THE GREAT OUTDOORS Vol 2
marriott bonvoy luxury camping
MARRIOTT HYDERABAD as a premium star property takes pride in making pleasant promotions and events which stand testimony to their efforts to go ABOVE and BEYOND. "The Great Outdoors Volume 1.0" hosted last year was one of its kind event where people got to experience food in its natural wilderness amidst farms and gazing sun (Entire experience video below). I had to miss it last minute and so when they informed about vol 2.0 this year, I know I have to be part of it no matter what. The immense efforts they put into every minute detail started with the way the communicated from the start of this event planning and updates following it. Ms. do-it-all Suhasini kept updating us on a timely basis of the events - itinerary and everything that it was like a well-planned vacation. Finally, the D day came for us to all venture out for "THE GREAT OUTDOORS" with Marriott.
Just to brief you , before questions pop up like "is it a one-time event? Can we take part of such experiences?", Marriott Global has launched this amazing Loyalty program called "Marriott Bonvoy" in the tie-up with their 1600+ properties across the globe where you can travel, stay and dine to accumulate membership points and enjoy some amazing curated experiences. They also are now officially doing such customized venture trips including camping, hiking, trekking (based on customer choices) with a minimum requirement of 25+ as a group but vouch to make it 100% aligned in your terms of how you need our experience to be curated. Reach out to Ms. Suhasini for the same and believe me, with your plan in her hands, feel rest assured.
A select group of media journalists, food enthusiasts, fashion bloggers and of course Marriott's team gathered as per plan at Okra, Marriott on a bright sunny day (23 Feb 2019). Before we got the glimpse of what's planned and where is this mystical venue for camping, we were in for a delicious lunch at OKRA to keep us fueled for the journey and adventure ahead. As we wrapped up our sumptuous meal, we were given a survival kit followed by our host - guide - companion - savior - and what not Ms. Suhasini explained us about the survival kit, precautions, DOs and DONTs in camping but again the mystery prevailed over the venue. As we got into the coach to start the fun, again a touch of Marriott, in giving us branded water bottles to keep us hydrated and also to keep us engaged. Marriott's Team of Jomy, Suhasini and their hospitality staff team on-boarded and we officially set off for 2.5 hours journey. Again we were appraised of the travel time, what to expect and what not and it got the excitement to another level and what's in store for us.
Ahead we traveled amidst scorching sun, dehydrating ourselves, from the presence of civilization soon into open barren lands of farms and just open sky. As we entered into the foothills next to Ananthagiri hills, we saw then an array of white flag banners indicating "THE GREAT OUTDOORS" by Marriott directing to our campsite. We were in gaze to see from far the preps being done and how the spot is middle of the urban civilization but yet untouched and it's just you and open sky. As we got down tired, we were welcomed by Marriott team with fresh fruit cut skewers and wine to unwind ourselves and that set the tone of what to expect in this experience.
We were then escorted to our camp tents only to be surprised in the most unique way from Marriott. Each of us got our own named tents and as we opened up, it was an array of personalized touch of our picture in a photo frame, a cute plush toy, water bottles, and few more stuff. That's the amount of detailing Marriott puts in such a curated experience. With the cute surprise still sinking in me, we got to unload our packages and start to relax a bit in the main camping area where already hi-tea was in full swing. With Shiv Menon rending some summertime numbers, we went into to see many stalls put around to feed us. Jameson with its master Magician, Cillian Mulligan (Mallu Kallu on fire as we call him), a stall by Hill Cart Tales (premium tea brand), and a huge array of food options from Marriott themselves. My eyes were on everything but then we were appraised o the hike to do before sunset.
Sipping some amazing cocktails curated by my man, Cillian mainly the rockstar "Bacon Old-Fashioned" and "Jameson Ginger lime" and just unwinding, we also got to taste freshly made churros, salads and what not. Freshly made garlic bread and many more to gorge on but we were called upon by our commando (Suhasini again :P) for trekking brief and safety measures. Got introduced to the trekking team and the DOs and DONTs, I almost contemplated to stay back, get drunk and be the SAFER me but then I thought its 0.5 km & won't kill me and I get to live another day. God, I was proved wrong in the first 5 mins of the trek. With hike gears on, I started off like a kid going to park and after seeing the ascent, I felt OMG but then didn't give up. With age and breath catching up to me very soon, I hit my limits for a breath of air and halted calling "IM DONE". The every motivating trekking crew inspired us with their words and finally, I climbed my own Mount Everest only to gasp like a pig (literally) people could hear me gasping lol. We finally got to see why they forced to climb before sunset, as we saw the beautiful and ever mesmerizing sunset trying to get back to its SLEEP mode spreading a mix of darkness and blazing orange spread. We relaxed a bit, clicked pictures and then went to a nearby temple and started the descent. Here is where again we were in for a surprise.
