This article is about a disastrous trip to Brightlands, Matheran. I share my experiences with you with the hope to save trusting souls who book a package at Brightlands.
I and my husband Ankush were very excited about this trip. We went to the Brightlands office in Pune and booked a 2 nights 3 days Deluxe AC, all meals inclusive package from 18th May to 20th May.
We paid half the cost of Rs. 4000 upfront. We booked the above said almost 3 ½ weeks prior to the trip. On Friday the 18th, we started at about 8.45 in the morning.
The route to Matheran is quite a tricky one if you are planning to drive down from Pune.
Matheran is about 4 kms from Neral. We got confused with Nerul, which is in Mumbai, and realizing our mistake by asking some rickshawalls, we turned about again and joined the NH4 from Panvel. You have to drive straight down on NH4 for about 25 kms and then take a left turn towards Karjat. It is a further drive of about 17 kms before you reach Neral. Then it is a steep climb up the mountain.
We enjoyed the breath-taking view along the curves. We parked our car at the parking area provided for all tourists and paid the prescribed amount. We were flocked by dozens of people…porters, horse-owners; hand-pulled cart-owners who offer paid ride services. We hired a porter to carry our bags and set on foot. Matheran has a ‘capitalist tax’, which every tourist has to pay for entry into the small hill station. It was a nice almost 1 hour walk to the hotel; we had worked up a good appetite and looked forward to a hot meal and a lazy afternoon by the pool.
We reached the hotel lobby at 1.45 p.m. On the way, I saw people enjoying the sun in front of their cottages. The hotel helper then led the way to our room. Our room was in a remote corner of the hotel, the door looked old, the paint was peeling off and pieces of wood were dropping out. We apprehensively stepped inside the room.…..Oh my! What a terrible sight met our eyes. The room was big enough to barely accommodate the double bed, there were cardboard planks to close the gap above the AC, the walls were stained, the colour was wearing off and the bed cover had stains on it. We were shocked at the state of the room. To put it bluntly, it looked like a room in a seedy second grade hotel. Also the location of the room was most peculiar – it was secluded from the rest of the hotel rooms, just like the toilets people used to have outside the house in the olden days.
We picked up our luggage and stormed back to the lobby to talk to the manager. The manager appeared after 10 minutes (after having his lunch). We explained the situation to him and refused to accept the room. He informed us quietly that it was indeed a Deluxe AC room. I asked him to show me some other Deluxe AC room and reasoned that if it was similar to the room we were offered, we would accept ours. To this, the manager replied that there were no other Deluxe AC rooms available. He did not offer any explanation as to the state of the room, instead suggesting that we could have a Non-AC room, which was available, and then shift the next day to a AC room which he said would be available. There was no believing this man. I was amazed at his audacity to ask us to compromise for no fault of ours. We demanded a refund of our money if they were unable to provide us with another Deluxe AC room. The manager promptly refunded us the booking amount in cash.
We were amazed at how bad the service of the resort was. The resort had overbooked, and then tried to put us in a neglected and unmaintained room. Of course, they did not think their guests would really head back. They were unprepared for our reaction and readily dished out the cash as they were in the guilt. We were furious and drove back home. Matheran was bustling with people and there was no chance of getting a good accommodation elsewhere on the weekend.
The next day, I called up the booking office in Pune. The person who had done our booking apologized for the mismanagement and on my insistence gave me the owner’s phone.
What followed was so shocking to me that I could hardly believe it!! I called up the owner and explained the episode. He said that it was against their policy to refund cash, if a refund had to be given it was done by way of a credit note. I told him that I had called to claim the expenses I had incurred…the petrol, highway toll charges, Matheran entrance fees (the receipts of which I had). He laughed and said we were lucky to get the refund and there was no way we could recover our lost expenses.
I had not expected any compensation for the expenses incurred and the ensuing hassle and stress we went through. But I had expected an apology! I do not know what to make of the owner of Brightlands, Matheran – a man in the hospitality industry brazenly laughing at a customer’s agony caused entirely by his staff.
Through my article, not only do I hope to warn you of the pitfalls of planning any trips to Brightlands, Matheran ( They call themselves three-star but believe me they nowhere near a one-star) but of associating with an organization which seems to have no scruples whatsoever!