Wednesday, August 29, 2012


At this place of love it's always a threesome. You, your loved one and the hills.  While eating, bathing, making love...the breathtaking view of the hills is always there. Awesome threesome!

Author Anthony Robbins said Passion is the genesis of genius. Passion also separates ordinary from the rare. Sumant Batra, corporate lawyer by profession, has built his first hotel property with passion. And that's what makes stay at Te Aroha, a 10-room boutique hotel tucked in the virgin hills of Dhanachuli, a rare experience. For the record, Te Aroha in Maori means 'place of love'.

Batra is a storyteller, every wall in the property has a story to tell. From Te Aroha's story to India's colonial history, from interesting coffee table books to intriguing artifacts...there is never a dull moment cause there are so many engaging stories. When was the last time you saw your grandma's vintage wooden trunk or slept like a baby on a four poster bed or played a game of 'Ludo' to test whether you are still good at it! Te Aroha gifts you ample of such moments besides splendid mountain views.

 All rooms are themed at this hotel and house antique furniture sourced from different parts of India. Te Aroha is a collectors dream...Victorian piano, larger-than-life mirrors in rooms and lobby area, CDs of Hindi classics and marble chess board in the TV lounge-cum-library. For the more contemporary ones there are lots of travel and news magazines strewn all over the property. And then there's Cafe Flashback, Batra's little museum that doubles up as your adda for chai and pakoras. While posters of old Hindi movies and ads from the golden era dominate the place, there are tit-bits that will surprise you --- matchboxes from various hotels, old sewing machines, typewriter. Take a walk down the memory lane. Located on a hilltop, the view too from the cafe is mesmerizing.

The property also scores very high on hospitality--- the staff is very friendly and gives you almost a personalised experience, service is good and food is excellent. With no eating options outside the property as it is located in  a rather small, pristine village, you are left with no option but to eat at the hotel itself. Trust me you won't regret that. The Kumaouni meal that the property hosts, has sumptuous bhat ki daal, besan bhindi and pahari lamb curry. Surprisingly the chef here can present a delectable continental meal too.

When you have soaked enough of the indoors and views from the hotel, there are enchanting jungle and village walks to capture your soul. Te Aroha is a dream with even more dreamy outdoors. That the hotel organises guided village and forest walks is the icing on the cake. No wonder this place is fast emerging as a perfect weekend getaway for those who want a break from the everyday mundane life and even the run-of-the-mill holiday destinations.

Things To Know About Te Aroha

--Dhanachuli, village where Te Aroha is located, is a two hour uphill drive from Kathgodam Railway Station. Hotel provides cab service from Kathgodam/Haldwani at a price.

--The room rate depending on which room you choose, ranges from Rs 6,000 to Rs 10,000 approx. There are packages available inclusive of meals.

---The hotel has a spa, poker room, library and a TV lounge.

--- It offers guided village and jungle walks.

--There is an in-house restaurant, cafe and room service option too is available.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


 As a woman I love being on a holiday...cause that's the time I can experiment with resort wear, don even the itsy-bitsy dresses and have all the time to shop. I also like the entire process of planning my trip-- from hotel bookings to reading as many reviews as I can on TripAdvisor. Over all these years, I have learned few things about how to travel smart...nah and by that I don't mean travel light. Of course I need everything right from comfortable sneakers to sexy heels, make-up essentials and matching jewellery. I confess I carry them all on my vacation and have never regretted it. So here are a few things that I try and follow when I am planning my travel.

*  I have read on several websites that if booking online, Tuesday is when one gets best and the cheapest deals. I tried it and trust me it works!

* I don't know if it's true for other countries, but in India if you call a travel portal's customer care number and specify what you are looking for the chances are you will get a cheaper deal than the display prices on the website. Now we know why Indians still prefer offline modes to online. Call them and tell them you want free breakfast :) 

* Carry a stole in your hand bag. Always! Even if you are travelling to a warmer city/country. On my trip to Malaysia, a few years back, I din't carry one and the flight temperature was unbearable. When I asked for a blanket, the trying-to-be-sweet air hostess tells me, "Sure Madam, but we will charge you for it." Charge few dollars for a blanket on a five hour flight! Yes I was flying a low-cost carrier.

* Carry a small foldable bag. This is just a reminder. We all think we are not going to shop on this holiday but we always end up doing it. A foldable shoulder bag always comes handy.

* Buy Bus passes on Day 1. Most bus passes in European cities are valid for at least two days. When I went to Barcelona I decided to do the Ho-Ho Bus the last day, but the tour pass for two days was cheaper. Alas it was my last day. I could have done two tours for the same pass had I bought the pass a day before. Ditto for most tourist city bus passes.

* But leave shopping and casino for the last day. Go splurge, you don't have any other expenses to take care of. I still wonder that why most travel iteneraries I go through on travel websites give you the option of shopping on day 1.  

*  Carry the bottle of nail-paint that you are wearing. It takes two-minutes for the touch up and you don't want the chipping nail paint to be an errant in your pictures.

* Don't bother buying a calling card on a short foreign trip of 2-3 days. Most hotels have wi-fi with which you can access BBM, e-mails, and facebook. You are on a holiday, what more connections do you need. Plus it's not a very economical idea.

* ( For Delhi chicks) When in doubt leave it for Delhi duty free. Liquor is apparently the cheapest at Delhi duty free. So if planning to buy a bottle at an international airport while returning but are not sure of the price, leave it for Delhi airport.