THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA IN GULMARG, KASHMIR IS THE ULTIMATE LUXURY EXPERIENCE.

IMG_7896
The snow flecked Grand Exterior of luxurious The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir

THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA in Gulmarg, Kashmir has been one of my most luxurious stay with an unparallel view of snow clad mountains. I arrived in the second week of April which made Gulmarg a perfect snow destination. We passed through magical roads, the either sides of which were covered with snow. Fresh snow broke loose on the landscape of Gulmarg few days prior to our arrival. This was the second time I was seeing so much snow after the Roopkund trek and my visit to Rohtang Pass with parents.

IMG_7371
Snow everywhere in the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa in Gulmarg, Kashmir

As I arrived at The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa in Gulmarg, Kashmir I was impressed with its grand entry. We were ushered into Chaikash for snacks, kahwa (Local Kashmiri Tea) and of course hot towels. The welcome drink kahwa was so good that within few minutes of my arrival I had decided that I will be drinking their kahwa every day during my 3 days stay. Here is my review of The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa Gulmarg, Kashmir.

IMG_7383
The grand lobby of the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir

THE ROOM OF THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

I stayed in the Khyber resort’s Luxury Balcony Room with Himalayan view. The moment I entered my room (Number 1015) at The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, what struck me the most was the sheer size of everything. Be it the size of room or bed or the mirror next to it, the size of washroom or the huge balcony, everything was grand. The large bed was soft and comfortable and decorated with assorted pillows. A pillow menu was also offered as part of the turn down service.  The many lighting options helped me alter the lights as per my mood.

IMG_7387
The Luxury Balcony Room with Himalayan View. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir

I never switch on TV whether I am traveling or not. And if the property is so gorgeous I would rather spend time enjoying the property than waste time on TV. That said, the TV installed in the room had huge screen and an added advantage for those who like to catch up on their favourite shows during travel. My favourite part of the room though was the foldable writing table fashioned out of wood from walnut tree. Every day, I would spend 2 hours (7 a.m. to 9 a.m.) writing my travel pieces in this place in absolute peace. I would keep the balcony open while writing to ensure that the fresh air and the chirpings of birds kept me inspired. The complimentary kiwis, apples and bananas kept me fuelled before I hit the buffet breakfast at 9:30 a.m. every day. The room was also stocked with crisp and delicious cookies. I am not a cookie person but I couldn’t help but devour all the delicious cookies during my stay. Cold Drinks and high quality nuts and chocolates were also stocked in the room.

IMG_7405
My luxurious bath tub with a view of snow clad mountains. Where else but in The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

 

THE WASH- ROOM OF THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

The first thing that attracted my attention was not the room but the huge bathtub and the large balcony. But then that is what I check out the first thing in any hotel. As I entered the spacious dressing room and moved towards the washroom area, I was delighted to see the bathtub with a view of snow clad mountains. The bath tub was big enough for 2 people. Every morning, I used to lie down in the warm water, gazing at the white beauty dotted with conifers from the window. The washroom was well compartmentalized into W.C area/ shower area/ Bathtub/ wash basin and dressing room. The well lighted dressing room had big storage space to keep suitcase, making it easy for me to retrieve anything. There was ample wardrobe in the dressing room. The slipper provided was soft and warm. The toiletries stocked in the washroom were fragrant and of high quality.

IMG_7930
My balcony at the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir. Yes, its all snow. Bollywood Film Actress DEEPIKA PADUKONE stayed in the adjacent room.

THE BALCONY OF THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

The balcony in the rooms of Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa needs a special mention. The views from here are so breathtaking that it makes the resort a destination in itself. I would sit here gazing at nothing but vast swathes of snow laden mountains with neatly arranged conifers. Small colorful huts in a distance would make it all the more picturesque. The size of the balcony made it a perfect place to chat with my friends who were staying in the other rooms. During my first night, as soon as I entered the balcony, I was so impressed with the view that I called up my friends in the other room and asked, “Have you checked the view from balcony in the night?” Beautiful lamps had lit the entire resort. The full moon made the white mountains look like silver cones. The entire setting was too gorgeous to describe in words. For a moment I thought if it’s for real. Having travelled to 150 destinations across India since 2008, I am still excited about travel because it still doesn’t fail to surprise me.

IMG_7432
View of snow clad mountains from the swimming pool. At the luxury property- The Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

 

THE L’OCCITANE SPA AND THE SWIMMING POOL AT THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

The L’occitane spa at Khyber Resort turned out to be a pleasant experience. I had availed leg massage on the second day because it claimed to be ‘the best option for travelers’.  I loved the massage but somehow it left me craving for a full body massage. No wonder, on the third day, I opted for the Revitalizing Aromachologie Massage by L’occitane spa on recommendation by the personnel at the reception. The massage was a perfect combo of Swedish strokes, Balinese massage techniques and Chinese acupressure. The soothing music, dim lights helped me relive tension and lose myself in an hour of de-stressing  session. The essential oils like Tea Tree, Lavender etc helped me relax. The massage session calmed both my overactive mind and body. It also induced sleep in me. Though I didn’t swim but I spent good amount of time just admiring the views from the swimming pool of Khyber Resort.

IMG_7438
The Bath tub and the couple massage room with a view of snow clad mountains. Managed by L’occitane Spa at the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

RESTAURANTS AT THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR.

Chaikash at Khyber resorts: It was a casual dining space which has the best views of the Khyber resort covered in snow. We always hogged the window seat for our leisurely conversations over almond rich and aromatic kahwa , the local Kashmiri tea. I sampled assorted fritters, many pastries and cheese chilly toast (My favorite) in snacks. Just opposite it is a cozy sit out area on the floor. We spent much of our time sitting here cross legged.

IMG_7523
Kashmiri Wazwan Platter. Includes Doon Chetin (Walnut Chutney), Nadur Yakhini (Lotus Stem curry), Muji Chatin (Radish Chutney), Dum Aaloo (Potatoes curry), Haak Saag, Rajma, Hara Bhara Kebab etc. It was served in a traditional Tarami platter in Kashmiri style. At Cloves restaurant. The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir. Luxury at its best. Incredible India!

Cloves at Khyber Resort: The lively restaurant is the largest F & B outlet in Khyber resort. It is open for both buffet and a la carte. Of the 3 breakfast buffets I enjoyed here, my favourites were South Indian delicacies like masala dosa, idli and vada. I stuck to these because it was filling without compromising on my health. Poha and Upma were my other favourites.  The fresh juices (Cucumber, carrot etc) kept me refreshed. On one of the lunches we were served Wazwan platter. The sheer variety offered to me was overwhelming. A big plate of steamed rice was served with doon chetin (walnut Chutney), Nadur Yakhini (Lotus stem in white sauce), Muji Chatin (Radish chutney), cottage cheese (paneer) in rich tomato gravy, dum aaloo (Whole potatoes in rich gravy), onion salad, haak saag (local green leafy vegetable), Rajma (Curried Kidney beans) and hara bhara kebab (With an innovative flaky crust). It was followed by a saffron rich Firni, a sweet dish par excellence. Needless to say, it was one of my most royal lunches. The vegetarian Wazwan was served in a beautiful tarami (meaning large plate)

The buffet menu was just as varied and rich. My favourite picks were: the exceptional kadhi-rice, mushroom do pyaza, assorted salads and mezze platters (Hummus, tabbouleh, baba ganoush served with pita bread) Desserts comprised of a variety of cakes, mousse, cut fruits and Indian sweets.

