Beach and landscaped garden at Leela Goa
left to right - the famous St. Francis church in Old Goa and me at Baga beach
Despite being to Goa so many times, this was my first visit to St. Francis church in old Goa and what a beautiful place it was to capture some pictures.
Worn the same outfit here, shoes Charles and Keith, bag own design
Review of Hilton Goa
New things always get me excited, so when I heard about the new cookie in town - Hilton Goa that opened on 15 August 2012 - I immediately picked Hilton for my stay in North Goa and oh my....... was so hugely disappointed. A good hotel is key to a satisfying holiday and Hilton did not feel anything like a 5-star luxury hotel. Within a few minutes in the hotel, I realised what a big mistake it was to book Hilton Goa. The marketing campaign and reviews of the new hotel boasts about how they give fresh baked cookies from their bakery on arrival, which unfortunately were non-vegetarian (and they didn't offer any veg alternative). The rooms were very basic and the bathroom, which for me is the key decider between a good hotel and a bad one, was so small it ended before it even started. In a so-called five star, they used cheap bathroom fittings (Cera and Jaquar.. who uses that?), had a stinky kettle and a tiny flatscreen TV (21inches I am guessing) and no tissues in the room on arrival.
I shared my disappointment about the quality of bathroom, uncleanliness and overall hotel with the frontdesk (had to get it out of my system) and figured if a refund was possible so I can move to another property. Unfortunately, that wasn't possible without a half-day charge, since I had already checked-in. However, they did give us a complimentary chocolate dessert and a Rs 1,000 discount on the room fare to make up for it (not satisfactory but they made an effort, which was comforting).
So much for the name Hilton. The only good thing about the Hotel was their breakfast, which had good selection for vegetarians and health freaks with loads of fruits, juices and some other healthy bites.
Left to right - Breakfast at Hilton and Complimentary chocolate dessert
Hotel Leela in Goa is the finest - over-the-top luxury and sophistication, best-in-class service and magnificent property. From arrival to exit the hotel was a delight and more than made up for the disappointing Hilton experience. The moment you arrive you're greeted with warmth and escorted to the seating area near the reception where someone comes and helps with the check-in formalities (that means no waiting at reception area). The moment you are seated they bring fresh coconut water and hot towels for freshening with a flashing smile (which is more imp than the coconut water).
Rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, the hotel spread on 75-acre of landscaped gardens, 10 hold golf course and lagoons with great interiors that evokes an ancient temple touched with a palace architecture is pure luxury with perfect juxtaposition of Indian and Goan heritage.
Left to right - The entrance at Leela and the Indian art trunk inside
Spent time lazing around the pool, walking through the lush green lawns and the clean-pristine beach, and watching TV. Complete unwind and relax.
Personally its the small and thoughtful touches that can turn my view from normal to wow and Hotel Leela is the king of thoughtfulness. We had an early morning flight from Goa (before 7am) and since the breakfast did not start yet and we were also running late, the staff insisted and packed us some food from their breakfast menu so we don't stay hungry in the morning. Who does that, right (I can't think of anyone other than my mom)? It was touching and perfect example of true Indian welcome and 'mehman-nawazi'. Undoubtedly Indians are the best when it comes to service, and Leela and Taj are best at it. Leela's small thoughtful gestures throughout the stay completely wowed me. I've stayed in some of the best hotels in the world but when it comes to best service, Leela and Taj have been unmatchable so far (except Burj Al Arab at Dubai they were true to the class).
If you are visiting Goa and need a luxury hotel stay, Leela is the place to be (I've liked it better than Taj Exotica and Park Hyatt).
Goa's street shopping did not really entice me in the off-peak season, but I did try to check out some Goan designer stores - and visited the famous Casa Goa near Baga. Unfortunately, Casa stopped retailing apparels and they only sell quirky and luxe home accessories since past few months. Few pieces were interesting, but they don't allow clicking pictures so next time you're in Goa, you'll have to check them out for yourself.
Next stop was the Malini Ramini store I spotted in the way, which looked interesting from its pristine white exteriors. As it turned out, it was also a home store with paintings, lamps, furniture and home decor pieces mainly from Thailand. Interesting.
The clubs and pubs lacked action during August, but nevertheless a weekend getaway to Goa even in off-peak is worth the travel. You can explore the city without the crowd, unwind and relax!!!