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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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!

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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.

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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

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

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

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.
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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
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A waterfall which we saw between Hanuman Tok and Ganesh Tok, Gangtok, Sikkim. Incredible India!

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Aztec ruins of Mexico

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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.

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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?

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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.

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One of the traditional house in Kafura Village near Peora and Leela Orchards Sonapani Home-Stay, Mukteshwar, Uttarakhand
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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

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

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#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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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GOLDEN CHARIOT: THE ONLY LUXURY TRAIN OF SOUTH INDIA. FIND OUT WHAT IT’S LIKE.

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The Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India

THE SOUTHERN SPLENDOUR ROUTE OF GOLDEN CHARIOT, the luxury train of South India is irresistible. It covers the best of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Pondicherry in 7 nights and 8 days. The Southern Splendour of Golden Chariot starts from Bengaluru and covers destinations such as Chennai, Mahabalipuram aka Mammallapuram, Puducherry aka Pondicherry, Thanjavur, Trichy, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Kovalam, Alleypey and Kochi. When the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) invited me on a Media Trip to Golden Chariot, I instantly said yes. This was also the trip when I started traveling again after a break of few months because I was tired of traveling. I knew it would take something special to make me fall in love with travel again. I am glad I boarded the right train, the Golden Chariot. It is now one of my finest travel memories.

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View of a sleeper class from Golden Chariot, the only luxury train of South India. I love both!

Indian Railways has been my choice number one when it comes to the mode of transport. Trains are close to my heart. In some way or the other, trains have been a part of more than 90 % of my journeys. However, it was the first time I was traveling in a luxury train. I am a hotel management (IHM Lucknow) pass-out. During my industrial training in the palatial Taj Palace Hotel in New Delhi, I was awed by the Orient Express restaurant.

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The Bar Madira at Golden Chariot, the luxury train.

The theme of the restaurant was the famous luxury train of Europe. I would stare at it, mouth agape, imagining how the real Orient Express must have been like. Experiencing the Orient Express is a false dream since it has been discontinued. However, India has many luxury trains with impeccable service, food and delightful destinations to choose from. Southern Splendour of Golden Chariot is a clear winner because of the variety it offers in such short span of time. The train derives its name from the famous Stone Chariot in Hampi, a world heritage site in Karnataka.

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Indian and foreign guests at the Golden Chariot, luxury train.

We were welcomed with much fanfare at Hotel Taj West End, Bangalore. We were registered at a desk followed up by a high tea and power point presentation by Mr. Abhijay Verma, general manager. The evening was closed with a wonderful performance by trained classical dancers. The Thanjavur doll dance won my heart. It actually seemed like that the dolls and not humans were dancing.

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Dancers performing Thanjavur doll dance at Taj West End Bangalore. It was the opening ceremony of the Golden Chariot, luxury train.

As soon as we arrived at the Yeshwantpur Railway Station in Bengaluru, the music makers welcomed us with aplomb. Wearing impeccably white shirts and lungi (sarong), they passionately played the thavil, a drum hanging from their shoulder with a cloth locally called nadai. Their fingers were covered with thimble like finger caps. Made of rice flour or maida flour, the caps are called Koodu.The other man played Nadaswaram, a metallic pipe which flares up at the bottom like a bell.

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The bar Madira. Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India.

Both Thavil and Nadaswaram are ancient musical instruments of South India. These are widely used in weddings, temples and carnatic music. The women garlanded us as the curious crowd jumped from across the barrier to get a glimpse of the train interiors and its occupants. The theme of curious onlookers continued for the entire journey. People would get curious and excited every time the train passed through a destination or was parked at a station. On one of the day, I saw the railway attendants of another train requesting to catch a glimpse of the interiors of the Golden Chariot. Moments like these made me grateful that such an opportunity came my way. Moments like these gave me the epiphany that we are in the midst of something special and exclusive.

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MY FIRST REACTION: THE ENTRY TO THE GOLDEN CHARIOT VIA MADIRA BAR

I vividly remember my reaction as soon as I entered the Golden Chariot. We made our first entry in the Golden Chariot through the only bar of the train called Madira (Meaning alcohol). “Wow”, that was all I could manage as soon as I entered the bar Madira in the Golden Chariot. It took me a while to accept that the luxurious furnishings and the well stocked bar was indeed inside an Indian train. As if to calm our nerves we were served complimentary red wine and white wine.

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Me in the bar of Golden Chariot. Luxury Train Of South India. Pic by Ami Bhat

I couldn’t help but minutely notice each and every detail of the bar, smile never leaving my lips. It was something which I had never experienced before despite having traveled across more than 150 destinations in India and beyond since 2008. For the entire trip, Madira bar was our exit point for everyday sightseeing. The entire Golden Chariot train,. We discovered was nothing less than a palace. Be it the furniture, the furnishings, the carpeting, the food, the service or the facilities, everything matched the level of any 5 star property.