Note: I did not avail any service at the other F & B outlets Nouf and Calabash but they sure looked like a refined experience.

IMG_7923
The Cloves restaurant. At the luxury property- The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

THE FRIENDLY STAFF OF THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR:

I reiterate, it is rare to find charming and genuinely warm staff at most luxury properties. Movenpick resort in Aqaba, Jordan was the last time I was impressed with the staff. Likewise, the staff of Khyber Resort exudes warmth, attentiveness, courtesy and a natural zeal to serve. Each of the staff members left a lasting impression on me. Whatever I demanded was presented to me within minutes, as if by magic. The staff spent quality time with me explaining the local dishes, crafts, culture etc. All my needs were taken care of with a big genuine smile.  Many of the staff is locally hired talent who stay near property.

THE CELEBRITIES WHO STAYED AT THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR:

I was told that Bollywood superstar Deepika Padukone stayed in a room adjacent to the room I was staying in. Other celebrities such as the Ambanis, Adanis, Raj Thakrey and Bollywood personalities like Saif Ali Khan and Sunny Leone had stayed in Khyber resorts.

IMG_7943
I stayed in one of these rooms facing snow flecked mountains. Luxury Balcony Room with Himalayan View. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

HOW TO REACH THE KHYBER HIMALAYAN RESORT AND SPA, GULMARG, KASHMIR?

Khyber Resorts is just 50 kms away from Srinagar. It took us around 1 hours and 15 minutes to reach Khyber resorts by cab from Srinagar airport. Khyber Resorts is located in the heart of Gulmarg. It is walking distance from the famous Gondola ride in Gulmarg. It is also nearby major attractions of Gulmarg.

IMG_7404
The beautifully lit resort bathed in full moon night was ethereal. This picture is a big injustice to the real thing. View from Luxury Balcony Room with Himalayan View. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

THE BOTTOMLINE

I found The Khyber Himalayan Resort and Spa, Gulmarg (Kashmir) to be an unparallel experience. I was told most of their guests are repeat customers and word of mouth customers. It has rooms which suit the budget of different travelers. The entire property is done up stylishly using the local elements. The wooden khatamband ceiling is made up of small pieces of Deodar fashioned in geometrical pattern. Wagu mats are creatively used as curtains of windows of L’occitane spa. Wagu mats, the native Kashmiri mats are made up of dried straw. Deodar wood is used in the construction of the hotel as it can withstand water and snow. Kashmiri style windows or jharoka, locally called dab is incorporated in the design of lobby. It reminded me of a real Kashmiri house I saw during the Heritage Walk in the Leh City.

I should sum it up with this: Every time I mention Khyber to people, their eyes light up. It is a dream for many. It is a habit for many.

The View From My #SoulWindow Is Classy!

Related Blogs:

Stories of Kashmiri Migrants in Leh, Ladakh

IMG_7508
View from my Luxury Balcony Room With Himalayan View. The Building on extreme right houses swimming pool and the L’occitane Spa. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort And Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir. Incredible India indeed!

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration: abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

IMG_7874
Ever sweated it out at a more scenic location? The Gymnasium with views of snow laden luxury resort. At The Khyber Himalayan Resort And Spa, Gulmarg, Kashmir.

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

INCREDIBLE INDIA: 10 BUDGET FRIENDLY & FREE THINGS TO DO IN GANGTOK, SIKKIM WITH FAMILY

Recently Mr. Mahesh Semwal,  a travel blogger friend asked me about things to see in Gangtok. It reminded me that I have yet not written about my experience of traveling with family to Gangtok. What also makes Gangtok a family destination is the fact that it is cheap to visit Gangtok as most things to do in Gangtok are free. Mr. Mahesh himself enjoys travelling with family and I thought it would be best if I finally write about my travel to Gangtok with my parents.

Me and my parents booked a car from the Gangtok bus stop for the entire day. Here is how to see the best of Gangtok with family in 8 hours. I am writing down the exact time of our arrival at a particular point of interest.

IMG_3194

1) 1:25 p.m. – Do Drul Chorten, Gangtok:

Dense forest of birch trees, oak and magnolia hides the Do Drul Chorten. Do Drul Chorten is a stupa which dates back to 1945. Built by the Venerable Trulshi Rimpoche, head of the Nyingma order of Tibetan Buddhism, it is a calm place in the midst of a busy city. Devotees spin the 108 Mani Lhakor or prayer wheels around the stupa in a clockwise manner. Buddhists devotees chant aum mani padme hum meaning ‘Hail to the jewel in the Lotus’ while spinning the wheel. One must watch out for Chorten Lakhang and Guru Lakhang, where two huge statues of Guru Rinpoche are worshipped. You need to ask around or locate the downwards stairs which would lead you to the huge statues. (Photography in this section is not allowed) It is a place of worship and you must refrain from being noisy. Admission is free

IMG_3243
Traveling with my parents. Facing the museum at Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, Gangtok, Sikkim.

2) 1: 45 p.m. – Namgyal Institute of Tibetology Gangtok :

IMG_3254
Museum at Namgyal Institute Of Tibetology in Gangtok, Sikkim. It is near M G Marg, Gangtok and Do Drul Chorten.

Inaugrated in October, 1958 and built in traditional Tibetan architecture, its museum is surrounded by 2 tower like structures on either side. The maroon and white façade of the building complements the dense green cover of the campus. Child monks goof around as the dramatic background of bougainvillea blooms enhance their charm. The museum houses some interesting artefacts such as a variety of ancient thangkas (Buddhist painting and embroidery on cloth), Buddhist wares, ancient coins, rare statutes. It also houses a casket which contains the relics of Kasyapagotra and Madhyama, the two great Asokan missionaries. Ancient manuscripts (some even belonging to 11th century) in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Chinese and Lepcha also find home in the ground floor museum. My favourite though was the eerie tantric skull-cap bowls and trumpets made from human thigh bones. You may climb up for the library and the views. It is located in Deorali and is around 2 kilometers away from the main town. Namgyal Institute of Tibetology is walking distance from Do Drul Chorten.

 

 

IMG_3268
Deorali Bazar Ropeway Station, Gangtok, Sikkim

3) 2:15 p.m. – Deorali Bazar Ropeway Station Gangtok

 

Just 5 minutes drive/walk away from Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, one can take the ropeway and enjoy the sweeping views of Gangtok city. I did not take the ride because neither my parents nor I were interested in it. We moved ahead for the views of valley at a nearby view point.

