Monday, July 13, 2015

Ananda

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. 

Tips:

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.)

47 comments:

  1. beautiful post. one can visualise the beauty & serenity of the place. after reading your post, i want to go to Ananda!!

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    1. You must. Though the view from your place was equally amazing.
      Good to see you here.

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  2. I have read your commentary on current affairs and always marveled at your astute grasp of the subject as well as your tongue and cheek, wry humour. And then you come up with a travelogue so beautifully written, so descriptive - you made me feel I was standing right there watching “the kinship between serenity and nature”
    Beautiful Alka. I need a break desperately. Perhaps Ananda it would be when I can get away !

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    1. You will love it, it is your kinda place.
      Thank you.

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  3. Hmm - you make me want to go there asap

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    1. You are old friends with the Himalayas, so I guess you will love it.

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  4. The place does indeed look serene and rejuvenating. Good to read that you had such a wonderful and peaceful experience there. Beautiful post, Alka!

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  5. So when children are not welcome, I will have to wait a lot to go there :) but seems like a really serene place. Love the green and the calmness that this post talks about.

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    1. I am sure the little one will be happy to spend two nights with grandparents.
      Unless one is there for a special programme, two nights are enough.

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  6. Loved the pictures as well the way you described this beautiful place. The lush green valleys have invoked wanderlust in me once again!

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  7. It is on my wish list, been on it for a long time now :) Your lovely descriptive article with some amazing pictures has me marking the dates in my calendar, post monsoon, ofcourse :)

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  8. I think my father mentioned this place. G somehow does not like spas. Recently I pushed him to get a hair massage at a Taj resort and he just did not like it. I enjoyed mine though and got another massage done too. :) Seems like a great place but for us with kids, it is a distant dream. Glad you had such a good time.

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    1. If you don't want the spa exclude it from the package. I am sure Bangalore has many such places around.
      Delhi does not offer quiet, secluded destinations.

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  9. Looks like a fantastic place! And great pictures too :)

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  10. Hi Alka! Lovely piece on a beautiful destination. The pictures too tell such an enticing story. This was just days before we met you on Sunday?

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    1. Yes KIran, first week of July.
      Good to see you here, thanks.

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  11. You do look very calm and peaceful, like always though :) Your post made me want to get a massage done in an exotic spa like that :) Glad you had a wonderful time,

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  12. The whole experience,described so beautifully,makes me want to go there at once though i do not like massages.But the ambience is inviting.
    Lovely post Alka.

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  13. Your description of the place is befitting the place ! The pictures speak as much as your words and makes me want to visit the place, Alka

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    1. Given your love for travel, I am sure you will.
      Thank you.

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  14. Is there anything you cannot write, Alka? I'm in awe of the simplicity with which you've penned down this travelogue. Even without the photographs, I could visualise it - of course, the photos are pretty cool too.
    Adding this to my must visit list.

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    1. Aww, thanks. I was wondering if I can ever write again.
      Going through a phase when nothing nudges you to write....

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  15. Nice post...ur words really giv d feel of d place

    5 looks with Same dress

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    1. Thanks Ananaya. Good to see you here.

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  16. Looks like a serene place to unwind.
    Happy anniversary Alka!

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  17. Finally she writes. Welcome back, Alka.

    I wonder, overpriced experiences such as Ananda is an indicator that serenity and rejuvenation is a prerogative of a privileged few.

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    1. Wether it is branded clothes, decent vacation or comfortable travel, quality comes at a high price in India.
      Wrote with a reluctant pen. Still in the woods. Wondering if I can write again.
      Welcome back to you too. From a vacation that is.

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  18. Beautiful post, Alka, in all ways possible.

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  19. Love those lawns around the place.
    If its at the foothills of Himalayas it must be pretty cold there? (you look cool in that black shirt..... or is it a sweater?)

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    1. Its not cold at all. Just and hour away from Haridwar.

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  20. Wow! After reading the post I so wanna go there... It looks like a serene place.. Amazing..
    And you clicked it well!

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  21. it looks so amazing and peaceful ... I wanna drink tulsi water too... that must be refreshing :D Good food, good place... what else one needs :D

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  22. Such a beautiful place and wonderful narration ! I hope it rejuvenated you :) would love to go there some day.

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