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Wah Taj! Kashmir's first luxe resort opens its doors

Thursday April 28, 2011 03:40:55 PM, Sheikh Qayoom , IANS

Vivanta by Taj, a view of the first luxury resort to open in Kashmir Valley.

(Photo: IANS)

Srinagar: Sup on sambhar with onions all the way from Chennai, feast on smoked salmon with capers, throw in some golf or just sit back and take in the breathtaking scenery. It's the Vivanta by Taj, the first luxury resort in the volatile hills of Kashmir that brings with it the hope of prosperity, peace and many tourists. Forest, lake, hill and verdant green. The newest property by the Taj group of hotels in this picturesque summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir that opened earlier this month has it all. It is perched atop the Kralsangri Hill, overlooks the Tulip garden, the Dal Lake and the Royal Springs golf course and has the densely forested Zabarwan Hills in the backdrop.

The resort is 20 km from the Srinagar international airport and provides a panoramic view of the entire city.

Like the changing patterns and colours of a kaleidoscope, many of Srinagar's heritage sites like the Sankaracharya Hills, the shrine of Sheikh Humza Makhdoom, Sharika Devi Temple and the Hazratbal shrine can be seen from the high perch of the Vivanta.

But this is not just a hotel, and Srinagar not just any other tourist town.

Forty of the hotel's 48 rooms are already booked with hopes of a peaceful summer at one of the world's most scenic trouble spots.

In the last 20 years of armed violence, tourism has taken a massive beating. Most local hotels, houseboats and guesthouses had either been used as makeshift barracks by the security forces or shut down by the owners during the 1990s.

As the levels of violence started dipping, life slowly came back to normal. But the peace has been fragile, with the last three summers beginning well but ending in strife. Last year, for instance, clashes with police claimed more than 100 lives.

A tourism department official said the opening of the Taj would set at rest many doubts.

"The coming of the Taj group of resorts to Kashmir is a good omen and we expect this would set at rest the fears and doubts of those who still believe Kashmir is not a safe tourist destination," the official, who did not wish to be identified, told IANS.

Hotel officials are also gung-ho and say their hotel would attract the discerning tourist to the valley.

"We are here to provide the best of our services through the new market authorities are promoting here," said Basharat Rashid, the sales manager of Vivanta Taj, adding that security usual for such high end tourist resorts was provided.

"The resort evokes the spirit and the ethos of the valley while its unique design flourishes the Vivanta philosophy of hospitality with a difference."

The resort's restaurant Latitude has full length glazed windows on three sides so guests enjoy their food without missing the visual treat before their eyes.

Chef Vijayan from Chennai, who has been with the Taj group for the last 28 years, is thrilled: "Kashmir is simply god's gift to mankind. This is the first time I have ever come to this place and I cannot put in words how I feel."

His expertise is south Indian cuisine and he has taken care to ensure that authenticity is not compromised.

"I have brought sufficient stocks of curry leaves, onions for the sambhar, etc., from Chennai. The most sought after breakfast at our resorts is the south Indian breakfast", he said.

Another chef at the hotel is Muhammad Abbas, who specialises in Italian, Lebanese and continental food.

"Prawns, lobsters, crabs, prime steak. You name it and we cook it like nobody else does," Abbas told IANS.

While the presidential and luxury suites are still to come up, rooms are available in two tariff ranges -- at Rs.14,000 and Rs.13,000. There are separate packages too.

Locals are happy at this addition.

"Dal Lake can be viewed from here as never before," said Bashir Ahmad War, a retired veterinarian who came for lunch to the resort's Latitude restaurant today.

Till the Taj resort that opened on April 17, Srinagar had just two hotels in the higher end bracket -- Broadway and Lalit Palace.

The Oberoi, which functioned at the property where the Lalit Palace Hotel is now functioning, shut its operations with the beginning of the separatist violence in early 1990.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at




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