 

IMG_3290
Viewing Point near Deorali Bazar Ropeway Station, Gangtok, Sikkim

4) 2: 22 p.m. – Viewing Point, Gangtok-

We instead chose to walk up to the View Point, few minutes away. The winding stairs lead to a viewing point from where one can enjoy the view of the lush green, mist laden mountains, tiny houses and terraced fields. The pathway is decorated with Tibetan prayer flags. We bought some snacks along the way such as boiled and spiced chick peas.   Since my parents are not as fit as me, they took a little longer to navigate the stairs. But it was still easily manageable and was senior citizen friendly. Admission is free.

 

IMG_3335
Hanuman Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim

5) 3:05 p.m. – Hanuman Tok

 

When I arrived at Hanuman Tok, an enterprising family was cooking momos and selling it from the rear of a van modified to double up as a shop. I bought 2 plates of vegetarian momos for  throw-away price and explored the Hanuman temple at Hanuman Tok. The temple is dedicated to Lord Hanuman, much revered God to Hindus, known to foreigners as the Monkey God. If you are lucky, you might get to view the Kanchenjunga range. 11 kms away from main Gangtok city, it is perched at a height of 7,200 ft. It is on located on a road near the Gangtok-Nathu la Highway. There is a gallery which shows important scenes from the Ramayana, the Hindu epic. There is also a famous shine of Sirdi Saibaba. It is senior citizen friendly. There are also benches for rest. I ring a bell, soak in the views and bid it adieu. Admission is free.

 

IMG_3414
Ganesh Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim. It is near Gangtok Zoo

6) 3:54 p.m. – Ganesh Tok, Gangtok:

 

We passed a gorgeous waterfall and arrived at Ganesh Tok. Located at an altitude of 6,500 ft on a gorgeous hilltop, it has a small temple dedicated to Lord Ganesha, known to foreigners as the Elephant God. It is near the tall TV tower and offers incredible views from a circular viewing gallery. On clear days, you can see Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, from Ganesh Tok.  Ignoring the gift and souvenir shop, the nearby zoo and the ‘Dress Like a Local’ Photo Booths, we headed to the cafeteria near the parking lot for a late lunch. The food is good and cheap. It is 6 kms away from the main city. Admission is free. It is just 4 kms away from Hanuman Tok.

 

IMG_3463
Deorali Orchid Sanctuary in Gangtok, Sikkim.

7) 5:05 p.m. – Deorali Orchid Sanctuary:

We arrived late here and the enclosed garden was closed. On my request, I was allowed to enter the indoor Orchid paradise. Located near Namgyal Institute of Tibetology, it houses over 200 species of orchids, including some rare ones. The bold colors and unusual shapes of flowers vied for my attention. The main blooming season is April to May, July to August and October to November. It offers different varieties in different seasons. Admission is free.

IMG_3501
Monk at Enchey Gonpa, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

8) 5:21 p.m. – Enchey Gonpa, Gangtok:

As I entered the quaint Enchey Gonpa monastery with my parents, the absolute silence was gently broken by Buddhist chanting from an individual young monk. His was the only sound which reverberated through the conifer scented valleys. Intrigued, my slow paced walk soon turned into gallops. Soon the faint sound turned bolder as I followed the sound. In no time, my pace was slower than that of a snail-in-no-hurry, as soon as I was face to face with a child monk faithfully chanting his lessons for the evening alone. Few steps away from him a group of child monks were like regular kids, goofing around in their red robes while pretending to read their religious books. These kids alternated between serious education and goofing around at a monastery in Gangtok, Sikkim. Despite a strict routine, the kids had retained their ‘kidness’. They hit gently at each other and cracked jokes on each other between recitals of the holy text.

IMG_3528
Little Monks at Enchey Gonpa, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

The 200 year old Enchey Gonpa aka Buddhist monastery is set in a lonely place. No wonder Enchey Gonpa’s literal meaning is ‘the solitary temple’. We were the only tourists there. It is 3 kms away from the main Gangtok city. If you are traveling to Gangtok in the month of January and February, don’t forget to catch the live Chaam aka Mask dance performed on the 18th, 19th day of the 12th lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. It is home to the monks of the Nyingma sect of Vajrayana Buddhism. Do check out the colorful windows. Admission is free.

IMG_3608
My parents chilling on a bench in M.G.Marg Market, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

9) 6:00 p.m. – MG Marg Market, Gangtok:

MG Marg Market is located centrally in the heart of the Gangtok City. It was near our hotel, so it made sense to end the day in the vibrant markets of M.G. Marg. Visiting it during night made the experience all the more charming. It reminded me of the Leh market in Ladakh. Though M G Marg market is much bigger in scale than the Leh market but it resembled the look and feel. Also, both the markets are a no vehicle zone and are way too clean by Indian standards for a market as crowded as this. Despite the crowd, it is a pleasure to walk here due to the wide pathways. The open mall or boulevard square is lined with glittery shops, souvenir stores, grocery shops, fancy restaurants and even pharmacy shops. My parents checked out some outlets and shopped. Not a shopping fan, I utilized the time to stroll and fill my face with street food. It is a no smoking zone. Open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Restaurants are open for longer. Admission to M G Marg market is free.

IMG_3661
Gurudwara Sahib, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

10) 8:26 p.m. – Gurudwara Sahib, Gangtok:

Gangtok, like other hill stations of India sleep early. I anchored my parents at the hotel and enjoyed the view of the glittery city from the hotel balcony. After I ordered food for my parents, I moved out to get a closer look of the beautifully lit Gurudwara Sahib. Located near the Gangtok bus stand, it is a beautiful Gurudwara (Worship place of Sikhs). The architectural style is unique and it looks all the more beautiful when lit. I walked alone on the adjacent walk way, sometimes looking at the Gurudwara sometimes looking at the starry city in far distance. Personal moments like these are why I travel. The next morning we moved to Darjeeling.

IMG_3491
Traveling with parents at Enchey Gonpa, Gangtok, Sikkim.

IS GANGTOK A SENIOR CITIZEN FRIENDLY CITY?

I found Gangtok to be a perfect place to visit with my parents. My mother has health issues and is wary of climbing anything. However much of Gangtok requires easy climbing. Hiring a car for entire day is the best way to travel with senior citizen in Gangtok. Most things to do in Gangtok are near each other and don’t require much of climbing stairs. The weather is pleasant which further makes thing easier. Food of all variety is also easily available, so rigid eating habits of parents are also resolved.

IMG_3402
Bird’s eye view of Gangtok city and Sikkim TV Tower from Ganesh Tok. Incredible India!

IT IS VERY CHEAP TO SEE GANGTOK AS MOST THINGS TO DO IN GANGTOK ARE FREE

As I mentioned in the story above, admission to most of the things to do in Gangtok is free which makes Gangtok a perfect family destination to travel to. A good idea is to hire cheap sight-seeing cars on arrival.  The rates are reasonable. Hotels of all budgets are also available.

