Koder House Hotel - Fort Kochi






KODER HOUSE BOUTIQUE HOTEL

FORT KOCHI

USP: The spacious interiors which look out yonder to the sea

The quaint, red-and-white Koder House has history lurking behind every brick. Not surprisingly, this beach-side, three-storeyed building is on INTACH's list of heritage sites.

Owned by the Jewish Koder family, it was constructed in 1808. Sabatai Samuel Koder was the last in the family to own the place, and Vicky Raj, is the current owner.

In 2005, Vicky turned it into a boutique hotel with six plush suites, two on each floor. Each suite is differently designed, and four of them have balconies overlooking the Chinese fishing nets on the beach. The 800-sq.ft suites are luxurious, with wooden floors, antique furniture and huge modern bathrooms. In fact, the bathrooms are the only additions to the building.

Thankfully, Vicky has left the splendour of the Indo-European architecture untouched — teak floors, wide teak staircases, and huge open spaces on all three floors.




The photographs on the ground floor are a record of the building's history.

The vast living rooms on each floor are a pleasure to be in. This is where ambassadors and the royalty once congregated, for Samuel Koder was the honorary consul to the Netherlands, and he also began the Freemasons' organisation in Cochin. An interesting aspect of the building is a small wooden bridge with iron railings, on the first floor. It connected this building to the next, which was the office of the Koders, then. However, today, as the buildings have different owners, the bridge leads to the other building's wall. Under the bridge is Rose Street, and standing on the bridge watching the goings-on in the neighbourhood is an experience to cherish. In keeping with history, Jewish food is served at the multi-cuisine restaurant, Menorah. You also get Kerala food (fresh fish from the Chinese nets!) and Continental.


Tariff

Season (October 1 to March 31, 2011) — Deluxe Suite: Rs. 14,950; Junior Suite: Rs. 11,960

Off season (April 1 to September 31) — Deluxe Suite: Rs. 5,750; Junior Suite: Rs. 5,000

Peak Season (December 20 to January 15) — Deluxe Suite: Rs. 17,940; Junior Suite: Rs. 14,976

How to get there

It is 40 km from the Nedumbassery International airport, and 14 km from the Ernakulam railway station.

What to do

Visit historically significant places such as the Vasco da Gama Church, the Mattancherry Palace, Jewish Synagogue, and the Heritage Walkway.

Watch the Chinese nets in action. You can even help fishermen pull the nets up!

Shop for curios and knick-knacks on Jew Street.


Source: The Hindu



Paradise Isle - Malpe






PARADISE ISLE

MALPE - UDUPI

Nestled among the lush green flora of coastal Udupi and set in a rustic ambience, the Paradise Isle Beach Resort at Malpe beckoned us after a weary journey from Mangalore. The resort, which boasts ethnic architecture with a touch of modernity, offers a plethora of facilities. Once in the cottages, hear the gentle whooshing of the sea, and be greeted by great views of the Malpe beach.

There is something for everyone here. Foodies can indulge in an appetising breakfast followed by a sumptuous meal that is a blend of the ethnic and Continental.




The butter garlic sautéed calamari and the stuffed mushrooms have us craving for more. The resort also houses a food court and a coffee shop that offers over 60 varieties of coffee.

At the Ayurvedic Spa, indulge in an aromatherapy body massage, salt glow and a beauty-enhancing detoxification. To supplement this experience, there is a fully-equipped health club with facilities for badminton, table-tennis, billiards and swimming. There is also an in-house discotheque.



But, the bounty here is the array of water sports. Feel the spray of the salty seas on a jet ski or venture out on the banana boat.

There is also a boat ride to St. Mary's Island and a tour over the tranquil backwaters that combines a sight-seeing trip of the cultural beauty of Udupi.




Tariff

Accommodation costs between Rs. 1,500 and Rs. 9,000. Meals and other services cost extra. The charges for water sports are Rs. 200 per person. For details, log onto www.theparadiseisle.com or call 0820-2537300 / 2537791 /2538777 /2538666 or e-mail your queries to info@theparadiseisle.com.

How to get there

Paradise Isle is approximately 60 km from the Bajpe airport and also from Mangalore. The resort provides transportation services.

Things to do

For those in the mood to laze, the beach is the best place to be.

Take a ride on the backwaters and photograph beautiful Udipi.

Visit the health club, spa, food court.

Indulge in water sports.

Source: The Hindu




Hill Country Resort - Lovedale





HILL COUNTRY RESORT

LOVEDALE

USP: A wonderland with misty hills and toy trains

With the heat of Bengaluru becoming oppressive, a holiday in the hills seems a good way to beat the heat. So we head for Lovedale, a few kilometres from Ooty, that is still untouched by the milling crowds.
The resort is 12 years old and has wonderful views of the vast expanse of Lovedale Valley, with the Nilgiris in the distance. Clouds and mist languidly drift in and out of the the green expanse of tea gardens, interspersed with silver oak trees, their leaves glinting in the rays of the setting sun. A place for Nature lovers, Hill Country envelops you with the heady perfume of the hills — a blend of ferns and ancient cypress trees.




Wrapped up warmly, camera in hand we sit at Hill County's vantage point, waiting to see the quaint toy train that chugs along its narrow gauge tracks at a leisurely 33 km per hour. Suddenly the ‘cooo-cooo' of the train whistle echoes in the valley and the train, that was conferred UNESCO World Heritage status, appears over the crest of a hill.It chugs past the resort and disappears into a tunnel, that the resort manager says runs right under the resort. Jump on the train — it's a romantic ride that takes you through untouched countryside right upto Coonoor.

Ask for local Badaga cuisine at Orenda, the resort's restaurant. The Badaguru koi udaka (Badaga chicken curry) and steamed rice, finished with Tuppathittu (banana pancakes) are must-haves. For those who find spicy food hard to handle, a variety of cuisines including Continental and Chinese are available on order. The sweet corn chicken soup with freshly cut celery, straight from the garden, is perfect for a cold day.



