The sharp eyed among you will have noticed that I travel a lot. Whilst it’s not always as glamorous as it sounds, it takes me to all sorts of interesting places and into some astonishingly beautiful hotels. The new breed of five star Asian hotels are in a class of their own when it comes to service, but as competition has increased there’s been a noticeable rise in the standard of architecture and landscape design too. This is great news for me, as when I’m away from my own garden, I get great comfort and inspiration from the gardens and plants I discover in far flung places.
Whatever my expectations of The Trident Hotel in Gurgaon, a satellite city of New Delhi, nothing prepared me for the spectacle of a night time arrival. Weary from a long flight, I stepped into the hotel through a soaring, Mughal inspired canopy and into a dazzlingly impressive forecourt. From the surface of the inky black infinity pool rose four bright flames, licking the surface of the water. Immaculately staged, it felt like arriving on the set from a Bond film, but the theatre did not stop there….
A little bit of research reveals that the landscape architects are Bangkok based P Landscape, specialising in high-end resorts and residential projects. What they have achieved, with a meticulously controlled range of materials and plants, is a harmonious yet appropriately opulent scheme. The dominant colours are emerald green and cobalt blue, set against pale pink sandstone and punctuated with mainly white flowers, notably those of the frangipani tree, (Plumeria sp., below).
Water is used in abundance, both to create mirror-smooth pools outside the bedroom windows and soothing cascades at either side of the steps leading to the sunken pool area. How inviting does that water look? Here, more glossy frangipani trees treat guests to their cool shade and exotic fragrance. At night more flames spring from the square columns at the poolside, whilst traditional India lanterns light the stairways. Throughout, the outdoor lighting is a triumph, transforming the rich colours of the day into a patchwork of deep shadows and gently glowing stonework at night.
Because the Trident lies extremely close to a major expressway, the brief was to create a tranquil garden in which guests could escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Cleverly, cars are completely excluded from the immediate environs of the hotel . Just the short walk between the drop-off point and reception already settles you into a more relaxed mood. A series large courtyards create a sense of enclosure, and importantly shade when walking between the main buildings. Just as the Mughals used water to cool the air, the designers have incorporated scallop-edged stone bowls as features in the centre of the green space pictured below. Incense constantly burns around the edges of the courtyard, filling it with the scents of India.
Smaller courtyards, some simply bringing light into the hotel’s infinitely long corridors, Have been given as much care and attention. A checkerboard theme recurs throughout the grounds, combining different low growing plants with decorative pebbles or stone slabs. The same look could easily be achieved in the UK by using plants such as asarum, galium or pachysandra for groundcover and by replacing the frangipanis with loquats (Eriobotrya japonica), Magnolia grandiflora or even laurel.
Based on the landscaping alone, I would not hesitate to stay at The Trident again. Happily the interiors, food and service are more than a match for the magnificent gardens, making it one of the standout hotels in Asia. Hopefully it won’t be long before I return.
For more photographs, which frankly knock my attempts with an iPhone into a cocked hat, visit the website of Wison Tungthunya, an architectural photographer working in Thailand and around Asia. He captures the atmosphere at dusk beautifully.