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Me in my room in the Golden Chariot, the luxury train.

ROOMS OF GOLDEN CHARIOT, THE LUXURY TRAIN OF SOUTH INDIA!

I was curious to see the rooms. Each room had either twin beds or double beds. Interestingly, the décor of each coach of the Golden Chariot is designed differently. Christened after the famed dynasties of South India, viz. Yadukula, Hoysala, Adilshahi, Ganga, Chalukya, Vijayanagara, the décor of each room and coach reflected the architectural style of the respective era. The luxury train is managed by Mapple hotels. There are total 18 coaches with 11 passenger coaches boasting of well equipped private cabins (Rooms). Each room was appointed with a television.

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Madira bar, The Golden Chariot, luxury train.

Since cable TV is not possible due to the movement, we were given a choice of watching films on demand. Not a TV person, I used my leisure time reading the books on Karnataka and Mysore which were thoughtfully kept on the table near my bed. Some of the rooms had foldable berths which you can pull down if required; just like in regular trains. This means that upto 3 individuals can accommodate in some of the rooms.

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Views from my room in Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India

Since I had the room to myself, the child in me would hop on to the either of the twin beds. If the train moved in day, I would sit by the bed on the window side and admire the change in the beautiful sceneries of South India. Palm fringed landscapes, huge water bodies, charming huts, and mountains dominated the views from the train window. Scores of wind mills (at Aralvaymoli station near Kanyakumari) caught my attention. This is my favourite pastime every time I am in an Indian Train. However, doing it in a private room in an air conditioned luxurious train is something I will not forget in a lifetime. Most of the movement of train was during the night. On only few occasions did we get to see moving sceneries since most of the day was spent in sightseeing.

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My Room in the Yadukula Coach of the Golden Chariot, the luxury train of South India.
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Attached washroom in Golden Chariot, luxury train.

The washrooms are appointed with shaving kit, dental care, soaps, shampoo, conditioner, bath gel, moisturizer and slippers. Despite the tiny size of the washroom, space management has ensured that the rack to keep toileteries, shower area, W.C. and the washbasin are compartmentalized making the movement easy and swift. It was a weird feeling for me to have a hot shower in a moving train. The room has two large mirrors; one is in the washroom above washbasin and the other one is on the washroom door, towards the room side.

FACILITIES OF THE GOLDEN CHARIOT, LUXURY TRAIN:

A personalized room attendant is appointed in each coach. All one has to do is press the buzzer and the attendant will appear on your door, ready to serve you with a smile. Not much of a fussy traveler, I never used this facility but it’s a great idea to appoint each room with an attendant. It helps especially the elderly for anything they might need. The attendants sleep near the entrance of their respective coaches. Each coach is also appointed with a well stocked pantry. This is important because due to the layout of the linear palace, it takes time to reach the other coaches or restaurants and bar. Even luxury has its limitations! Also, I wished there was an individual temperature control panel in the room. In case a guest wanted to increase or decrease the temperature, he/she was required to use the buzzer and instruct the room attendant.

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Me with the room attendant of Yadukula coach. The Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India.
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Me at the sit out area, Golden Chariot. Luxury Train.

Some space is left at one end of each coach for a sit out area. 4 chairs and 2 tables are placed next to the door windows. The walls of the sit out area are decorated with South Indian elements such as dance themed face masks. The tables are stocked with fresh newspaper. Every day, there are announcements done in the train. The announcement reaches each corner of the train including rooms, washrooms and spa etc. There is a well appointed business centre as well. Laundry facility is available with a same day return policy. Besides a readily available first aid kit, a doctor on call is also available at each station. All coaches are open, not locked. All 4 doors have only one top latch provided for a quick escape during any emergency. All the services at the spa are chargeable. There are many therapies to choose from.They have a menu card for the same.

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The Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India halts at Aralvaymoli near Kanyakumari. Scores of wind mills dotted the landscape.

The Madira Bar of The Golden Chariot: The bar at Golden Chariot is grand. Thanks to its well planned layout, rich furnishings and a lively ambiance, it was the most preferred place for all the passengers to have a conversation, sip wine, read books or socialize. Interactive events like live South Indian cooking demo was held in this area. The women also flocked to the bar to get their palms painted with Mehandi/Heena during an event. The best part: There is no closing time for the bar. The bar stays open till the last drink is ordered. The consumables at the bars are chargeable separately. But oh, there are happy hours as well.

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Chess and other pastimes at Madira Bar. The Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India.