The rooms are beautifully maintained with crisp white sheets and towels and a spanking clean bath and toilet.

Carry a shawl or a cardigan because, at any time of the year it is chilly and temperatures dip sharply at night.

How to get there

By road, Lovedale is well connected. It's an overnight journey from Bengaluru. The nearest airport is Coimbatore. You can take a cab to the resort.

Things to do

Go boating on Ooty lake.

Take a train ride on the UNESCO heritage toy train.

Visit a tea factory, go on treks or shop for spices, tea and chocolates.

Indulge in a massage at the Sowkhya Ayurvedic Spa and Wellness Centre.

Tariff

The tariff includes all meals. The summer package for a couple for two nights costs Rs. 9,990 (Deluxe suite); for a family, it costs Rs. 10,990 (Deluxe suite). Accommodation for two children below 12 is free.

The honeymoon package for three nights during off-season costs Rs. 16,000; and Rs. 18,000 during the season.

For details, call 044-28236217/0877, e-mail hillcountry@bsnl.in or look up

www.hillcountryholidays.com



MARIANNE DE NAZARETH

Source: The Hindu





La Maison - Kotagiri






LA MAISON

KOTAGIRI -Nilgiris District

USP: Tryst with Nature

H e stood at the door of the colonial villa. Some three feet from the ground, pristine white feathers plumped. This red-necked turkey gobbled at us, till our hostess Anne-Helene rushed out of the homestead, La Maison. In some trepidation, we asked if the turkey was being threatening. No, our hostess assured us, he gobbled to welcome guests.

Throughout our visit, it stood guard outside the parlour windows, making sure we were at home.

More than a century old, La Maison is set in the midst of about six acres of tea gardens, hedged by steep hillside, with its very own waterfall. It's in the Hadathoray Paradise Valley, which means all the usual things in these parts of the Nilgiris — wildflowers aplenty, thick white mist creeping up on you stealthily, and then drifting off just as suddenly, and air spiked with cool purity.





The French couple has been here for just about two years, but has regularly sighted gaur, bear, leopard and deer.

When they weren't coming face-to-face with Nilgiris' wildlife, Benoit and Anne-Helene were hard at work renovating their stately bungalow, laying a running verandah all along the house, setting up a greenhouse, a herbery, bee hives and, most recently, getting up an open air brick-and-granite sauna.

Anne-Helene is justifiably proud of her greenhouse and garden, and guests get to taste the vegetables grown at La Maison and nearby organic farms. We sampled some brown bread hot from the oven, followed by chapattis, nicely grilled pepper chicken, a couple of sauces, white and brown, some lightly-flavoured rice and grilled veggies. The meal concluded with ice cream, home-baked cookies, some fruit and a deep blue borage flower as flourish. There was some mellow Chardonnay and a red wine, too, on offer.

La Maison has four bedrooms with attached bathrooms with four-poster beds, deep wardrobes and heaters. No television, announces Benoit happily, but reluctantly admits to having WiFi.



They arrange for guests to go on trips to nearby tourist spots such as Catherine Falls, Lamb's Rock, Coonoor and Ooty, as well as tea-tasting sessions.

As for the turkey, he gobbled disapprovingly at us as we left. Either he had taken a shine to us, or he loved guests!

Tariff

(Prices include dinner, breakfast and taxes)

From October to March

Single occupancy: Rs. 7,600; double occupancy: Rs. 8,900

From April to September

Single occupancy: Rs. 5,900; double occupancy: Rs. 7,200

For details, contact benoit@lamaison.in, call 099443-05397, or visit www.lamaison.in

How to get there

Kotagiri is accessible by road from Mysore, Bengaluru, Mettupalayam and Coimbatore.

Things to do

Benoit and Anne-Helene arrange for local sightseeing treks, picnics and excursions around The Nilgiris. Bonfires and barbeques are arranged, too, on demand.

SHEILA KUMAR

Source: The Hindu




Maison Perumal - Puducherry



MAISON PERUMAL

Pondicherry

USP: Quietude and old-world charm.





For most people, Pondy is a place to unwind. But, not for us. We run around the coastal town working and envying every person lazing about, shopping, aimlessly wandering, savouring the Franco-Tamil cuisine or chilling with a drink. But, by the end of the day, all we want to do is check into a snug room and crawl into bed. We find just the kind of place as we drive down Perumal Koil Street. Nestled between rows of old Tamil houses is Maison Perumal with its white walls, shiny wooden pillars and an inviting red veranda. The door opens to a courtyard and an antique table double up as the reception. The staff and the hotel exude warmth, and it feels like you're walking into a Chettinad house.



Before being transformed into CGH Earth's latest hotel, this was a decrepit old building that housed the Puducherry Registration Office. Then, INTACH gave it a splendid makeover. In February last year, this quaint hotel opened its doors to tourists. The hotel has 10 rooms without any frills, yet appealing to the senses. Ours is done up in fuchsia and white. The rooms with handsomely-tall doors have colonial furniture and sepia-tinted portraits and yellow and red oxide floors. The ceiling has a fan with a pull-chain switch. We sleep deeply — the thick curtains keep off the morning light and the outside noise. Once up, sip on your coffee and enjoy the sight of the morning sun streaming in through the stained glass balcony that overlooks the restaurant. Or, just sit on the oonjal and take in the surroundings as you enjoy delicious appams. Chat with the staff; they have many stories to share.



How to get there

Puducherry is 135 km from Chennai, and 320 km from Bengaluru.

It is well connected by rail and road.

Tariff

Rs. 6,000 (Rs. 4,500 during off season, May-September.)

Things to do

Go on heritage walks.

Go on bicycle tours.

