“ Address: WorldViewer Dot Com (India) Pvt. Ltd. II Floor, G 66, Elders Forum Road, Panampilly Nagar, Cochin, Kerala, India. Pin 682 036 „
~Why it's Cool to get High in India~
For our trip to India in November I decided to share the arrangements with a local travel company called 'makemytrip.com'. We would fly into Mumbai, take an internal flight down to Kochi and then they would take over for a few days and arrange a tour in Kerala. Then once the tour was over, we would revert to hotels that I'd chosen again. This meant that for a few nights if the hotels were rubbish I could blame someone else. The Westwood Riverview in Munnar was the first of the hotels selected for us by makemytrip.com as part of our four night itinerary. We had already stayed at the Abad Airport Hotel in Kochi which we'd added into our trip but that had been our choice rather than theirs.
Munnar was the place I most wanted to visit on the mini-tour. It's Kerala's great 'hill station' - the place where people have long escaped the heat of the summer down by the coast to flee to the cooler mountain air. I have a weakness for high altitude India but this place is different from many in that it's not quite so 'British' as many of the hill stations (architecturally it's not so 'Anglo' as places like Mussoorie, Darjeeling or Shimla for example) and of course it's not in the Himalayas. It's not so well known as Ooty, the other great southern Indian hill station that's accessible by a narrow gauge railway, and consequently it's much more a place where Indian people go on holiday rather than foreign tourists.
I didn't have too much idea what to expect from Munnar (other than tea plantations) and even less what to expect from the Westwood Riverside. There were few reviews on line to go by but sometimes you've got to trust your online travel agent. They had originally intended to put us somewhere else - a good half hour down the hill from Munnar so finding that we were in a more central location was a bonus. The hotel is just a short distance down a quiet side road that branches off from the main road through Munnar town and we had the benefit of being quite close to the action (if you can call it such) but overlooking a beautiful wide river and woods beyond. Peace and quiet in an Indian town is not something you can ever take for granted.
We arrived after dark so we didn't get to have a proper look around on the first night. Check in was polite, friendly and edging towards fawning. Clearly they were determined that nothing should be too much trouble. The guy from the front desk personally escorted us up to our room after taking our passports for copying and reassuring us that breakfast was included, telling us the hours and pointing out the restaurant. With the porter following on a few minutes later, her took us up to the 4th floor and our room 401 which I'm pretty confident in saying must have had one of the best positions in the hotel. There are facilities on the 5th floor - an ayurvedic spa and treatment centre and some kind of 'fun zone' - but the 4th is the highest accommodation floor and has the benefit of being well above the trees that stand between the hotel and the river so that the views (once the sun came up the next morning) are absolutely fantastic.
~Room with a View~
When I describe an Indian hotel room as having 'character' it's not always a good thing and often means there's something hilariously quirky or bizarre about the place. The Westwood Riverside is different - it has character but in a positive and pleasant 'no pet cockroach' kind of way. The room was not particularly large or small - just a good standard sized double with plenty of space to get around the furniture without falling over yourself. Joy of joys we actually got a double bed - something rarer than hens' teeth in most Indian hotels. I suspect the great view means it may be one of the rooms they use for honeymooners who don't want to buy into the whole 'over the top flower petals on the bed' deal of which Indian hotels are so fond The bed was a standard double with white self-striped soft cotton bedding and - further joy of joys - a duvet, no doubt a concession to the lower temperatures up in the mountains.
I have begun to believe there's a government department somewhere in India who insist that all hotels under 5 stars have to have uniform beigey-brown scratchy blankets and sheets that aren't long enough. Somehow - perhaps with the application of charm or bribery - the Westwood Riverside has escaped the brown blanket brigade. The mattress was thin and pretty hard but that wasn't a problem for me - when it comes to beds, better too hard than too soft.. A small bedside table on either side came in handy and the only complaint my husband had was the strip lighting over the bed which annoyed him when I was reading and he was trying to get to sleep.
In addition to the bed we got two rather stylish leatherette armchairs in a rather funky 1960's Scandinavian style. These were accompanied by a small round coffee table but since no kettle or coffee were supplied they soon got covered in the normal detritus of hotel living. We had a full sized fridge which was bright red and well stocked with soft drinks and snacks. We never found out if the hotel had a license but failed to spot any beer during our stay and didn't want to offend anyone by asking. A long desk and a bag stand meant we had lots of space for our things and there was a wardrobe, a smaller cupboard and a deep drawer. A wall mounted flat screen television meant we had some entertainment in the evenings after dinner. The floor was wooden and had been painted a strange and rather ugly dark brown. The walls were wainscoted up to hip height with a prominent dado rail above.
