Sunday, October 28, 2012

The ITC Grand Chola – a visitor’s view

ITC Grand Chola

The ITC Grand Chola – a visitor’s view

Was a part of the Indiblogger meet and have been a part of all but one of their meets and as part of the meet am posting the venue and the meet as two separate posts. This is about the venue…

The first visit to the Grand Chola is akin to a visit to the Taj Mahal, it can be anticlimactic. Do not get me wrong, there are reams written about both that a certain expectation gets created that may lead to an anticlimax when you actually reach there. The Grand Chola is a 5 star hotel and the Taj Mahal a tomb.

First things first, the Grand Chola holds back no punches in its attempt to be the best in its class and it has come out on top. It overwhelms you with sheer presence and the architecture is jaw dropping from whatever angle you may look and it will give you a stiff neck while you are at it. Everything is grand and grand in French is Big, so there!

I could help being puzzled by a couple of things when I entered the hotel, in no particular order:

  •   Built a shout away from Pallavapuram (now Pallavaram) and in close quarters to the erstwhile capital of    the   Pallava dynasty, why Chola? This question was partly answered by the brochure that explains that the Chola empire was the most glorious of the Southern India. But still the doubt lingers…
  • The Cheras had the bow, the Pandyas the fish, the Pallavas the Lion and the Cholas the Tiger as their emblems, however the motif that dominated the hotel was the elephant. I did not get the connect for the same.

The security detail asked for both the bonnet and the hatch (a first) to be opened at the gate which I learnt was not the only one. At least 7 security guards flagged me on as I circulated the massive property and reached a reception. The mandatory security check and I was welcomed into the lobby and directed to the hall where the meet was held.
This Rajendra hall (apparently named after Rajendra Chola or Gangaikondan) is probably the largest pillar free hall of its kind in the country and comfortably dwarfs the Grand Madras Ball Room. This hall can be configured into multiple options and can hold 8000 guests at full capacity. The hall is simply breath taking!

A partitioned section of Rajendra hall

A few points of note gleaned from a member of the pastry chef team and our guide Vivek before our tour started:
-          The kitchen which we could not see is massive and can feed 8000 banquet guests at one time and runs parallel to the Rajendra hall
-          The Grand Chola is a LEED certified Green hotel and among other things produces its own power from a wind farm and the surplus goes to the grid. Salute!

The start of the tour was preceded by a lingering doubt from the press release earlier which mentioned that the staff walked 25K odd steps daily; we wondered how many we would require for the tour.
The entire building is inspired by the temple building styles of the Chola empire and the structure reminds us of the old temples.

 The motifs on the wall are beautiful and the pillars are colossal. The chandeliers in the lobby took my breath away for a brief moment.

We saw a standard room that is Ipad controlled, everything is on the Ipad and is just a touch away. The room set a high standard and at 10K or thereabouts is a steal.

The room
The pool area (was informed that there are 6 pools, we saw 3) is at the risk of sounding monotonous and repetitive grand (in both English and French) and is a highlight of the hotel.”

The largest pool is in the background
We also saw a gym and the outside of a spa as a treatment was in progress and since it was impolite to intrude we moved on. We learnt of the RFID pillars that tracks client movement and enables the staff to prepare for the guests even before they actually arrive and we were assured that the privacy would not be violated.

I loved the small lotus pool and wondered why it was restricted to just that. Water is very therapeutic and maybe they missed out on more water based installations in the hotel.

The lotus pool I liked
I liked one 3D painting on the wall and was informed that there are many more in the hotel but we did not have the time to check them out. And since the hallmark of Chola architecture is sculptures another thing that was missed was sculptures or art installations around.

“Follow me or you will get lost” said Vivek our helpful guide and what I missed very badly was the directions that is required everywhere. Like in a ship a map everywhere would be much appreciated.
There are several restaurants & bars inside the Grand Chola and thanks to the gift vouchers I can reel off a few:
Café Mercara
Madras Pavilion
For want of time we passed by and did not spend time in any except for a photo op in one bar.

Overhead view of one restauran                                 

 Some points to note:

  •         The absence or relative weak wi-fi signal in corridors 33 
  •           We noticed the incomplete or broken light fixtures in the corridor, for a new hotel looked like an oversight

The ITC Grand Chola lives upto its name as grand (I said it again), however I felt something missing. A grand temple is crowned by a gopuram and everything will converge towards the gopuram, the absence of a central atrium to which the entire hotel can converge has resulted in several insular sections that branch off from different corners. Marble is alien to traditional construction and maybe standards may not permit the use of stone but stone would have made a difference. Carpet, paneling and all rob the hotel of any unique characteristics since this is standard for any big hotel.

Size may not be everything and the sheer size overwhelms and maybe can tire also, wonder how unsuspecting guests will traverse the span of the hotel.

Finally the hotel is only as good as the people and in that aspect I think Grand Chola scores high from what I saw today. Courteous, highly trained, competent and a diverse workforce can take the hotel to great heights. 

                               Our guide Vivek

My best wishes to the team at ITC Grand Chola and a big thanks for having me over.


sahi said...

very well written..:) :) the doubts did u ask vivek all those???

The Pseudonym said...

Maybe I should go take a break here. sounds interesting.

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