Visit Auroville, Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the beaches.



PRIYADARSHINI PAITANDY

Source: The Hindu




Amber Vermont Estate - Mussoorie







The Amber Vermont Estate

Hatipaon Road, Mussoorie

USP: Mountain magic

M ussoorie. The name is sufficient to recreate an image of its crowded Mall Road where hordes of noisy tourists jostle about aimlessly. So, needless to add, The Amber Vermont Estate, Mussoorie, initially invokes in me a half-hearted response. What gives me hope, however, is its distance from Mall Road. I gather that the estate is on a quiet patch along Hatipaon Road, towards Cloud's End.

Starting quite early from Delhi, I wheel down a good part of the journey watching little towns and villages across Uttar Pradesh waking up to the day's work. Passing by Dehradun and up through Mussoorie town, I stand at the threshold of Vermont Estate after clocking good seven hours. What awaits me is an inviting sight. The Sun plays hide and seek with a range of mountains tipped with snow white clouds. A strong breeze slaps my face and goes on to rustle the leaves of the pine trees nearby, and those of the adjacent dark green deodar trees too. Immersing myself in Nature's bounty, I take the top-down view of the estate, the first sight reserved for any visitor. The sprawling estate, built in 1846 by an Englishman, is way down the road, and presents a panoramic view of a manicured lawn with ornate wrought iron chairs, and of green rooftops that blend with the surroundings. By the time I settle with a cup of coffee in the little sit-out attached to my room, I'm convinced I'll have a fine vacation.


Each of the 10 rooms here is a beautiful blend of period furniture and technology, including WiFi connectivity and a flat screen television with DTH satellite TV connection. Wood has been used generously here, and the lighting is perfect.

The property also has a smart suite with a cosy private sit-out. Besides the common dining hall, there is also an elegant private dining room. If only they can make available even half the variety the beautifully designed menu promises!

The heritage resort is replete with old-world relics — old maps of the Pauri area here, some Company art there. Then, there are enough beautiful rugs and throws laid down all over.

My evening is spent playing table tennis and enjoying a light meal in my room. Waking up fresh, the entire morning is well spent at the resort deck attached to its elegant lobby. Here, you can stretch out on a comfy deck chair and stare at the mountains for hours together. The resort serves you breakfast at the deck on request, a must-do. You can also steal a marvellous view of the Himalayas from its sprawling lawn. If you are the type to holiday without an itinerary, use the mid-morning or early evening for a lazy walk — the road snakes down to Cloud's End. Stop and stare at the splendid sights presenting themselves every now and then. I do all of these, and before I know it, it is time to go home.

How to get there

Vermont Estate is a seven-hour drive from Delhi. There are private and State-run buses to Mussoorie from Delhi and Dehradun. A convenient way of reaching the property is to board the early morning Dehradun Shatabdi from New Delhi Railway Station and hire a taxi (Rs. 800 approx) to Hatipaon Road. There are also regular flights between Delhi and Dehradun.

Tariff

There is a promotional rate of Rs. 13,000 for a double room with breakfast for two nights and three days. An extra bed comes at a additional cost. For bookings, write to the manager at arvind@theamber.in

Things to do

For a touristy experience, take the resort shuttle to Mall Road and go around on foot or on horseback; pick souvenirs for friends and family; and take the ropeway ride at the Mall. On request, the resort arranges trips to Dhanoulti, Yamuna Bridge, Sahastra Dhara, Kempty Falls, Clouds' End and Landour. Between March and June, it organises rafting trips. Also, its spa will open soon.

Within the resort, there are enough nooks that can give you a quiet moment. Use the telescope at the resort deck for a close peek at the mountains. Children can make use of the play area. There is also a table tennis board besides a home theatre room.


SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

Source: The Hindu







Elephant Valley - Kodaikanal



ELEPHANT VALLEY

KODAIKANAL

USP: Experience wilderness





Beating my hunger pangs, I finally reached Hotel Elephant Valley's Hill View restaurant and the plate of quickly-prepared pasta with onions and thick tomato sauce looked exotic. I shoved in a spoonful while the smiling waiter pointed towards rows of crushed banana plantations, barely 100 yards away. “You may be lucky, ma'am,” he said. “Just last week, a herd of elephants was here, and we offered them a feast.” A wave of excitement ran through my body

This beautiful 100-acre property, located at a height of 1,300 metres in the Palani Hill range, cuts across the centuries-old elephant corridor. October to April is the best time to sight pachyderms.



I walked around the protected Shola forests, dense with ageless palms and wild orchids. The Elephant Valley throws open a world of flora and fauna. It echoes with the twitter of birds, and chances of coming face-to- face with gaur and deer are no less. The adventurous can opt for the tent house or go horse riding, bamboo rafting and trekking. I spot a tree house across a stream, an offshoot of the perennial Gangavaar River.

An exciting rafting expedition takes me to the 18-ft high wooden house atop a 100-year-old tree. It is a bit eerie to be up there all alone.



The water at that point is 18 ft. deep, and as night grows it gets piercingly dark and silent, and you feel totally cut off from the world.

The 12 eco-friendly cottages, spread far and wide, are equipped with solar lights, firewood-fuelled hot water showers and done up with reclaimed antique doors and windows and colonial furniture.



Each cottage has the luxury of a private garden overlooking the river and coffee plantation.The open dining area is another highlight.


The ingredients for the Indian and Continental food come from the hotel's organic farm. Experience Nature's bounty!


Tariff

Depends on size and location of the cottages (near the stream, on a hillock or tree-top or the tent house).

The cost ranges from Rs. 3,300 to Rs. 7,200 for two adults (extra person Rs. 800). Children between 5 and 14 years Rs. 400 each. Breakfast is complimentary.



Lunch and dinner cost Rs. 500 a person. An a la carte menu is also available.

For enquiries, call: 04542-230399 and 92441-03418.

