I had a grand plan for a Rameswaram trip, covering other places along and off the route. My interest was stoked when I wanted to know and in person experience the historic Pamban bridge. Consdering I had read about Autocar’s Mercedes GLS 4×4 review driven in Dhanushkodi, and the kind of scenicness the place offered, Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi got listed as my top priority for this year’s travel.
This post is not really about what these places have to offer, but consider APJ Abdul Kalam was born in Dhanushkodi, consider that Pamban railway bridge is one of the more difficult bridges to have been built and being maintained, and the fact that Dhanushkodi is now a ghost town, after the cyclone that devastated it five decades ago – all these reasons made me to want to see these places.
Add to the fact that the often discussed reality of the bridge Rama built from Dhanushkodi to Sri Lanka and many different versions of its real existence, this fact alone heightened my interests even further. Add to that the absolute beauty of the merging of Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean creating a calm beach on the one side, and a rough and choppy one on the other side, this was surely something to see and have fun.
A quick look on the internet yielded very few hotels in Rameswaram of which Daiwik was the one that has the highest number of ratings on TripAdvisor. For me a hotel is as good as its website and reviews. A brief look at the website made me feel comfortable to go ahead with booking at Daiwik for a couple of days.
The booking process was ridiculously cumbersome. I had to mail and/or call them to enquire about direct rates, and travel portal rate charts. Each mail of mine to them on initial customer engagement, needed a follow up phone call for them to respond to my mail. The hotel is run by people from Kolkata and you have people who do not understand English very well at the front desk. Its either Tamil or Hindi. Each time you have to give a context of who you are, what is your email id, what dates you have asked for the stay and then you will receive a lousy response for all the efforts you have taken with some not so detailed information about what you needed.
Update: The hotel has clarified on their response times, but I am not going to correct the fact that I had to call them almost after every clarification for them to respond. I strongly believe there were times to my knowledge that the hotel did take over 24 hours to respond. And I feel established hotels should process their mails more frequently than this timeframe.
Couple this with the fact that you have to prepay all amount to block a room and this is kind of a financial trap which you cannot get out of. Anything might force a change in your plans and hotels need to understand that its always their customers who are at receiving end of losing money, and not them. They can always find another customer within no time but having no flexibility even to the tune of 50% is a bit disappointing.
Update: As per the hotel’s comments, they have clarified that I will lose 50% if I cancel within 48 hours which is fair. Still I would have preferred something shorter to accomodate travel plans. Anyway this was not the major issue as such.
Anyways after some extra efforts and calls and mails back and forth and a NEFT transfer of the whole amount to them, I finally had a confirmed booking and arrived at their hotel. The hotel itself is very well appointed and decently constructed. After a welcome drink it took like eternity for them to show me my room. This considering the fact that there were only two customers including myself. The staff at the reception is untrained and clueless how to handle customers visiting the hotel. I am not saying this in the ugly sense of the word, but more on the impact and perception it creates in the traveler’s minds.
The room was good and spaciously appointed. However any calls to the room service was basically redirected to the dustbin. It was a repeat telecast of the booking process here. The guy handling room service for over some 200 rooms is the same guy managing the restaurant part. Just imagine the chaos. I waited nearly 20-30 mins each call, and with multiple reminders at 15,10,5 mins each. When you have two impatient kids who are otherwise well behaved, its pretty disappointing to have to teach a room service guy how to handle requests. If you want to compain about this to the reception, it makes no sense as they themselves need to be trained first on many things.
Update: The hotel has clarified that they have only 90 rooms. The Reason I mentioned 200 is an approximation by how many floors and how many rooms they may have roughly had. So I stand corrected to say it is 90 rooms as per their clarification. However the fact remains I had rather unusual wait times on room service calls and the room service charges being higher does not match with the received level of service.
