Sit­u­ated right on the banks of the Ganges River, Aalia Re­sort, is a sharp con­trast to the busy and cul­tur­ally rich Harid­war. Vi­raj Sawant re­counts his short stay at the luxury bou­tique re­sort.

Mandate - - Travel -

As I peep out­side the lit­tle oval win­dow of the plane, the dense for­est be­low seems like a lush green car­pet, wait­ing to wel­come our flight in Dehradun. Jolly Grant Air­port, sit­u­ated at the foothills of the Hi­malayas, is the ma­jor air­port serv­ing Uttarakhand. It’s about 40kms from Harid­war and is fa­mous for its role in the res­cue op­er­a­tions dur­ing the tragic Uttarakhand floods last year. As I stepped out of the air­port, the cold breeze re­as­sured that I was away from the pan­de­mo­nium of the city, and ready for an undis­turbed va­ca­tion. It’s of­ten said that the jour­ney is more im­por­tant

than the des­ti­na­tion, and so it was, even if ever so slightly. The route from the air­port to Aalia Re­sort was gar­nished with for­est re­serves, dams, stunning ghats and rivers. Ev­ery scene was ab­so­lutely pic­turesque.

Aalia Re­sort or as the Gen­eral Manager, Dheeraj Chauhan called it, Aalia by the Ganges, is spread over an area of five acres with 12 vil­las. Each villa com­prises two suites on the first floor and one on the ground floor. And they all open to a pri­vate bal­cony and a lit­tle gar­den. More­over, each villa is equipped with a well- stocked li­brary, a meet­ing room and a scenic ter­race. Talk about luxury!

Hun­gry and tired from the travel, I was es­corted to a plush restau­rant with a wide view of the Chilla Range right be­fore our win­dow. The elab­o­rate menu of­fered a choice of ev­ery­thing from Con­ti­nen­tal to Thai, Ital­ian to Chi­nese, and of course In­dian. Post a de­light­ful lunch, I strolled through the premise and to my de­light spot­ted two ATVs (All Ter­rain Ve­hi­cles). A lit­tle joyride post lunch wouldn’t hurt, I thought.

The most amaz­ing thing about this re­sort is of course, its prox­im­ity to the most sa­cred river to Hin­dus. The Ganga lit­er­ally flows about 20 steps away from the ho­tel premises mak­ing it that much eas­ier for you to take a dip, when­ever you wish. One can also take the ATV to the banks, and so I did. Af­ter the calm­ing ride, I had an op­tion to laze by the pool, play a round of bad­minton or to go for that sooth­ing full body mas­sage I read about in our itin­er­ary. But me be­ing me, I parked my­self at the Cigar Lounge—a classy, vin­tage bar where you can spend your time watch­ing sports, lis­ten­ing to mu­sic or just en­joy­ing fancy liquors from around the world. A per­fect end to the day.

The sched­ule for the next day was equally ex­cit­ing—a mas­sage and some games, fol­lowed by the fa­mous Ganga Aarti in the evening. Un­for­tu­nately, I couldn’t make it to the Ra­jaji Na­tional Park, which is open from Novem­ber to June, but was non- op­er­a­tional due to bad weather. So, I tried my hand at archery and cro­quet in­stead. En­grossed in the games, I lost track of time and was re­minded by the ho­tel staff about the Aarti. “Vi­ra­jji, do you know why Harid­war is one of the holy places in In­dia?” asked Dubeyji, the driver, as I sat in the car. Shak­ing my head in dis­sent, we started off on our jour­ney to Har ki pauri. “Mythol­ogy says, when the Gods were try­ing to safe­guard amrut (the drink which con­fers im­mor­tal­ity upon the Gods) from the demons, a drop fell in Harid­war and six other places. Hence it’s con­sid­ered holy and it is also a cen­tre for the in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned Kumbh Mela. You sim­ply can’t imag­ine the num­ber of peo­ple that come to Harid­war dur­ing Kumbh Mela.” The Kumbh Mela hap­pens in Harid­war ev­ery 12 years. Thank­fully, we reached in time to take a dip in the river. As I emerged from the freez­ing cold wa­ter, I could only imag­ine the chaos on the day of the mela, be­cause there were al­ready thou­sands of peo­ple pray­ing in har­mony on a regular day.

I re­turned to the ho­tel with the re­al­i­sa­tion that it was my last night at Aalia. As I sat by the pool gaz­ing at the holy river shim­mer­ing in the moon­light, I was joined by Dheeraj. Ex­plain­ing the con­cept of a villa re­sort, he said, “A villa is for fam­i­lies that wish to stay to­gether on va­ca­tion. It is more of a home away from home.” And we ab­so­lutely agree. The re­sort headed by Aditya Paul and Ar­jun Paul Lakhan­pal of the JLP group gives you the free­dom and fa­cil­i­ties to do what­ever you wish. And did I men­tion that they have a pri­vate he­li­pad too? Well, they do. It’s the per­fect mar­riage be­tween avant-garde fa­cil­i­ties and the seren­ity of na­ture, work­ing to­gether to get you your pri­vate space.

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