Hyderabad in one of those cities in India that most westerners only visit on business and tourists never bother with, which made me like it even more. I’ve never been to the Taj Mahal or the Red Fort in Jaipur, but as impressive or historical as I imagine these sites to be, I can do without the crowds, the beggars and the general hassle that goes with such tourist hot-spots. In Hyderabad you can escape most of that, and in fact there were times when local Indians asked to have their photo taken with me and I wondered whether I was a tourist attraction for them, since a western face is rather unexpected in their city.
Hyderabad is something of a technology and IT hotspot, but rather than stay in the HITEC City business district, my friends and I opted to stay in Abids, a local commercial and shopping neighbourhood, at the Mercure Abids Hotel which was booked through AsiaRooms.com. We only had a day in Hyderabad before heading south to Kurnool on charity business, so were pleased to find that we could walk out of the hotel and experience the bustle of everyday Indian life but were also close to the historic sights in Charminar.
The Mercure Abids Hotel
The hotel is modern, flat fronted building and a welcome haven from the busy street, with a large, open marble-floored lobby where rose petals float in a bowl at the entrance. Past the reception desk on your left is a seating area with over-sized chairs and a water feature of small fountains, the whole topped by the most enormous black and gold chandelier hung with dangling crystals. The rooms are set on various floors overlooking this open atrium, with windows onto the quieter, though not especially attractive side roads at each side of the hotel. The hotel is located on a road that leads up to the main shopping street of Abids which means that the bustle and shopping is a short walk away but that the noise and constant toot-toot of traffic is kept at bay, so we had a peaceful night’s sleep.
I hope you enjoy the video below of the Mercure Abids Hotel, Hyderabad
What about my room?
With my friends Marilyn and Robert, I stayed two nights at the hotel, one at the beginning and one at the end of the week I spent in Andhra Pradesh. Both the rooms I stayed in on the first and second floor had the same style of decor, were very spacious by European standards and comfortably furnished. I liked the decor which was stylish and modern, with cream walls, a cherry-wood floor and a colour scheme of coffee and sea green. There was dark wood furniture, a feature wall behind the bed with a swirling modern patterned wallpaper, and a padded, fabric covered bedhead with textured beige furnishings. The sea green colour scheme continued through to the silky cushions on the bed and brushed cotton armchair and in the beige and green, leaf patterned curtains. The lighting was well designed with plenty of standing lamps, desk lighting and reading lamps on either side of the bed with cream shades.
Other features included a desk area with leather desk accessories and information about things to see in the city , a fridge, kettle and flat screen TV. Another convenient feature was the UK plug socket, which since my travel adapter was not working, proved very useful for charging my laptop and camera batteries. In the corridor through to the bathroom was a full size wardrobe with a safe which I used to store my valuables and a place to put my suitcases. My only quibble was that the wifi in the hotel was very expensive at 499 Rupees (£6) for 1 day and 199 Rupees (£2.50) for 1 hr and each device was charged separately, so if I wanted to connect with my mobile and my laptop I had to pay twice. If you are a heavy internet user I’d suggest you check these charges in advance before deciding which hotel to book, as although there are often internet shops nearby, you don’t always have time to go in search of them.
Freshen up in the bathroom
It was great after a long journey to freshen up in my marble bathroom, with large sink and shower and plenty of Mercure toiletries. The hair dryer in the bathroom was especially welcome as I was feeling rather unkempt after the long flight via Dubai, and even more so when I returned after 3 days in a local hotel in Kurnool where such appliances apparently did not exist and I was told “Sorry Madame, you do not have that facility”.
Vegetarian food at the Abids Bistro
Before I visited Hyderabad I didn’t realise that a large proportion of the population in Southern India are vegetarian and that many vegetarians in this part of the world do not like to even eat in a restaurant that serves meat. Many larger hotels have different restaurants with vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus and at the Mercure Abids the menu was wholly vegetarian, with not even an egg served at breakfast.
The Abids Bistro on the ground floor of the hotel was like a rather smart cafe with polished wood tables and curvy chairs and we ate there on both evenings from the vegetarian buffet. There was also an a la carte menu, but the choice in the buffet was so fantastic and delicious that I’m not sure why you would bother with anything else. There were plenty of salads which we cautiously avoided, sticking to the no tap-water, no salads, no meat, no ice cream rule, in the hope of avoiding tummy upsets. However there were plenty of variety in the hot (as in temperature) curry and rice dishes and some other Asian dishes as well as great deserts. I thoroughly recommend the vegetarian food and friendly staff at the Mercure Abids Bistro, and vegetarians who struggle in Europe to find anything more exciting than an omelette will be in heaven here, so long as you like spicy Indian food. You should, however be aware that the hotel does not serve alcohol, so you may need to find somewhere else to serve you that cold beer.
