For our third wedding anniversary in August 2013, when my wife mentioned she had never been to Mahabaleshwar ever, I was relieved since it meant I didn’t have to think too much about a suitable location.
I had been trying to check availability at Club Mahindra’s property there but by the time it was clear it wasn’t available, most of the famous resorts were sold out for the weekend of Aug 15. Having tried at least a dozen options and found them either unavailable or way above our budget (these are worrying times you know), we chanced upon photos of Yashraj that marketed itself a boutique hotel.
The rooms seemed to be small but quaint—with mosaic paintings on the wall. My wife thought that looked cute and given this was for our wedding anniversary, my decision was quick—you have to be quick on such occasions. No point giving the missus reason to be disappointed that day, eh?
Of course, I was skeptical since we had never heard of this hotel and “boutique” is often code for too small or not great on customer delight. Having got a good deal on a Cosy room through a popular travel website, I booked and spoke with the hotel for directions etc from the town bus stand.
So off we went by luxury bus from Mumbai amid heavy rains. Reaching Mahabaleshwar around noon, we hired a cab from the bus stand, wondering if the cab driver really knew the place. We learned from him that it was recently renovated, which we thought was a good thing. Snaking though very crowded and narrow streets, he stopped right next to a mosque, outside a narrow building covered all over by blue tarp. Seeing us staring at the tarp, he assured us this was standard practice during the rains to protect the rooms against the moisture and dampness that’s all around. Well, okay then.
The front desk guy’s tone was matter-of-fact, like that of so many others in this over-crowded hill station destination. He told us he only had one Cosy room left and at first refused to accept that the offer included breakfast. But having been told clearly that we had proof, he backed down and agreed. We trudged up to the top floor, my wife no doubt dreaming about the romantic painting she had seen in the photo. On one side of the room was a door-less passage with an iron staircase leading upto the roof and of course there was the tarp all around.
We entered and having taken barely five steps, I reached the opposite wall of the room. If I had ever any doubt about the meaning of “Cosy”, this room removed all of them. Incredibly, the room had a reasonably soft double-bed, flat screen TV that was working, and wonder of wonders, a bathroom with space for two people to stand at the same time. That’s it!
We were in no mood for such a small room and having grabbed a spartan lunch in the basement canteen (yes, this is all they had), we went back to the front desk guy asking to be moved to a bigger Deluxe room. Luckily, they had one that was vacated the same morning. That was like finding what is called a 1 ½ BHK in Mumbai for the price of a 1 BHK—not a deal in any sense, but “thodaa aur, thodaa zyaada” as us Indians like to say.
Similar style, slightly bigger bathroom, same size painting on wall, same size TV and yes the blue tarp blocking all external views. Incredibly, the manager told us this room cost less normally than the Cosy room, but he couldn’t adjust the difference because we had already got a discount—I have never figured out if I misheard or he was desperate for more business.
Then, it was time for more surprises.
First, we couldn’t even dial the front desk from the room due to a bad bedside phone, so we had to press the room service bell and the people would call back.
Second, the bathroom wasn’t topped up with supplies, so we had to call few times to get that done.
And third, something we found out much later, there was no hot water available on tap. For morning showers, we would have to “order” for buckets of hot water the night before! The reason: the hotel uses solar power and the rains made it impossible to get that system working. Of course, they don’t mention this on the website or on the phone.
The restaurant in the basement is just a few tables arranged in a space next to the kitchen. But the breakfast was usually good healthy vegetarian Maharashtrian fare if you like that—no non-veg fare at all. In fact, this seems to be standard practice in most hotels/resorts in Mahabaleshwar—not sure if there is a commercial or legal reason for this. But keep that in mind when you book.
The travel desk was essentially the manager’s friend who owns two cars. The rates are pretty much fixed and even the public cabs charge you similar rates as a rule. Of course, for anything extra, you are fleeced—e..g Rs 100 for a 5 min journey off the scheduled route to Panchgani!
Overall, this was so disappointing; we tried to check out after the first day but only stayed on because we had almost no option due to the long weekend. This hotel is really suitable only for a short, non-romantic stay.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Nestled in the heart of Mahabaleshwar and located at the cusp of beauty and tranquility, Hotel Yashraj has opened its doors to serve you the best vacation. Be it an exquisite holiday, an extravagant honeymoon or just a plain simple weekend getaway, Hotel Yashraj promises to give you the experience of a lifetime & make your holiday special. ... more less