Kitschy comfort

Kitschy comfort
Photo Credit: Outlook Traveller
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The Dune in Pondicherry is full surprises and it is easily one of the most original and best beach resorts in South India

Vaishna Roy
March 18 , 2014
06 Min Read

The room is, what, 50ft high? At any rate so high, the crows are flying lower than us. There’s the endless blue of the sea below, actually more like a stormy green-grey today. There are two recliners placed in front of the bank of windows in this room in the sky, and a low table for the drinks. The narrow spiral staircase that brought us up here leads back down to a bedroom that consists of one fabulous view, one bed and one large Jacuzzi. The Dune calls this suite the Tower House and it’s obviously designed for a pair of hibernating lovers. The room is an eye-opener: it opens my eyes to the fact that something must be very seriously wrong with my life if I cannot rustle up one single man to accompany me on such hotel-investigation missions.

At any rate, gentle reader, if you too do not intend to cosy up here all day, be prepared to negotiate the 40-odd feet of spiral staircase several times. Honestly though, I actually did enjoy every step of it and it was a perfect way to ease my conscience after the desserts that Chef Matta made sure I serial-ate.

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The Dune in Pondicherry is full of quirky surprises. Starting from the mock blue ‘doorway to the sea’ standing bang in the middle of the sands to the snooty camel they have added to their menagerie, it’s easily one of the most original and best beach resorts in South India today. It has an easy air of laidback luxury, it is eco-friendly and it has oodles of sheer aesthetic appeal.

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This last is really the signature that owner Dimitry Klein has scrawled across the property. His previous avatar as a Parisian ad agency owner and his eye for design is obvious all over. Just the use of colour alone is a delight, and the way his designers play with the rooms. In the Tower, the bathroom is filled with light and air. I love the way the bold red of the oxide floor is picked up by the red of the washbasin. And the way the dramatic view is allowed to be the design of the room — no distracting pictures on the wall or other décor.

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Another suite, though, uses kitschy framed posters of old Tamil movies to make a startling and very effective statement. An entire wall in one cottage is housed with old dolls picked up from Tamil houses, dolls that would have been part of ‘kolu’ (Navaratri) decorations. Walls come in bright blues, yellows and scarlets, while broken glass bangles are used to embellish furniture. Even the two ducks that waddle around the dining hall are vividly black and white, and one with a green beak!

Klein has another passion that dovetails beautifully into his resort business. The man hunts all over South India for old furniture, pillars, bric-à-brac...anything really. He then restores these with a team of carpenters and uses them, well, in a way that makes you go weak with coveting. Take the Dune’s reception, for instance, which is an ancient stone mandapam from Trichy. Then there’s a whole temple he bought in a village auction in Thanjavur that he has re-installed in the middle of the lawn outside the dining hall. It’s used as a small stage where musicians play some nights.

One reason why Klein takes this route is of course his love for antiques, but also because it means you recycle as much local material as possible — without cutting down more trees or quarrying more stone. Reducing carbon footprints is one of Dune’s big concerns. Compared to other resorts of comparable size, the Dune has managed to reduce its footprint by 60 per cent, in terms of energy, water use etc, says Klein. A lot of the food is grown on the onsite farm, all of it organically. There are cows for milk and hens for eggs. The organic waste is fed to the turkeys and geese, and the rest converted to vermicompost. They are so serious about organic farming here that they bring down school groups for show-and-tell days. Sunil, the charming resort GM, shows me charts and pictures and lets me steal groundnuts from a sack and pluck some ears from the paddy. In fact, guests can ask to pick their own vegetables and cook them if they want.

The organic food, and a special way it is cooked using less salt and so on, makes for a whole ‘hypotoxic’ section in the Dune’s menu. I tried the hypotoxic platter — salad, brown rice and grains. It was spartan but tasty and very light on the stomach. Of course, I spoilt the whole effect by having four desserts, but that’s just me — you can truly detox if you follow the rules. It works really well for guests who come to the resort’s resident Ayurvedic spa (called Veda) for long-term treatments like panchakarma. Veda, incidentally, has been extended recently with steam bath, herb garden and gym.

Oh yes, and the other thing I loved here was tootling around on a bicycle (all rooms have a pair parked outside). It’s extremely relaxing to cycle mindlessly around the 30-odd acres in the mornings or early evenings, past the cowsheds and the pool, pause to admire a statue here or a flower there. And then stop for a perfect cup of coffee, beans from their Kodai plantation — organic of course. Now this kind of article, I could write again.

 

The information

Where: On the East Coast Road from Chennai to Puducherry; 15km ahead of Puducherry city
Accommodation: A range of rooms, suites, cottages for singles, couples, groups

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Tariff: Non-AC seaside cottages Rs 5,000; Bangle House, Dome House, Silver Room, Beach House, 6 Garden Rooms, 3 Courtyard Rooms, 2 Pala Rooms Rs 7,250; Gramam House, Karaikudi Suite, Surya Suite, 2 Garden Suites Rs 10,750; Art Deco House, Family House, Kerala House (all with 2 rooms); Pool House and Artist Studio (with private pool); Artist Penthouse, Tower House and Granite House (with jacuzzi) and Doll House (2 rooms) Rs 16,500
Contact: 0413-2655751, 9345706722,
www.thedunehotel.com


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