There are three things that truly move me—hotels (an opportunity to laze in clean luxury), water, and art, and in that order. The Andhra Arts & Crafts Hotel in Visakhapatnam promised to offer me all.
On the tumultuous banks of Bay of Bengal, the newly opened heritage wing of the Palms Beach Resort is the world’s first handicraft hotel and home to all the art Andhra has to offer. A sculpture of Hayagriva greets you as you walk through the resort to the crafts wing. Neatly carved wooden monkeys steer you, and a mural of Telugu thalli welcomes you into what guarantees to be an artful experience.
The colourful doors, popping out against the white of the walls, strike you first. The rooms inside are as colourful a vision. The hotel interiors are a harmonious amalgamation of modern architecture and the state’s arts. And if you thought it stopped at one crafty design across the 24-room property, the hotel surprises you with its four wings, each dedicated to one significant handicraft form from the State—Etikoppaka woodcraft, Budithi brassware, Tholu Bommalata (leather puppetry), and Kalamkari.
From the doorknobs, to the cupboards, headboard, table, and bathroom shelves, everything is customised around the chosen craft. I was staying in the Etikoppaka room and was taken aback by the eye to detail—even the beads on my bed throw were of Etikoppaka make.
Such details strike you in every room, none of which are same. Closest to the heart of the hotel are the Etikoppaka rooms. Named after a village, Etikoppaka is the craft of making wooden toys from a local tree called Ankudu. Inspired from Pandirimancham, a colonial bed found in Andhra homes, the headboard is a piece of mixed media artwork of woodcarvings and cane weaving, perhaps the most reverent designs. The headboards are inspired by the temple sculptures of women adorned with jewellery, and the doors and wardrobes by the puja rooms in most traditional houses. The telltale black coating on every inch of brassware is prominent, and the use of natural resources for the result is evident in the rawness of the headboard and the bench.
The Kalamkari and Tholu Bommalata rooms are a stark contrast from the other two in their boisterous use of craft. The colours of the Kalamkari canvases are far from the traditional dull dyes. Even the mythological tales that dominates the form are foregone for quirkier scenes with a mix of traditional leaf and flower motifs. The cupboards, too, are covered in Kalamkari designs to the last inch. The positioning of the rooms seem especially crafty, since these rooms are reserved for the side of the hotel that has little or no view to offer.
But you are not besotted until you see the Tholu Bommalata rooms. Designed to recreate a local fair where these puppetry performances were common, a bench inspired by soda carts, a ‘gamey’ wardrobe, and a headboard with leather puppets, inspired from actual theatre performances against a Kalamkari backdrop, with curtains and theatre lights, complete the room.
From the rooms to everything else on the outside, nothing misses the minute eye of the 30 award-winning artists and designers who worked on the property. The 70 sculptures and 50 art installations, the font used for the room numbers, hotel logo and even the visiting cards have been inspired by Andhra’s temple carvings. Being a part of the Palms Beach Resort’s main hotel, with its three restaurants, spa, and pool, is a plus. The food is great, and the chefs are always willing to tweak the dishes and give you some local flavour.
Hotels move me, I said—it’s the idea of perfectly laundered rooms, probability of great food (delivered to the door), great service, and an eclectic mix of décor—a and the Andhra Arts & Crafts Hotel has raised the bar.
Accomodation: 24 rooms, including 2 suites