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Taj Garden Retreat Kumarakom - Kumarakom, India | Hotel Review

Five-Star Resort but Lacking Five-Star Service


Taj Garden Retreat Kumarakom – Kottayam, (Kerala) India: Originally built by an English missionary sometime in the late 19th century, the Taj Garden Retreat Kumarakom is the perfect sanctuary to practice the art of doing nothing, and I’m not being sarcastic here. Set on the banks of the Vembanad Lake and surrounded with beautifully manicured gardens, the large resort is enough to sustain your mind and spirit for the rest of your stay. While the view is cinematic, in reality the lagoon was far from ideal. It looked quite dirty and was definitely not intended for swimming, only for admiring from a vantage point when the lighting is perfect.

First Impression/Lobby: At first, I was bowled over by the beauty of the premises and the synthesis of the resort’s style and architecture to the rustic surroundings, which to me seemed utterly seamless. I was under the impression that the place was a true five-star, luxury hotel that would provide true, five-star service. After a short trip to the restaurant while we were waiting for our room, however, I was drastically proven wrong.

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Reception: Checking in was a breeze. When we got there, they were already expecting us. Every one of the staff knew us and even greeted us by name. They had everything ready for us to sign and we were immediately escorted to our rooms.

The Suite: Out of all four Pool Suites, we had the best view. Our room, Suite 24, also called the “Cormorant” (after the coastal seabird which was prevalent in the area) was actually a small cottage. It was located way down the property, affording a wonderful view of the backwaters. During sunsets, however, it can get annoying as there were seating areas for guests to relax and admire the view, which in turn, ruined our view.

What I loved most about our suite was the integration of native Indian materials and local building techniques with modern sensibilities and luxury. Exuding a rustic charm, the suite was thoroughly relaxing and even cheery. It was tiled in red and had walls painted off-white with a bright yellow trim, which was decorated with a white bird. This detail added a lot to the room’s character than anything else in the room. The drapes added a homey touch—pinkish red and tan combined with thin blue-and-white stripes. Off the bedroom was an outdoor bathroom. While the sink, toilet and bathtub were covered, the shower was completely open air. On the whole, our room was exactly what I imagine when I think of how the British lived in India during the colonial era.

The room was well-appointed with Indian furniture where everything seemed to sit a little lower to the ground, including a small desk, armoire, and a comfortable king-sized bed. It also had a living room area, minimally designed with two chairs, a couch, and a flat, wide-screen TV. On the corner was a grandfather clock. Large glassed doors opened to a view of the backwaters.

Outside, there was a small plunge pool and a day bed. It was an enclosed area, and therefore very private, but this didn’t matter much since the area was a poor excuse for a private pool. There were no lounge chairs or dining table. The place was also ill-maintained. For instance, there was a pile of bird droppings which seemed to have been sitting there for some time. The grass was in dire need of cutting and the wood trim around the daybed needed painting.

On the back porch was another set of chairs with a table and a swinging chair. Off on the grass was yet another set of table and chairs. Needless to say, the place was perfect for sitting back, relaxing, meditating, and enjoying doing nothing. One negative thing about the suite was that the back doors and windows faced our neighbor’s yard so privacy in our yard (other than the small pool area) and even in our room (unless all the blinds were pulled) were non-existent.

Room Service: The room service was slow and inconsistent and their food was deplorably mediocre. We were in the heart of India for crying out loud! We were expecting great Indian food but got a huge disappointment. My local Indian takeout place back home was even far better. Whether it was local Kerala Indian dishes or simple eggs for breakfast, they failed to impress.

Housekeeping: The housekeeping was efficient and for the most part invisible, exactly how it should be.

Restaurant: The restaurant’s service was horribly slow. It took them over 45 minutes to prepare a club sandwich, and after one bite, I can also say, it was not worth the wait. How anyone can ruin a club sandwich I will never know, but they did!

Pool/Spa/Activites: The pool was large but had only about 16-18 chairs. Inflatable tubes and balls floated around, making it look more like a children’s pool. The in-pool bar, however, was enough to attract adult guests. The loud dance music that played all day was not conducive for relaxation, and was more suitable for play. Luckily, our suite came with its own private pool, but as I mentioned above, was nothing to marvel about, really.

Overall Impression Overall, our stay was memorable but could have been a lot better. If you decide to stay here, be sure to request and confirm the Suite 24, Cormorant Suite. I would go back to the Taj Garden Retreat Kumarakom, given the chance, but would not really dream about it. I rate it somewhere between Bombastic and Not.

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