missed that, didn’t you? You peek into the tea and coffee chest and there are several gourmet varieties such as hibiscus, chamomile, lemon Darjeeling and masala tea waiting to be tried. The bathroom has its own story to tell. A sweet bathtub promises to soothe you after a day of hectic sightseeing and a bundle of Biotique toiletries lie beside the washbasin. But it is the remote-controlled Toto toilet that captures your attention the most. There are buttons to umm, clean and dry your rear and many pressure options. This is luxury on a whole new level, you think. Now it’s time to drop your bags and lie down on that bed with some soft music. There’s even a speaker that you can connect your phone or music player to.

You look around at the hotel.

Swimming pool at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
You’re going to enjoy swimming here

Eventually, you do wake up. And you want to know what the rest of this place looks like. You take the elevator and go to the ground floor, where the doorman greets you with a ‘good morning ma’am’. You smile back and start walking aimlessly, stopping at whatever catches your fancy. A lot of things do. Connexions, the 24 hour bar looks really interesting from the outside, with its multiple level seating, wide bar top and Glenlivet display. Further ahead, you take a left and encounter a series of paintings propped on easels. You enquire about them later and realise that they can be bought too. You take the elevator to go to the first level and survey the pool, spa and gym. The pool is temperature controlled but most of the foreign guests are simply sunbathing on the deck chairs. Unlike those in most hotels, the gym appears to be extremely busy. You duck out quickly, so as not to disturb the members. The manager tells you that it’s open 24 hours a day and has around 80 members. Body Zone, the spa, has an enticing menu of therapies and you decide to give in to temptation later. There’s also a nice lounge with computers and charging ports for club members.

Fountain at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
The fountain at night

You sample the buffet at Café G.

All the walking around has made you really hungry and it’s time for a spot of luncheon, as the British would say. Café G is really one of the warmest restaurants you’ve seen, full of cheery, knowledgeable staff, a variety of counters ranging from ‘make your own salad’ to Indian, Japanese, Thai and of course, desserts in an attractive glass cabinet. The seating space is divided into two areas, the first being closer to the band currently performing while the upper level is cosier and offers more intimacy. Guests also have the option of sitting outdoors for the cool and breezy weather (or smoking alongside your meal). There are cushiony sofas as well as chairs and you obviously choose a chair – well because you don’t like to recline when you eat! The chef says their teppanyaki noodles are really special so you place an order for the vegetarian version. In the meanwhile, you pick up some sushi and pile on steamed rice and yellow Thai curry onto your plate.

Cafe G at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Cafe G

You sit outside, watching the fountain while you eat. The server comes around every now and then, plying you with healthful juices, cappuccino and whatnot. Eventually, the noodles arrive and they’re as delicious as promised. The Thai curry is authentic, spicier than the Indianised versions restaurants here normally dish up. And you’d have had a second helping of sushi if you didn’t need to reserve space for dessert. You try the chocolate mousse in a jar (rich, smooth and truly divine) and a slice of red velvet cake (fluffy and light). They put you in the mood for a good, long siesta!

Teppanyaki noodles at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Teppanyaki noodles

You indulge in a spa.

You make an appointment for a 60 minute brightening and whitening facial (around Rs 5500 with taxes) after perusing the list of facials, massages and salon treatments that are available at the spa. The petite therapist asks you to lie down on a bed in a dimly lit room. There’s light music and as you vaguely feel her cleansing, scrubbing, steaming, massaging, exfoliating and coating your face in a pack, you tune out and enter a kind of relaxed stupor. The best parts are when she cleans your face with a warm towel. You decide to try that out when you’re home. You have no idea how an entire hour passes under her able hands. At the end, she asks you to wash your face thoroughly and towel. A sparkly new face gazes back at you in the mirror. You walk away with a spring in your step.

You want a drink.

Drinks at Connexions, the bar at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Drinks and something to munch on

Finally, it’s that time of the day when you can rightfully walk into a bar and ask for a stiff one, on the rocks. Connexions has a live performance on every other night and you just got lucky. You could sit at the lower level for a good view of the cricket match on TV, perch on a bar stool or proceed to the upper level for swankier seating. You can get anything you want here but whiskies are their speciality – they have 108 varieties! So you get yourself a good glass of scotch and watch the evening melt into the night.

You’re ready for dinner.

Wildfire restaurant at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
The view from your table

Are you now? Then it’s time to experience the inimitable churrasco (Brazilian barbeque) experience at Wildfire, part of the international chain of gourmet Brazilian and Italian restaurants. The rich brown and gold interiors lend a dramatic flair to this restaurant, in keeping with the flamboyant style of serving the barbeques. Soup and salad is available at a buffet counter and you enjoy a bowl of excellent potato and leek soup while you await the barbeque. The server comes to your table with your choice of meat, fruit or vegetable on a sizzling skewer from which you pick your portion with a pair of tongs. The food is fresh, succulent and flavourful. For vegetarians, the choice is between cheesy broccoli, fresh mushrooms and honeyed pineapple, which also makes for a great dessert. Wildfire has an enviable wine list as wine goes best with the Brazilian treats they serve. You decide to try the Ti Amo Prosecco and polish off an entire bottle with the meal.

On your way to your room, you catch a glimpse of the banquet hall decked up for someone’s wedding. It’s nothing short of a dream come true.

Banquet hall at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Banquet hall

Ready to book?

Have I enticed you enough with the artful excellence of Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon? If you’re heading to that part of India, you simply must experience their hospitality. And if not, schedule a trip in spring (March) and soak in the splendour of the National Capital Region (NCR) with Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon’s full day city tours. Click here to book your stay.

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