Sometimes it is impossible to describe something other than by comparison. Vivanta Madikeri Coorg by Taj is, well, like One&Only Reethi Rah flown away from The Maldives and dropped on top of a luscious, gorgeous rainforest mountain-top inland in the Ghat mountains in Karnataka, south-west India.
This luxury hotel is actually unlike any other, and the gal went to see – even though it was a gruelling six-hour car ride from Bangalore Airport. No worry, you can fly into Mangalore, three hours’ away, or there are a few flights via Bangalore into Mysore, a hop, skip and a jump at only two hours’ drive.
Why did we enter via Bangalore? No idea except that it was possible to get a lot of writing done in the car, as 90 percent of the road was much better than the Indian norm (for the other ten percent, the experience was akin to being in a tumble drier).
Oh the resort, 180 acres turned into heaven on earth, with 63 villas tucked in and around the forest – there are over two miles of road just linking the various villas. The smallest villa is 800 sq ft.
I stayed in the 1,200 sq ft Villa 506, a Premium Indulgence Cottage, is simply beautiful, with dark-wood floor and fittings, a Sealy bed looking out through picture windows at the view beyond. It has a bath that opens both to the bedroom and the wet areas, and a real-log fire, and outstanding WiFi.
It comes with a stocked minibar and a kettle. What more does a luxury traveller want (oh yes, laundry comes back in a few hours, meticulously individually wrapped, in a bag, in a leather box).
On the first morning I did a two-hour pre-breakfast hike. This was as tough as I wanted it to be. First we hiked up Nishani Betta, me and a guide who pointed out funnel-spider webs, and told the history of millennia-old moss kept going by the annual monsoons, at their peak every June and July.
We watched and listened to larks soaring and sweeping overhead. We saw a gorgeous tiger butterfly, its tiger-edged orange wings open as it basked in the morning sun. Now, in January, the weather is bliss. I started hiking with a cardigan, soon took it off and soaked up the sun. Towards the end of the hike we veered off into dense forest and 20 feet in found a Boy Scout table slung up between two trees.
My guide produced, from his backpack, a stainless steel flask of excellent coffee and offered home-made cookies. This was a preamble to breakfast proper, out on the terrace of Ferntree restaurant, looking down at this amazing view, wooded mountains, round-topped, morning mist between them now beginning to evaporate.
This is truly one of the ten best locations in today’s world. What should I do first? As I ate papaya and home-made yoghurt, and wondered which of the home-made breads to try, I planned the hours.
The chefs, by the way, all travelled around Taj’s extensive network for a full year before this resort opened, December 2012, to perfect their skills. The manager, KK Aggarwal, also travelled, to see the world’s top resorts – not coincidentally including One&Only Reethi Rah.
Next on my schedule was an hour-long Gudda bath (Gudda is the copper vessel heated over wood fires in local Coorg homes, copper being a good disinfectant that destroys most micro-organisms). You enter the Jiva Grande Spa via stepping stones in a yard-wide river – yes, seriously.
Later, you negotiate an outdoor cobbled bridge to a separate bathhouse. Inside, in the centre, on the top of a rock, is a chair facing an all-wall window looking intro treetops. You sit on a towel-covered wood stool.
First your body is oiled, then you have an exfoliation of nutmeg, turmeric, kalonji and other herbs. Then water, via a small copper bowl from the big hot copper urn, is liberally poured over you.
Then you are soaped, then more water. Then you are offered hot milk and almond. Incense is burning as you walk away from the bathhouse to the main building.
It is experiences every minute, here, and yet you can opt to do nothing. Five of the villas have their own pools, and if all room service orders come as quickly as mine (30 minutes, delivery in a stylish big blue polystyrene box similar to those used in the best German hospitals), you can order what you want, get it quickly, 24/7.
You have all mod cons here, guaranteed electricity, hot water and connectivity, and yet you are totally in tune with nature that has evolved since time immemorial. Look out, and you see absolutely nothing of man. It is bliss. A word of warning, travellers: you need at least four nights here to do this luxury hotel justice.