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

A VACATION AT LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY AT SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR is a perfect weekend break from Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon. 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.

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The 4 rooms of Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sonapani, 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 is pushing me into trying more home stays in future. This wonderful property, which overlooks Himalayan range is managed by the cheerful Manvendra Singh Barathokey and his mother. 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.

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

ACTIVITIES AT LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR:

The LEELA ORCHARDS 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.

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Village walk in Kafura, Poera and Nolikan is possible near Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, 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.

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This was my favourite part of the rooms at Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, 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.

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

THE ROOMS AT LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, 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.

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.”

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

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Manvendra at Leela Orchards Home-Stay, Sona Pani, 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.

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.

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. The home-stay was a vision of Manvendra’s father. He may not be around but his legacy lives through the property.

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

THE FOOD AT LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, MUKTESHWAR:

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

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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.

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

RESPONSIBLE TOURISM AT LEELA ORCHARDS HOME STAY, SONAPANI, 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.

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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.

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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.

The view from my #SoulWindow is full of warmth!

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“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

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AMARI RESORT AT RAMGARH NEAR NAINITAL IS THE PERFECT LUXURY BREAK FROM DELHI!

AAMARI RESORTS IN RAMGARH near Nainital is easily the best resort in the area. It is a perfect weekend break from Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon.  1 hour away from the touristy Nainital, Aamari resort at Ramgarh is a perfect abode away from the city life. When I planned a trip to Nainital, Ramgarh and Mukteshwar, I decided to make Aamari resort my base and explore the gems nearby.

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One of the 3 bed rooms at the Sky Villa in Aamari Resorts, Ramgarh

ACTIVITIES AT AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

I spent the last day just enjoying the property. There is so much you can do in the property. I walked around the property for some-time followed by a stroll on the road appreciating the fairy-tailish pink, white and red flowers which dominated the natural landscape. The rest of the day was spent at leisure in reading (No, I didn’t switch on the TV), enjoying the delicious food, siesta, indulging in sauna bath, the works!

On the first day, I booked a cab to Nainital and explored the usual and the offbeat places to see in Nainital, especially the houses where legendary Jim Corbett stayed. The second day was spent exploring the offbeat gem that Ramgarh is. I hiked near the hills of the resort to arrive at the ruins of a house where Nobel Laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore lived for some years and wrote part of his famous work Geetanjali. Just ahead of the Malla Ramgarh Bazaar, I walked at an adjacent pathway for some time and visited the house of noted Hindi writer Mahadevi Verma. There sure is something about hills and world famous writers! Aamari resort is blessed to be built on a hill where verses of Geetanjali still soulfully echo.

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My room (Room number 104) at Aamari Resort, Ramgarh

THE ROOMS AT AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

I stayed in room number 104. The moment I entered the room, I was awed by the sheer size of the room. The pool facing rooms at Aamari are huge and so is the King size bed. The mattress used in the bed is fluffy and comfortable. That, combined with a lovely weather ensured I get sound sleep during my 3 days stay in the resort. On one side of the bed was electric kettle and teabags, creamer etc placed atop a rack. On the other side is a writing table equipped with lights. The room comes with many lighting options to suit your mood.

There is a sofa, chair and central table at the sitting area next to a giant window which overlooks the pool, the property, glimpses of road and the valley along-with the mighty Himalayan ranges. This was my favourite part of the room. Just as you enter the room, there is a wardrobe with tall mirrors on the left hand side. A little ahead is the washroom. Again, the size and layout of the washroom is impressive. It also comes with different lighting option to suit the mood. (I preferred the dim lights). The wash basin area is large, leaving enough space for dressing up.  It was a pleasure to have a hot shower in the well stocked glass cubicle. The shower head was large and the water pressure was just right. The washroom was stocked with the usual suspects- soaps, shampoo, conditioner and moisturizer.

