24-Hour Room Service: Alila Diwa, Goa, India
Saturday 11 December 2010
Reclining on a partially submerged lounger in the infinity pool, watching buffalo lazily munch through fields to each side as the Arabian Sea crashes on to a palm fringed beach beyond... it's a very different picture to the neon full-moon parties and bustling beaches of North Goa.
But I am in Majorda, a coastal resort in the south of India's smallest state, where the image is one of glamorous hotels strung loosely down the coast with the exclusive edge of space and tranquillity.
The Alila Diwa (Diwa means heaven in Sanskrit), is the latest addition to South Goa's luxury contingent. Celebrating its first anniversary this month, the hotel has introduced a slice of Balinese chic to Goa. Part of the exclusive Alila group, which was founded in Bali by a group of Amanresorts stakeholders, the Diwa features a design that combines Balinese and Indian coastal architecture.
The aesthetic is one of subtle shades of teak, local red stone, polished Rajasthani stone floors, steeply pitched red roofs, open-sided walls and brass lanterns, which bestow a magical soft sparkle at night. From the serene colonnaded walkways and the courtyard fountains, to the chill-out tunes (from Ravi Shankar to Jack Johnson) on the iPods available to borrow, a serene ambience prevails throughout.
From this month, things are set to get a little busier – and glitzier – with the opening of a spa and the Diwa Wing, a hotel-within-a-hotel which contains 35 Club rooms and suites that come with added privacy and luxuries such as a private pool, limousine transfers, a personal host and complimentary all-day breakfasts.
For those who have exhausted the buffet's capabilities, or for those guests staying in the main resort, attentive concierges are on hand to arrange excursions. A trip to a spice plantation might be followed by a visit to the area's best baker or the feni (lethal local cashew liquor) distillery.
Meanwhile, chefs from the Spice Studio restaurant (which specialises in coastal cooking from Goa, Karnataka and Kerala) will take guests to the local fish market at dawn to select the daily catch for cooking lessons back at the hotel. For couples who would rather have others slave over a hot stove, private dinners can be arranged at sunset spots or on the beach.
Those who still have room can enjoy cardamom--and-ginger flavoured chai and snacks such as pani puri (stuffed fried hollow dough with spicy liquid dip) by the pool, or stock up in the boutique on spiced local cashews and home-made mango pickle made from fruit from the hotel's trees.
Surrounded by lush rice plantations and fields populated with wild peacock, buffalo and piglets, the Alila Diwa is a blissful distance away from hectic North Goa. However it is still just a 20-minute drive south from the state's main airport. Planning rules have forbidden Alila from building right on the coastline. But the peaceful, if slightly rubbish strewn Majorda beach is a 500m stroll through the tiny village, little more than a pretty white church and rows of brightly painted homes. The hotel also runs a frequent shuttle bus.
Half an hour's drive away is Chandor, where Goa's Portuguese heritage manifests itself in the colonial homes and whitewashed churches. One of its most noted residents is the sprightly but stern 93-year-old Aida Menezes-Braganza, and the hotel guides all know her. Simply knock on her front door and she will proudly take you on a tour of her glorious antique packed 17th-century family home, built on landed gifted to her ancestors by the King of Portugal.
All the 114 rooms and suites come with balconies and terraces. Elegantly simple pale wood and cream surroundings are set off by luxury linens in shades of brown and russet and lattice screens. In keeping with the tone of the hotel, the light switch buttons by your bed invite you to choose between relax, read, dimmer or intimate while treats such as petit fours and chocolate desserts are delivered at turndown.
The group apparently prides itself on offering a "bathroom experience", and lives up to this declaration with sumptuous candle lit baths and a range of deliciously scented Alila Living brand unguents in silver containers (though there are a few too many hints to steer you to purchase your own in the boutique).
The full spa is due to open in January but until then rooms have been set aside for treatments. Balinese ladies offer the most sublime massages and beauty treatments that include a Baileys milk bath to the soothing tones of Norah Jones or a Gentleman's Club bath with Montecristo cigars and a Frank Sinatra background.
Alila Diwa, Village Majorda, Adao Waddo, Salcette, Goa, India (00 91 832 274 6800; aliladiwagoa.com)
Double rooms start at R9,139 (£129), including breakfast. Rooms in the Diwa wing start at Rs14,280 (£201).
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