Sunday, August 30, 2015

Why the Park Chennai does not cut it when it comes to 5 Star hotels in Chennai



I had an opportunity to stay in the Park hotel, Chennai for business reasons. Most people needing to travel to Chennai to the US embassy prefer this hotel due to location. Also its a 5 star hotel. I did the booking on on Booking.com a fairly well known travel website. It was painless to book and the hotel clarified whatever information was needed when they were called.

First the traffic around the place is horrendous. Gemini Flyover sure has seen generations in chennai and the traffic around this place makes it impossible to cross the road unless one uses the subway. If you think people will behave the same way as other cities when it comes to driving skills, be warned - this city wont wait for you to cross. If you value your life, be safe.

Now to the hotel itself. Given my very brief stay, I did not get to experience the restaurants, pool and other areas towards the terrace. The building is rather old and it is beginning to show at many places. The rooms were comfortable, and had mostly everything you would need. Two bottles of mineral water, a well stocked mini bar, tea/coffee making machines with creamer, sugar and coffee/tea supplies. The mini bar was as expected chargeable if you were to take anything from there.

For a change the bed was NOT spongy and springy like other hotels. I had a stiff but comfortable bed something that I usually long for in hotels, and soft pillows to provide even more comfort. Each room gets an individually controllable central airconditioning with the temperature setting panel on the wall. Now this is where I would like 5 star hotels to think a bit. When smaller hotels offer a remote control how come such a hotel decided not to provide this?

There was a sofa, stool and a high stool to place luggage which is wishful thinking. There was no fan in the room. Now you might argue that in a 5-star hotel a fan worsens the ambience. But thats not the point. A fan provides some instant air circulation while the aircon takes it own time. With all the windows closed, and curtains around, any hotel room begins to become stuffy. And this is exactly where you need a fan. If you cannot provide a ceiling fan, give a table fan or a tower fan. In a country like india, there are thousands of options available, you need to just think.

The lights were dim and not sufficient to work, I personally prefer some white light in the room, but this one had only yellows. To each his own opinion so I will leave this there!

One of the most important parts of the room which is lesser spoken about is the toilet. While the toilet itself was good and it was well appointed with whatever you would expect I found one glaring issue. A missing health faucet. Even the train I came by to chennai had one and I simply cannot understand why a 5-star hotel like the Park decided to do away with it. For me cleanliness is very important and people like me who are very personal hygiene conscious will surely be pissed off with this omission.

The bathtub was great, and so was the showers (plural). I did find another thing quite annoying. the flush in the toilet would go off only after 30 seconds each time. Now do we really need to waste water like this because we are a 5-star? In India everyone is expected to be conservative even if we flaunt money. Someone somewhere in the hotel chain needs to make this distinction and take the baton. A few hotels have begun not washing the bedding if we say so, and water conservation is just another similar matter.

Also the hot water was not really hot, at best warm. Which turned cold every few minutes once. What is the point? In spite of keeping my AC completely turned off in the room and without a fan, the whole room was so cold simply because the aircon in the corridors was too cold. After all this, if you find that you do not have hot water, hot enough to your wish it becomes very difficult to stay put in the room. I complained, someone did something, and nothing changed much.

The room service menu was a horror to see. You know its not the money part really that pinches me. Before you begin to assume things about me, I have the money that it takes to order whatever is there on that list. But when the rates of items are in dollars you seriously begin to wonder what is the value they bring compared to any really decent hotel nearby. We have heard of indians being charged less and foreigners more in tourist places. Why can the hotels not adopt similar policy? For indians charge in rupees and for others charge in their currency at a certain reasonable amount.

A cup of authentic Madras filter coffee is priced at Rs.250/- Even cafe coffee day will have to hang their head in shame at this rate. The best one can give for a cup of filter coffee in chennai no matter where it is served is 50 bucks. Not five times that. Well you may now begin to say I don't deserve to stay there if I cannot consume something at that price. Not exactly. Any item you see in the list is either 550, 750 or 1000 bucks. So for example a dosa maybe 1000 bucks. Can I see you frown now? I'm glad you get the point.

This is perhaps the only hotel where alcoholic drinks are cheaper than tiffin.

Thankfully there was free WiFi - the basic needs of engineers according to the revised Maslow's laws of hierarchal needs. And it was quite fast. I hate any hotel not offering complementary wifi these days. And the Park did not disappoint. I never even bothered to ask anyone for travel arrangements within the hotel. I had Ola, Uber and the million autos just outside the gate. So that's one brownie point less to the Park.

The next morning was the complimentary breakfast. Now I must say the restaurant 601 in the hotel, did an exemplary job with the kind of breakfast spread they offered. Simply amazing. Tasty. And full of variety. English breakfast, South indian everything you needed was there. Good job Park.