How to reach

It is 20 km from Kodaikanal. From Perumalmalai junction (12 km from Kodaikanal), take the road to Palani. After two km, turn left to Ganeshpuram village. Cross Pethupari and follow the hotel's sign boards for about 8 km till you reach the property. Distance from Coimbatore is 181 km, from Madurai 120 km and from Dindigul 98 km.

Things to do

Take a walk though organic farms and fruit and vegetable gardens. Don't forget your binoculars as the place boasts more than 100 species of winged visitors. Go for horse riding, bamboo rafting or trekking. Get to know about coffee cultivation or climb the mountain looking for dolmens

Source: The Hindu


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Mount Narsing Village Resort - Sikkim



Mount Narsing Village Resort Annexe
Kwezing Road, Ravangla, South Sikkim

USP: Serenity, eye-popping views

The ride up to Mount Narsing Village Resort Annexe is nerve-racking — especially for us from the plains. The young driver casually swings off the road (only by definition) at the fascinatingly-named Babyla Hotel onto a sheer dirt track. The trusty vehicle huffs and puffs up importantly to reach the resort and I am immediately captivated.



There are prayer wheels lining the approach and delightful cottages built around a rolling green on top of a hill. A profusion of riotous flowers grabs my eye even as I try to outstare the remote, icy mountains. The cottages are named after peaks and I am assigned Everest. Each cottage has a balcony for more spectacular views.

The cottages are rustic with basic amenities — hot water and electricity. The wood panelling works as excellent insulation. The jungle theme is echoed in the fixtures from the mirror to the pelmets. I am snug as a bug in a rug with a sweater, woollen socks, jacket, muffler and shawl apart from the two thick blankets. The smiling girl dressed in track pants and a tee shirt (I feel cold just looking at her) arrives with the steaming pot of tea and looks understandingly at my “plains” reaction to the cold.



Just as I settle in with a big, fat book, the rain comes pouring down. I sit on the cleverly-constructed balcony and listen to the rain drum a rousing tattoo on the roof. The lovely roses bow their multi-hued heads to the fiercely-lashing rain. Time slips swiftly by on its winged chariot (thank you Mr. Marvel) and I realise it is time for dinner.

The restaurant reminds me of a cosy den or the common room in a boarding school. There is the telly, a stack of well-thumbed books including travel books, Sidney Sheldon's “Rage of Angels” and a Russian book, super-comfortable, hardy, wooden chairs and tables, a glowing fireplace and a row of Tintin prints on the wall. All from “Tintin in Tibet”, the prints show the Yeti running away with Chang and Capt. Haddock getting startled with Tintin's repeated cries of Chang!



I order a full Sikkimese meal for dinner and as casserole upon casserole of steaming, hot food sails in, I can only sigh in utter contentment. The night is cloaked in a seductive, addictive silence.

I find myself awake at crack of dawn by city standards though the ever-smiling staff at the resort are already about their business. There is the frisky puppy (imaginatively called Puppy) gambolling on the lawns. I take my book and sit with a cup of tea at one of the benches on the lawn and watch in awed silence as rosy-fingered dawn (wonder if Homer's ‘Odyssey' included Sikkim) touches each peak of the Eastern Himalayas from Mount Narsing to Kanchendzonga. As the hills come alive with the golden light of a new morning, I realise I have been holding my breath at the heart-breaking beauty. That, my friends, is a view to die for.

How to get there

The resort is accessible by road. It is 65 km from Gangtok and 126 km from Siliguri.



Tariff

It costs Rs. 2,200 for a super deluxe cottage for a night. Meals are extra. For further information and reservations contact Yuksom Tours and Treks, Borong House, Yalung Retreat, Below Hotel Rendevouz, Gangtok, Sikkim. Call 03592-226822, fax 03592 202766, or email: mtnarsing@gmail.com. Log on to www.yuksom-tours.com

Things to do

If you are the sight seeing type, there is plenty to see in south Sikkim from the Mane Chokerling monastery to the Temi tea estate, the bio-diversity park, the Bermelli Falls in Borong, the Rangit Dam site, the sacred caves of Lho Khandesangphug and the towering statue of Guru Padmasambhava at Samdruptse. You could also just hang out and commune with the mountains as Nature puts up a stunning sound and light show.

Source: The Hindu

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Eco Habitat - Kodagu



ECO HABITAT

GUDDEHOSUR POST, KODAGU

USP: Green and quiet

What is it about Madikeri and rain? Somehow, each time I have ventured in that direction, there has been a downpour: the kind that soaks body and soul. Madikeri rain reminds you of Malnad and its incessant, steady soaker. This time as well, on my way to Eco Habitat, a Mahindra Homestay on the road to Dubare, the rains welcomed. The lovely rain, the lush green environs of Eco Habitat promised a treat.



Somshekar, the young owner of the homestay, gave up his job in the BPO sector and decided to become an agriculturist. He now grows spices, bananas, vegetables among other things, and organically at that. There are cows and a pony, and a walk around his house will give you the complete farm experience. Eventually, as an extension of his back-to-Nature enterprise, Somshekar built two cottages to give the city-worn a home-stay experience.

The biggest advantage of Eco Habitat is its location. Every place worth a visit is easily accessible. If you don't want to do the usual touristy visits, then you can just cross the road and head towards the river rafting and fishing camp that is hardly five minutes away. Somshekar, who knows the place well, takes you to undiscovered locations. Early in the morning, he drove us into the forests, and in its still silence, the occasional cry of peacocks was exhilarating. If you are lucky, you may even spot elephants crossing the road. You can go trekking in the Brahmagiri ranges, visit the Chiklihole reservoir, the Harangi dam, the backwaters of Harangi and excellent bird-watching locations.