HOW TO REACH GANGTOK FROM SILIGURI (AFTER A WONDERFUL TRIP TO BHUTAN WITH FAMILY)

I had planned Gangtok after a wonderful trip to Bhutan with my parents. As soon as we arrived in Jaigaon, the small town at India – Bhutan border, we booked a cab to Gangtok. We started at 2 p.m. from Jaigaon and reached the Coronation Bridge aka Sevoke Bridge at 5:50 p.m. We stayed over in a hotel near Bus Stand in Siliguri for the night.  Completed in 1941, the coronation bridge commemorates the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937. It is also known as Baghpul aka Tiger Bridge due to the 2 lion statues at one end of the bridge. It is also known as Loha Pul because it is made up of metal. Travellers pass through this scenic bridge on their way to Gangtok, Siliguri, Bhutan and Darjeeling. There is also a viewing point near the coronation bridge.  However beware of the traffic jams in the rush hour and of stray monkeys at all hours.  Avoid carrying any eatable in the open.

IMG_3083
Coronation Bridge aka bagh pul aka Loha pul aka Sevoke Bridge. It is near Bhutan, Darjeeling, in West Bengal and Gangtok in Sikkim. You can see Teesta river in this picture.

The next morning we caught a private non ac bus to Gangtok from the Siliguri Bus Stand. Many buses ply on this route and one can often get tickets without prior booking. We left Siliguri at 7:21 a.m. and reached the ‘Welcome To Sikkim’ gate at exact 10:00 a.m. Our bus was stopped at this point and we were asked to show our identity cards by the army. Before we arrived at this gate, the bus passed through scenic Teesta River. We came across many small metallic bridges. Some of the bridges near Sikkim were so narrow that we had to wait for the other vehicles to pass before making a move. Within 5 minutes of passing through the ‘Welcome to Sikkim’ gate, the bus stopped for refreshments in the middle of the city. I had my fill of different varieties of Bengali Mishti Doi (Sweet Thick and flavoured curd) and other Bengali sweets. We reached around 11:50 a.m. at the multi level Gangtok Bus Stand. We walked in and settled for a reasonably priced hotel near the Gangtok Bus Stand. It costed the 3 of us around Rs.1500 (With extra bed). I forgot the name of the hotel but most hotels on this lane are priced like that. This place is near the famous M.G. Market and other points of interest in Gangtok.

IMG_3316
My mother seems to be happy at Hanuman Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM IN GANGTOK, SIKKIM:

  • Sikkim is a plastic free zone, so no plastic bags are allowed. It is best if you responsibly dispose all the waste you generated.
  • Many areas in Gangtok are No Smoking zone. Kindly Refrain.
  • While entering religious places, please maintain decorum and restraint yourself from shouting, running and other such ‘important tasks’.
  • Please don’t pluck flowers.
  • Please take off your shoes when entering religious places.
  • Ask for filtered water instead of plastic water bottles.
  • Don’t nag the authorities for clicking the picture of a statue/building or even monks if it is not allowed. Respect.

 

IMG_3469
The upper garden of Deorali Orchid Sanctuary, Gangtok, Sikkim

BEST TIME TO VISIT GANGTOK, SIKKIM :

  • Spring in Gangtok: I went in the month of April. The weather was perfect at that time. March and April is the best time to be there.
  • Summer in Gangtok: May and June is still comfortable.
  • Monsoon in Gangtok: July to August is when in pours in Gangtok. Landslides and heavy rains keep tourists away.
  • Autumn in Gangtok: October to November is also a great time to visit Gangtok. Might get chilly at nights.
  • Winter in Gangtok: December to February is very cold. Go if you can brave the chill.
IMG_3175
Buddhist Devotees chanting aum mani padme hum while spinning Mani Lhakor aka prayer wheels at Do Drul Chorten, Gangtok, Sikkim.

HOW TO REACH GANGTOK, SIKKIM

  • AIR: Nearest Airport is at Bagdogra, 124 kms away
  • RAILWAY: Nearest Railway station from Gangtok is New Jalpaiguri in Siliguri, 148 kms away.
  • BUS: Buses to Gangtok are available from Siliguri and Darjeeling, so you might want to club these destinations.

EXCURSIONS FROM GANGTOK, SIKKIM

Gangtok is close to many interesting places such as:

International destinations near Gangtok, Sikkim:

  • Phuentsholing in Bhutan
  • Ilam, Nepal
  • Nathu La pass near China border

Indian destinations near Gangtok, Sikkim:

  • Darjeeling
  • Rumtek Monastery
  • Gurudongmar Lake
  • Yumthang Valley
  • Lachung and Lachen
  • Yuksom
  • Pelling
  • Tsongmo Lake
  • Zuluk
IMG_3435
A waterfall which we saw between Hanuman Tok and Ganesh Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

Spread the love, share this blog

Got any question/comments, ask in the comment section below so that it can benefit other readers.

Email me for collaboration: abhinav21@yahoo.com

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

China: Many worlds in one!

Tourism between China and India can work like oriental magic.

It can make all things possible.

It can entwine our countries through interaction and understanding.

It can bring about a constant exchange of ideas and open new avenues of trade.

It can cement the three thousand year relationship between two of the world’s oldest civilizations.

Tourism can do all of these things if all of us work together – as one.

An ancient Chinese proverb says: “Don’t open a shop unless you like to smile.”

The Chinese people have taken this to heart. That’s what makes China so riveting, so inviting.

Everyone smiles in China. Shopkeepers. Cab drivers. Waitresses. Caddies. Dancers. Singers.

 

When people traveled to China in ancient times, the philosopher Lao Tzu said: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”

What he meant was China has so many distractions, so many attractions, that travelers often forget their final destination.

That’s true even today.

217142 Facebook banner
Potala Palace, Lhasa

If you travel to China for shopping, you could end up playing golf.

If you travel to China for golf, you could end up frolicking in the snow.

If you travel to China for the snow, you could end up learning Kung Fu.

If you travel to China for Kung Fu, you could end up in a nightclub.

If you travel to China for pleasure, you could end up in a Buddhist monastery.

If you travel to China to see the relics of the past, you could end up taking a cruise on the Mekong River.

The diversity of China makes it the most exciting travel destination in the world, especially for us Indians.

For us, China is only a few hours away and it has everything to offer: Pleasure. Leisure. Sport. Sightseeing. History. Mountains. Beaches. Shopping. Education.

If it’s in your heart, it’s in China.

