The Serai

By:- Marianne de Nazareth *

I needed a little quiet time. Some time to let my mind and body just relax into total quiescence, as that's the only way I can rev up any creative juices. So the family and I decided to take a drive down to Chikmagalur, to The Serai Hotel and Spa, a premium property owned by Coffee Day Hotels and Resorts Pvt. Ltd. We had heard, by word of mouth, that it was an excellent place to visit. So, we left at the crack of dawn to beat the heat. At this time of year, just throw in a few tees and shorts and naturally your swim gear and floaters. That's all that's really needed in this quiet and secluded resort, a subsidiary of the Amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Co. Ltd.

On the way we stopped at one of the several Coffee Day outlets for a quick snack and a chilled glass of Frappe before we headed onwards, on pretty good roads. "Chikmagalur is called the coffee capital of the country," explained Vijay J the manager of the Front office as a receptionist took down our details and explained the facilities at the resort.

From the imposing lobby which is built in pleasing coffee colours we had a bird's eye view of the pool which we silently decided to sample right after tea, once the sun went down. An infinity edged pool, kept sparklingly clean, the resort immediately gave one the feeling of being enveloped by an oasis. " The Turkish interpretation of Serai is 'a palace of the Sultan', and the Persian version means a comfortable, accommodative place where intrepid travellers rested and recuperated from their rigours and travels across inhospitable terrain," explained Mithun the marketing manager, at our curiosity at the reason for the name. We certainly were travel weary and the whole place looked and felt like an inviting oasis.

As we walked down to our rooms, the pleasant gurgle of water running down a central canal, with gorgeous date palms on either side re-enforced the feeling of being in an oasis in a desert! Difficult trees to grow, it was a delight to see every palm flourishing on either side, right down the central nave. To the right and left were individual designer villas spread out in total comfort for each guest.

What made the villas absolutely romantic were the individual gardens filled with profusely flowering heliconiums and orange and yellow Honey suckle. There was an out door gazebo, complete with leather mattress and bolsters to loll outdoors and enjoy a private tete- a -tete with your loved one under the stars. The little personalised swimming pool too made the entire experience one of luxurious indulgence and is guaranteed to relax the most obdurate of souls!

Every villa is equipped with every conceivable need anyone could desire including a large plasma screen TV and the newspaper, should you feel the need to connect with the world. A suggestion- just shut off and retire literally in the arms of nature at the Serai, and connect with your inner self rather than keep abreast with the maelstrom of everyday living.

Locked away from prying eyes is a little back garden where a couple could enjoy a wonderful au naturel shower, open to the warm sun and teasing breezes. " There isn't a dress code for the pool in your room," prompted Vijay, which makes the Serai an ideal place for honeymooning couples getting to know one another in private.

They also have a honey moon dinner package which includes a sit down a la carte meal, in a little pool strewn with rose petals and lit with twinkling diyas along the periphery of the pool. Photos are taken and the best is blown up and framed for the couple while the rest is etched on the CD and given to them.

We decided to relax on the terrace of the Skye Lounge which overlooked the pool and had a stunning view of the villas. Again soothing shades of coffee colours gave the lounge a relaxed air and inspite of catering to a number guests at the same time, the service is excellent. Look out into the distance, and as the sun sets and the subdued lights of the resort come on, making the place even more romantically beautiful.

We enjoyed several plates of Magalorian style masala prawns and crisp vegetable rolls washed down with Caipirosia's and Mojitos on the terrace. If you are not keen on liquor, ask for a tall glass of fresh orange juice. Remember Chikmagalur is famous for intercropping oranges between the coffee bushes, so this is the freshest orange juice one could ever enjoy. The nippy evening air makes that hour before dinner even more bewitching, while you look up into the clear skies and count the stars. Something we city dwellers cannot do with the levels of pollution in the city growing by the minute.

For dinner if you are a salad lover the salad bar is huge and very creative. Chef Tony handles the whole buffet like and artist and no guest goes away without a song on his lips and words of praise for his efforts. I personally enjoyed the grilled fish with scallions, Malabari Omlette curry and the corn in butter, besides the huge table of fruit and salads and of course the sinful stack of deserts, which we definitely made place for. Forget your diet while at The Serai. You are meant to indulge, says chef Tony and then work off your excesses either in the pool or walking up and down the entire walkway to the dining room!

An early morning wake up call had me enjoying the swoop and glide of several swallows over the lawns, hammering home the old adage, the early bird catches the worm. On another lawn several Cattle Egrets seemed to have decided to come in for an early breakfast as well and seemed least perturbed as we sauntered past on our Estate walk. Take the walk especially if you are a city dweller and fill your lungs with the fresh sweet smelling Chikmagalur air, which is liberally laced with the divine aroma of flowering coffee.

Walking through the 30 acre estate bought specially for the guests of the Serai, we enjoyed an educative tour among the fruiting pepper vines and the flowering coffee bushes. In between we got to see Silver Oak, litchie and orange trees which were intercropped with the coffee for shade.

You cannot leave the Serai without a Spa experience. Oma the Spa, which means life giver in Sanskrit is the icing on the cake after a two day stay at The Serai. Honeymooners should indulge in a 'Romantic Indulgence' where a couple experiences everything from a relaxed soak in milk to a rejuvenating scrub with citrus peel and almond topped with a couple massage with a sensuous blend of jasmine and patchouli oils. Singles can look at enjoying the Oma Signature with an Oat, Honey and Citrus scrub. There are lots of other packages, to suit varying skin types, so chat with the manager to decide your rejuvenating massage.

So definitely, if you have been caught up in the rat race of living and need to de-tox and unwind, book a couple of days at The Serai. It's an oasis for the mind and the body which can bring back the joie de vivre of living, which we lose in the daily grind of the stress and strain of living in the city.

For bookings contact:
Sales Office:
Coffee Day Hotels and Resorts
Coffee Day Square, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore 560 001
T +91 80 4115 2200/4001 2200 
F +91 80 4001 2987 

Resort Address:
The Serai, Mugthihalli Post,
K M Road,
 Chikmagalur 577 133   Karnataka   
T +91 8262 224903 – 14
F +91 8262 224915

* Marianne de Nazareth (Reporting from Nairobi as a media fellow with UNEP and UN Habitat) contributes regularly to The writer is Fellow with UNFCCC & UNEP and Former Asst Editor- The Deccan Herald, and a Freelance Journalist, Adjunct faculty St. Joseph's College.
The writer can be contacted at mde(dot)nazareth(at)gmail(dot)com
This article was webcasted at on 14th April 2010.

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