Bengaluru is a city infamous for its traffic and popular for its year-round pleasant weather. How then should a staycation feel? We deciphered, on a two-day stay in Shangri-La Bengaluru. By Rashima Nagpal
As I glance the room one last time before I check-out, I find in my bedside drawer a book titled Lost Horizon. Skimming through its cover, I realise that the hotel draws its name from the mythical and paradisiacal mountainous region of Shangri-La. Until this moment, I hadn’t quite thought of it as anything more than a modern hotel. I flip through some more pages of the book on my way to the airport. Now, I am compelled to look back at the last two days spent at Shangri-La Bengaluru with a new outlook.
I was less than four years old when I last visited Bengaluru. Even though I have no actual memory of it, a zillion photographs from that trip have reserved a special place for the city in my heart. Bengaluru has always felt strangely familiar. I realised this as I found myself trying to make sense of the city two decades later. My first impression of Shangri-La Bengaluru was refreshing. The thought of a contemporary five-star hotel can only be so exciting— they’re all elegant, fancy, lavish, etc., and for somebody who checks into them regularly, their sanitised interiors get boring. But Shangri-La Bengaluru breaks all those stereotypes the moment you set foot in its lobby, as it did for me.
Sunlight streaming through the glass walls of the lobby lounge lent warmth to the ambience, a mellow violet hue dominated the decor, and in a corner of the atypical lobby, a row of bright canvases stood on tripods. I noticed a distinctive cheer around me, before I saw the huge Christmas tree hiding in plain sight. The cityscape from the large glass wall of my room on the 16th floor looked stunning. Little did I know that this time around, something other than the view was going to give me company in the room. The doorbell rang, and there she was—Fifi, the prettiest goldfish I’ve ever met. “We put her in the rooms of solo guests at the hotel, for company,” Arul, the concierge, said with a smile. Fifi added a childlike glee to my experience at Shangri-La Bengaluru. I would greet her while going in and out of the room, spend time observing her effortless movements in the bowl, and even stealthily tiptoe towards her in the middle of the night just to watch her sleep. I had never experienced a sweeter, more personal gesture in a hotel.
The meals I had at each of the hotel’s five restaurants spoiled me. The authentic Chinese spread, especially the crispy radish, at Shang Palace, the homely flavours of the North-Indian thali at Saffron, and the soulful ramen bowl at Yataii felt like a homecoming for a vegetarian who isn’t easily impressed by her food options in hotels. Two days flew by, as I flitted between the hotel’s extensive offerings and breathed in the city’s distinctive air, pervasive in most parts of the hotel. Like the ending of a pleasant movie, my time at Shangri-La Bengaluru concluded with a beautiful sunset, from the vantage point of the rooftop bar, Hype, where the hustle of the city cannot reach you and even the majestic Bangalore Palace looks like a speck. I bid Fifi adieu, and took leave from the hotel, carrying the Bangalore breeze with me.
The fabled Shangri-La of James Hilton’s imagination is symbolic of refuge. Shangri-La Bengaluru feels a lot like that, all the more so when you are an urban nomad and the meaning of ‘home’ for you is perpetually in flux.