Hello, fellow travellers!
I’m extremely happy to finally find quality free time to write about our travel experience to Guwahati in March. We apologise sincerely for this horrendous delay and also hope you enjoy reading this extensive travel review of our short but eventful journey to Assam earlier this year.
|View from our early morning flight|
Sprawled across the length of the Brahmaputra valley, the Assamese landscape is woven together with picturesque green-golden jigsaw like rice fields and perfectly manicured tea gardens. Even though it was our first time, we knew Assam is a hidden gem waiting for us to explore its breathtaking beauty.
Snehsha and I departed on a flight from Mumbai on 15th March at 7:25 AM, which landed in Guwahati at 10:35 and we headed straight to the property, which was around 40 to 50 minutes away from Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport. Our welcome at Vivanta by Taj was a pleasant surprise and we felt humbly grateful to the entire management for their sincerely warm efforts.
|Assamese folk band made us groove in joy when we reached the property|
Primarily a business property, Vivanta by Taj in Guwahati is spread over 5 acres of land and the hotel also caters to the needs of every leisure traveller, like me. The entrance to the hotel has a dome-like structure and a number of bells at the reception: representing the famous Kamakhya Temple in their city. We were ushered in with thekera: a local Assamese drink made with dried mangosteen, their traditional gamucha and a beautifully crafted jaapi: the huge traditional Assamese hat you see on my head below.
|Enjoying my welcome-drink and the replacement of my fedora with the Assamese hat: Jaapi|
Vivanta by Taj in Guwahati has a total number of 150 rooms (out of which only 50 were operational and 100 were under construction when we visited in March), ranging from the basic Deluxe Delight Room to their famously luxurious: Presidential Nirvana Suite.
After a warm welcome, we checked-in and here’s what our room looked like…
While we were expecting our room to be more spacious in our heads, we were happy know that all the three different kinds of rooms at Vivanta by Taj in Guwahati [Deluxe Delight, Superior Charm & Presidential Nirvana Suite] have bath-tubs built in the bathrooms, including ours of course.
After freshening up, we were invited by the management to meet and greet other journalists, bloggers and authors, who were invited on this FAM trip too. I do not prefer to accept any invitations for FAM trips; but since this was our first time, please note that all my views and opinions in this review are strictly unbiased and completely honest.
All points are referenced from the six pages of my personal diary, which was filled with relevant observations every day, during our stay. All pictures you see in this review are captured by my co-founder at Lensplate: Snehsha Tank.
The specially created set menu for lunch that day included…
While I know it was easier for the head chef to curate and create a set menu for opinionated and popular guests staying in the same hotel, I must confess the food we ate for lunch that day was not any short of extraordinary. The soup was piping hot + expectedly creamy, risotto was comforting, lamb shanks were perfectly cooked and crème brûlée tasted as good as it looks in the picture below.
|Beautifully created and presented Crème Brûlée with berries, melon and kiwi|
After lunch, we took a quick stroll around the property and headed to Kamakhya Temple, which is home of the mother goddess: Kamakhya. The Kamakhya temple is a mark of identity in Assam. Besides being a sanctum-sanctorum for people to come get their wishes fulfilled, this temple bodes a significant architectural stature and lays great emphasis on the sculptural art.
The current structural temple, built and renovated many times in the period of 8th to 17th century, gave rise to a hybrid indigenous style of architecture, which is called the Nilachal type: a temple with a hemispherical dome on a cruciform base. The temple consists of four chambers: garbhagriha and three mandapas locally called: calanta, pancharatna and natamandira: aligned from east to west.
The sculptures are apparent mostly on the exterior walls, as well as on the interior walls of the temple. A good number of sculptures are also fixed on the temple gates, while some of the sculptures are lying scattered within the temple campus.
After making a wish at the temple, we returned to our hotel, enjoyed a quick nightcap at the bar and decided to rest well for our jeep safari into the wild, next morning.
|A large peg of my favourite malt for me and this refreshing mojito for her|
|Our FAM group was divided as two groups of passengers for two jeeps|
We didn’t manage to visit Kaziranga but our trip to Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary, situated in the floodplains of the mighty Brahmaputra River, was something I don’t think any of us will forget during our entire lifetimes. This sanctuary is home to the endangered one-horned-rhinoceros as well. Although we found it to be quite small for a sanctuary, the density of rhinoceros in Pobitora is quite high; high enough for us to spot at least a few during our safari.
|Snehsha captured this in nick of time, when the one-horned looked straight into the camera|
|Posing with all the girls on the FAM trip, on the bridge above Brahmaputra River|
Jeep or elephant safari is a ‘must do’ for every wildlife enthusiast that visits Guwahati, especially tourists who have Assam on their bucket-lists. Please don’t forget to carry your binoculars along with your cameras, as I’m sure you will also get plenty of opportunities to spot rare species of beautiful birds at Pobitora Sanctuary. You’re welcome.