217142 Facebook banner
Zhejiang (Pic courtesy : China Tourism)

 

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

5 SMALL COUNTRIES YOU MUST VISIT: GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKETS.

I have been exploring the many views from my #SoulWindow solo since 2008 across India. After having visited 150 destinations in India, I am curious to explore what lies across the border. In recent past, I have travelled to Nepal (Everest Base Camp trek), Jordan and Bhutan (twice) outside India. Despite their small size I was impressed by the variety they offered and the personal satisfaction as a traveler. As much as I am attracted to bigger cities and bigger nations, I am equally attracted to smaller cities and nations as well.

peruEarlier I spent all my salary on Indian destinations. I could have done many foreign destinations but I chose to explore India first. These days, my eyes are set on international travels. I am saving money and planning well in advance to make my travel dreams come true. There are many options to manage your funds these days such as Sabse Important Plan by Birla Sun Life. Companies like Birla Sun Life have identified that today’s consumer want to save money not only for the basics but for vacations and other pursuits of life as well. Their sip investment plan is a great idea to save money and make your travel dream come true.

Below are some of the small nations I wish to explore. As they say, good things come in small packages, so do these countries:

Peru: Who wouldn’t want to follow the Incan trail, hike up to the citadel of Machu Pichu or take selfies with Peruvian llama? But there is more to Peru than the above mentioned clichés. It is amazing that this small country hides so many secrets under its sleeve. Be it the exotic wildlife, a rich heritage and culture or the peaks of Andes mountains and tropical Amazon Basin rainforest, there is a lot that Peru offers.

machu-picchu-43387_1920
Hike to Machu Pichu in South America is everyone’s dream.

Israel: When I was in Jordan, I could see parts of Israel during my road trip. I was tempted to cross the border and explore the Israel side. I learnt a lot about the rich history of the region as I walked through Petra and Wadi Rum etc in Jordan. The history of Israel is somewhat connected with that of Jordan. I would love to study it, connect the dots and grow my understanding.

Israel jerusalem-1712855_1920
Israel

Indonesia: There is so much this small country has to offer. I would love to visit its important places and study the Hindu roots of the region. I would love to see Wayang Kulit, the shadow puppet shows, where the artists play scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata.  Despite the touristy frills I am curious to explore Bali and ancient stupas of Borubudur and Yogyakarta.

borobdur
Borobdur in Indonesia

Japan: Japan has fascinated me since long. The mere culture and quirks attract me more than anything else. I can’t wait to try the vegan ramen, sushi or explore the Wonderland Tokyo, bump into a geisha, walk over a carpet of cherry blossom, sleep in a capsule hotel or sit on a complicated Japanese commode. Despite being a small country, Japan is full of things to do/see/eat. What’s not to love?

cosupure-2
Japan is full of quirks

Mexico: I was first interested in Mexico after reading a piece on Mexico by the feted travel writer Paul Theroux. Later when my aunt and a family friend, both of them settled in USA, showed me pictures of their Mexico trip, I had started dreaming of going there someday. The Mayan archaeological sites and the unexplored deserts and tropical beaches attract me the most.

mexico-1093920_1920
Aztec ruins of Mexico

Disclaimer: Mutual Fund investments are subject to market risk. Please read the offer document carefully before investing

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

indonesia
I can’t wait to see Commodo Dragon in Indonesia

 

 

OFFBEAT WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI: VILLAGE WALK TO KAFURA IN MUKTESHWAR .

A casual walk in the villages of Kafura, Peora, Nolikan and Sonapani in Mukteshwar treated me with more surprises than I had anticipated. Out of these, I spent most time in Kafura. As I left Leela Orchards Home Stay, Sona Pani in Mukteshwar, within minutes I arrived at a cemented path way leading to the village. Thick forests of pine trees dotted the either side of the path way. A pair of birds, which I was unable to identify, sat atop a tall tree, filling the otherwise calm looking jungle with their shrill calls. The pathways were flooded with dry cones and dry leaves of pine trees. People from plains take these back home for decoration and other such frivolities. People from the village use the dry pine cones and leaves for bonfires and fuel for cooking.

IMG_20170308_153448
Me amidst pine trees in Kafura village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

DO YOU KNOW THE USES OF PINE TREE?

IMG_20170308_152549
Extraction of resin from a pine tree. In Kafura village near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

A mysterious object on the fringes of the path-way caught my attention. It was an unpolished metallic cone, smooth from outside, coarse from inside. I picked it up, trying to understand its purpose. Nearby, I saw some cuts on a tree. “An assault by a black bear?” I asked myself. A bear has no sense of design. A bear can’t scratch a tree in faultless symmetry.  A bear won’t stick a cone under the cut, eh! Turned out, the cones were the collection bowls used to store the resin dripping from the cuts of the pine tree. The cone is not tied but inserted in the cuts, the resin binding it naturally to the tree. The resin thus collected is used in making adhesives like Fevikwik and paints. A cone typically fills up within 20-30 days. Sometimes acid is applied to the cuts to hasten the process. I picked up a discarded metallic cone from the ground as a souvenir. Perhaps, I will make it a pen holder or a tooth brush holder and remember my trip every-time I use it. I didn’t know that pine trees produced resin. Mostly the much romanticized pine trees are actually disliked by the locals.

IMG_7122
One of the traditional house in Kafura Village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand
IMG_7086
Me lying on a bed of dry pine needles. On my way to Kafura near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar.

LYING DOWN ON A BED OF PINE NEEDLES AND SAYING HELLO TO GOATS!

Moving a little ahead, I came across a bed of dry pine needles. These are slippery and can cause a fall during trekking and hikes. I made a pit stop and decided to lie down on the bed, close my eyes and put my olfactory and hearing senses to work. Expecting it to be itchy, I was surprised to feel its soft, smooth texture under my back. A brief rest later, I was greeted by a herd of goats. I sat down on a rock. A credulous calf came running to me and buried his/her nose in my palms, looking for roti.  The adult goats grazed at grass dispassionately.  “Roti maang raha hai.”, (The calf is asking for roti) the lady shepherd told me in her indecipherable speech. It was hard to communicate with her due to her speech impairment. Though verbal communication was irrelevant! The lady handed me over some roti. The adult goats abandoned their pretense and rushed towards me, competing with the calf for that small piece of cooked wheat paradise. I have never tasted grass, but I am sure roti tastes better than grass. What did they say….The Roti…err….grass is always greener on the other side.

17821183_1450143891672596_1391783273_n
Breaking a roti with goats with the lady shephard. On my way to village walk in Kafura. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

The pine forests gave way to a clearing. The cemented path-way disappeared. The large open field was utilized well by a gang of boys playing cricket. I turned left and discovered visually delighting paths. Big sized white stones were half buried in mud, making it perhaps, useful in the season of monsoon. Sometimes, the path was accompanied by walls of stones placed above each other. My most favourite part was when it took a U shape. The white peach flowers, the lone traditional house in the distance, the local women sitting and chatting made it all the more atmospheric.

IMG_7108
The U shaped path to Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards, Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

CONNECTING WITH THE LOCALS OF KAFURA, MUKTESHWAR NEAR LEELA ORCHARDS, SONAPANI.

