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December 2009 - January 2010


Travel

A heavenly experience

by Aline Dobbie


I spent a month in India from 25th January to 25th February 2009; on the 26th we were guests of the Indian government at The Republic Day Parade which was very fine. It went off without incident which was the major fear after the Mumbai atrocity. Delhi was experiencing beautiful weather and it was not at all cold which was a contrast from the same time last year when it became extremely cold and we had undertaken journeys in northern India which founds amongst snow and frost.

I attended the INTACH 25th Anniversary Conference which was very interesting. The Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage is doing an excellent job in trying to maintain and help encourage renovation of the country’s wonderful heritage. In such a huge country there is so much to do but in their first quarter of a century they have achieved and I particularly like their educational projects to make young Indians and the children aware of their heritage and how they are custodians of it.

We flew down to Bengaloru and embarked on a car journey which took us to Vythiri in the north east of Kerala – a region called Waynaad. It was a long drive but worth it when we reached the resort. Vythiri has tree houses on their estate and we had the great pleasure of living in one a hundred feet up with birds and monkeys as neighbours. It was a splendid experience. Then we converted to the more conventional sort of bedroom suite. I hasten to add that the tree top suite had a most lovely ensuite hot and cold shower, basin and WC.

The only thing to remember was to leave nothing on the veranda and shut the bedroom door as otherwise a monkey would probably follow one into the bathroom and this could prove problematical – it did not happen to us! Every morning I heard the song of the Malabar Laughing Thrush outside our balcony in the conventional suite which was superb, and we saw a Scarlet Minivet and female.

Vythiri is a lovely lush place and very restful with staff that tries very hard to make you feel welcome and comfortable. It has a lovely shaded pool which is fed by a hill stream and the Ayurvedic and Aromatherapy available is excellent – I tried both in very good facilities.

We then returned into Karnataka and went to Orange County at Kabini. This is a superb new resort which we both loved. We lived in both sorts of cottages – one with its own garden jacuzzi in a private courtyard and then one with its own private pool in a courtyard. The cottages are spacious and elegant and so comfortable and the grounds of the resort are beautiful with views on to Lake Kabini. We made three wildlife safaris – two from the jeep and one from the boat. We felt incredibly lucky as we saw leopards, and a tiger and gaur (the huge Indian Bison which is a shy animal), chital deer, giant mongoose, wild elephants, a lot of birdlife, wild boar, sambar deer. Our view of the tiger was fleeting this time but the leopards we could feast our eyes on for ages which was a wonderful experience.

Orange County has much to commend it and I would love to return – it is a sister property to Orange County Coorg to which we have been in 2006. Now I believe Orange County is going to develop a property at Hampi.

That will be truly wonderful; Hampi is the most wonderful old deserted city of which I wrote in my third book India: The Elephant’s Blessing. I had longed to visit it but the travel is difficult and we achieved it by a long road journey. The current hotel is horrible so Orange County will be a wonderful addition. Hampi has enough to absorb the traveller for four days in my opinion, and I foresee it becoming the new Angkor Wat.

From Kabini we drove to Mysore and stayed at The Windflower which was enjoyable. This place along with the other two has excellent Spa/Ayurvedic facilities. I think the one at Windflower is called Emerge Spa. Certainly in all three resorts I experienced the most excellent massage. Mysore I know of old; I first stayed there as a child of five as a guest of the Maharajah of Mysore with my parents in his guest palace which is now a hotel. Indeed we stayed in it ourselves in 2005. Mysore has a lot to see but this time we visited Infosys at its wonderful Corporate Campus. What a place – truly a palace of the modern India!

Then we returned to Bengaloru and stayed at the ITC Fortune JP Cosmos hotel. It is excellent – five star in my opinion in a good central part of the city. Aero India was taking place so Bengaloru was full of the world’s aviation experts who had all arrived to participate in that biennial show. The food at JP Cosmos was most excellent with lovely friendly Head Chefs who produced some delectable dishes, and some especially for me!

We then flew on to Goa and stayed at The Majorda Beach Resort. This is a place at which we have stayed twice before and it ticks all the boxes for us – beautiful beach, lovely shaded lush green exotic gardens full of coconut trees, lovely swimming pools and we were in a cottage which was most comfortable. Goa is a place I have visited by cruise ship, and road and plane. It is interesting but I prefer the south and the more conservative atmosphere of a place like Majorda.

At the end of our journey we returned to Delhi. Karnataka has a great deal to see and experience and I have covered it very thoroughly in my book on southern India – India: The Elephant’s Blessing. My advice is to make sure that the car you hire is really good and roadworthy and that the driver is a careful and responsible man – both those vital factors will insure you have a happy and safe journey. We inevitably end up in a very good relationship with our driver whom we are then sad to say farewell to at the end of our road journey.

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