|Valley view in a drizzle|
So we step into the month of July to celebrate decades of togetherness. Away from the concrete and glass of Gurgaon, and away from news and negativity of television, we want to surrender ourselves in the arms of nature. Our search for sublime serenity ends at Ananda, a spa destination, nestling in the very lap of Himalyan foothills.
The mountain air on the way is suffused with moist indolence as low clouds scud along the hills to caress the foliage. At Ananda, The Palace Estate of Narendranagar, a traditional arti with a ginger-lemon-honey infusion greets us with pleasant warmth. As I check in, I wonder: What is it that makes this place so special? I doubt if there is any one perfect answer. Several soft touches of quality, service and ambiance make Ananda memorable.One cant really define it, one has to feel it.
Although the main exterior building is not imposing, the spa on an hundred acre estate is indeed a soul sanctuary where traditional Ayurveda practices blend with international standards of well being. The celebrity testimonial by Oprah Winfrey, calling it ‘more like a pilgrimage than a visit’ is slightly over the top for someone staying for three nights, but a month long rejuvenating program for those with deep pockets can indeed be bliss.
Any stay is memorable only when there is great service. At Ananda everyone greets you with folded hands and a smiling Namaste. The Namaskar ritual is so ingrained that a gardener wearing a raincoat, tending to a plant in a drizzle will stand upright, fold hands and wish you with a warm Namaste.
|Dining Hall, Facilities and the Amphitheater|
Depending on the package, you can enjoy the spa experience which is the highlight of Ananda. I am not a spa person, but after the Swedish massage by a young Tibetan girl, I am wondering why I stayed away from this luxury. A range of massage experience is available, each addressing a specific aspect of mental and physical well being. The Ayurveda experience is designed keeping in mind the individual’s desire to heal, cleanse, relax and revitalize.
Other than the spa experience and the service, the most remarkable feature of my stay is the delightful interplay between the low moist clouds and the verdant foliage. The place epitomizes the kinship between serenity and nature. Whether it is a Blue Jay swishing past or a peacock dancing in all its mating glory, it is the effusive charm of nature that is casting a spell.
On a vacation, Indians always look for good food.The buffet breakfast welcomes me with tulsi water which is such a refreshing drink that I decide to incorporate in my daily life. But beyond simple soups, juices and sprouts, the chefs stay away from playing with the local raw produce. Given the focus on health, the food is different from what is dished out at other outstanding restaurants. For me, the food experience is on the lowest rung when compared to the spa and beauty of the place.
Finally, all good hotels tend to make people do what they don’t do at home. So, yes I wear a crisp white kurta pyjama, eat sprouts and meditate. If rejuvenation was the purpose of this visit, the purpose is served admirably.
To reach Ananda, you can take the Dehradoon Shatabdi or a flight to the Jolly Grant Airport, Dehradoon. The transport desk sends a pick up car but you can hire local cab at half the price.
The place does not welcome kids which makes sense once you visit the spa. The food is expensive so carry some ready made snacks for hunger pangs in between meals.
The valley view rooms on higher floors are recommended over the garden view rooms, only if the weather is clear. We shelled out extra for the valley view room but witnessed the twinkling valley along the meandering Ganges only for a few minutes.
Avoid carrying several clothes as Ananda provides you with a fresh set of white unisex kurta pyjama. These are not complimentary. The temperature is almost similar to the valley as Ananda is not at a great height.
Avoid going in the monsoon season, as you miss outdoor activities like trekking, river rafting and temple visits.
(This is NOT a review.)