BEST HILLSTATIONS FOR HOLIDAYERS
A Trip To Gangtok Truly Unforgettable For Holidaymakers - BIRD Paradise At WARAI -LAVASA , India's  first and larhest hillstation -- CHAIL, The Capital Of The Former Princely State Of Patiala Famous For Trekking,Angling,Hiking --To enjoy a bracing walk up/down Mussoorie's slopes,the Claridges Nabha Residency  offers some interesting packages to lur u --

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IN MYSTIC VALES

A trip to Gangtok made for some unforgettable dream-like moments -

Meandering mountain roads have a way of keeping the suspense alive - you never really know what's awaiting you at the next curve.But the 124 km road Bagdogra to Gangtok is truly beautiful.It's a twisting ribbon with the fast-flowing Teesta river running alongside almost all the way.

Gangtok turned out to be a pleasant surprise.It's a quaint and buzzing town with a unique character that's all its own.

The first stop next day could be the famous Rumtek monastery.It's the largest in Sikkim and also one of the richest monasteries in the world.As u walk up to the monastery u could see lamas sitting in small tea shops,chattering away on their cell phones.All along the way on the side of the road there are prayer wheels that are spun by people as they trudge to the monastery.

The atmosphere change once u enter the monastery.The Karma Shri Nalanda Institute,where the monks enrol for higher Buddhist studies and for the title of acharya,is a strict place.One has to study for 11 years and if a monk fails twice consecutively,he ceases to be a part of the monastery.The ,it is on to the Ranka Monastery which is smaller but,in some ways,almost more charming.

U are in time for a special prayer - the lamas sit according to their positions facing each other and chanting while one keep the beat on a hanging circular drum.It is puctuated with some monks playing the huge,horn-like shingas which making an unusual ruckus.

It is a short drive from the Ranka Monastery to the nearby Banjhakri Falls.This is an energy park built around a cascading waterfall in honour of the Jhakri tribe.The Jhakris traditionally act as doctors with herbal medicines and accompanying rituals.

Next,u can head for adventure of a different sort.U can drive upto the Nathula Pass about 56km away from Gangtok.At 14,200ft,in this bitting cold where not a single tree grows,u can see a mountain overlooking twin lakes.This is Indo-China border come to u as a surprise.Nearby there's Baba Mandir dedicated to the legendary soldier Baba Harbhajan Singh whose spirit is believed to protect this border.

Only small shrubs with tiny pink flowers grow in the hills around.U could managed to click a grazing wild yak - it looks quite menacing unlike its fellows down at Changu Lake which is where u head after dropping in at Sherathang.This is a market selling Chinese goods and u can stop for a quick lunch of noodles in a shack.

Changu is serene and considered sacred by the locals.The oval-shaped lake has an aura of timelessness hanging about it - all the way will give u an unforgettable dreamlike moment.

READY RECKONER

Getting there - The nearest airport and railway station is Bagdogra and New Jalpaiguri respectively,a hour drive away from Gangtok.A helicopter service is also available between Bagdogra and Gangtok.

Best time to visit - October to March is the best time to be in Gangtok.

Where to stay - Hotels suiting all budgets are available but the Royal Plaza Hotel,a Sarovar Resort,is one of the best options.

Call 3592280032 for more information

TRAVEL TRIVIA

According to Hunter's Statistical Account of Bengal,the Teesta,which flows down from the Sikkim hills into Bangladesh used to merge with the Mahananda and the Ganges in Bihar centuries ago.In 1787,due to floods and a devastating earthquake,the Teesta shifted its course to the Brahmaputra basin.

BIRDS OF WARAI

           copsychus saularis (Magpie Robin)           

         upper one-Falco Amurensis (Amur Falcon)      

       Lower one -Pycnonotus  Cafer (red-vented Bulbul)

               Leucopsar Rothschildi (Myna)                      

Terpsiphone Paradisi( Asian Paradise Flycatcher)

Secluded woodland chalets set in pristine nature.A best Western Premier 5-star resort and natural spa attached .For a tour of the Warai hills and SCS World's latest reforestation plan call:022-6728 8888

Know your neighbours www.waraiwoods.com

                       chaletssparesort                              

LAVASA - Indias first and largest Hill Station

Spread across 100 sq.kms. - almost 1/4th the size of Mumbai

45 minutes from Pune

Amidst 7 hills and 60 kms. lake front

Over 25000 lakeside apartments and villas

Over 50000 jobs to be created

State-of-the-art technology and e-governance

Winner Awards for Master Planning

Dasve,Phase 1 to be ready by 2009-10

To visit Lavasa or to know more.log on to www.lavasa.com

ROYAL RETREAT

Relive the Raj days in Chail,the capital of the former princely state of Patiala,which boasts of the majestic Chail Palace Hotel and the world's highest cricket ground !You could live life kingsize in this picture perfect hill station in Himachal----