After the safari, I was extremely excited to return to the property and enjoy this traditional and authentic Assamese Thali prepared by their head chef, which included labra (mix vegetable), aalu pitika (mashed potato), pork khorika, spinach khar (yellow dal with spinach & papaya) and masor tenga (betki fish crusted with hurum, served in a sour tomato gravy). Definitely worthy of the rare tag of #BhookadRecommends on Instagram!
After spotting several one-horned rhinos at Pobitora Wild Life Sanctuary in the morning, our lunch was this wholesome Assamese Thali at Vivanta By Taj in Guwahati which included: labra (mix vegetable), aalu pitika (mashed potato), pork khorika, spinach khar (yellow dal with spinach & papaya), masor tenga (betki crusted with hurum, served in a sour tomato gravy) and much more! Definitely worthy of the rare tag of #BhookadRecommends! It’s now time to enjoy a quick nap before an anticipated spa treatment in the evening.
If/when you visit Assam, whether or not you visit Guwahati or Vivanta by Taj, I would like to strongly insist on this, please make a sincere effort to enjoy an authentic thali experience at least once during your stay in the state. You can ask around wherever you go, I’m sure you’ll find a restaurant serving Assamese thali easily in Assam!
Every first trip to Assam is incomplete without the customary tour of a tea estate, of the rolling hills covered with lush green tea plants; but sadly, we did not have that included in our itinerary this time. However, we were lucky enough to find a tea boutique nearby, called Amalgamated Plantations, a Tata enterprise; which has given the elites the opportunity to relish good quality organic tea and the opportunity to learn more about different kinds of tea available in Assam, for tourists like us.
|Amalgamated Plantations is the 2nd largest tea producer in India with 24 tea estates in Assam|
|Their supply chain and business is big enough to employ 31000 people|
|We were introduced to over 50 kinds of black and green tea|
|I got to taste more than 15 kinds of tea and understand their different effects on my palate|
Apart from the core business of Tea, APPL has ventured into the agri foods and timber/bamboo plantations business, within their tea estates, focusing in the areas of spices, horticulture, animal husbandry and high value timber. Their objective now is to optimise land uses, wealth creations and employment generations for the local communities. I was very happy to have this opportunity to learn about so many different kinds of tea in so much detail during our stay in Assam, and for that I’ll always be thankful to the management and PR team of Vivanta By Taj.
Unfortunately, our trip came to an end after this tour to Tata Tea’s boutique in Guwahati but fortunately for you, mainly because you’ve already scrolled so far on this review, here are my top 5 food recommendations for your stay at Vivanta by Taj in Guwahati.
|If these chocolate profiteroles are not on the spread, request them to make some for you|
|Don’t forget to try these strawberry waffles with maple syrup during breakfast!|
|Packed with many flavours: minestrone soup during lunch could be a good start for you too|
|These custard burgers deserve your attention and deserve to pacify your craving too|
Now I know all of you can count to five and I’ve mentioned only 4 recommendations so far. Well, that’s only because I’d like to share the most definite reason of my return to Vivanta By Taj, if/when I visit Guwahati again in the future.
Even if I don’t end up staying with Taj again, I’m going to make sure I visit their property at least for this unforgettably and sinfully amazing tiramisu; which in my humble opinion was so good, that it will undoubtedly make it to your list of best tiramisu experiences you’ve had too.
|Tiramisu served with an edible chocolate spoon!|
|fresh and creamy mascarpone!|
Locally sourced intense coffee and housemade crusty and crunchy chocolate shavings, on top of creamy mascarpone layered with soft and moist sponge in the middle; served with an edible chocolate spoon, this dessert is definitely worth coming back for some more in 2017 or 2018!
Thank you Indranee Phukan and your entire team at Vivanta By Taj in Guwahati, especially your talented team of chefs, for your warm and unforgettable hospitality.