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The lovely sit out area outside my room at Aamari Resort. It is great secluded spot to soak in some winter sun or enjoy bonfire in night.

THE AAMARI RESORT, RAMGARH PROPERTY:

I arrived late night in the first week of March via a cab and slept in the comfortable bed post dinner. The next morning, I opened the huge window of my room and was delighted with the sight of snow capped Himalayan Ranges such as the mighty Trishul, Nanda Devi, Panchacholi and Nandakot. I chose to have the breakfast in my room by the window so that I could enjoy the stunning views with my meals. The room is equipped with mirrors at the entrance and at the writing table.

Just outside the room is a lovely sit out area where I enjoyed reading a book in the swing fashioned out of cane. As darkness fell, I used to sit here having conversations around bonfires. The property is sprawling. Its 22 luxurious rooms are spread across multi level. Some rooms are garden facing while some are pool facing. There is a set of room near the car parking which is accessed by a car and thus is ideal for elderly who might find it difficult to walk up the stairs to reach other rooms.

The property is landscaped thoughtfully. Colorful Beer and Vodka bottles hang from a tree near the reception area. The poolside area comes with 2 large round cane chairs which can seat many people. There is a sit out area opposite the pool where I enjoyed Hot Chocolate during nights. The large banquet hall and the spacious indoor restaurant are ideal for large groups. You will notice the theme of a Cruise Ship throughout the property including the restaurant.

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The ship themed restaurant at Aamari Resort, Ramgarh

THE DAZZLING SKY VILLA AT AAMARI RESORT, RAMGARH:

The 3 bedroom Sky Villa near the sunset point took my breath away. It is a little away from the main property of Aamari Resorts. Sky Villa is a separate bungalow managed by the property. It overlooks the gorgeous valley below and is accessed by either vehicle or a long walk. It has 3 bedrooms on 2 stories, outdoor sit out areas, courtyards, indoor sit out areas with top to bottom glass walls and a well equipped kitchen. It is a great place to spend time with family or a group of friends. I was awestruck with the villa and its location. It is close to the sunset point from where I had an amazing view of the distant mountains and valley bathed in golden light. A small hike from here takes you to a viewpoint from where you can have a bird’s eye view of the famous lake in Bhimtal.

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Food is delicious at Aamari Resort, Ramgarh. My favourite was Paneer Kali Mirch

THE FOOD AT AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

During my 3 days stay at Aamari Resorts, I ordered a variety of food. Tamara Khaas Kofta (Pistachio and Khoya Stuffed Dumplings in rich Tomato gravy) and Paneer Kali Mirch were my absolute favourite. I also enjoyed the pasta in red sauce. On most days I had hearty breakfast of Aaaloo ka Paratha, Gobhi ka paratha and Poori-Bhaji, all of them done to perfection.

That said, the Paneer Butter Masala could have been better. The vegetables au gratin was good except the distracting sweet chunks of pineapple at times. You may want to tell them to skip the pineapple if you choose to order it. The quantity of the food is good and one entrée is sufficient for 2 people.

OTHER FACILITIES AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

There are myriad activities one can do at Aamari Resorts. There are many trekking trails which in house experts take you to. These are easy routes. They also offer outdoor picnic options. One can also indulge in soft adventure sports like rappelling, rock climbing, archery, spider nest, flying fox and valley crossing. These are monitored and organized by in house experts. For the less adventurous kinds, indoor games like carom, chess is available. You can also play basketball, badminton and football. Just above the reception is the facility for steam and sauna bath.  You can also check out the nearby adobe houses, Gagar Temple, Fossil remains on the hills etc.

RESPONSIBLE LUXURY AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

I love the luxury properties like Aamari resorts which accept my request to replace the bottled mineral water with filtered water. It’s my little way to say no to generation of plastic. I also make it a point to reuse the towels the next day. If all of us start doing it, it helps us save a lot of water. I am glad Aamari Resorts promote that habit. I was impressed to know that Aamari Resorts hire local talent whom they train and nurture from scratch. Collective travel to reduce transport, trekking and walking are some of the means by which they strive to cut the carbon footprint of travelers.