The drive down winding mountain roads flanked by deep gorges and bounteous orchards is truly awesome.The hustle-bustle of Shimla slowly fades in the distance as u soak in the scent of deodars and find bliss in the sun-bathed forests that unfold around you.Chail,a small hill station in Himachal,has a bit of everything and summer is the height of the tourist season which sees droves of tourists as also monkeys descending here ! Don't be surprised if you have one of them sneaking in through your hotel window and disappearing with your breakfast !

LIVE LIFE KINGSIZE !

Chail has a royal flavour to it since it came up at the behest of the Maharaja of Patiala.Chail became his summer capital once he was banned from Shimla.The royal palace has been converted into a heritage hotel by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.Built in 1891,the hotel has a regal setting amidst pines and deodars.A wide variety of log huts and ornate furniture will greet guests.For honeymooners and those who love nature,there's nothing like a vacation in this hill station which ensures exclusivity and total anonymity puctuated only by the song of birds,breathtaking views of the valley and gurgling streams.

CRICKET ON THE ROOF-

Chail's biggest attraction is the cricket ground which is the world's highest cricket and polo ground !

Given its serenity,Chail forms a perfect backdrop for a union with a nature.Get recharged by wandering into the woods.You will love every bit of this trek in the wild.The Satluj valley offers a spectacular view from atop.Other ways to enjoy the place would be to go for hiking,angling or horseriding.

Actually,Chail is spread over three hills - Rajgarh Hill housing the palace,Pandhewa Hill housing the Residency Snow View and Sadh Tiba hill making up the rest of the hill resort.

Situated at an altitude of 2,250m above sea level,Chail is just 43kms from Shimla and is a heaven for day trippers from the state capital.At night the shimmering lights of both Shimla and Kasauli are clearly visible.Chail may not have Shimla's colonial grandeur but it sure has its own charm.Next time you are in Himachal,chug into this pristine hill station....

FACT FILE --

How to go : Chail is well connected by buses and tourist taxis from Delhi,Shimla and Chandigarh.The nearest airports are Chandigarh and Shimla.

When to go :The best time to travel would be summer when days are warm and nights are cool.Usually the tourist season is between April and November,barring August,the rainy season

Where to stay : The Chail Palace Hotel if you want to savour royalty,Hotel Monaal,Rashi Resorts,Hotel Lions,Ekant Hotel and Hotel Grand Sunset among others

What to see : SIDH BABA KA MANDIR-

Maharaja Bhupinder Singh originally began building his palace here.It is believed that a saintly person appeared in his dream and he changed his plans

CRICKET GROUND-

Built in 1893,after levelling top of a hill,it stands at 2,444m and is the highest cricket pitch and polo ground in the world !

WILDLIFE SANCTUARY-

The Chail Sanctuary has ghoral,kakkar,sambhar,red jungle fowl and pheasants

KUFRI

An enjoyable drive through forests and small villages leads to this hill station.The Nature Park here is a great attraction.A short trek leads to the Mahasu

Peak

SADHUPUL-

This is a picnic spot between Kandaghat and Chail.There's a bridge astride the Ashwani stream

ADVENTURE AND FISHING -

A dozen or so trek routes lead out of Chail.Trails lead upto the Choor Peak and to Shimla.One can indulge in fishing on Giri river at Gaura,29 kms away.

A HILLY RETREAT

Heres a special offer for Central government employees traveling to the northeast under the LTC (Leave Travel Concession) scheme. The Sinclairs group along with Air India is offering a 7-night/8-day package for Central government employees that cover Dooars, Darjeeling, Peeling and Bangkok. The package will take you to the Gorumara wildlife sanctuary, the tea gardens of Darjeeling and course; you get to enjoy a spectacular view of the Kachendzonga. Valid till March 31 2009, the pack-age comes at Rs.66391 for two people if you are traveling from Calcutta, and Rs.83611 if youre traveling from Delhi. It includes return airfare, accommodation (at the three-star Sinclairs hotels in Dooars and Darjeeling, the Norbugaon Resort in Peeling and the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok), meals as per itinerary, transfer to and from Bagdogra airport and excursions in a non-AC vehicle. The offer is open to travelers from Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Indore, Pune, Jaipur, Kochi, Trivandrum, Lucknow, Bhopal, Ranchi, Patna and Bhubaneswar. Junior government employees can also avail of this package. Rates will vary from one city to another. Log on to www.airindiaholidays.in for more information.   