The instructor said we will be taking a more rocky and lengthier route to get down and its bound to slip in many junctions and bound to face some friendly scorpions. Well done man :P Luckily we got the survival kit torch which we were instructed to use and form a line to descend down but let me tell you, everybody would have felt tremors within until we step foot back into the campsite. With a warrior memory from a huge scratch from a thorn shrub and numerous slips, I finally looked down at the golden magical setup ready with lights all over the huge camping space and literally looked like THE GREAT SPACE within our land. Salute to whoever designed it as it looked magical and as we stepped back inside, we felt we were transported to another universe.
We got to relax a bit but then Marriott again topped the relaxation up their amazing FOOT SPA for tired souls and ensured we re-energize ourselves for the night to enjoy. The setup of dinner and live counters came alive with grilled mutton legs, bacon strips, steaks, fish counter, risotto and what not. I mean the amount of prep work done by Chef Aungshuman and his kitchen team was mesmerizing to curate such a massive spread behind the scenes in open land and limited luxury to put up things fresh and delicious is no easy job. I mean you started respecting their staff a whole new level who were literally amidst flames and smokes and yet smiling to us in the name of hospitality. I mean man, A big royal SALUTE to the team. Personally, I was moved by their efforts.
The drinks again from Cillian were flowing in left and right, to name a few, Apple pie, turmeric ginger rum and what not. Food, drinks, friends and open sky. Are we missing something? Yes indeed live music to enlighten the spirits. Shiv Menon did his magic and engaged us as well in the singing and slowly the night serenity started setting up. People who were supposed to head back to their tents and have a good night sleep denied the cliched resting and opened up in the open sky to be by themselves amongst nature, lovely food, brilliant drinks and what not. We literally decided to stay awake all night but then at around 3:00 AM the staff politely said "GET OUT NOW" :P as they had to set up the whole dining space for morning breakfast. Hesitantly we moved to our tents but most of the night was lost with lovely chats, laughter and lively discussions with our gang and didn't even realize when I dozed off. Day #1 ends and its nothing short of a magical adventure.
At around 6am, my lazy n sleepy soul woke me up aware of the fact to have a quick breakfast and then head back to the urban jungle where everything would be chaotic and normal as usual (frankly my inner soul whispered "DONT GO BACK!!!"). I woke up to see the sun just brushing up himself to be in full swing and people was trying to wake up as everybody was tired except for the kitchen staff who were meticulously arranging for a summer-style refreshing breakfast. I got freshened up and made a small walk just to sink into the fact "I WOKE UP ON A SUNDAY MORNING TO SEE THE SUN". Believe me its a record first of its kind and definitely 100% certain it might not as well happen again. I know what will be my first energy booster and headed to the filter coffee section where one of the specialists were dishing hot piping coffee in the traditional brass boiler and the Tavara (south Indian setup for a perfect filter coffee). One sip and I went from 0% to 100% charge full. Such was the freshness of the brew and seeing me elated, Chef acknowledged it by saying "That's what single bean coffee from Coorg does" and he read my mind. I couldn't stop at one and went rounds over it shamelessly. Then I gazed on the huge spread that we had for ourselves but puzzled where to start and to end. Shiv again start waking us from our morning blues with his renditions and I slowly scouted the spread - fresh salads, fresh pulp juices, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, bread, eggs benedict from scratch, sandwiches, and my weakness - freshly cinnamon tossed donuts (Oh mama mia <3). I couldn't hog much myself from last night's hunt over food and grills but sat down with the gang to have some light-hearted conversations about how spectacular this camping experience has been for each and every one of us.
As we knew the inevitable ending is coming for us to pack up and bid adieu, "Hillcart Tales" surprised us with goodies from their premium collection and also opening the stall for anything on grabs. I wanted to try their flavors and got in samples of all flavors (last night I went in fida for their apple struddle flavors). Our host n guide, Suhasini announced we need to pack up and get into the bus for our return journey which I know everyone felt "Man, why can't we do 1 more day". We packed ourselves, clicked pictures of adieu but something magical happened again in our presence. GM of Marriott Hyderabad, Shrikant Wakarkar brought his entire team together and said how humbled he has been to see the entire guests went on to praise their efforts in putting up such extravagant arrangement and immense care n hospitality. All the staff still brimming with smiles at us were evidence that they deserved many more than this. As we acknowledged the same and applauded them, their faces went onto to shine in the glory of satisfaction on recognition. Man, this team NAILED IT!!!! As we got into the bus with one last ceremonial group picture, I said: "Marriott, you have brought back the excitement in a 35+ old stressed family man as a free spirit and made me realize, how much fun and love we miss being amidst nature and run behind materialistic pleasure". It sounds philosophical but it's surreal to feel it within yourself and I only believe "this is the closest I have come towards Nature and thanks to Marriott to make it a lifetime memory and experience"