Maria Visconti is swathed in luxury at a hotel in Delhi – Dusit Devarana.
The birds are chirping and taking low sweeps over the water expanses. The greenery all around is quiet and I am the only one sitting out for breakfast under a half open pavilion with dappled light. Serenity is the word that comes to mind. Too early for honeymooners, too late for the corporate elite, I am enjoying these outstanding, seemingly endless acres of manicured gardens from this spot that immediately brings to mind the interiors of Central Asia palaces later on brought to Moghul India.
This outdoor eating area has sculpted wooden columns and the structure of an Iwan, the semi-open spaces from where a ruler, such as Akbar the Great, would hold court, receive dignitaries and listen to petitions from the public.
Elephanta Caves pillars
Another four and totally different pillars stand in front of this Iwan turning bright orange with the morning sunlight. They look familiar and I cannot think where I have seen them before but suddenly these free standing sculpted pillars scream at me: “Elephanta”.
Yes, in the hotel in Delhi, these pillars are a reference to the very distinctive pillars found at the Elephanta Caves just off Bombay (Mumbai). Sometimes it takes a foreign architect to capture the essence of a country and Thai architect and interior designer Khun Lek Bunnang does not disappoint.
He uses the motif of the “five elements” throughout the property. A giant rotating pendulum on the staircase towards the lobby, various moon shapes that emerge from large cut-outs on the marble walls, pools, ponds, they all contribute to the three-dimensional design of the place.
Luxury in the city
This luxury sanctuary -spread over 8 acres of farmland between New Delhi and Gurgaon- the new hip business satellite town 10 minutes from the airport- is a miracle of architecture. Gurgaon has the third highest per capita income in India, has a population of 1,514,432 at the last census and is witnessing rapid urbanization with major international firms taking up residence here.
Despite the proximity to Highway 8 (the highway that connects Delhi to the Airport and beyond) once inside the Dusit Devarana there is peace, quiet and more birds than I have seen in many National Parks. This was accomplished by an unbelievable feat of engineering with deep excavations resulting in an effective a sound barrier.
On arrival guests are deposited on a huge courtyard surrounded by what looks like ivy clad massive walls. The ivy turns out to be a metal art installation, each leaf crafted individually. Descending a wide (and I mean about 10 metres wide) spiral staircase feels like you are entering another world. The walls are like eggshells, there are no sharp corners anywhere, just half eggshells here and there that lead you onto different areas.
Hotel in Delhi
The rooms are huge expanses of dedicated areas including a freestanding bathtub next to the outdoor area and pool. Privacy you wonder? Yes, provided by electronically controlled shades. State of the art bathrooms with separate areas for him and her are a delight. Mood lighting, air conditioner, shades and entertainment are all controlled from a provided iPad.
Three restaurants offer outstanding food: Kiyan has the best of world cuisine, featuring fresh farm produce prepared by three dedicated Chefs one for each Thai, Indian and Chinese specialties. The Iah Bar has a select young fare with boutique brewery beers and new age wines. And Kai is the world-renowned Michelin Star restaurant with a contemporary take on Chinese cuisine.
At the Devarana Spa, an intricate play of walls, concrete slabs over water and passageways that intrigue, guests find a variety of treatments based on both Indian and Thai traditions.
The farmland on which the resort is built is the hotel’s Executive Director Ankur Bhatia’s original home and many of the features, like the family temple and very old trees, have been preserved.
If you treasure the feel of a secluded haven away from the big smoke, the Dusit Devarana (Travel=Leisure Best New Hotel 2014) is the place to be.
The writer was a guest of the Dusit Devarana