Feel like a microlite tour and paragliding; it can be arranged. The Golden Temple in Bylukuppe is a half-an-hour drive and at the Dubare Elephant camp you can bathe the elephants, watch them being fed or go on a jungle safari.

The cottages are comfortable and come with private pools. All meals (of your choice) are served in your room. There is the essential Kannadiga fare, mild and comfortable, and Chinese food; however, if you are looking for a typical Kodava spread, you may not find it here.

Eco Habitat's work extends to visiting nearby villages and spreading information on preserving bio-diversity. Eco Habitat is not merely a slogan, but a way of life.



As I left, wondering when I could go back, it started pouring…

How to get there

Take the Mysore Road. After Srirangapatna, take a right towards Hunsur. Cross Hunsur town and at the Y junction, take the road that leads you to Kushalnagar. Gudde Hosur junction is three km from here. Take the left and travel another three km; Eco Habitat is located on the right.

Tariff


There are two cottages available, at Rs. 4,500 for a couple. The package includes breakfast. An extra bed costs Rs. 900, a vegetarian meal, Rs. 125 and a non-vegetarian meal, Rs. 175. For details, call 1800-4252737 (toll-free, Monday to Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.) or visit www.mahindrahomestays.com


Things to do

The renowned Golden temple of the Tibetan settlement of Bylakuppe is a half-an-hour drive away and a must-see. Step out of the temple and indulge in piping hot momos and tea.

Walk down to the Tibetan shopping complex opposite the temple for lovely silver jewellery, curios, woollen shawls and other knickknacks.

Go for long languorous walks around the vanilla and coconut plantations.

Source: The Hindu



Lilly's Valley Resort - Kodaikanal



LILLY'S VALLEY RESORT

KODAIKANAL

USP: In Nature's midst




This resort is all about terraced gardens, forest, blooming flowers and cottages with a touch of warmth! I am the first guest to the newest suite of Raj A. Sukumar's resort that boasts wooden flooring, mirrors on the walls and a big disco light on the roof.

I wake up early and take a walk around the impressive estate, where greenery alternates with neatly-arranged flowerbeds in all hues. Later, a simple but tasty breakfast of poori-masala and idli sambar awaits me in the open-air dining area.

Sukumar's charming American wife Nina joins me.



It was during a visit in 1979 that Sukumar, who holds a Canadian citizenship, spotted this place, and fell in love with it. Then, it only had a cottage built in 1901, and a natural spring. Sukumar retained both, and added to them. Now, there are 20 independent cottages divided into suites and deluxe and standard rooms, accommodating couples, small and large families, student groups (dormitory) and corporate groups.

The kitchen provides a made-to-order menu for guests.

How to get there

The resort is 120 km from Madurai. Located in a quiet suburb, the property is roughly two km from the main town. One needs to go on the Sivanadi Road, past Hotel Tamil Nadu.

Tariff

Ranges from Rs. 1,950 to Rs. 5,950 depending on the room size, and number of people. For reservations, call 04542-244307/240558/241558/241798.


Things to do

Revel in the glorious weather and take long walks inside or around the property. The green cover all around, including the three acres of terraced gardens, is refreshing.

Shop, watch birds, boat on Kodai Lake, and go horse riding, roller skating or biking.

Check out the regular tourist spots, or stay indoors and catch up with your reading.
Source: The Hindu



The Park on Vembanand Lake - Alappuzha




THE PARK ON VEMBANAD LAKE AND APSARA, THE CRUISER PUTHENANGADI, ALAPPUZHA DISTRICT

USP: Ethnic plush



It's not a houseboat, it's not a ship. And, it's not a yacht either. Apsara is a floating boutique hotel that has a ‘docking station' — a lovely resort called The Park On Vembanad Lake, in Puthenangadi, Alappuzha District.

Ethnic and eco-friendly, the pathways and gardens of The Park On Vembanad Lake are chic. Some of the smaller granite boulders along the pathways are camouflaged speakers, and soft music emerges from them.



Apsara cabin
Stretching ahead are sheets of water, with a fisherman or two trying their luck with nets in catamarans. Woven dry coconut palm fronds adorn the roofs (there are pucca ceilings beneath) of the 10 Wi-Fi enabled luxury rooms, all of which face the lake, adding an ethnic touch.

Each room's interiors are custom-designed and the accessories are colour-coordinated. Hyacinth, the restaurant, provides local flavour as well as Continental fare. White tents house the spas.

But, we head straight to Apsara, and board the cruiser. Apsara houses eight cabins on two decks — two below and six above. The cabins are plush, furnished in leather, silk and cotton, and boast LCD TVs, books, films, beds, study tables, etc.



After a recce of the cabins upstairs, we enter the restaurant. Only then do we realise that the cruiser has long left the banks, and that we've been sailing. We take in the breeze on the deck, before tucking into a Kerala buffet, complete with Aleppey fish curry and a very original jackfruit dessert, with the fruit smeared with chilli flakes and salt.

And, then, it's time to succumb to the call of the breeze that lulls you into a siesta.

* * *
Tariff

The Park on Vembanad Lake

Deluxe Lake View rooms: Rs. 12,000; Luxury Lake View rooms: Rs. 14,500; Vembanad rooms: Rs. 17,000; and Vembanad suite: Rs. 19,500 (May 1 to August 31)

From September 1 to 30, the rates are Rs. 15,000, Rs. 17,500, Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 22,500, respectively.

The Apsara cruiser

Single occupancy: Rs. 90,000 and Double occupancy: Rs. 99,000. These rates are for a ‘3 nights/4 days' sailing on APAI basis, inclusive of two-way airport transfers, all meals, daily cruising, sightseeing, and all taxes.

