The busy thoroughfare and the noise of traffic fell back as I entered the Courtyard by Marriott Siliguri less than an hour’s drive from Bagdogra airport. After a traditional welcome with a ‘tika’ and a scarf, I was offered a glass of iced tea. Sitting in the double-height lobby with natural light pouring in through the hotel’s glass façade, tea in hand, I recalled my initial response to my assigning editor. “Who stays in Siliguri?” I had asked her when two days ago she wanted to know if I would care to check out this newly minted hotel.
Ask anyone who has travelled through Siliguri, which serves as a gateway to the fantastic east Himalayan hill stations of West Bengal and Sikkim from the plains, and they will tell you how they have been in a hurry to pass through the town. Because staying here was never an option for the discerning traveller. Save for a couple of standard luxury hotels, there was no hotel of even regular international standard.
But thankfully all that is set to change with the Courtyard by Marriott stepping in with its international luxury offering, ‘and at an affordable price point’ General Manager Rohit Bajpai would point out later.
The check-in process was swift and I was soon riding the elevator to my suite on the 10th floor. The hotel appeared to delight in a soothing low-key colour tone throughout. White, slate and earthy brown with the occasional golden touch seemed to rule. Even though the rooms sported almost the same palette, the use of colourful wooden panels, lampshades and cushions, augmented by natural light, gave a bright look to the rooms.
The suite room had separate living and sleeping areas. Two floor to ceiling glass windows overlooked a slice of the city sprawling below. As of now, the 14-floor Courtyard by Marriott Siliguri is the highest building in town I was told later. Verdant mountain ranges were silhouetted against the horizon, their tops draped by a curtain of fog. On a clear day, the jagged peaks of Mt Kanchenjunga are just about visible above them. But it was not my lucky day.
The room had all the paraphernalia in keeping with the brand’s international standards – a large bed with a comfortable mattress, crisp linen and fluffy pillows, reading lamps, a dock system, free wi-fi, individual climate control, electronic safe, tea/coffee maker and a mini fridge, wide-screen television, work table, settee, etc. Framed pictures of quintessential Darjeeling Himalayas added local flavour.
Hunger pangs drew me to Siliguri Kitchen, the all-day diner that has the K-Bar to one side. When the weather is cool or during balmy evenings, you may also opt for alfresco or poolside dining. A live counter occupies the heart of the diner with seating arrangements ranging from table for two to eight arranged around it.
During my visit, the restaurant was holding a Bengali food festival. The waiting area was decorated with a replica of the Dakshineswar Temple and a symbolic ‘puja’ set-up with lots of terracotta ware. Inside too, the theme was highlighted through a variety of wall decorations, including the painted ‘kulo’.
Besides a long list of other food festivals on the anvil, plans are afoot to introduce the tea-based culture unique to the region. The hotel is in talks with local tea estates to introduce tea-tasting and a specially curated tea-based menu as well as likely set up counters to sell the locally grown tea. Besides Darjeeling hills, the Dooars (Himalayan foothills) region too has many tea gardens.
The general menu in Siliguri Kitchen includes both buffet and a la carte. Overseen by Executive Chef Prashant Suryawanshi, the spread includes north and south Indian, Bengali, Chinese and Continental cuisine. Not too elaborate but an eclectic mix. Be it Bengali Shorshe Ilish or Thai Red Curry or Hyderabadi Biryani, the kitchen seemed adept in dishing out authentic tastes. But how Siliguri Kitchen has caught the attention of the elite citizens had to be seen to be believed over the weekend. So if you are planning to go for dinner during the weekend, it is advisable to book in advance.
And after all the good food and lazy lounging by the pool, if you are worried about not shedding enough calories, try the 24-hour Fitness Centre. The hotel is also planning to start a spa and a salon facility soon. “These facilities will not only benefit our in-house guests but also add to our positioning as a complete wedding destination,” elaborated Priyanku Mahanta, Director, Sales.
Banquets on the ground floor are well-equipped to host weddings, social events and corporate conferences.
According to General Manager Bajpai, Courtyard by Marriott Siliguri is also eager to contribute to the local society. They are in talks to train and employ differently-abled people, nurture a talent pool from local college students, as well as adopt villages under tea gardens and teach them life-skills. On the environmental side, the hotel has implemented segregated garbage disposal, rainwater harvesting, and water recycling among other things.
Courtyard by Marriott Siliguri is located off Hill Cart Road, a block away from the popular Mainak Tourist Lodge. It is about 12km from Bagdogra airport and 7km from New Jalpaiguri Railway Station. You may also avail the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway ‘Toy Train’ from Siliguri. The hotel has paid pick-up/drop facilities from/to airport.
Some of the facilities available include designated smoking zones in public areas, round the clock in-room dining, laundry, on-site parking and doctor on call.
The hotel offers 130 rooms, including 99 Superior Rooms, 21 Deluxe Rooms and 10 Suites (as of now 91 rooms are operational).
The hotel can also be your base for exploring some of the local attractions, including the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary, Sukna forest, the Coronation Bridge over Teesta River, Salugara and Evam monasteries, and the ISKCON temple.
Contact: Courtyard by Marriott Siliguri, Mallaguri, Hill Cart Road, Siliguri, West Bengal – 734003. Telephone: 0353 666 6666. Fax: 0353 666 6699.