SCALING GREAT HEIGHTS

LADAKH is a collage of spectacular landscapes,lonely gompas and remote villages--

The lowest point of Ladakh is at the 18,340 ft Khardungla Pass-

To say,Ladakh is vast,mammoth and offers a sense of space is all an understatement.No words can describe the scale of Ladakh.At every turn,u could begin your insane calculations.

   A little stream runs through Diskit with its backdrop of towering mountains

Nubra Valley -- is certainly not everyone's cup of tea.The drive is on a fairly good road except just before and after the pass,where eaten by the water from the glaciers,it is broken,pot-holed and an excuse for a road.The landscape is barren beyond belief.It has none of Kashmir's picture postcard alpine beauty.Depending on how you look at it,you may find it hard,harsh or even hostile.The zillions of rocks appear so precariously balanced on the mountainside that you do all you can to stop that sneeze.As soon as u approach the entrance to the Nubra Valley -- a clutch of tiny chai shops set along a dusty road - the town of Khardung.

It is however after this town that you actually almost stop breathing at the beauty of Nubra.There is a fork of two valleys (one heading to Hunder and the other to Panamik,two of the furthest towns in Nubra which have civilian access ) that take up a fair bit of film roll.

The village of Hunder , your first stop in Nubra --is at a lower altitude than Leh but it's like the base of a lotus flower,surrounded by high snow covered peaks.

The tiny village is silent but would welcome as u enter it.U will be getting small but clean ,only local restaurant called Karma Inn.

           The desolate entrance to a gompa in the hills

At Semba - over greasy,burnt egg bhujiya and some great vegetarian thupka with a ton of Maggi noodles- local delicacies.

 

But Hunder can actually make you forget any feeling of exhaustion as you take in its sheer silence and beauty.It has its own picture perfect little stream,and the village itself is cleaner than almost any you'll see in Northern India.After leaving Diskit,u can get a glimpse of the sand dunes -- the 7km stretch between Diskit and Hunder can actually be done on camel back - which are no different from any vast desert,barring the gigantic mountains on all sides.Diskit has a beautiful gompa perched on top of a mountain.

The Hunder dunes -- not easy to walk on -- can be explored thoroughly on camel and if you're lucky -- or unlucky,depending on how you look at it -- you will come across a wild herd of camels doing the same.

           Young monks take a walk in Hunder village

READY RECKONER --

Getting there : Leh is connected with Delhi with flights by Jet Airlines,Deccan and also Indian.From Leh,hire a taxi for the

                      roughly 120-km drive to the Nubra Valley (Diskit).The charges will between Rs.2000-2500 per day for the

                      taxi with a driver.

Where to stay : The first halt in Nubra is either Hunder or Sumur.Both are a drive of 6 to 7 hours from Leh.A clean and decent

                        option to stay in Hunder is Karma Inn - a room with attached toilet comes for Rs.800 a night.There are

                        similar options in Diskit,the town just'before Hunder which has fewer options.In Sumur,Silk Route offers a

                         more comfortable stay at Rs.4500 a night for 2 people,all meals included.

                      Hemis Festival in Ladakh

TRAVEL TRIVIA

              The Hemis Festival celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava in the Hemis Monastery,the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh.The lamas perform mask dances and sacred plays during the festival accompanied by drums,cymbals and long horns.A two-storey high thanka (religious painting),embroidered with pearls and semi-precious stones ,is displayed once in 12 years.

 

 

WINTER CALLING -- Route Map

Some would say that the hills are best visited come winter,despite the bitting cold.And Mussoorie,the Queen of Hills,is a hot favourite winter destination.While the crowds are still around,there's none of the summer mania (or jostling crowds).So if you want to enjoy a bracing walk up/down Mussoorie's slopes,the good news is that hotels are offering some interesting packages to lure you.You could head for The Claridges Nabha Residence,once the summer home of the erstwhile Maharaja of Nabha.The hotel is offering what it has dubbed the Heritage Experience -- a 2-night,3-day package that's valid from now right up to March31st,2009.It offers great views of the mountains and you can soak it all in from your room(there are 22 rooms)or the wrap-around verandahs that run along the hotel .You'll be paying Rs.11,999 for a deluxe room and Rs.13,499 for a duplex and this will take care of breakfast and dinner as well as accommodation for the duration of the package.

For more call :91 135 2631426/427 or e-mail to nabha@claridges.com

 

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