Club Mahindra’s Binsar valley resort is nearly 13 kms from Binsar town in Almora district of Uttarakhand (formerly Uttaranchal) State. It is a medium sized resort and is one of the RCI gold crown certified resorts in Club Mahindra’s chain of resorts. We stayed here from 9th October afternoon till 12th October noon. Our stay was really pleasant, with resort staff going out of their way to ensure that our holiday experience is not compromised.
Few examples of staff going out of their way to help us:
1. On first two occasions Kiruba Shankar told the restaurant staff that he prefers chilled water. 3rd time onwards entire staff knew his preference and cold water was served to him without he having to ask them.
2. On day 1, we went out to try rock climbing and rappelling, to a place which is half a km from the resort. I came out of the room little late and rest of the team had already left. I checked with security for the directions- he told me to go half a km on the road and I’ll find it on the left. I started walking, little less than half a km I spotted a road on the left. I thought I need to take this road and diverted. I walked for another 2 kms but the team was nowhere to be found. I walked ahead to reach a place called Mani-pur villah, explored the place around on my own and started retuning. This particular road is full of rocks and almost non motor able and a construction is underway to make it smooth. I asked locals if they spotted a group of 5-6 people around and also asked if there’re any rock climbing spots around. They replied in negative. Seeing a big camera in my arm they insisted that I click their photos. I had nothing to lose, so clicked many photos of them and showed them for their delight. After that I was on my way back-I found an Omni stopping near me. Mr. Kundan, who is an expert mountaineer and head of holiday activities at the resort had come with his assistant looking out for me, as I didn’t reach the rock climbing spot. I was then taken to rock climbing spot in the vehicle. Had they not cared to note that I didn’t reach my destination and send out a search and rescue squad, I would have walked all the way back to the resort and missed a chance to learn rock climbing and rappelling.
3. Day 3, we were camping on a hill. We had 3 boys from Club Mahindra- Arun, KG Pant and Gopal with us who set up the tent and were in charge of our safety during the night camping. We had our dinner packed from the resort restaurant and these guys had their dinner packed in their personal boxes. During dinner we ran out of pickle. On hearing this, these guys started to check if they have pickle in their personal food. They were under no obligation to do that. Even they didn’t have it and we could manage without pickle, but we were moved by their hospitality.
4. While returning from Bhageshwar, Kiruba was supposed to pass room keys to Arun. He does some stunts and key lands in the garden bush. They searched for it for about 15 minutes but in vein. It started to get dark. Mr. Amarnadh Bakshi, the resort Manager who was passing by asks what is the matter. On hearing that keys are lost, he asks the duo to forget it and just go straight to the room. In the meanwhile, he makes 2 phone calls- one to the reception to open their room with master key and another one to the gardening in charge to send his boys to search the key. Within minutes of Arun and Kiruba reaching their room, the missing key was delivered to them. (As narrated by Kiruba later)
5. Most of the restaurant staff used to remember our schedule for that day and either give some tips about the place or ask us how our experience that day was. It takes a lots of effort to show that much interest in someone else’s life and they have to retain that smile every day, 365 days an year, irrespective of their mood/personal problems.
"We’ve to source our supplies from far-away places, including Delhi" –says resort Manager, Mr Bakshi. "Locals produce mainly for themselves and whatever excess they sell will be in minute quantities which doesn’t work out for us to buy"-he says.
"There’s a general complaint all over that Indian tourists often tend to steal accessories from hotel rooms-have you experienced it? If yes how do you counter it?" I asked Mr Bakshi. “Yes, once in a while few items do go missing. If it is an inexpensive item like soaps and shampoos we don’t mind. But when expensive items like towels go missing we’ll have to take it up diplomatically with the guest during check out and will have to charge them” he said.
I asked him if it will be feasible to leave atleast one plug point which will supply power even when key card is taken out, so that our electronic gadgets can get charged even when we’re away (Any individual will have multiple gadgets-laptops, mobile, ipods, camera-all these need to be charged on a regular basis, but in hotels the power supply will be cut off once you take out the key card-so you can’t get anything charged while you’re away). Bakshi said its engineer’s recommendation not to do so, due to safety concerns. But I feel a safe work around should be possible.
Binsar Resort is relatively smaller than the Coorg resort we’d visited last year. Enough space is left for gardening and play area-where other hoteliers would have thought of building some more rooms. Himalayan peak is visible from one point near the funzone (provided sky is clear). I noticed many guests buying Maggie packets from the store-probably because they find restaurant food expensive? Never the less the rooms are well equipped with microwave oven, coffee maker, refrigerator and other basic accessories, good enough to cook basic food.
Resort staff were manually entering the feedback given by the guests into the system. The software was not that friendly (for example, the printed form had an option “didn’t use this service” but online version not. So the person was entering “extremely dissatisfied ” as there was no provision to enter “not applicable”. Would be good if CM can automate this-they can use Optical mark readers or some other technology. Also feedback form needs to have provision to enter general comments and appreciation to specific staff.
The activity centre is well equipped with lots of events-indoor and outdoor. Rock climbing, night camping and Jeep Safari are the main outdoor events while several games, shows and competitions are held indoors.
There is no swimming Pool-for those this matters. Rest of the facilities are great. Airtel signal was very weak-would be good if resort management can talk with airtel and get a tower installed. For other service providers it was satisfactory I guess. Resort is Wi-Fi enabled (chargeable extra) and activity centre has an internet connected computer which guests can use. In Coorg all cottages were given a name, here it was just numbers.