17820823_1450144571672528_2140064135_n
Bonding with local kids in Kafura Village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani, Mukteshwar

‘Jai Shree Gorakhnath Devta’, the board at a temple read. The brown exterior of the temple was complemented by a riot of pink peach flowers. The flowers were in abundance and added drama to the already picturesque views. I am told, people from all over the village come here during jagar. Dagariye come and sing in the night. They convey people’s problems to Gods. Every village has their own.  While I was immersed in silently admiring the yellow and pink flowers, rows of houses atop a mountain in the distance, the sounds and smells of the place, three shy village kids were staring curiously at me.  They would hide and seek, giggle when our eyes locked, unaware that the backdrop of the lovely village, their home, is making them all the more charming. A casual walk in the villages of Kafura left me with more memories than I had anticipated.

The view from my #SoulWindow is PICTURE POSTCARD PERFECT!

IMG_7144
The picturesque temple in Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

FAQ:

  • How to Reach Kafura near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • Where to stay in Kafura, Mukteshwar near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • When to visit Kafura, Mukteshwar near Leela Orchards Sonapani Homestay, Uttarakhand?
  • Why is Sonapani called as Sonapani (meaning Gold Water)

Pls click here for answers to above questions:

LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOMESTAY, MUKTESHAWAR, UTTARAKHAND

Related Blogs:

WHY THIS BRAVE WOMAN LIVES ALONE IN A FOREST IN MUKTESHWAR, UTTARAKHAND?

Discover the former homes of Tagore and Mahadevi Verma near Aamari Resorts

IMG_7045
The entry point to Kafura Village. Near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS

#MyGrationSW : Why This Brave Woman Lives Alone In A Forest in Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand?

THE DENSE FORESTS OF ADJOINING villages of Peora, Nolikan and Sonapani in

IMG_7210
Terraced Farm of Kamla ji near Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar

Mukteshwar look deserted and lonely from a distance. Once you start to see through the dense foliage, you discover it is teaming with life. It is populated with birds, butterflies, reptiles, wild animals and humans who chose to call it home. As I took an evening walk in the forest with Manvendra, who runs the Leela Orchards, Sonapani home-stay in Mukteshwar, he educated me about a brave lady who lives all by herself in the middle of a dense, dark forest. Engrossed in his tales, I kept my eyes and ears alert for any sign of wildlife around the trail. After few minutes, we arrived at a makeshift gate to a lone white building in the distance. The gate was nothing but horizontal wooden logs loosely hooked on to vertical wooden poles. It was not meant to ward off humans but animals. The animals who rob her kitchen garden of fruits and vegetables she so painstakingly grows with help of laborers. This is apparently a big deterrent to most farmers in the Mukteshwar and nearby Ramgarh area. The white house was locked when we entered the lawns. Its architecture was a mix of modern architecture and traditional architecture of the region. In Uttarakhand, ‘Bakuli’ refers to the group of house, mostly of the same family. As the family grows, more addition to the existing building is done generation wise. Cattle are always tied in the ground floor room. This particular house was not a Bakuli since the next generation chose to stay in the glitzy capital of India, New Delhi.

IMG_7201
A Mix of modern and traditional architecture of Uttarakhand, isolated home of Kamlaji near Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar.

Himalayan Spangle, a beautiful butterfly, clung fiercely to its pupa on a tree in front of the house. Much like the lady we had come to meet. She refuses to leave this place despite all the adversity. I would soon know why she still clings to this house in the middle of nowhere.

IMG_7202
Himalayan Spangle holding on to a pupa. In Front of Kamlaji’s house. Near Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

जड़ाऊ को अभी भगाया, बंदरो ने भी परेशान कर रखा है…..” (I have just shooed away the Swamp Deers aka Barasingha. The monkeys have been troubling me too.) The meditation of the Himalayan Spangle was disturbed by her coarse voice, unadulterated and unmeasured. Her name is Mrs. Kamla Pandey. She was delighted to see Manvendra, who is also a family friend. Kamlaji and Manvendra are neighbours and co- owned a dog. The dog lived upto an astonishing age of 18 years.

Ever since her husband, Late Shri Narayan Dutt Pandey, former sub inspector in New Delhi police breathed his last, she has resolved to stay all by herself at this isolated house in the middle of a dense forest, rife with wild animals. Danger from wildlife, lack of human interactions, irregular electricity supply and the challenges in keeping the soil of her farm fertile and grow organic vegetables and fruits has not deterred her. She has been living here alone since past 7 years. Sometimes her brother, who lives in a village nearby, pays her a visit.

IMG_7208
Natural Water Spring used for irrigation and daily use of Kamlaji. Near Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

She cooks food by herself. She has to walk for 3 plus kilometers to catch sporadic public transport to main town near the Sathkol Ashram. She sources grocery supplies from village vendor who sometime visits her and from a shop near the Ashram gate.

बस ऐसे ही बगीचे में घूमना फिरना….मजदूरो को देखना…चाय पानी देना…यहाँ पे बगीचा है….मकान है मेरा….मैं कैसे रहूँ यहाँ…..?” (Just roaming around my garden, checking up on the laborers, giving them tea and snacks…..Here is where is my house, my garden….How can I leave this place?), She replied with a sunshine smile when I asked, “What do you do here all day?”

She showed me around her sprawling terraced farm which she called bageecha (garden). It was abundant with pink and white flowers. In March the hills of Uttarakhand burst with a riot of colours, thanks to the flowering season.  From Mid May to July, these flowers will give way to abundant fruits like khubani (Apricot), aadu (peach), plum, apple, pear. Nearby a tree was drooping with the weight of tens of jamer. It looked like an Orange, but I was told it is so bitter that its consumption harms teeth. It is used like a lemon, in chutneys and pickles. The apples trees were pruned to encourage new growth which is good for the health of the tree and the fruits. The dark brown, leafless branches of the tree made it look like it is dead. In reality, the tree was just gearing up for the upcoming fruiting season. I uncovered a plastic sheet to see spring water flowing under the ground. This is the natural irrigation source for farming in the area. Some of the beds in the farm were dug up. She told us, she pays laborers to dig up the soil.  It helps in keeping the soil fertile otherwise it becomes hard and unfit for farming.

Kamlaji showed us around with a big smile and vivaciousness which is difficult to match up to. Her enthusiasm for life and positivity belied the challenges that she faces in her routine life. Before shifting here, she lived in Delhi for many years with her husband and kids. Her kids still live in New Delhi and following the footsteps of their father, they serve in police too. Her kids visit her at this place in summer.

“Do you ever miss New Delhi?” I ask

“याद आती है पर क्या करें ? मजबूरी है…यहाँ छोड़ दें तो फिर बर्बादी है न…..क्यूँ? ” (Yes, at times I do miss Mumbai. But if I abandon this land, it will all be destroyed. No?)

Whenever she misses her former life in New Delhi, she visits her children and live with them for around 3 months.