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The separate 3 bed room Sky Villa is stuff dreams are made up of. Can’t afford? Go with friends and family and split the cost. It’s worth it!

HOW TO REACH AAMARI RESORTS, RAMGARH:

Just before the Malla Ramgarh Bazaar on the main Bhowali-Mukteshwar road, the Aamari Resorts is unmissable. Nestled in the Himalayan Heights Complex towards the right hand side of the road, it stands out thanks to its grandeur.  It is one hour away from Nainital. You can reach Nainital by bus. From Nainital, the taxi costs Rs.500 and takes 1 hour to reach. In case you reach in night, make sure you hire a reliable taxi. Chances are that after 7 or 8 p.m., on some stretches, you will be the only one driving on that road. Try to reach before sun set.  The cab driver charged me Rs.700 at 8 p.m. (Rs.200 from the usual Rs.500)

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The entrance to my room at Aamari Resorts, Ramgarh

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Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba- The Ultimate Luxury Experience in Aqaba!

BLOGGING HAS GIVEN ME opportunity to stay in some of the finest hotels and resorts. But often many luxury properties fail to touch your heart and forge a personal bond with you. The smaller properties and home stays are often the better bet.

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View from some of the rooms be like….

Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba is a rarity. Despite its huge size and a large number of staff, everything this resort does exudes warmth and friendliness. I interacted with many of the staff members and each one of them has attended to the guests with utmost care, willingness and a broad genuine smile.

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Its secluded pool!

One of the front office staff Naser Herzallah chatted with us for a long time even after his duty hours was over. When we asked him if we can visit his home for a deeper immersive cultural experience, he did not take even a second to invite us to his home. We could not visit his home due to lack of time.

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The friendly Filipino host Jonalyn Lagaspi at the restaurant.

The next morning, the many Filipino girls at the Palm Court Restaurant & Terrace won our hearts with their attentive and friendly service. They anticipated our need and would leave no stones unturned to give us a memorable experience. The vibrant restaurant has an indoor dining option as well as an outdoor section.

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The al fresco restaurant

It serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. I sampled only breakfast which comprised of a wide array of Middle Eastern and European cuisine. The live cooking made the ambiance lively.

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The friendly people who willingly posed for us at the al fresco dining!

Apart from the buffet, the restaurant also offers à la carte dining menu. The second day, I dined in the private dining room which was quieter and less packed. I particularly liked the youthful décor of the restaurant.

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Palm Court Restaurant and Terrace

My suite was huge and airy. Its windows and 2 terraces opened to sweeping views of the Aqaba city. Some of my co travelers got even better views of the ocean. Balcony was my favorite part where I would spend all my leisure time watching the city over a smoke. The bathtub helped me fight the tiredness, thanks to a busy day of travel. The sitting area was huge, none of which I could use due to lack of time. The suite even had a kitchen and a large refrigerator.

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The living room of my suite!

Where Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba wins is its attention to detail. It sure knows how to delight its guests. I was delighted to see a local craft on my bed. It was a gift to me from the resort along with the cookies and delicious dry fruits. Even the bathroom slippers in the hotel were not a bland white. It was colorful and depicted local art.

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My room. Notice the complimentary gift so thoughtfully presented!

The resort is so gorgeous that I couldn’t resist saving some time in the early morning for a property round. There is a bridge which connects the main building to another. This bridge is on the top of the road called King Hussein Street. It was very creatively used for an al fresco Jacuzzi pool. We arrived at the private beach of the hotel from where it offered many water sports. Ala’a Salman, one of the jovial staff took us on a tour. Though he knew little English but we communicated well between smiles and wallahs.

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Ala’a Salman with my co traveler and friend Arka Das.