Things to do

Watch the lake from your room

Indulge in an Ayurvedic massage at the spa

Dine at Vallom, the restaurant at Park on Vembanad Lake, while enjoying a live performance

Buy the local produce at Apsara, and watch a demo of how baskets and other eco-friendly products are made by the neighbourhood women

Take a refreshing swim in the pool. Read a book in the balcony, watch the fishermen go by or lounge on Apsara's deck

Source: The Hindu




Winter Greens Eco-Resort - Chikmagalur





WINTER GREENS ECO-RESORT

CHIKMAGALUR

USP: Far from the madding crowd

A hanging bridge welcomes you to the plantation on this man-made island. And, tucked away amid mango trees, coconut palms, silver oak trees and a variety of plants are 10 wooden cottages. That's Winter Greens Eco-Resort for you.

Set up three-and-a-half years ago by Ramesh Arun, who gave up a career in the aviation sector abroad, the resort promises a taste of leisure in a farmhouse.

Fascinatingly, nestled on the foothills of the Western Ghats, the island gets surrounded by water from a nearby lake during the rainy season.

The Texan-style cottages are made from locally-sourced wood and other eco-friendly material. They flaunt terracotta tile flooring and minimalist interior design. Comfortingly, none of the cottages has air-conditioners or television sets. As Ramesh points out: “The weather here remains pleasant for most part of the year — people come here to unwind, and we do not want them confined to their rooms, watching television.”

The rural touch of the cottages continues to the dining area too, complete with weathered wooden tables. The boardroom-style design lends the place a sense of vastness. And, they've permitted a television set here!



And, now for the food. Though there's a set vegetarian and non-vegetarian buffet for lunch and dinner, the chef can tweak the menu as per your request. But the most interesting part is, you can don the chef's hat and churn out your favourite dish!

Apart from the wooden cottages, there is a dormitory too.

Ramesh says if a huge group visits the resort, it can request to have the entire resort to itself — no other guests will be entertained during the stay.

How to get there

Winter Greens is located off Kadur Road, 10 km from Chikmagalur town

Tariff

Rs. 1,850 per person per day on a triple-sharing basis; Rs. 2,050 per person per day on a double-sharing basis; and Rs. 2,500 per day for single occupancy. Includes all meals. For details, call 08262-220869, e-mail: info@wintergreens.in or visit www.wintergreens.in

Things to do

Take a walk in the lush plantation, soak in the smell of rain, watch birds, catch up with your reading (a library is coming up in the resort), indulge in group activities, games or corporate meetings.

Explore the rolling hills of the Western Ghats. Located within a few hours' drive from the resort is the scenic Kemmangundi, Bababudangiri, Mullayanagiri (the highest peak in Karnataka), and Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary.

Hebbe and Kallathigiri waterfalls are in their full glory during the monsoon.

Source: The Hindu



The Oberoi Udaivilas - Udaipur




THE OBEROI UDAIVILAS

UDAIPUR

USP: Past blends with present in aesthetic bliss

Udaipur is conspicuous for the number of old stone temples dotting the landscape. With the monsoon washing over it, greening the Aravalli hills surrounding this historical capital of the Mewars, you feel as if you are entering one of the miniature paintings of the Mewar school, a medium through which the history of this feisty dynasty has been recorded over centuries. The city draws tourists from across the world and boasts some of the finest five-star hotels of the country. Here, overlooking Lake Pichola, sits The Oberoi Udaivilas. Majestic yet friendly, opulent yet unostentatious, the resort blends so well with the environment that you have to remind yourself it is not an actual palace converted to a hotel, but a relatively new construction built by The Oberoi Resorts and Hotels in 2002.

The domes, archways and jali work, the long corridors with wooden doorways opening out at intervals, and, above all, the soothing ochre and white colouring of the building, all contribute to the feeling that this is a building from the history books. But Udaivilas is a resort for today's traveller. Heritage art meet contemporary luxury in an aesthetic blend. No wonder Udaivilas has been ranked 15th in the world's best hotels according to Travel + Leisure's World's Best Awards 2010 readers' survey.


Leased from the royal family of the Mewars, whose current representative is Arvind Singh, the grounds cover 50 acres, of which only 20 acres are built up. The land being undulating, the resort is built on three levels, but at no point is a highrise. If the building itself is beautiful, the grounds take your breath away. Peacocks, wild boar, deer and other creatures, once there for the sport of the Maharaja — who came to hunt and watch fights between a wild boar and a tiger, or an elephant, from the safety of the only structure on the grounds that pre-dates the resort — are now part of Udaivilas' animal sanctuary.

I wander about the gardens, through rambling open corridors and shallow staircases. The sound of water gurgling is everywhere. If the mustard coloured domes against a changing monsoon sky and the greenery all around are balm for the eyes, the pools of water constantly murmuring bring calm to the soul.



Well, you can't spend all your time outside. There are rooms and suites to choose from. Suites have their own private pool, while the lake-view rooms that look out on Lake Pichola share a common pool. Some are attached to private courtyards where you can have a moonlight dinner. Open the door onto your private outdoor space, and birdsong greets you with a cheer unparalleled by any music. Whether visiting alone or in a group, Udaivilas promises the unmatched comfort of nature's lap.

How to get there

Udaipur is accessible by road, rail and air routes.

The best part of visiting Udaivilas during the monsoon is the possibility of a boat ride right from the airport to the hotel's private jetty.

For tariffs and packages visit www.oberoihotels.com

Things to do

Try the complimentary yoga lessons offered at the resort.

Heal yourself at the spa with its treatments that take a fusion approach to Ayurveda, Thai, and other wellness techniques.

Go boating on Lake Pichola.

Visit the City Palace Museum, where the history of the Mewars and especially of the legendary Maharana Pratap is told through paintings.

Visit the old markets of the city.