“पर अब अच्छा लगता है यहाँ भी……परदूशन नहीं है …हवा अच्छी है…अक्टूबर में फिर जाउंगी दिल्ली तीन महीने के लिए…..” (Now I like it here…There is no pollution….the air is fresh…In October I will visit New Delhi again for 3 months.)

Note: It is a part of a series which I run on my blog. You can follow the hashtag #MyGrationSW series on my Instagram, Facebook and Twitter too. (Links below). To read other migration stories on my blog, pls see the tab MyGration Story.

The view from my #SoulWindow is BRAVO!

IMG_7212
Kamlaji at her isolated home in a forest. Near Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.

LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY, AT MUKTESHWAR: WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI IN BUDGET!

A VACATION AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY AT SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR is a perfect weekend break from Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. It is managed by the cheerful Manvendra Singh Barathokey and his mother. It was such a great last minute decision to stop at this lovely home-stay in Mukteshwar. On recommendation by a friend I stayed here for 2 days clubbed with a satisfying trip to Nainital and Ramgarh. It was drizzling when I reached. (I visited in 1st week of March.) The next day it was a pleasant sunny weather.

IMG_7292
The 4 rooms of Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshawar in Uttarakhand. You can view Almora and the snow capped mountains from here. If lucky then rainbow as well.

Unfortunately I have stayed in only few home stays despite having traveling to more than 150 destinations since 2008. My lovely experience at Leela Orchards Sonapani is pushing me into trying more home stays in future. This wonderful property overlooks Himalayan range. It was such a memorable evening sitting with the family, sipping tea and talking about many interesting topics as bonfire warmed us. I learnt so much after this interaction. He educated me about the interesting details of local lifestyle and the centuries old temples in the vicinity.

IMG_6988
The living room of my ground floor ‘suite’ at Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar (Uttarakhand)

ACTIVITIES AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY makes you lazy. The nice weather, breath taking views right from the balcony of the room and the cozy rooms make you want to just sit and laze around. On the other hand, there are so many interesting things to do near the property that you will end up extracting yourself from the cozy bed. I spent much of the time exploring the pretty villages Peora, Nolikan and Kafura. The path to these villages was gorgeous. It was easy up and down hike lined with pine trees and white, pink and red flowers of fruits. I went in the month of March and in every direction I set my eyes there was a riot of color since it’s the flowering season.  I also walked in the jungle area behind the home stay and met a brave spunky lady who lives all alone in the middle of the jungle.

IMG_7108
Village walk in Kafura, Poera and Nolikan is possible near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

If you choose you can cook your own food at “Heere ki khan” using firewood and chulha (Traditional mud oven). Nature walk, birdwatching is also recommended here. You don’t even need to go anywhere. Just keep your eyes peeled and you will see exotic birds right outside your room. I was amazed to see a flock of gorgeous White Crested Laughing Thrush. Himalayan Spangle, Wild cock, Grey Headed Canary Flycatcher, Blue Capped Redstart, Himalayan Bulbul, Green Backed Tit, Black headed Jay, Barn Swallow are some of the other birds I spotted.

IMG_6987
This was my favourite part of the rooms at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar. I would sit and eat Maggi here, looking at the misty mountains. Or read a book.

One can also visit NGO Chirag and NGO Aarohi in Peora village. If you are fit, I would recommend an 8 kms long trek from Leela Orchards Sonapani to Mukteshwar temple. Visit to ancient Kapeelshwar Temple on river bed side is also a must. It is near a primary school. You can donate money and books to the school, if you wish. Within 40 kms of range, you can visit Jageshwar Temple, Chitai Temple, Sun Temple (In Almora), Kasar Devi Temple and Binsar.

IMG_7086
En route my walk to Kafura and Peora Village near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

THE ROOMS AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The rooms are large and cozy. True to its genre, the rooms exude a home like warmth. I told them it is like staying at a relative’s house. The wood paneling was soothing to the eyes. There are a total of 4 rooms in the home stay. 2 rooms are on the first floor while 2 rooms are in the ground floor. I stayed in the ground floor. The moment I entered the room, I took a pause in the drawing room before rushing to see the bed room. The drawing room delights with its thoughtfully done up furniture placement. 3 large windows overlooked the verdant valley and the distant mountains of Almora and others. Cushioned seats lined the windows. I would fold my legs on the couch, pull a blanket, slurp on my Maggi Noodles and hot tea while enjoying the misty views from the comfort of my room. It sure felt like home, though in an exotic location. At other times, I would sit by the window and read one of the many travel magazines so thoughtfully kept by the owners on a writing table nearby.

x
Manvendra Singh Barathokey and his mother at Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-stay, Mukteshwar. In far distance is their ancestral home. (Pic: Leela Orchards)

The attached bedroom is large. The bed is King Size and is cozy. It has large windows and wood paneling. The charging points are next to the table. There is no dearth of cupboards and almirahs in the drawing room as well as the bedroom. When I entered the door of the attached bathroom, I was dumbfounded for 2 minutes. It was so huge that I was comparing its size to my first flat in Mumbai (I stayed in Mumbai from 2008 to 2015). Manvendra told me the same, “Travelers from Mumbai often tell me my entire flat is the size of this washroom.”

IMG_7231
Views of Almora during my village walk/trek in Poera and Nolikan near Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

When I checked out the upper rooms, I found them equally good if a bit smaller. The drawing room disappeared. The size of room and washroom was a bit smaller. But it’s still great for 2-3 people. (Extra beds are available). The washroom has a back door about which Manvendra told me, “Guests love to open this door while brushing their teeth and shaving. It offers them views of the mountains.” The reduced indoor space is compensated with even more grander views of the valley below. There is ample space in the large terrace and I am sure it serves as a perfect private space for families and friends. I also took the stairs to the rooftop in the night. Almora city was all lit. The lights made the city look like a giant glittery fish. As if the construction on hills was done to make it look like a fish.

IMG_7299
Manvendra at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

HOW DID SONA PANI GET ITS NAME? THE FAMILY HAS AN INTERESTING TALE TO TELL:

Leela Orchard Sonapani has an old natural spring in the middle of the property. The area is named Sona Pani (Literal meaning: Gold water) because of the perceived medicinal properties of the natural spring water. The folklore has it that during the British Raj era, some British army officers from a cantonment nearby tasted the water while crossing the ridge. Impressed with the quality of the water, during much of the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, ponies and horses were employed to supply the water from this natural spring to the British officers of the nearest army garrison which was Almora.

IMG_20170323_114211
Captain Kushal Singh Barathokey. He gave Sona Pani its name. (Credit: Leela Orchards

Captain Kushal Singh Barathokey was one of those officers. He was a much feted soldier of the 3rd Queen Alexandria’s Gurkha rifles. Upon his retirement, the British asked him to select land of his choice. Of all the land Captain Barathokey chose this particular land and christened it ‘Sonapani Estate’. The subsequent generations took care of the land. Manvendra sure is a deserving inheritor of the land.

