I visited Jaipur in December 2016 with my parents-in-law. So I proudly took them to Hawa Mahal as it is one of my favorite monuments. Agreed it is smaller in comparison to Amber Fort and City Palace, but Hawa Mahal is one of the most recognizable icon of the city. Personally I loved the colored glasses, the courtyards and walking around the various levels. We went in with high expectations. My previous visits to Hawa Mahal were beautiful.
To my utter horror they have taken some restoration work and it turns out to be ‘how not to restore Hawa Mahal’ story! I wonder who ordered it and how can they live with themselves, if this is the final work.
When we went to level two, things felt terribly wrong. There are ugly green wooden blocks covering the jharokhas all over the place! I would not use it even at my modest three bedroom home what to say of Hawa Mahal built in 1799 for queens!
The horror story continued at the higher levels too. To block people from climbing into the windows they have put barriers. I can understand that, people may not be behaving responsibly but why to put such ugly railings? Why not make an effort to put in something that blends with the place? Unfortunately I do not have a picture of that particular bit of outrage.
Sense and Lack of It
I am not a heritage person really. But I have been to many heritage sites, in Jaipur and other places. There is something about history that makes me forget it as soon as I get out of the monument! I am not a connoisseur who can understand the intricacies of restorations. Had it been a minor glitch, I would not even notice it. But the present work is so ugly and horrible that even an untrained person like me can spot it without any effort.
The Sad Story of a Beautiful Green Door
I saw this beautiful green door at Hawa Mahal where someone casually attached the horrible looking Kundi on it! I mean how could someone raise their hands to put an outrage like this into the gorgeous door! I don’t think we make doors like it anymore. Who in their right minds would do this?
But Who Ordered This?
I was left wondering who sanctioned and approved this restoration? It is not restoration, it is butchering the monument! It makes me immensely sad to see Hawa Mahal in such a pitiable condition.
When I searched online I can find articles about the 2010 restoration. Back then people were not happy because colored glasses were put in place of jalis. The whole rationale of Hawa Mahal was to let the wind have a free play!
Search as I may, I could not find any articles regarding the current sorry state of the monument. My only sane guess I can make is that maybe, just maybe, this is temporary while the original jalis are being restored.
But this is India which can often leave you incredulous! I won’t be surprised if in somebody’s estimate this is the final restoration of Hawa Mahal. If it is we need to get together and do something. In its current state it is horrible beyond words.
If you feel for the cause please sign my petition at Change.Org
Ramgarh Heritage is a resort that has been painstakingly restored to its 325 year old glory! It is a luxury property in Panchkula. It is a beautiful place to visit, if you wish to relax over a weekend. It will also work for you if you wish to break your journey while heading to the mountains ahead.
I spent two nights there and I had a good time. I had a nicely done premium room in Jagjit Mahal. My room was large, in a city a smallish flat can be cut out in the same space! The bathroom was huge too with modern amenities.
The resort is well spread out. There is a Krishan Temple within the premises. It is an old temple and it lends to the charm of the property.
They have large lawns, pool side area and dedicated halls for conferences and weddings. The resort is popular for weddings and events.
The restaurant used to be the old Diwan Khana and it still goes by the same name. I quite enjoyed my food and beer at Diwan Khana. I mostly went with Indian food and liked it, though I am sure my calorie counter went through the roof.
I still remember their khasta paratha, it is so tasty. Their bati is amazing too. In desserts Shahi Tukda was fantastic. The Diwan Khana has a bar too.
I went for a village walk on one of the mornings. Even though the village is developed now, there are signs of the old days.
There are temples, old houses, dharamshalas to remind us of the old days. I had the best and the freshest ever chach (buttermilk) at a local home.
I was eating so much that I went to the pool on the second evening. The pool area is beautiful, ideal for holding a party. The pool is on the smaller side yet I managed to get a workout by swimming continuously.
Ramgarh Heritage is an excellent place to relax at a long weekend or to break your journey if you are heading to the hills.
PS. I was invited by Ramgarh Heritage to experience the property.
Chhavi and I visited Abbotsford Nainital in March, just before Holi. It is a beautiful cottage built in 1876. It came to the Prasada Family in 1903. The home is full of old family photographs and curios which kept me engrossed. But then I am running ahead of me. Let me start at the beginning.