Check in was quite late but check out was not. They can have more than three reception staff as the flow of visitors is high. Further, I was offered during checkout that I could come and refresh and go even later in the day, which is a nice touch. I did read the book kept in the room on the hotel rules and I must say I did not feel so welcoming with the way the language was presented. Perhaps someone needs to be more youthful in whats shown to visitors. You can't do this, you can't do that, we dont appreciate this, we dont appreciate that. You know the whole book sounds negative. Dont be rude to our staff, we dont like pets - blah blah blah.

I dont mind you saying we must not be rude to your staff, but it also applies the other way round. Please understand that visitors to the hotel are generally tired, and not always in the best moods due to whatever other problems they are in. I do get the point that some visitors act like they are the Kings and Queens of some faraway kingdom, but not all are like that. That is why hospitality is a difficult business. Its all about how to put up a nice face even when the customer has issues with the hotel. Anyway this is something for you to handle, and not me. But putting up the rulebook like what you have - I would have changed certain things in it the way it was said.

In Summary, I did have a nice time at your hotel with some awesome breakfast, and a comfortable room, but with some important things being omitted in the room and toilet, and the horrendous pricing of your food items, I guess this is only a place to stay not to eat. For eating there is always a Saravana Bhavan at a stones throw away (<1km, Gopalapuram) which you can walk to. With room rates around 6000 to 7000 a night, I think a lot more can be done to better the experience for visitors.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The Hyundai Creta first look

Today I got a chance to visit the Hyundai Showroom to take a look at the Creta, their newly launched mini SUV. As you would already be knowing by now this big fella is making headlines all over India as the latest on the block to demolish all other SUVs on the market (which includes Ford Ecosport, Duster, Scorpio, XUV and also the not yet launched S-Cross from Maruti).

Will the Creta have enough under its belt to take away the throne from the others? Looks? Performance? Comfort? Space? Read on.

There was no big fanfare about the Creta and as I entered the showroom, there it was in full glory in Cherry Red colour. I have been reading all about Creta in the last one month and I must tell you that I share the same opinion as the others when it comes to looks. No amount of photographs will be enough to explain the real perspective of a human mind unless you look at the car in person.

The design is brilliant. Initially I thought that the grill in the front would jut out just too much to make it bulky as seen in many of the reviewers photos. But you know what? Not at all. I mean really. As is the case with hyundai they have created an SUV with a massive appearance. It will really have some presence on the road. You need to see it to beleive it.

The macho front grill, the beautiful fog lamps, the triangle shaped bright orange indicators, and the imposing headlamps all of these add value to the overall body. The side profile is similar so XUV but a bit more sober and lends very well to the overall character of the car. Though Korean in nature the unmistakable thud while closing the doors is a bit reassuring. No wonder then that this car apparently has very high C-NCAP ratings.

The whole design begins to rise towards the rear ending a Santa Fe like tail lamp cluster which bodes very well to complete the muscular look. In terms of looks and styling Hyundai have a winner compared to the Duster. It even beats the Ford Ecosport by a small margin in my opinion. Somehow the XUV rear end looks very heavy and not connected to the frontal portions and side profiles. The cheetah inspiration has gone a bit too far. Hyundai have kept it simple and copying the Santa Fe has worked wonders for Creta.

Enough said about the front. I got into all the seats one by one. First and foremost, I did find that there was ample thigh support in all seats. Maybe some reports might be biased on this count, but I found the seats to be pretty well made and very cozy and comfortable. Hyundai has the bad habit of placing seats so deep that even the driver cannot see any part of the car and has to drive by assumptions. But somehow in Creta the seat height is better than in a say i-20 which means you can now see the road better if not the bonnet. Having said that, the rear bench has very generous leg room even for a person my height (5’10”). And that when my own comfortable position is adjusted on the drivers seat. To give you a perspective I can make a young kid of 1-2 years stand in front of me on rear seat. Thats the amount of space available. Rest assured each and every journey will be more than satisfying on this car.

The front row seats have good cushioning, good grip and engulf you well enough to keep you cocooned. I am somehow not a big fan of vertical aircon vents, and this disappoints me with Creta. But as such the looks dont appear spoilt with this dashboard design. There are enough cubby holes for all your knick knacks. And its obviously a hyundai. So this is expected. The steering is well architected, with nicely placed controls. The driver door has rest of all the controls which make it easy to use. I specifically like the mirror adjust angled towards the driver on the door, which is really a thought out placement.

The stereo system with all functions perhaps will be available only in the top end model as defined in the brochure here. The prices on road in Bangalore vary between 11.5 lakhs and 17+ lakhs which is very steep for whats on offer. Take a look at it below

Overall the car also has ample boot space, and passenger space which is its defining point. I have not yet got a chance to drive this far enough to make a conclusion, but I do not see why it can give other SUVs some nightmares.

Until I drive the SUV more and find out its bits and pieces which are of interest, I will leave you with some stunning pictures of what Hyundai has created for the Indian market. I am more than sure this will set their sales charts on fire.