Manvendra’s grandmother, a housewife was a dynamic lady. There is an old family house near the Leela Orchards Sonapani home-stay. When this house was built, Sona Pani area was a dense forest frequented by fierce tigers. While the house was being built, she used to stand at the construction site, holding the rifle for the safety of workers. She used to say to workers, “If being a lady I can stand here with a rifle, what’s making you so scared to build a house here?” She used to come all the way from Almora to Sonapani on a horse for the construction of the house.

IMG_20170323_114149
Great Grandmother of Manvendra from Nepal. Leela Orchards Sona Pani, Mukteshwar (Pic credit: Leela Orchards)

The dining room of Leela Orchards Sonapani is decorated with the many hats collected from India and other countries. It is the part of the collection of Manvendra’s father. Manvendra’s father Late Shri Dipendra Singh Barathokey was a businessman. The Leela Orchards was his brainchild. He may not be around but his legacy lives through the property. Manvendra’s father was born around the same time the ancestral home opposite the home-stay was built. He later named the home-stay after the name of Manvendra’s grandmother.

IMG_7296
Delicious Steamed Rice, Bhat Ki Dal, Saag, Badi at Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand. I also ate maduwe ki roti with ghee and jaggery.

THE FOOD AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

Me along-with Manvendra, his mother and his cute cat sat together next to a bonfire in the

IMG_7219
How about dining al fresco, next to an earthen oven. At Leela Orchards, Sonapani, Mukteshwar

night. We talked for hours, losing track of time. Manvendra is the go to person if you want to learn about the local culture. Despite his young age, he had answers to all my questions. We sat at the canopied open area just outside the kitchen and the dining hall. The family, staff and the pet cat stay in this part of the resort. The conversations were followed by a delicious home cooked dinner including hot maduwe ki roti, smeared with ghee (Clarified butter) and jaggery. On the next day, I demanded to eat more local meals. I was served delicious bhat ki dal, mixed green leaves saag, home-made pickles, fruit chutney (I over ate) and badi in a mildly spicy curry. It was a very satisfying meal which left me begging for more. There is a large kitchen garden near the home-stay where the family grows vegetables, fruits and more. You feel the difference in the food since it is all organic. It’s enriching experiences such as these which keep me motivated to travel. The warmth of the family has made this trip special.

IMG_6990
My room in Leela Orchards Sona Pani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM AT LEELA ORCHARDS SONAPANI HOME-STAY, MUKTESHWAR:

The home-stay promotes treks, long walks and communing with nature, none of which makes you guilty of adding carbon footprints. I was also delighted to see bottles of filtered water and not mineral water bottles which generate plastic. All the food that you eat is pesticide food and organic. Little initiatives like these go a long way in creating a better planet. I request that if you go there, please pack all the plastic which you generated and bring it back to the city and dispose. I myself collected all the chips and wafers packets which I brought along and stashed them in my bag. It is always good to clean your own mess.

DSC00748
Late Shree Dipendra Singh Barathokey with his pet dogs at Leela Orchards, Sona Pani in Mukteshwar

BEST TIME TO VISIT LEELA ORCHARDS, SONA PANI, MUKTESHWAR:

March and April: I went in March and the entire area was a surreal landscape. It is the flowering season and I could see rows of red, pink, white, yellow flowers in whichever direction I set my eyes on.

Mid May to July: It is fruit season. Expect trees laden with peach, apricots, apples and much more.

July and August: Monsoon is a great time to explore the rich flora and fauna of the area. I was shown some monsoon pictures which made me think of planning a visit again in monsoon.
September to January: Best season to see clear views of the Himalayan range is from

IMG_7002
This old mansions is the ancestral property of the owners of Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

HOW TO REACH LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR:

  • I reached Bhatelia via bus (Rs.35) from Malla Ramgarh Bazar area. I started at 11:30 a.m. and reached 12:15 p.m. Just a little ahead of Bhatelia is Mukteshwar main market. Plenty of shared cars were available at Bhatelia.
  • I booked a reserved taxi to the home-stay on the spot for Rs. 500. If you take right just ahead of Mukteshwar Market, a check post of IVRI campus (Vet College) appears. As you drive from Bhatelia, you will arrive Sitla after 9 kms. The home-stay is 5 kms from Sitla. The Leela Orchards, Sonapani is 30 minutes away from Bhatelia by cab.
  • Landmark: Ask for Satkhol Himalayan Ashram anyone. There is a main gate to the ashram. After entering the gate, If you take the road on right hand side, you will reach the home-stay after 2 kms. It is the last construction in this direction. You can drive upto the home-stay. The roads are great through most of the journey except the last 2 kms. Tip: Public transport is available from the road outside the Ashram. The frequency is low. On return, I waited for the 2 p.m. direct bus to Bhowali which took me 2 hrs. From Bhowali, I took shared cab to Nainital and then to New Delhi. Bhowali to Nainital is 20 minutes and costs Rs.20 in shared cab. Nainital to New Delhi via Govt bus starts at 9 p.m. from Nainital bus stand and reaches 6 a.m. at Anand Vihar, New Delhi.

Alternatively, book a reserved taxi from Nainital/Haldwani/Almora/Kathgodam/Ramgarh. The home-stay also arranges pre booked taxi on demand.

IMG_7043
Village walk to Kafura Village near Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand.

WHAT IS THE COST OF ROOM AT LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR:

The pricing is reasonable and affordable since the tariff is inclusive of bed tea, breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, all taxes for 2 pax. This makes it ideal for couples, family, friends and corporate trips. If you go dutch with a friend it is an even more economical option since the cost is split into two. It can’t get more affordable than this.

17580148_1442099232477062_1756253443_n
Grandmother of Manvendra, Leela Orchards Sonapani home-stay, Mukteshwar is named after her by Manvendra’s father (Pic: Leela Orchards)

PLAN A VACATION. DISCOVER THESE PLACES NEAR LEELA ORCHARDS, SONA PANI, MUKTESHAWAR:

MYGRATION STORIES- WHY IS THIS BRAVE LADY LIVING ALONE IN A FOREST IN MUKTESHWAR

LUXURY WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI IN RAMGARH NEAR NAINITAL

The view from my #SoulWindow is full of warmth!

IMG_6991
“Some people have the entire flat the size of this washroom in Mumbai.” The huge wash room of Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand

Be a part of my journey on social media. The travel content I create there is different from this blog.

Pls subscribe/follow/like:

You Tube

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

IMG-20161213-WA0005
The Himalayan Range as seen from Leela Orchards, Sona Pani, Mukteshwar (Credit: Leela Orchards)

WARNING : COPYRIGHT TO ALL THE IMAGES AND TEXT HERE REMAINS WITH ME. YOU CAN NOT JUST LIFT THE CONTENT AND USE IT WITHOUT MY PERMISSION. STRICT LEGAL ACTION WILL BE TAKEN IF CONTENT IS STOLEN. YES, I AM SERIOUS.