The Monarch Hotel at Ooty

Monarch Hotel OotyThe Monarch Hotel has the the dubious honour of being the only hotel I’ve photographed on this trip. And for good reason. It is one of the worst hotels I’ve stayed in—ever!—but is where I’ve spent one of the funniest nights.

Picture a Russian prison and you have the basic layout of the hotel: rooms built up to overlook a large, central courtyard area. There was little furniture in this courtyard, which added to the overwhelming sense of starkness. The air had a chill which would have been welcome in a warmer climate, but added to the frigid atmosphere of the hotel.

Monarch Hotel - OotyMy room was actually four rooms: a lounge area and patio, and a bedroom and patio. Both the lounge and bedrooms had TVs. The patio areas, which were accessed by sliding doors, contained hardly any furniture. There was a toilet off the lounge area and a full bathroom off the bedroom. The bathroom was in urgent need of regrouting: it was black from mould and peeling. One of the fluoroescent lights emanated a strange humming sound. I couldn’t find the lights, so I had to call housekeeping. They were hidden in the right hand light stand next to my bed. They camouflaged with the dark laminate which was why I couldn’t see them.

Monarch Hotel - OotyAt around 6pm, I went in search of a drink, preferably wine. I was sick to death of beer, vodka and whisky. I was told yes, red wine was available, but it would take 15 minutes, and from what I understood it had to be brought in from elsewhere. When I was eventually served the red wine, it was like a thin port, and it was poured from a small bottle the size airlines use. Not what I thought, and certainly not the brand listed on the wine list, but drinkable.

I and another couple of ladies from the tour decided we would adjourn to the bar, which was locked, and was unlocked especially for us. As I walked off in the direction of the bar, one of the waiters extolled the virtues of the buffet dinner. Veg was 350 rupees, non-veg was 450 rupees. Sounded good, I said. (I had lunch at the hotel and the food was quite good, so I was happy to eat there for dinner.)

Monarch Hotel - OotyBack to the bar. The door was unlocked and I was greeted by a musty smell that indicated this room hadn’t been used for some time. The air was cold. The decor was circa 1970: purple geometric wallpaper, kitsch plastic deer-head lights, two bar stools, and a table and chairs in one corner. The bottles of spirits on the top shelf were all empty; this disappointed my companions, who were dying for a gin and tonic. Unfortunately, gin was “unavailable” (as was everything else other than beer and vodka) so they resorted to ordering the thin port wine. The room was dark, and probably just as well, because I assumed it dusty and dirty from the state of the tablecloth covering the table.

After serving our drinks, our waiter again extolled the virtues of the buffet, and we all agreed that it would be fabulous, and yes please, we’d love to indulge. What time would you like it? we were asked. We settled on 8pm. At 7.55pm, our waiter returned to advise that the buffet was off: not enough people. We thought this was hilarious and ordered a la carte. Who sells a buffet, only to withdraw it at the last minute? Ditto a bar without a variety of alcohol? The Monarch, that’s who. We laughed and laughed.

IMG_4564So we adjourned back to the dining room for our dinner. I ordered a veg-paneer in a mild cashew curry sauce with plain naan and it was very good. The others said theirs was good too. We wanted more wine with our meal, but they had run out. They must have only brought in six bottles from the original call earlier that evening, but then the waiter magically produced another large bottle of wine. Unfortunately, it was clearly labelled non-alcoholic, so it was rejected outright. We laughed and laughed and laughed at how ridiculous the whole situation was, and called it a night.

Apparently, The Monarch is owned by a Bollywood star. And it was off season, so staff were unprepared for our visit. Still, how hard is it to run a hotel and offer guests a decent experience? And by decent experience, I mean one that doesn’t involve guests enduring the evening by laughing through it!

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