Source: The Hindu




Ayursowkhyam Resort Chalakudy



KANDAMKULATHY AYURSOWKHYAM RESORT

CHALAKUDY

USP: Rejuvenate and rejoice

The little village of Thumboormuzhy is the kind of place where kids play cricket on the road, dogs lounge undisturbed, and buffaloes and egrets hold long conversations. We pass by that and drive down a road where rubber trees flank the road, to reach Kandamkulathy Ayursowkhyam resort on the banks of the Chalakudy river. The silence here is only punctuated by the gurgling river. This is ‘God's own country' — pristine, untouched and refreshing. The day we reach Ayursowkhyam, it's hot and humid. The skies threaten to open up, and we really don't mind because this is the kind of place that would be beautiful when it rains. Rows of regular garden plants are punctuated by herbs and the air smells clean. The resort has premium villas, deluxe villas, standard villas, deluxe rooms and standard rooms.


The resort has a wonderful waterfront. A few steps lead us to the river, flanked by rocks. If you feel like dinner under the stars, this is the place to be in.

If you feel like pampering yourself with some Ayurvedic treatments, there is a treatment room with a doctor on call. You can put up your feet and relax, watch the river flow by, or just revel in the lap of Nature.



How to get there

The resort is 35 km from Cochin International Airport and 65 km from Kochi. It is on the Chalakudy-Athirapally route. Turn right at the junction after Dreamworld water theme park to reach the resort.

Things to do

You can visit Athirapally waterfalls, Vazhachal, Sholayar dam and forest and Guruvayoor temple.

Tariff

The charges are for one day and include breakfast.

A premium villa costs Rs. 4,200, deluxe villa costs Rs.3,500, a standard villa costs Rs. 3,000.

The A/C deluxe room costs Rs. 2, 200 and the non-A/c standard room costs Rs.1,750.

Call 0480-2746580 for details, or look up www.ayurresort.com

Source: The Hindu




CALM BALM Srishty Garden Resorts - Tenkasi




SRISHTY GARDEN RESORTS

OLD COURTALLAM, AYIRAPERI, TENKASI

USP: Truly for Nature lovers

When you are feeling the heat and want to get away from the maddening city rush, head to this place deep in the wilderness. The resort is less than a kilometre from the old Courtallam Falls, with the picturesque Thirukootamalai in the background.

Silence and solitude are guaranteed here. You'll love inhaling the mountain air, strolling down winding paths, marvelling at the profusion of colourful blooms and listening to birdsong.

At the resort, luxury blends with tradition. It has four individual cottages, deluxe and suite rooms, all designed in the Mediterranean style. The well-appointed rooms have large balconies with garden views while the cottages have sit-outs enveloped in greenery. All rooms are equipped with basic modern facilities. The kitchen offers customised simple food.

The picturesque setting of the property works as a balm on your fatigued mind and body. The cloud-capped spurs of the Western Ghats lend an enchanting ambience.
Unless you want to catch up on your reading and writing or simply want to laze around, the only activity here is to walk up to the old falls, a trek of 1.5 km. The cool breeze that wafts along, and the intermittent drizzle make it an experience to cherish.

How to get there

It is 160 km from Madurai, 55 km from Tirunelveli and 137 km from Kanyakumari. From Tenkasi town (which is 7 km from the resort), take the Old Courtallam Road. Go up to Ayiraperi and take a turn on seeing the nameboard of the resort on the main road.


Tariff

Deluxe Cottages (four) Rs. 2,500; Suites (six) Rs.1,500; Double Rooms (11): Rs.1,200. Non A/C Double Rooms (10): Rs. 800. An extra bed costs Rs.150. For details call 9443120960, 04633-220960

Things to do

Visit the main Courtallam falls besides five more — Five falls, Tiger falls, Chembakadevi falls, Honey falls, and New falls.

Or, visit Tenkasi town and take in its old world charm. Visit the Kasi Viswanathar temple.

If you are a wildlife lover, you could visit the Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve after seeking permission.

Take a dip at Papanasam or Ambasamudram.

Or connect with your self through the spa, yoga and meditation at the resort.

Source: The Hindu




Scintillating Sikkim



Out and about Take in the mesmerising Khangchendzonga, the celebrated monasteries, and everything else East Sikkim has to offer


“Khangchendzonga”or Kanchenjunga, the radiant one. Golden when the rays of the sun fall on her. We could have spent our entire holiday just gazing at her mesmerising form, now visible, now lost in the gossamer draperies of mist. Like most tourists, we make it a point to pull ourselves out of bed at dawn to gaze at these snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas.

The flight from Kolkata to Bagdogra takes an hour. And from there, we climb up to Gangtok, a five-hour drive, passing by the town of Siliguri on the banks of the Mahananda, and the beautiful terracotta ware in the wayside stalls at Matigara. Tall and slender trees line the route. The Sun throws patterns of light through the trees. The river Teesta gurgles over rocks and boulders, and we can sight her as we journey up the hills.

Along the way, we treat ourselves to freshly-plucked corn roasted on coals and dusted with chilli, salt and lime. Luscious litchis, complete with twigs and leaves, are carried by vendors in baskets, giving us a taste of this fruit-rich State.

Monkeys clamber on parapet walls on the roadside. Across the bridge and the check post, and it is “Welcome to Sikkim.”

At Rangpo, the entry point, we stop at the guest house with its white Pomeranian mascot. Beautiful pictures of Nehru and Indira Gandhi with the late Chogyal and his family line the walls. Sikkim, an erstwhile monarchy, became part of the Indian Union in 1975.

The call of the lights

It is almost dark when we arrive at Gangtok. The hillside is flecked with lights, and our first impression of the capital of Sikkim is of a sloping sky filled with stars. Next morning, we are off to see the sights.

Tourism is a priority in the hills, and at the Bhanjhakri Falls, the Shamans, the tribal medicine men and women, are showcased. There are images and masks to represent them at the park. Tourists preen in the beautiful native dress of the Bhutia community and take photographs. The majority of the Sikkimese are Hindus or Buddhists.