We took the Kathgodam Shatabdi which leaves New Delhi Railway Station at 6.00 am. That means a 4.30 start from home! That left both Chhavi and me cranky. But we tolerated each-other well throughout the train journey. Then we had to take Avomine for our motion sickness and that made us even crankier!
The road trip from Kathgodam to Nainital was a breeze. But the kid was getting even more crankier by the minute and I don’t blame her. I was scared she would be too tired to enjoy anything after we reached. But I was wrong.
We were staying in the Kings Room which is within the old building. It was a charming room. But more than anything Chhavi perked up at the sight of big open lawn where we had our lunch. It is an outdoor Cafe, Chica, which is open to public. Chhavi had a paratha in the car but I was surprised that she ate lunch as well. Then all the tiredness was forgotten! She was her jumping self again!
I did not anticipate the weather getting so chilly at the nights at Nainital in March. Our room had a blower which we used all night for the first night. I ended up buying a thick sweater and shoes for Chhavi the next day. They gave us hot water bags to put at out feet inside the quilt at night. Even Chhavi relished it to the core, for me it was sheer bliss!
The room had a TV too. Chhavi was happy that she could watch her cartoons! But nobody watched much TV.
Our room was huge, it got natural light throughout the day. It was done tastefully. It had an amazing arched roof! With a small and active child I am quite scared that she would break something! My room had only a few delicate things, like an ashtray, an attar bottle, a candle stand etc. But the main section on the ground floor was full of bric-a-bracs that required care! I have to say Chhavi managed not to break anything once again!
The bathroom has a shower, a bucket, Forest Essentials toiletries, hot water, all little things that made us comfortable.
Janhavi Prasada, a member of the family who owns Abbotsford, was there with us. Chhavi found a new companion, to whom she could talk non-stop. I had to tell her at times, “jaan maat lo tum unki!”
We took it easy on the first day. It was mainly about food, chai, soups and conversations! Which brings me to the next topic, food!
The food at Nainital is homely. And if you travel frequently, that is a blessing. The breakfast had roti, toast, omelette, excellent local jams, butter and tea. I am sure you will get coffee to you want it.
The lunch was Indian style with sabzi, daal, roti and chawal with farm fresh salad. One night we had continental food which both Chhavi and I like.
The second night was a feast for us. We had a bonfire outdoors, we had wine and we had local food with bhang ki chatni. It was a true feast!
There were baby carrots growing in their garden. It was a first for Chhavi, to see carrot getting dug out, and then being handed to her to wash and eat!
The flowers had just started to bloom. The poppies were such a source of cheer!
I was lucky that my stay coincided with the inaugural meeting of the Nainital Book Club. The first meeting was held at Abbotsford and the book they discussed was The Immortals of Meluha. I have not read it but I found the discussion quite engrossing. I wish them the very best for their future meetings.
We went on a hike, and Chhavi and I ventured into the city too, but that is the topic of a separate post!
Traveling with a child gives a different hue to a trip. Children will Abbotsford because they have huge open areas to run around though they have to be careful indoors.
If I were there alone, I would just laze around the homestay and do nothing, or write
PS. My stay at Abbotsford was sponsored by them.
When I was leaving the Kumarakom Lake Resort, I told Sanjay, “thank you for such a wonderful holiday, it was so beautiful, it was almost unreal!” Since then I have been wondering why I enjoyed my stay so much! I actually closed my eyes and the reasons started popping up one by one. I wrote then all in the random order as they emerged in my thoughts. And that is what I share with you today.
1. Are you sure you want to talk about all this?
When I reached the resort I was somewhat tired. Even though it was a 8.10 am flight, I had to wake at 5.00 am. The flight to Kochi was via Hyderabad. Then there was metro construction going on in Kochi so it took us a lot of time to get out of the city.
But I am so used to working on the trips that I automatically start asking questions. Asa Abraham, the PR manager asked me, “are you sure you want to talk about all this? We will discuss it tomorrow.” After a while when I again slipped into the questioning mode she firmly told me, “you relax, you must be tired.” And I was bundled off to a sunset cruise and then after an early dinner to my room. That really set the tone for the rest of the trip!
