What do we know about Vishakhapatnam? Apart from being popularly known as Vizag, memory recalls school textbooks that list the city as an important port with steel and pharmaceuticals at the heart of its economy. And so, as a tourist, Vizag leaves you bewildered.
As a business hub, the city has always been on the radar of hotel chains, so it was no wonder that the new Radisson Blu Resort Vishakhapatnam would be catering to business travellers. It was a good decision to travel to the city with minimal expectations and no assumptions. As we entered the hotel, with the setting sun behind us, the acreage left us agape.
You can hear the boisterous Bay of Bengal crashing against the coast at a distance, as you unwind in your room. The room, capacious and comfy, is equipped with the hotel must-haves of a mini bar, kettle, and sink-and-disappear bed. All rooms have a balcony which allows you to soak in either the sea or the manicured gardens. Truth be told, we preferred the Ocean View room over the Garden View ones. Apart from these two, there are Executive Rooms, Suites, and Garden Villas with a private pool.
The most fascinating structure in the hotel is the Haveli. A modern-day eight-room villa is laden with every possible creature comfort including a private jacuzzi, pool, a kitchen, and bar. There are three other villas as well. On asking about the curious room strategy, the general manager of the hotel, Alex Koshy, informed that it was built by design to cater to Indian weddings. The ideal use case scenario is where the Haveli is booked by the bride or groom’s family and used for a variety of customs and ceremonies prior to the big event.
As a matter of fact, events and weddings (MICE) are expected to be one of the biggest moneymakers for the hotel. Radisson Blu Vishakhapatnam has multiple venues to cater to the big fat Indian wedding. The convention centre, Sagarika, can accommodate up to 3000 guests. This is attached to the lawns which can take another 2000 guests. Between the two venues, there is approximately 40,000 sq ft of banqueting space. Koshy informed that just prior to our arrival a celebration of an industrialist occupying the majority of the rooms had his entire team on their toes.
The hotel with its spa, Aathma, infinity pool and fitness centre—along with a variety of dining options—has enough to keep you relaxed and entertained within the property. The restaurants have been designed so as to allow you to enjoy different experiences. The all-day dining restaurant, 365, is a multi-cuisine restaurant that offers familiar comforting dishes that you cannot go wrong with. Upper Deck is Radisson Blu Vishakhatpatnam’s party hotspot replete with a well-stocked bar and DJ pumping the latest dance tracks. The bar also has a rooftop that hosts regular DJ sets by talented city artistes.
However, it is the Indian restaurant, Ethnic, that blew us away. Specialising in local Andhra cuisine and fresh seafood from the bay, the restaurant is now open. To give us a holistic and better idea of the flavours of Andhra, a thali was presented. The thali was loaded with local classics such as majjiga pulusu (buttermilk rasam), aaku kura pappu (dal with leafy greens), thalimpu rice made with sesame, and variety of pachadis, podi and halwas. On the side were piquant Andhra lamb chops and potlam biryani—reminiscent of Japanese omu rice.
As for the seafood, Ethnic has a display of fresh daily catch that you can choose from. We were spoilt with a selection of fresh prawns, pomfret, and kingfish in a host of locally-inspired marination. You can choose your own preparation, be it a Guntur special or Nilgiri. Executive chef Sammya Majumdar and his team travelled across the state to explore and find lesser-known recipes and flavours. He then tweaked it to suit the palates of five-star guests.
A word of advice, Andhra flavours are not for the faint hearted—the region has extreme climate and as such the dependence on spice and oil is high. But a meal at Ethnic is one that you need to do justice to with flavours that will get you hooked; so, come with an empty stomach and big appetite (and an antacid).
As a coastal town in the new Andhra Pradesh, Vishakhapatnam is also a historic, strategic, and centrally located port town on India’s east coast, and so it becomes an easily accessible beach town for travellers. West Bengal and Odisha brings in a huge chunk of bookings for Radisson Blu Vishakhapatnam, then be it for leisure travel or MICE. The hotel itself is alongside Rushikonda beach—pristine and untouched; it is mesmerizing to simply watch the waves crash into the white sand. The general manager is currently waiting for a few permissions in terms of public access to the beach; once in place, he has exciting plans.
Local sightseeing in Vishakhapatnam
The beach also means that you must soak in the sun and the sea, and Vizag gives you plenty of opportunities to do that. As a matter of fact, the city’s seafaring provenance makes it a great place for a bit of touristy sightseeing. A quick trip to the Thotlakonda Buddhist site atop a hill is a must. The remnants of the 2000-year-old Buddhist monastery are a prime example of how far and wide the religion travelled. Apart from the stupas, chaityagrihas, and viharas—the monastery is known for the rock-cut cisterns in the hill’s bedrock.
The other major attraction is the submarine museum in downtown Vizag. When INS Kurusura was decommissioned after 31 years of service, in 2001, to the Indian Navy, it was converted into a museum to showcase what life inside these war crafts used to be like. It is a rude awakening that what we see in films is not reality at all. Cramped living and working conditions prevailed on this ship as a majority of the space was dedicated to machinery and torpedoes.
The city of Vishakhapatnam piques intrigue as it straddles its past, present, and future. It merits a visit with an open mind to enjoy all that the city has to offer. And the experience is made even better with the warm hospitality of a good hotel.
Address: Dr NTR Beach Rd, Yendada, Rushikonda, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, 530045