He even showed us the border of neighboring countries from the hotel. He was another staff member who touched our heart and exceeded our expectations. I like the way people from different countries work here as a team. A co traveler told me his room was serviced by a very friendly attendant from Patna, Bihar! Who would have thought?

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Naser Herzallah was a delightful company. He talked to us for a long time even after his duty hours were over. Picture Credit: Naser Herzallah

Ms. Layali Nashashibi, Director of Communications and PR, herself showed us some of the ethnic decor of the resort and educated us about the history of Mövenpick chain and its core values.A brilliant and vivacious lady, she patiently answered all our questions and offered us the famous Mövenpick ice cream.

I have always valued human interactions more than the material comforts in a luxury property. Not all of them do it well. Very small percentage of luxury hotels get that right. Fortunately, Mövenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba is one of them.

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The private beach of the hotel

And oh, Don’t forget to eat the famous Mövenpick Ice Cream if you go there!

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Don’t forget to check out the ruins of an ancient city Ayla in front of the resort.

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Me posing at the resort in Aqaba, Jordan. Behind me is Israel!

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The Palm Court & Terrace- All day dining!

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Me, faking it in the lobby of Movenpick Resort and Residences, Aqaba! (Pic: Arka Das)

NOTE: I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board to Jordan on a Press Trip

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4 Rooms Hotel : My Stay in a former merchant’s house in the mountains!

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The 4 Rooms Hotel in post rains!

Staying at 4 rooms hotel in Gunehar is a very unique experience. A few hours away from the bustling Mc Leodganj, which is perennially crushing under the touristy madness is this quaint home stay, away from all the touristy frills and other nonsense. I had never stayed in a restored property so I was looking forward to the charming vacation bang in the middle of a real Himachali village.

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Manjulika, Parnashree, me and Dipanshu (L to R) at 4 tables restaurant!

I was accompanied by 4 other travel bloggers who braved the early morning downpour to reach the hotel. But not before maneuvering our way through herds of cattle tended by the Gaddi shepherd community.

Picture above : 4 room hotel – BEFORE (Pic by Frank) 

We were delighted to take a round of the rustic property. Built out of mud and wood and bamboo as main components, the hotel exuded an earthy charm. Walking bare feet on the mud floor of the hotel, I stared lustily at the verdant valleys and misty air from the balcony, disturbed only by the chirps of birds that set up their nest in the ceiling.

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View from the balcony of 4 rooms hotel!

I was told it was originally the partially burnt house of a wealthy merchant. When I looked closely at the other bigger traditional houses in the vicinity, I found a striking similarity except that the hotel was more sanitized and spruced up.

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4 room hotel – during restoration (Pic by Frank) 

Like all things Frank has done to put Gunehar on the ‘discerning’ traveler map, without alienating the locals and their lifestyle, 4 rooms hotel effortlessly blends with the local milieu and atmosphere.

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Ribbon Cutting of 4 rooms Hotel (Pic by Frank) 

The rooms are simple and comfortable, the washrooms equipped with bathtubs and the walls are adorned with gorgeous crowd sourced photographs from the rural Himachal. All the rooms in 1st floor open in a balcony with wooden seats, tables and cushions. We loved hogging on hot Tea over some pakoras (fritters) and spiced up Maggi noodles as the rain lashed the tress gently.

Picture above : 4 room hotel – After restoration 

The balcony is also a great place for people watching. We languorously saw life pass by in slow motion as school kids, shopkeepers, farmers and many people from Gaddi community, dressed in their traditional avatars, kept the place alive with their activity. The rooms on ground floor open in a lawn landscaped with flowering plants and a huge swing. My vote goes for the first floor rooms though. All the rooms differ from each other (Remember it was a home once?) in décor, design and mood. In some rooms you are literally sitting on artworks (Look at the beds carefully)

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The breakfast at 4 tables restaurant 

This is the kind of hotel where you should come to do nothing. The maximum you should do here is take a walk in the Gunehr village, talk to locals, maybe indulge in paragliding in nearby Bir, or sample Tibetan food in the monastery rich Tibetan Colony nearby. This is the place to slow down, as they say, this is the place to indulge in JOMO – Joy Of Missing Out. I found my stay meaningful here as the hotel is rich in soul and character unlike the clinical hotels one is used to. Also the village is as authentic as it can get.