The third part of this hotel was the restaurant. Too many houseflies. I really mean it. You cannot sit and eat at a place which has insects. Really, I have matured a lot over last two decades and there are certain things I really DO NOT like, and this is one of them. I cannot eat in a place with such disturbances. That said, an order took eternity with both me and the waiter being clueless on what is being prepared and when it would be served. Given he was the same guy handling room service, they were lost in attending to customers. Zero marks for this. Sorry you have to answer something to pass an exam right?
In all frankness, I like the place and all that, but the service levels were really pathetic owing to the understaffing of the place. How much more lucky can you get? Yes you can. The days that we stayed there, unfortunately the aircon in the entire 2nd floor had a glitch and they had to switch off the aircon all over the floor. You can probably bear this in a cold country like UK, but imagine doing this in Rameswaram where the average temperature was over 40 deg C ! And again no one explains to me why the aircon does not work. On top of that heavy drilling work. Upon my persistence on this matter, they agreed something was wrong on 2nd Floor and gave me another smaller room in 1st floor. At least I had aircon, and did not have to go through the noisy shit in the other floor.
Update: The hotel have clarified that the room given to me was another deluxe room like the previous one, however I felt it was smaller than the previous one. And no one had explicitly told me that the room given was of similar style. And, until I asked regarding the AC not working well, no one spoke to me on getting shifted out to another room. My only point is that if there is something wrong on the floor, its the hotel who must be proactive to inform guests on this. And not wait until the guests have to ask. Further, it is not that I said things cannot go wrong (such as the AC), which the hotel misunderstood. Its about how the situation is handled post that.
Another small but pesky thing. In one of the rooms opposite to mine, someone tried to open the door with either a wrong card or left the door open for too long or something like that. Apparently the lock technology decided that it was time to beep. At 10PM. So loudly that I could not sleep. I called room service who would respond by 11PM in all my knowledge and they finally plugged the matter. We stay in hotels not to be disturbed by daily city life. And these kinds of issues irk customers a lot. Especially after a long and hard day full of exercise and fun, we have to hit the bed in peace.
Finally the checkout process. You expect the hotel gives you a feedback form if they really mean improvement. And I am a customer who diligently fills it up if given to me. I really mean to give feedback in all respects and expect the hotel to address them depending on priority. After all I have paid a lot to stay there and my opinion should matter to them. But Daiwik did not even bother to offer me a feedback form. And I am not surprised. If they were really meant to take feedback, then they would have done it even without the form. Simple questions like “How was the food”, “did you enjoy your stay” – would do. You can get some really valuable answers.
But no they did not bother. Absoulutely did not even try. And that’s it. I have made my call. I will think twice to stay with them again.
Update: The hotel claims that feedback forms are available. First, I did not find them or ask for them. But while running a hotel, it is the duty of the hotel to understand their guests. Not the guests to understand the hotel. So I stand my ground here. And I wished the hotel gave me their feedback form. It is upto the guest whether they want to fill it up or not. But not being offered feedback form only creates further perceptions which cannot be avoided. Again, this is not about bad-mouthing the place. It is about how the hotel handles guests and their feedback.
There are other better hotels coming up there and its only a matter of time. Including the famed Hyatt right next to Daiwik. It’s a pity when the hotel is good, but people don’t care. Since Daiwik runs their hotels both in Shirdi and Rameswaram both places being piligrimage centers mainly, perhaps they have an understanding that other customers may not turn up there. There are interesting places such as Pamban, and Dhanushkodi and Daiwik management must understand for the sake of tourists from other parts of the world coming there, that they must focus on what matters most – customer engagement. Word of mouth is a powerful weapon and if it is fired wrongly it can damage reputations. I am not meaning to say my blog post does, but there could be others who start talking crap and that would make a difference.
Again the hotel itself is very good. The whole place is understaffed terrbily. To the point that you dont get any attention to matters that you want solved urgently for yourself. So when you go to Rameswaram keep this in mind. Whether or not you book Daiwik is your call. But for me if there are better hotels available by the time I go again, Daiwik will not be a choice on my list.