A week after I return from the Taj Holiday Village, Goa, there is a call from Derek Monteiro, the resort’s Guest History Manager. This in response to a feedback form they mailed me, which I filled in promptly and mailed back. What’s causing the concern? Only that a burger I wanted wasn’t available and I’ve cribbed about the quality of coffee they place in their rooms. And, oh, I’ve rated some of the services as only ‘fair’ as opposed to ‘excellent’ or ‘splendid’. I’m quizzed about my responses, point by point. Then there’s a concerned email from Santosh R. Kutty, the GM. The chef writes in to apologise.
But then it is this sort of personal attention to guest comfort which is THV’s biggest strength by far. Drawn by the friendly — but efficient — service, the guests just keep coming back, some since inception. And this is an old resort, following in the footsteps of its sister property — the Taj Aguada — in 1981. The Aguada itself is Goa’s oldest five-star hotel. Opened in 1974, Ajit Kerkar’s pet project is widely acknowledged as having catalysed high-end tourism in Goa.
Meanwhile THV, the last of three phases of renovation under its belt, has gone from ‘rustic’ to chic. The resort, with its pastel-coloured Portuguese cottages, they’ll tell you, was conceived as a Goan village, but you’ll have difficulty believing it, everything is so squeaky nice. Renovations include fresh furniture, all mod-cons, plush fittings, and see-through bathrooms (who doesn’t have them nowadays, but these come with shutters). Even the landscaping has been tweaked.
The restaurants all have new clothes. The Thai restaurant — Banyan Tree — offers AC seating now, as also a cosy dinner option in a secluded bower under the 300-year-old banyan tree. Caravela, the all-day dining restaurant, is the most scenic dining option. It has a smart, new show kitchen, an island bar and, best of all, a spacious open deck overlooking the sea. It was here that I watched the sun set as I quaffed a wasabi martini (rustled up by Giancarlo Mancino, their gifted Italian bartender). Beach House, the Goan restaurant, was once just that. Seating was on wooden benches and guests would come out of the sea, plonk down and demand their supper. While the thatch roof is intact, the dining is somewhat more formal now. The Beach House, then as now, is presided over by local legend Chef Rego, an instinctive chef who cooks Goan food for the soul.
Of course, there will be guests who liked the earlier avatar better, but change is inevitable as THV competes with the burgeoning number of luxurious resorts opening up in Goa each year, even against the Taj’s own Exotica and Aguada properties.
A resort in Goa which cannot expand must necessarily reinvent the experience. And THV has reinvented well. It is in no immediate danger of falling off the map. Go and stay a day or two, a week if you can afford it, and preferably in one of their 13 standalone cottages.
I was just a travel journalist checking out a hotel. Yet I couldn’t but feel a twinge of regret when I had to leave - too soon, too soon. Staying at the Taj Holiday Village is so much like visiting a beloved relative for the holidays.
Location: Sinquerim, Bardez, Goa
Accommodation: 142 cottages and villas: 107 Garden View Cottages, 26 Sea View Cottages, 3 Garden View Villas, 2 Sea View Villas, 4 Sunset View Luxury Villas
Tariff: Rs 11,000 (Cottage-Garden View), Rs 13,000 (Cottage-Sea View), Rs 17,000 (Villa-Garden View), Rs 19,000 (Villa-Sea View), Rs 27,000 (Luxury Villa-Sunset View). Taxes extra
Contact: 0832-6645858, www.tajhotels.com