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The breakfast at 4 tables restaurant 

However, it’s not a hotel as we know it. There is no room service and one needs to place the order of meals at least 2-3 hours in advance. This is also not the place for your tantrums, whims and fancies. It’s a cool concept if you understand that the owner himself cooks the food for his guests in 4 tables restaurant. The restaurant is a 5 minute walk away from the hotel.

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First things first, I can’t see 4 tables near Bir as a restaurant. It is a labor of love. It’s more of a personal space where you get to interact with Frank, the Indo-German owner who has turned the ground floor of his rented house into an eat-‘play’-love zone! There is this je ne sais quoi Frank touch in everything you eat and see. The food has that surprise element which you will not find in any restaurant or recipe book. He makes the traditional food exciting in his own unique way.
You can dine in an indoor setting (low lighting, great music and candles, et al) or al fresco in a balcony (sunshine, fresh flowers, scented air, bird songs) overlooking the verdant valley.

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Frank is fond of cheese, so are we!

The ingredients are fresh and exotic for a remote village like Gunehr. It’s easy to opt from vegetarian, vegan (He makes amazing vegetarian food. Being a strict vegetarian, I can vouch for it!) and non vegetarian dishes. Just ask. Here’s what we ate in our 2 night, 3 days stay – Bread basket (baked at home) with dips, salad, olive and cheese platter; cereals and fruit bowls, cappuccinos, wood fired pizzas, variety of pastas. My favorite was a fluffy pancake for which he actually used Dosa/Uttapam batter, or the cookies drizzled with chocolate sauce.

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Desi Paneer with a western twist!

He even turned the boring paneer (cottage cheese) into a gourmet food with his innovation. The breakfast at his place was worth going for again and again. In fact, it’s said about his food that one must come to Gunehr only to ‘eat out of his hands’. I can’t agree more.

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The 4 Tables restaurant!

No wonder his restaurant is also covered by the Food and travel show Highway On My Plate. Be warned though, it’s a strictly ‘NO KETCHUP’ restaurant. Initially I had problem dealing with it (My Mom says I drink ketchup!) but thanks to Frank, I soon learnt how to appreciate food sans ketchup.

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Frank at his famous wood fired oven, making pizzas for us!

It’s also a great place for striking conversations and meeting some interesting people. We chatted up with many intriguing and lively people here. Frank is so much fun to talk to. He can regale you for hours with many riveting stories from his hometown Germany and from the hills in India, peppering it with those local accents (be very attentive) and animated expressions.

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We sitting inside Frank’s home/restaurant on a rainy night!

What makes this place more personal is that Frank lives on the first floor with his son Aloke. The first floor also has a studio where the art works from the conceptual art festival Shop Art / Art Shop-1 are displayed. It is an interesting initiative by Frank where a part of village is turned into an arts festival. Read more about it and more details of how/what/where here.

The view from my #SoulWindow is welcoming!

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Little touches of Frank can be found around his house cum restaurant!!

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Little touches of Frank’s son Aloke can be found around the house and restaurant!

For booking enquiries, pls click here 

Note : I was invited by Frank to brief about a very interesting arts festival called Shop Art / Art Shop. In this festival, the nondescript village of Gunehr turns into a arts festival. Know about this unique festival below :

A village turned into an open air art gallery

Also invited alongwith me were other travel bloggers namely Dipanshu Goyal, Manjulika Pramod and Parnashree Devi.

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The local prasad (holy food) we were served on Mahashivratri!

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