THE RESTAURANTS AND FOOD AT THE GOLDEN CHARIOT, LUXURY TRAIN

There are 2 restaurants in the Golden Chariot. The food in Golden Chariot is so tasteful that I used to wait for my next meal every day. In fact the food and service in Golden Chariot is one of its highlights. Mr. Mahender Singh Rathore, food and beverage manager has been the part of the management ever since its inception. He personally takes care of the need of each guest. I talked to some foreign guests from Canada, Fiji and Ireland and they seemed delighted with the quality of the European cuisine and service on board. Every day, the breakfast and dinner was aboard the Golden Chariot Train. The lunch was served in the luxury hotels of the cities we visited. The breakfast aboard the Golden Chariot comprised of fresh fruits, juices and a choice of continental and Indian meals. I was impressed with the freshness of the food despite the change in its city every day. The executive chef Deepak Chaubey told me, “We source fresh ingredients every day. We have our tie ups at each station which facilitates it. Quality is never compromised.”

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Indian Food in the Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India.

The breakfast and dinner in Golden Chariot also had a choice of continental food. Below are some of the dishes I stuffed my face with.

Breakfast (Indian) –Masala Dosa, Aaloo Paratha, Idli, Palak Poori, Khara and Kesari Bhath, Gobhi Paratha, Khara Pongal, Masala Vada, Poori Bhaji, Paneer Paratha, Shavige Bhath, Ajwaiini Poori.

Breakfast (Non Indian): Cheese platter with olive and crackers, Muffins, Croissants with assorted jams, honey and butter, Wheat Flakes, Corn Flakes, Oatmeal, Muesli, Seasonal Cut fruits, juices.

Beverages (Non Alcoholic) – Tea (Darjeeling/Masala/Earl Grey/English Breakfast/Green Tea), Coffee (South Indian Filter/Cappucino/Espresso/Latte), Hot Chocolate

Soups served were Mulligatawny Soup, Tamatar Dhaniya Shorba, Crème Dubarry, Mushroom and Barley Soup

Salads– Grilled pineapple and prunes salad, Creamy cucumber with cashew kernels, Crispy coleslaw, Three Bean Salad.

Entrée– Bouqueterie of vegetables and herbed potatoes, Basil Scented Vegetable Skewers, Grilled Mediterranean Vegetables with Fruit Salsa, Fettuccine Alfredo,

Indian– Manguluru Paneer Masala, Mysuru Brinjal Curry, Drumstick Ulli Sambhar, Zafarani Pulao, Lal Mirch Paratha, Mirch Bhutta Makhana, Kandhari Kofta, Hare Cholia Te Paneer, Khattey Aaloo, Tawa Paratha, Panchras dal, Jeera Rice, Tomato Raita, Palak Khumb, Paneer Lababdar, Kadi pakodi, Aloo Udaygiri, Kerala Parotta, Angoori Pulao

Dessert – Tender coconut soufflé, Gulab Jamun, Dharwadi Bendekai, Pineapple Strudels, Nariyal Til Sikkha, Tiramisu, Sheer Korma, Apple Cinnamon Pie, Zafrani Gajar aur Badam Kheer.

Pictures above- (Left to right) 1) Executive chef Mr. Deepak Chaubey; 2) Continental dish served in the Golden Chariot, luxury train.

The Staff and Service: The staff is courteous, very attentive and gives importance to the smallest of request from the guests.

Map
The Tour Map of Southern Splendour Golden Chariot

Below are the two routes of the Golden Chariot, the only luxury train of South India:

Golden Chariot Pride of South Brief Itinerary: Bangalore-Chennai & Mammallapuram-Pondicherry-Thanjavur-Madurai-Trivandrum & Kovalam Beach-Kerala backwaters & Kochi-Bangalore

Southern Splendour Golden Chariot Brief Itinerary: Bangalore-Kabini-Mysore-Hassan-Hampi-Badami-Goa-Bangalore

I covered the Southern Splendour.

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Foreign guests at the Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India.

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The bus used for sights-seeing for guests of the Golden Chariot, the luxury train.

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Me in one of the restaurants of the Golden Chariot, the luxury train of South India.

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.

Pictures (Left to Right)- Spa, Gym and Aisle of the Golden Chariot. Please click to enlarge.

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Cooking demo by executive chef and team at Madira Bar, the Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India.
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Scenes from my window at The Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India.
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Aralvaymoli near Kanyakumari is abundant of wind mills. The Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India halted here for sometime.
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The view of Sleeper Class from one of the windows of The Golden Chariot, luxury train of South India. Both are dear to me.

P.S. The pictures featuring me clicked by Ami Bhat and Swati Jain. Rest of the pictures are clicked by me

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!

PLAN A VACATION. DISCOVER THESE PLACES NEAR AAMARIRESORTS, RAMGARH, UTTARAKHAND:

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

LEELA ORCHARDS HOMESTAY IN MUKTESHWAR: PERFECT CHOICE OF WEEKEND BREAK FROM DELHI IN BUDGET

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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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:

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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.