The romantic Silk Route lures us the following day, and we are on our way to the Nathu La (Pass) on the Indo-China border. It is a perilous climb, and the heart operates its own traffic lights each time we look down — coming to an almost complete stop at the red light of the bends where there is often a sheer drop of a thousand feet. One can't help saluting the skill of jeep drivers who make these trips so many times a week during the season.

Mountain streams eagerly rush to meet the Teesta far below. We come to the sacred Lake Tsomgo, a placid grey green now, but an icy sheet of white in winter. There are gaily-decorated yaks with scarlet saddle cloths and brightly-coloured woven threads covering their horns. The animals walk along with “Am-I-not-looking-ever-so-dainty” expressions while tourists snap their pictures or take a ride. Higher, and we come to the mountain beyond which, we are told, lies China.

We reach the spot where a memorial has been erected for Harbhajan Singh, a sepoy who went missing while patrolling the border. It is now a shrine for those praying for the recovery of loved ones who are ailing.

At the Rumtek monastery the next day, we are in for a lovely surprise. The balconies are filled with devotees and viewers. In the impressive courtyard, the annual Chaam dance is in progress. The performing monks wear brocade robes and colourful masks, and in a slow, stately rhythm, twirl around while the red clad monk-musicians play on pipes and other musical instruments.

We feel we can stay here forever, so hypnotic and calming is the dance. But time is short and we make our way to the 200-year-old Enchey monastery and the Namgyal Institute of Tibetology set up by the late Chogyal, which has an interesting collection of Tibetan literature and artefacts.

In the evening, a short stroll on the Mahatma Gandhi Marg in Gangtok offers a blissful, undisturbed shopping experience, as it is completely closed to traffic.

The price of development is visible in Sikkim as in all hill stations, with too many multi-storeyed structures clustered together.



Sikkim's handicrafts are on display at the State emporium. The dragon-patterned, small tables in scarlet and blue make one pause, but the panic stricken “How do we transport them?” cry from the family reluctantly makes one turn aside.

East Sikkim is all we can manage in four days. There is so much of the State left unexplored. Flowers grow in abundance here and the rhododendron festival is a highlight of the calendar. Sikkim is an adventure lover's delight with the scope for rafting and trekking. But that is for “braver souls”, we add sotto voce.

Even our farewell is sweet as we bite into rich plums bought at the wayside stalls of the local market on our way down. And, sold by local girls whose peaches and cream complexion seem to bounce off the fruit in their baskets.

Source: The Hindu



Ooty - Glyngarth Villa



GLYNGARTH VILLA

GOLF CLUB ROAD, udhagamandalam

USP: Old-world charm

You travel once till the queen of hill stations, and then once again, back in time, when you drive into Glyngarth Villa. Everything about it, from the creaky wooden gate, the picket fences, and the stone-and-wood open bar set in the lush lawns to the turrets that aspire to reach up to the sky gently murmur heritage. This heritage homestay wears its age proudly on its sleeve.

After all, it's not often that you get to stay in a house built in 1852 (by Sir Walter Mounde), one in which countless British officers and their families lived and made home. Many dignitaries, including Jawaharlal Nehru, have graced its majestic rooms.

And then, you walk in past a profusion of flowers and a lush vine that clings to the portico, which also shelters a 1952 Hillman. The best thing about Glyngarth is its lack of pretension. The villa is imposing from the outside, but inside, the blazing fire in the hearth, and the warmth of the staff gently prompts you to just chill and take in the history-rich ambience of the house.


The cosy living room with furniture that reminds you of the Raj, the stately dining room with a table that can seat a twosome, a family or a group bonding in the hills, the polished wooden staircase that leads up to four of the five rooms, all named after trees (Pine, Beech, Oak, Maple and Wattle), the paintings and old advertisements that line the passage to the first floor, and the kitchen from where emerge steaming bowls of fragrant soups, golden-brown bakes flecked with garden-fresh garnish, and other Continental delights…there's so much to take in, but at your pace.

There's lots to do in Ooty for a first-time visitor. But, if you're just there to relax, sit by one of the expansive windows and catch life in slow motion. There's a lone cow walking down the winding hill road, the resident geese are busy raising a cackle even while coaxing out worms from the earth, still soft from last evening's drizzle, and the dogs play catch on the newly-laid lawn.


Or, take a brisk walk around the grounds, home to over 300 cypress, oak and eucalyptus trees. Else, grab a book from the in-house library, flip into the hammock strung between two strong trees, and surrender to the silence.

Before you know it, a day has passed. It's time to nurse a hot cuppa sitting on one of the pristine white garden chairs, overlooking the valley below, even as night slowly comes alive in the hills.

Then, keyboardist Kumar comes along, and you can either swing a leg to his tunes or sit in mellow silence taking in the glowing amber of the fireplace. Or, head to the open bar and barbeque pit and share tales in the nippy air. A candle-lit dinner later, you know all's well with the world.

Things to do

Go fishing, visit Sixth Mile, a scenic place nearby, head to the Ootacamund Hunt Club, the only such club in Asia, or golf at the Ootacamund Gymkhana Club, with which the villa has a tie-up.

You can also trek or go horse-riding.


Tariff (Modified American Plan)

(Off-season) Heritage Room Rs. 3,450, Heritage Suite Rs. 4,250

Season: Heritage Room Rs. 3,975; Heritage Suite: Rs. 4850 (inclusive of taxes)

For details, call 0423-2445754, 2445115, 98435-70095 or 98430-70095, visit www.glyngarthvilla.com or mail glyngarth@rediffmail.com

How to get there

Glyngarth Villa is 91 km from Coimbatore, 130 km from Mysore and 260 km from Bengaluru. The nearest airport is Coimbatore. Drive up to Ooty, take the Mysore road, and take the road forking to the Ootacamund Gymkhana Club.


Source: The Hindu





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