I’ve never been one for staycations or even weekend getaways. The minimum it typically takes to get my bum off is a promise of a relaxing extended three to four-day holiday to a place we can reach in about four to five hours.
However, with kids getting older, work, and so many other factors, sometimes the only way to escape the madness of the daily grind is an overnight break. Now, I’ve unwittingly participated in overnight staycations before. I say unwittingly because they’ve always included being part of a wedding, and that consists of a different mind frame altogether.
This time though it was different. For one thing, the Gateway Resort is only a 45-minute drive from my house in Gurgaon. If you follow Google Maps and pick the “shortest and fastest route”, as I did, make that a one-hour extremely bumpy ride through dusty and uneven village streets.
Nevertheless, it’s an exciting drive through quaint villages where time seems to have stood still. Passing by in the afternoon, men sat by the road playing cards, while others took in the rays as they possibly discussed the ever-changing volatile political scene of the country.
There also exist endless green pastures and a notable lack of high-rises — a stark reminder that the “Millennium City” of Gurgaon is a façade that covers up an often more rural region. In between these rustic surrounding is an oasis of luxury that encapsulates the refreshing aura of the environment and welcomes guests to a contemporary setting amidst natural exquisiteness.
The Taj brand oozes a certain sophistication. Unfortunately, I found their reservation process to be a tad confusing. Upon initially finalising the booking, I received three emails from three different sources adding to the confusion. I also wasn’t sure whom to contact and ended up writing to two separate emails to get clarifications. A more centralised, one email/contact person approach would do wonders and smoothen the booking process for sure.
The resort isn’t open to all, so one must have a reservation to enter. The first inclination towards its grandness is the lobby, a sizeable high-ceiling room with beautiful art and extensive use of natural elements such as wood, stone, and metal.
The rooms and “villas” are all situated along two paths nearby to the main entrance. It can get confusing at first, but by the second hour, we had a relatively good idea of the room’s location. Moreover, there are guards and an active movement of staff at all times to guide in case anyone gets lost.
Transportation inside the resort comprises of electric scooters and carts to take guests to and from the various activities. This makes the resort accessible for all ages.
Our room was comforting with two large twin beds pushed together. There’s the usual paraphernalia like TV, desk, chair, and a small table as well as a petite balcony that overlooked a garden.
The bathroom is a different story altogether. Spacious would be an understatement considering the shower cabin could easily accommodate an ice-hockey team.
One point of appreciation for the resort is that they are not at all finicky about mineral water. There are bottles all around that are topped up, if required, during evening service.
Free Wi-Fi is part of the “package”, but if you wish to catch up on your Netflix, a “stronger” internet plan is available at a fee.
My biggest fear when visiting such resorts is the presence of large groups on the property. From previous experience, the service always gets skewed towards the more prominent and profitable guests. Plus, there’s too much hoo-hah that goes on which can be annoying at times.
At the Gateway Damdama, even though there was a large group, everything was well managed. The property is big enough that everyone can eventually have their own sweet corner to enjoy. The food for the group was organised separately and had I not seen signs guiding them to the conference facilities; I might have spent the entire day unaware of their presence.
Even though nothing beats the idea of just staying in the room, watching TV, and lounging in the bed, with kids in tow, it’s important to get out, keep busy, and stay sane.
We were handed over a little sheet of paper at the time of check-in that included all the activities taking place. These included both, cultural and adventure options, some of which were free while others cost a fee.
Among the free events was a music performance at the auditorium along with high-tea. The sandwiches and bhel served here were delicious as was the masala tea in kulads.
Swimming was out of the question, so the kids enjoyed zip-lining and rope walk. Zorbing, dirk-bikes, pain ball are also among the activities on offer. Individually, these sports are expensive. But, choosing one of the packs that allow combining 3, 4, or 5 events for a discounted price is worth it.
There is a small indoor play area with air-hockey, table tennis, snooker, and carrom that guests can use for free.
For a bit of fresh air, there are two areas with swings and jungle-gyms, a mini-putting course, and the serene Chimes Hill, perfect for meditation.
Although there is the possibility to call for the electric carts, walking is advisable, and the ground is more or less flat throughout. A good pair of walking shoes is certainly advised. If visiting during the winter months, the evenings do get cold, so dress appropriately.
There are two restaurants on site. We ended up visiting the “coffee-shop” for both the dinner and breakfast. The package we had picked up when booking directly with Taj included the two meals as well as a bottle of wine, which was a pleasant surprise.
The dinner buffet at Buzz was just about okay. I couldn’t find any major faults in it, but it sure didn’t impress either. The breakfast, on the other hand, was fantastic. Hosting a lovely array of sweet and savoury dishes along with live counters for eggs and poori-sabji, we ended up spending a good hour and a half enjoying the spread. Get there around 8:30 before the rush to have a relaxed meal to start your day.
Staying at the Taj Gateway Damdama Resort is a luxurious affair. Although an overnight stay is perfect to take in everything that the resort has to offer, if you do happen to go with a larger group, a two-night stay would be ideal.
Everything else aside, there is the trademark immaculate service associated with the Taj Group, and for art lovers, unique metal art sculptures dot the property adding to its charm. Taj Gateway Damdama Resort is without a doubt an excellent spot for a weekend getaway.