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28 January 2019

the daulat, little india: the ups and downs

when booking our accommodation, i had a list as long as my arm of what it had to include. an outdoor pool, breakfast and/or dinner, activities nearby, close to transport, and air con and wifi as standard. a gym would have been a bonus, too, but as we were on holiday i didn't want to pressure myself into going - you know? i knew i wanted to stay in little india as it was the most aesthetically on my level, and bex - well, bex had been before and wasn't too bothered about where we stayed - so this was on me. 

i knew i didn't want to spend more than £500 for the two of us for the six nights we were there, and so, after pages and pages of dismissing chain hotels on booking.com, and wishing i could afford the marina bay sands, i landed on the daulat - a boutique hotel a short walk between two metro stations. it seemed to have everything we wanted - rooftop pool, check; breakfast included, check; bang in the middle of little india, check. on top of that, it offered free soft drinks from a self-service deli area, which made me very happy indeed, so, we booked. it was just about £520 for the weeks stay, which i was pretty happy with - considering how cute it seemed online, and the excellent reviews it had.

first impressions were great. the postcode of the hotel took us to a much larger, much more bouji hotel next door called the great madras (more on that later), but we found the reception of the correct hotel a few doors down. it was late by the time we got there, so we were pleased to be expected by the hotel staff, who made sure we had everything we needed nice and quickly, so we could get to our room. the lobby of the hotel was pretty cute, too; traditional lanterns hung above a tall wooden island table where (we presumed) breakfast would be served, in an area that i would have still called the lobby. it was just to the right of the door as you came in - not through anything else, if that makes sense. we grabbed some cans from the fridge, and went to our room. so far, so good. the air con was a dream!

first impressions of the room? i was bummed out, in a big way. it was tiiiiiiiny. like, actually not big enough to swing a rodent, let alone a cat, so how we were going to store two lots of three weeks' worth of luggage was a question i wasn't sure how to answer. (on top of that, there seemed to be no air con though we soon realised the air con came on with the lights, so no lights equaled no air con.) i went down to reception to ask about a bigger room - as the reviews online had basically all said they'd been upgraded when they checked in, and we were told there was one room available, at a cost of an extra $50 per night. we went to see the room, and honestly, it wasn't that much better and we felt a bit vexed by not being upgraded from the goodness of their hearts, so we decided to stick with the box room. 

we were on the same floor as the pool, which meant we would have the best access to it - a silver lining of the room sitch. though i was nervous that would mean we would hear other guests enjoying the pool from our room, i needn't have worried; mainly because the pool was only really big enough for a few people at once, and, in the whole six nights, we only saw two other guests the whole week were were there - and they checked out the day after we arrived. once we saw the pool, we understood why there were no pictures of it on the website; other than the fact it was on a roof (not *the* roof, just *a* roof, and it was a container of cool water, i don't know that it was exactly what we had in mind. though, to be honest, when it hit 30 degrees by 9am, we were pleased as punch to be in that pool - let me tell you.

we slept pretty poorly that first night because of the lag, but also because of how shit the pillows and air con and tiny fucking room was. we were far too big for the small double bed; legs all akimbo and pillows strewn all over the place trying to make sure our two hot bodies never touched in the night. the air con was blasting all night so the holiday dream that is an air con cold ruined our throats immediately, and, well yeah - it just wasn't the greatest. not to mention the fact we couldn't really both be in the room without being on the bed or in the en suite was an issue; we took it in turns getting ready, basically, while the other stayed in bed, or went outside...

at least there was breakfast? indeed. although, the breakfast was not in fact served in that small nook in the lobby. no, no. it was served in a completely different hotel - the one our taxi had taken us to initially. the great madras is a stunning art deco property with some serious stylish interiors, and that - dear readers, is where we dined each day. the offering was limited, too. we had a "western or eastern" option - the western being an omelette, patatas bravas and a croissant (what a combo), and the eastern was noodles and a spicy chicken chipolata. it was weird, but whatever. there were cereals and fruit and coffee, and we saw to it that we took advantage of that hotel and that food whenever we could.

the daulat also bragged about an outdoor bar and free bicycle rental - neither of which came into fruition (perhaps it's a high-season lark that we didn't get to indulge in), so we made sure to take advantage of the $3 beers from the seven-eleven down the road almost daily instead. though, the rooms did have some nice tech in them; big old tvs we never used, a coffee machine and pods, as well as a fancy music system that - again, we didn't use. we barely spent any time in the room, actually, because it was too small to be comfortable. the pool is where we spent most of our hotel time, if not pool-side, reading books or catching rays, you know - classic holiday activities.

while the staff were more than friendly, they were also quite off-putting. the cleaners would start their rounds at about 5am - often on our floor first, which was terribly annoying, given the thin walls and the close quarters. we also found rubbish from the last guests still in our room - and despite moving it to an obvious location for the cleaners to take away - they never did. then there was the gardener who threw some rubbish over the fence of the hotel as there was no bin to hand. they were a committed cleaning crew, for sure. and, one day, after we'd come back from whatever activity we'd done that morning, i was confronted by three of the staff, who had clearly been waiting for us to come back. the oldest man pulled me aside as i went to get in the elevator to tell me that i wasn't allowed to use their towels anymore, as my hair colour was staining them and the cleaners couldn't get the colour out. he said they would have to charge me for new linen if i kept using their property.

i was, like - gobsmacked. yes, i have dyed hair, but never in my days have i heard of a hotel refusing to let you use their linen. considering both towels and bedding were white, and it's a humid country, and i was spending a lot of time in the pool (and shower), i was a bit worried about how i was going to get by without staining another item. in the end i started wrapping the pilllows with my own dark clothes to ensure they weren't stained, and then didn't wash my hair the whole time we were there. seven days. just horrible.

the daulat had some eccentricities, for sure. for smaller people with less hair dye and luggage than me, it could have been the perfect hotel. but for us - two average sized westerners with lots of luggage and hair dye and make up rituals, who like their space and peace and quiet while on holiday... maybe not so. it's a shame, too, as from their website it seemed like the ideal place to spend our trip. unfortunately, it doesn't always end up that way - next time, i'm staying at the great madras instead!

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