The bathroom was small and rather gloomy with a tiny sink area that made it a problem to know what to do with our toiletries bag. The shower was close by the loo but had a curtain to prevent a soggy seat but the drainage for the water was on the far side of the room and it drained very slowly. However all was clean, tidy and we got fresh loo roll each day. The water is only hot between 6 and 10 in the morning and then again between 6 and 10 in the evening but there was plenty of hot water when we needed it although the temperature control was a bit erratic.
On our first morning we used the towels and hung them over the wardrobe door to dry so we could use them again. When you've flown several thousand miles for your holiday it's not exactly a grand gesture to try to use your towels again. They disappeared. We didn't notice until someone turned up at the door bringing us a bottle of water (we got a free one each day) and holding two soft fluffy white towels. When I realised these were just hand-towels I went to look for the big ones and they'd gone. When we went for dinner we asked if they could send us some big towels - and when we got back, the housekeeping guy turned up with two soft fluffy snowy white towels. I can guess that all those of you who stay in hotels in the UK are thinking "What's the big deal about that?" In fifteen years of going to India I've never seen fluffy white towels in anything less than a five star hotel so I was on fluffy white cloud nine to have such luxuries.
Whether the hotel gave us their extra-special new towels I'm not sure but the service from the time we arrived was so astonishingly eager that nothing would surprise me. If someone had rung ahead and told them we were hotel inspectors, I don't think they could have tried harder. Twice someone came to bring us things and to ask if we needed anything. When I said we didn't he then wanted to check "Any complaints madame?" Service in the restaurant was extraordinary. On the first evening they told us that the only food was the buffet. It was a Sunday evening so that seemed entirely fair and we didn't argue although the guy told us it was "excellent price madame" and so it turned out to be though it wasn't very 'buffet' because the staff insisted on serving us at our table with the soup and pudding though we were allowed to go and get the main course. At breakfast the waiters swooped on us, guessed we'd not be up to the traditional south Indian breakfast and insisted on bringing us toast and omelettes as well as making our coffee. Whether these were what my husband calls "pinkie privileges" or not (we were the only Europeans in the entire hotel), I'm not sure but their kindness and eagerness to make sure we had everything we could possibly need was touching.
On the second night the guy in charge of the restaurant admitted that they did have other food but asked us to please have the buffet because they had an enormous group out on the covered terrace and he didn't want us to have to wait whilst the kitchen was so busy. We were more than happy to help him as dinner the first night had cost us around £8 for the two of us and hearing the banging music and kids screams from the terrace we weren't terribly keen to hang around too long so the buffet was a good quick option.
~Very minor niggles~
This brings me neatly onto the only thing we didn't like about the hotel and for which they really can't be blamed - other people's children. There was a large Indian tour party of families, mostly with pre-school age children. They filled two buses and blocked us in the car park on the first morning so we couldn't escape until they'd gone. I can't claim British parenting would win any awards (not if reality TV programmes are to be believed) but well-to-do Indian parents seem to place no restrictions on how much time their little princes and princesses go running round the corridors shouting their heads off without any concern for their fellow guests. Had we stayed when there were fewer kids in the hotel then I'm sure we'd have struggled to find anything to grumble about except for the internet access in the so-called Business Centre. The computer had some kind of out of date security certificate which blocked every new page until I'd clicked the box six or seven times over. I gave up after just 20 minutes. Sadly - or not, depending on your attitude - there's no wi-fi and that computer is the only available access. At least it was very cheap.
The hotel has a cute little garden between it and the drivers' car park which has pretty flower beds and some play areas for the kids. The other thing of note is the weird décor in the atrium which has been decorated to look like a Swiss chalet painted by an Indian who'd never been to Switzerland but had read a lot of Dickens as well as over-dosed on the adventures of Heidi. In addition to weird faux beams there were a series of 'murals' of what look like historic white folk - a sort of Sherlock Holmes meets crinoline ladies mash-up.
Our room was lovely, the staff were absolutely outstanding and we were treated like royalty. We were close to Munnar city centre without having any of the noise or disturbance of being closer and aside from not enjoying large family bus groups who shared the place with us, I'm struggling to fault this lovely hotel.
Hotel in the hill town of Munnar in Kerala