It takes more than a determined eye to see fertility in a vast, almost endless expanse of thorny shrubbery and rocky terrain resigned to its fate. It takes vision.
A certain man
's vision changed the destinies of a million youngsters in a decade in office. And Gachi Bowli and Madhapur are the signatures of the that vision, of the new Hyderabad. Barren landscapes around town of the kind that you associated with the last stretch before your train reached Secunderabad station, are turning slicker by the year - indeed, the man is gone, but the momentum remains. The world's biggest technology companies and finest educational institutes now have these as addresses on their websites and visiting cards, and the fertility created out of thin air has finally led to the unthinkable.
In the Hyderabad scheme of things, Ista is more than a mere 5-star hotel. It is the ultimate recognition of the creation of a high net-worth business district in Gachi Bowli.
You'd find Ista far down a road that houses lavish campuses of Infosys
- and that's at the time we write this. The facade is rather ordinary for a 5-star hotel, especially if you've seen the real good ones, including our very own ITC Kakatiya
. But then it is
a 5-star hotel, and there is a reason for that. You find that inside.
Ista is a business hotel, and comes with all the bells and whistles - a banquet hall that can accommodate upto 300 persons; a business center with 3 board rooms, Internet access and computers/printers; and a boutique with plenty of books for the traveler, local craft (bidri/etikoppa/bangles), toiletries of the Ananda brand (the owner of Ista, a popular spa in Hrishikesh), pashmina shawls made specially for Ista, limited garments including waistcoats, kurta-pajamas and tops, and stoles, and jewelry from Gem Palace.
The theme around Ista is water - and the gravel, pebbles and cobbles that go along with it. There's clear water flowing somewhere in the vicinity wherever you are - you just have to look around. The spacious lobby has black as the leitmotif, and a lounge bar situated in the middle with restaurants on either side of it. Collage is the 24-hour (okay, almost) spacious and airy coffee shop, with plush seating, global cuisine and a special Japanese live kitchen located in the center akin to a DJ console - the breakfast and lunch buffets here are a good bet. Deori
serves Indian and Andhra food with live Indian music (tabla/sarangi), and is open only for dinner.
The entire ground floor is characterized by high ceilings and a constant soft music playing in the background, with the lounge bar also having a piano for live music performances. There is a gym for the guests of the hotel too, that offers primarily cardio equipment (there are limited weights too). A pool behind the hotel has temperature-controlled water, and a pool bar.
At about 100sft each, rooms in Ista are surprisingly small, especially considering how expensive they are (Rs. 12,000+ as we write this in Mar 2008, plus taxes). The double bed takes up a good deal of that, leaving little space to move about. The amenities are however all that you could ask for - a 29" flat screen TV + DVD player, a mini-bar with chocolates (you'll have to pay extra), free wi-fi in all except entry-level rooms, a digital safe, free breakfast, and a remote control for just about everything from switching off lights to putting a Do Not Disturb sign outside.
The rooms are in 2 wings, with either a pool view or a valley view. Though "valley view" is misleading - there's no valley around. There are 166 rooms with 10 suites as we write this, in 2 wings - 3 more are planned.
Did we forget something?
The Ista Spa
Ista is a business hotel cum spa. And the parent company (Ananda) is actually a spa at Hrishikesh. So you find the entire gamut at Ista to help you destress and unwind, and to detox you - massage therapy, Ayurveda, aroma therapy, stone massage, yoga and more. Here is the entire spectrum:
Abhyanga (60 minutes)
Shirodhara (60 minutes)
Choorna Swedana (45 minutes)
Chakradhara (75 minutes)
Udwarthana (45 minutes)
Tan Lepa (60 minutes)
Mukh Lepa (60 minutes)
Kati Vasti (30 minutes)
Personalized Yoga (60 minutes)
Personalized Pranayama (30 minutes)
Personalized Meditation (60 minutes)
Antar Mouna (30 minutes)
Yoga Nidra (45 minutes)
Trataka (30 minutes)
Ista Touch (30 minutes)
Aromatherapy (85 minutes)
Reflexology (55 minutes)
Swedish Massage (55/85 minutes)
Thai Massage (85-120 minutes)
Earth Stone Therapy (75 minutes)
Jet Lag Massage (45 minutes)
Spice Salt Scrub (45 minutes)
Detoxifying Salt Scrub (45 minutes)
Grounding Salt Scrub (45 minutes)
Invigorating Salt Scrub (45 minutes)
Aroma Cocoon (85 minutes)
Ancient Indian Body Mask (45 minutes)
One On One Workout (60 minutes)
Mountain Dew Skin Freshner (70 minutes)
Ista Express Facial (25 minutes)
Calming Rose Quartz Facial (75 minutes)
It's Tough For Men (420 minutes)
Rugged For Men (155 minutes)
Quick Fix For Men (100 minutes)
Spiritual Journey (190 minutes)
The Invigorator (125 minutes)
Deep Cleansing Ritual (200 minutes)
Crystal And Earth Stone Stress Releasing Ritual (205 minutes)
Radiance Rituals For Brides To Be (280 minutes)
Ritual Of Wellness (285 minutes)
Detox And Rebalancing Ritual (240 minutes)
Wellness Through Weight Management (multiple sessions over 14 days)
Ayurvedic Santavanam Rejuvenation (multiple sessions over 7 days)
Ista Nidra - Slumber Package (multiple sessions over 5 days)
Executive Rejuvenation Package (multiple sessions over 2 days)
Ista will be expensive, won't it? Treatments usually cost Rs. 1,000-1,500 per hour, and the day packages, Rs. 15,000 per week. The spa is open to people who are not staying with the hotel, too. And like everything else at the hotel, the facilities look swanky.
Ista's days are mostly ahead - Gachi Bowli is going only one way. As of now, it's a nice drive there.