Posted by: Tommy | March 9, 2011

In the Lap of Luxury

As I mentioned in the Tiger Hunt post, one of Sarah’s agenda items for her visit to India was staying at a fancy beach resort.  As a faithful blog reader, she knew that “fancy resort” is not exactly how we travel on this trip.  We couldn’t possibly afford to stay in fabulous resorts or be “on vacation” for an entire year.  But she was on vacation, and she wanted to stay in a fancy resort – so she proposed picking up the tab for the room for 3 nights and we would stay with her (Future visitors: this is a very acceptable solution to us).  Of course, we agreed.  She picked out the Alila Diwa resort in the Goa province, on Magorda beach.

After a particularly horrible bus ride (One thing that amused me during Sarah’s visit – Anna and I would occasionally talk about “the five worst nights” or “ten best experiences” of the trip – by the end, Sarah wanted to know where a certain experience would rank on our lists, so she could put the things she was experiencing in perspective with our experiences.  I assured her, after this busride, that it was definitely one of the 5 worst travel experiences of the trip.  It being *only* three hours of sweaty, smelly, crowded, dusty, nauseating white knuckle bus riding kept it from being #1) we arrived at the Alila Diwa.  We tried to take up our own backpacks and go to check-in but the reception people wouldn’t hear of it.  We were instead ushered to a table, far from the battered taxi we’d arrived in, and given a fresh, cucumber-scented cold towel and a glass of watermelon juice.  They took our passports and our reservation print-out and left us in peace.

We spent about 10 minutes marveling at the decor – the Alila Diwa is part of the Design Hotels chain and I’ve never been in such a modern-looking hotel.  We were then given a brief tour of the main grounds by a hotel employee – she showed us the infinity pool, the library, the theater, both restaurants and the bar.  We were then turned over to another employee, who told us we’d been upgraded to their newly-completed Private Wing, which had its own exclusive pool, a restaurant serving breakfast 24 hours/day and its own concierge.  It was also exclusively suites – sweet!  We were taken to the new wing via golf cart (we couldn’t be bothered to walk 50 yards!) while our backpacks followed us in a van.  We got a similar tour of this wing, then were shown to our rooms.

The grounds of the Alila Diwa

I know my mouth was on the floor and I’m sure Anna and Sarah felt the same way.  The bathroom was the size of our condo; 3 closets, 2 sinks, a large standing rain shower (not sure that’s the right name for it – the water comes straight out of the ceiling instead of from a nozzle) and, the centerpiece, a giant bathtub set in the middle of the room.  The two room suite had 2 50″ flatscreen TVs and a full length balcony outside overlooking the private pool.  Sarah stayed in the bedroom, one king-sized bed all to herself.  Anna and I took the queen-sized folding sofa bed that was more comfortable than anything we’ve stayed on these last 5 months.  To top it off, free, fast wifi.  That would seem like a small thing to me, sitting at home, but in India (and previously, in Africa) that makes a place infinitely more exciting.  We were able to book trains for the rest of our India visit, restock on podcasts and other iTunes downloads, take care of a few lingering business things at home and catch up on Facebook and the triumphant Texas basketball team.

Sarah in the giant bathroom

We quickly changed into swimsuits and went to check out the infinity pool near the main building – it was surrounded by loungers with private umbrellas, plus had 15 or so “water loungers” – chairs actually in the water so your head could rest comfortably above the water while the rest of you sits just below the surface.  The water was cool and refreshing.  We hadn’t eaten anything all day (the miserable busride was immediately preceded by a pleasant 15 hour train trip that didn’t allow for food) so we ordered burgers from the pool-side bar and enjoyed the sun and relaxation.

We stayed at the pool until the mosquitoes came out (the only imperfection at the Alila, and not one they can control, although they do fog every night and give out mosquito coils wherever possible) and then fled back to the room.  We all took showers – the first hot showers we’d had in India – and played with the cable TVs.  Around 9, we got dressed and went down to the private restaurant to have a 24/7 breakfast.  Anna and Sarah hadn’t slept much on the overnight train the night before, so we turned in early.

Our room included a breakfast buffet, so we woke up just before it was to close.  When we walked in, we were in heaven.  They had a small section with Indian breakfast foods, but the rest of it – either because Westerners do breakfast better or just because most of the clientele is Western – was my idea of breakfast heaven.  Sarah admired the yogurt, granola and fresh fruit.  Anna made use of the “eggs made to order” station, making a sandwich of toast, poached eggs and grilled vegetables.  I ate pretty much everything else – omelets, bacon, muffins (chocolate chip, vanilla, blueberry, grain), croissants, waffles (they even had a canister of chocolate chips – I had chocolate chip waffles), pancakes, baked beans, sauteed potatoes and boiled eggs.  They even had a selection of 6 different cereals with skim, 2% and whole milk.  And juices – there were 6 different types of fresh squeezed juice.  A waiter came by offering tea and coffee – Anna and Sarah each had lattes.  I could write for another hour on the breakfast – it was probably my favorite thing about the Alila Diwa.