Shop till you drop in Abids
We found that the Abids neighbourhood was perfect if you like shopping, with many local small shops selling everything under the Indian sun. The rule in India is that different kinds of goods are normally concentrated in one street or neighbourhood so you can find yourself passing shops selling nothing but electronic goods one minute and colourful saris and clothing in the next street. Along the main Abids street it seemed to be mainly clothing and jewellery, and every so often there were small shopping malls with a collection of different shops, often with one larger store selling clothes and homeware.
I was on the look-out for some loose, cool Kurta tops to wear during my stay in India and we found a likely store with shelves stacked with many different coloured tops where I had a lovely time trying them all on before I decided which ones to buy. We got chatting to the owner’s son who it turned out had studied in the UK and was now trying to get a job there. We were also on a mission to buy an Indian electrical adapters – as the universal adapter that I had brought from the UK was broken. Our new friend in the clothes shop sent his staff out to scout in nearby shops, but as it was Sunday, many of the hardware shops were closed and nothing could be found. Many of the wonderful jewellery shops in this neighbourhood were also closed but in the one or two that were open, we ogled at all the ornate gold jewellery and strings of pearls combined with precious stones. Hyderabad is known as “the city of pearls”, not because of it being anywhere near the sea but because the Nizams who ruled the city amassed great wealth and loved to show it off in precious jewellery and pearls. We were ushered into one shop where I was tempted to try on, but managed to resist buying, a string of pearls the size of marbles.
Visiting the Charminar Monument
The next morning, we took a tuk tuk to the Charminar district – a 10-15 min drive to the other side of the river. Charminar is the heart of the old city and has many bazaars and shops, so it’s where everyone will recommend you to visit if you are sightseeing in Hyderabad. The Charminar Monument is the icon of the city and looks like an Indian Arc de Triomph, a square monument topped with decorative carvings and four minarets, with the traffic swirling around it where four roads intersect. The monument was built by Muhammed Quli Qutab Shah in the 16th century and you pay 100 Rupees (£1) to enter the enclosure and walk underneath as well as climb up the narrow enclosed stone steps (not for the claustrophobic) to get a view from the top. I looked down over the busy road and the market stall sellers below with the tuk tuks weaving their way in between bicycles, motorbikes, cars and even the odd ox cart. When I got back down some other Indian tourists at the monument stopped me and wanted to have their photos taken with me, including 2 girls who were covered head to toe in black bhurkhas!
At the Chowmahalla Palace
Walking from the monument down the Laad bazaar, a street that sold nothing but brightly coloured bangles, we found ourself at the Chowmahalla palace which we decided to have a look around. Built in the 18th century, this was where the Nizams of Hyderabad entertained their visitors and guests, in a series of white palace buildings with archways and minarets, set around large courtyards with fountains and gardens. We went inside some of the palace buildings including the grand Durbar hall where I was mesmerised by the huge number of enormous and dazzling chandeliers that were designed to impress and certainly had the desired effect on me.
There were several other exhibition rooms with information about the Nizams of Hyderabad, old photos of the ruling family from the 19th and 20th century and furniture from the palace showing beautiful craftsmanship. At one point I found myself in a room full of mannequins, showing the gorgeous and colourful clothing worn by the women in days gone by which is just the sort of thing I love, but at that point I had lost my friends Marilyn and Robert, so I couldn’t stop and continued my search for them. Eventually we found each other and took a tuk tuk back to the hotel, as we had plans to travel up to Kurnool that afternoon. For more information about the palace check the Chowmahalla Palace website.
After several days in Kurnool, a few hours drive south of Hyderabad, we returned to stay a further night at Mercure Abids Hotel and it was a relief to get back to a haven of comfort and peace after a hectic few days, visiting villages and schools. I highly recommend the Mercure Abids which we booked through AsiaRooms.com as a great base to explore Hyderabad, especially if you are there for leisure and enjoy shopping and sightseeing.
Mercure Hyderabad Abids Hotel, 5-9-208 Chirag Ali Lane, Abids, 500001, Hyderabad, India
This hotel and other hotels in Hyderabad can be booked through AsiaRooms.com, who list thousands of hotels in Asia and beyond.
My room was kindly hosted by AsiaRooms.com but the cost per night around the time we visited was around £40-55 including breakfast, depending on room type. The Wifi charge was 499 Rupees (£6) per day per device and the vegetarian buffet dinner was around 450 Rupees + taxes (£6).
Read more about our visit to Andhra Pradesh, India
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