Ask anyone at the Kumarakom Lake Resort for how many years they have worked with the property and chances they would tell you something like 10 years, 15 years, 7 years or so. People work there for a long long time. And that reflects in the way they treat guests. My guess is that the resort keeps the employees happy, and the employees, in turn, keep the guests happy.
3. Heritage villa with a pool or when I had the whole pool to myself
I had a luxury heritage lake view villa with an attached plunge pool. In other words, I had a whole private pool to myself that was enclosed within the four walls of my villa, an ultimate luxury for me. I could take a dip in the pool at midnight if I wanted. It was also a first for me. In fact on this trip there were many firsts and there were many having the whole things to myself!
4. Having the whole houseboat to myself
Even though I have been to Kerala before, it was my first time on a houseboat. And then I had the whole big houseboat for myself. I went on a lunch cruise. Chef Deepak and his team prepared a lavish Kerala meal for me accompanied with a beer! My first experience on a houseboat has been out of this world! The weather was awesome and I hardly ever budged from the deck!
5. Having the whole canoe to myself
Before going on a houseboat I went on a canoe ride through the backwaters. A canoe can enter narrower canals than the big houseboats. On my ride, early in the morning, you guessed it right, I had the whole canoe to myself. I sat on the chair for the first fifteen minutes. Then I asked if I could go sit at the front of the boat? When I was told yes, I remained there, firmly sitting on the front of the boat for the rest of my journey! It was a fabulous trip.
At lunch and dinner in the main restaurant, they had 22 bottles of pickle! Need I say more? Well, I will say a little more, we had a staggering variety of South Indian food but they made sure that there were continental and North Indian food available as well. In fact the buffet was so nice that I never ordered anything out the menu!
7. Prince Charles’s Room
Prince Charles celebrated his 65th birthday at Kumarakom Lake Resort. I was told that for his entire team 20 rooms were booked in all. He and the duchess stayed at the presidential suites. And the room is actually fit for royalty! Among other things, it has its own private infinity pool!
8. The Infinity Pool
That brings me to the common infinity pool. My room was the closest to it and I went for swimming every day. I have decided that if I have a pool access and if I have time, I am going to work out on my trips! Otherwise there is no chance of me ever getting fit! And it helps to stay motivated if the pool is set in such scenic surroundings!
9. Beautiful Backwaters
You can view the Vembanad from the various corners of the resort. It is a befitting backdrop to a very beautiful resort. In fact while I was swimming in the infinity pool, I could see local fishermen go past in their boats!
I asked people how old was the resort? They told me it opened in 2000. So I concluded that it was 15 years old. And yet it looked much older and that puzzled me!
When I met the owner Mr. Paul P John he mentioned that his team bought many old Kerala houses, dismantled it piece by piece and then many such pieces were used to build the resort. The main restaurant was the house gifted to the martial arts teacher of the King of Travancore. I then understood why the place looked much older than 15 years!
The resort is constructed such that it gives the feel of being in a backwater village with coconut trees, water lilies, bridges and canals. You will find hammocks and benches to sit and relax! You can go fishing within the premises itself with Kavi, who was happy to teach even the smallest kid!
12. Meandering Pool Villas
Even though I did not stay in a meandering pool villa I loved what I saw! You would step out straight from your room to the meandering pool and go where ever you pleased! I was told that the families and kids loved it. But I was happy with my own private pool!
13. Ayurvedic Massage
Ayurmana the ayurvedic spa at the resort is a bliss. I went in for a rejuvenating massage and it was truly that, one hour of complete rejuvenation!
14. Towel Art
The first day I had two swans in my room. They were beautiful but I was alone. But the next day I had good company, there was this perfectly relaxing towel art on my bed! That completely blew me away! I even clicked a silly selfie with it, I liked it so much! It exactly defined my holiday.
15. Open Bathroom
Most of the accommodations (except houseboats and luxury pavilion rooms) have semi open bathrooms. The shower was close to the pool, enclosed by the four walls but no roof. And I loved it too.
So this is a short summary of my stay at Kumarakom Lake Resort. I of course have much more to say!
PS. I was invited by the Kumarakom Lake Resort on this luxury holiday!