After breakfast, we headed for the beach.  A shuttle service runs straight there – we’d forgotten the provided beach towels in the room – but no problem, a guy with 40 towels sits by the shuttle and hands out towels to guests who need them (they’ve thought of everything here).  We got to the beach, expecting to pick out a spot and hopefully rent an umbrella to sit under for a few hours.  Nope – as soon as we emerge from the path near the shuttle, an Alila employee greats us and ushers us to comfortable, padded beach loungers, each with its own umbrella.  This we were not expecting.  We are right on the beach, yet in a deserted area.

Private beach

We ended up staying at the beach for the entire day, instead of just a few hours.  It was so nice, we couldn’t leave.  Because of the giant breakfast, we didn’t get particularly hungry.  Around 4, we strolled down the beach, found a small, beachside restaurant called Albert’s Place and decided to get a drink there.  Curiously, Albert’s offered a Screwdriver for 195 Rupees ($4.50) or a fresh-squeezed orange juice for 90 and a large shot of vodka for 40.  Make your own screwdriver (by dumping the vodka into the juice) for 130 Rupees.  We all ordered pineapple juice (pineapple, thrown into a food processor and poured into a glass) and rum (130 Rupees – $3).  After 2 rounds, we made our way back to the beach chairs and hung out until sunset.

That night, it was recommended that we visit another bar/restaurant – Martin’s – so we did.  The food was average but the entertainment was perfect.  It was Karaoke Night!  There was an equal mix of Indian and white people, mostly Brits.  A few of the Brits broke the ice, getting up and singing some (truly terrible) songs.  The worst performance of the night had to be the youngish Indian guy who gave an awful rendition of Nothing Else Matters by Metallica.  (Hint: if you don’t know the words to a 7 minute, dark, depressing song don’t bring down the mood of the entire place by choosing it for karaoke – in fact, even if you do know all the words, don’t pick something that’s both depressing and 7 minutes long).  But it was immediately followed by a large Indian in a cowboy hat who sang a Hank Williams song – and was great!  Anna and I were excited – country music in India.  It turns out there was a table of band members and the country guy and one other guy – who was good but thought he was much better than he was – took turns dominating the mike.  It was good fun for a couple of hours, then we headed back.

Our last full day began with another gigantic breakfast – I ate an omelet, chocolate chip waffles, 2 helpings of potatoes and 2 muffins.  We spent the morning at the pool, then headed out to the beach for lunch at Albert’s.  The food was even better than the pineapple rum drinks the day before (thought we of course had another round of drinks with lunch).  We stayed on the beach until sunset, then went back to the room to change and shower.

The next day, we knew we’d have to leave the wonderful respite of the Alila.  We ate a third massive breakfast, then sat by the pool for the last few hours before heading to the airport.  It’s hard to express in words the good, warm feelings we had during our stay at the Alila.  But after two whirlwind weeks in India, it was nice to slow down and enjoy just “being” in India, instead of seeing it.

One of the features on the interactive TV is a scrolling look at other Alila hotels around the world.  They seem to be focused in Southeast Asia – Bali, Thailand, Maldives, etc. After a wonderful experience and seeing the beauty of other Alilas, Sarah has decided to plan her next vacation around Alila locations.  I can’t blame her – and if anyone wants to come to Thailand, I can recommend a nice place for us to stay.

This seemed hilarious after a day of drinking on the beach.

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Responses

  1. That was incredibly nice of Sarah to give you all that luxury. Of course she had your great company to share it with. It does sound really, really nice. The pictures are great. But Tommy the chocolate chip waffles cannot be as good as mine!

  2. Don’t limit your future guests; there 2 Alila’s in Laos as well!

  3. Tommy and Anna

    It really looks great, where you stayed. I guess Sarah (who I don’t really know) ended up spoiling you with that hotel.
    As I always say, It would be nice to be on some of your adventures and thanks for sharing them.
    Was reading this just before I have to go back to Organic Chemistry (butt kicking), so it was nice to step out of my world for a moment.

    I think you will have to relive your breakfast when you get back at an Ihop, no probably not.

    You both take care and stay safe.

    Michael

  4. After some of your past sleeping arrangements, I can only imagine how wonderfully enjoyable this was!! Guess it’s back to reality again!

  5. super jealous!! that looks amazing!!!

  6. […] In the Lap of Luxury (thethompsonstravels.wordpress.com) […]

  7. […] The Alila, Goa, India – When Sarah Halloran wanted to come travel with us, we warned her that we traveled on a budget.  She was welcome to stay in a proper hotel, but we’d be looking for cheap options.  She was a trooper and agreed to stay with us in hostels or whatever else we’d find, so long as we spent the last 3 days of her stay in a proper 5-star resort.  Which she’d spring for.  Who are we to ruin her vacation? […]


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