The hid­den par­adise


An hour’s thrilling drive from Dharamshala air­port to­wards the up­hill leads to the small town of Palampur. The clean and green hill sta­tion is com­forted by the mag­nif­i­cent Dhauladar moun­tain range from one side and the cloud beds from the lower re­gions to the other. As you en­ter the small town you can dis­tinc­tively see a huge cir­cu­lar struc­ture which hap­pens to be my des­ti­na­tion and as you reach the re­sort you can see how equally mag­nif­i­cent the rest of the struc­ture is. A warm wel­come at the re­cep­tion by an en­thu­si­as­tic and hum­ble staff gives you the essence of Sarovar’s hos­pi­tal­ity which any­one who has vis­ited Sarovar be­fore would be able to re­late to. The lobby just per­fects the first im­pres­sion with its peb­ble stones in­scribed walls, chan­de­lier of lanterns and the Bud­dha stat­ues adding the holis­tic touch. Un­like cities towns have no space con­straints which can be seen from the size of rooms in the re­sort, mine was a ju­nior suite with all the lux­u­ri­ous ameni­ties and the view from two large win­dows which was just breath­tak­ingly beau­ti­ful. The re­sort seems to have ac­quired a lot from Bud­dhist cul­ture and there­fore show­case Bud­dha stat­ues, paint­ings of monas­ter­ies and Ti­betan arte­facts through­out the premises. The cir­cu­lar mast which was vis­i­ble from out­skirts of town hap­pens to be a re­volv­ing restau­rant called Cloud 7. It has a re­volv­ing floor in­side that takes one hour and twenty eight min­utes to com­plete a full ro­ta­tion but the trick here is that only the part

which has the din­ing area is re­volv­ing and the cen­tre arena pos­sess­ing the cuisines is con­stant there­fore by the time you fin­ish your meal the dessert could be on the to­tally op­po­site side than you saw ear­lier. The food is not re­stricted to lo­cal cuisines and north In­dian food but trav­els pan In­dia to give you a de­light­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, though if you wish to rel­ish on lo­cal cui­sine Khatta chicken is highly rec­om­mended. Af­ter tak­ing a rest while glanc­ing at the land­scape of Dhauladar Moun­tains I had the chance to look at the other rooms and the suites and each one was equally splen­did for its cat­e­gory. Though what I liked about the ex­ec­u­tive suite was the small top floor bed­room for lit­tle one(s). Apart from this the re­sort holds a huge ban­quet hall with an at­tached lawn area which is per­fect for any­one seek­ing a hill­side des­ti­na­tion wedding or par­ties. In the evening I had a walk through the town and vis­ited the Lama mar­ket con­tain­ing all kind of shops in a small stretch. The houses in the hilly ar­eas have the op­tion of either en­ter­ing through the main gate or just climb on to the ter­race be­cause of the in­clined sloppy lanes. The town is also known for be­ing the birth­place of two Kargil war mar­tyrs- Cap­tain Vikram Ba­tra and Ma­jor Som Nath Sharma, both Paramvir Chakra re­cip­i­ents and many of the es­tab­lish­ments are named af­ter them. Also the town is very well or­ga­nized in terms of ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fices, com­mu­nity clubs, banks and hos­pi­tals all work­ing ef­fi­ciently in a small area that can be cov­ered in a half an hour walk. Over­all the town is a per­fect spot for a re­tire­ment home.

Though one thing with the hilly ar­eas is that it shuts pretty early and that’s when the other ameni­ties of the re­sort come in. Af­ter a re­lax­ing shower the evening pre­ceded into the 360 De­gree bar at the 6th floor of the re­sort which is noth­ing l ess than any high end bar of any met­ro­pol­i­tan city. Un­like the Cloud 7 above it, this one doesn’t re­volve and we are grate­ful for that. The am­bi­ence is lit with vi­brant blue light­ing which ex­tend to the bar giv­ing it a stylish look. Also at the 2nd floor there’s a café whose in­te­rior dé­cor screams ‘cool’. The place hasn’t been branded with a name yet as its petty new but it is def­i­nitely a place to hang out with your fel­low trav­ellers and play snooker. Af­ter din­ner when I went back to room my itin­er­ary was placed at the ta­ble. The re­sort and all other big and small hos­pi­tal­ity es­tab­lish­ment have tied up with one com­pany only- EXSUL travel, that ar­ranges ac­tiv­i­ties around the area rang­ing from thrilling jeep sa­fari ride on Dhauladar range, tra­di­tional din­ner at hill top vil­lage to walk­ing tours of monas­ter­ies in Mcleodganj. Apart from all these you can visit Bir-Billing which is a widely rec­og­nized site for Paraglid­ing but is not op­er­a­tional dur­ing mon­soon.

Next morn­ing con­sum­mated with a light driz­zle. The break­fast is served at the Ter­race café, which may not be at that height but of­fers an in­hib­ited view of the moun­tains while you stuff your­self. My itin­er­ary un­folded with a bit of a snag as the jeep sa­fari couldn’t hap­pen be­cause of land­slide at up hills due to rain. So next thing in line was visit to An­dretta vil­lage which is known as the artist vil­lage sit­u­ated on the out­skirts of Palampur. The vil­lage is fa­mous for No­rah Richards the fa­mous ac­tress and the­atre prac­ti­tioner who still has her home in the vil­lage. We vis­ited the An­dretta Pottery where I had my first pottery les­son and learnt about the whole process re­lated to it. They of­fer a three month res­i­den­tial learn­ing pro­gram twice a year and claim it to be a suf­fi­cient learn­ing to be­come a pottery artist. Af­ter that we vis­ited the Wah tea es­tate which is one of the few tea es­tates left in the area af­ter the earth­quake in 1905 dis­rupted the tea in­dus­try in the re­gion. Never the less tea es­tate is ef­fi­ciently man­aged from the gar­dens to the fac­tory. Af­ter learn­ing to pluck tea leaves from the plant I went in­side the fac­tory and saw the pro­ce­dure of dry­ing the tea leaves through dif­fer­ent pro­cesses and even­tu­ally get­ting packed up for the sale. In the evening the weather was per­fect for an out­door pic­nic with the ad­e­quate amount of set­ting sun light and cloud cover.

We headed to Sau­rabh Van Vi­har a beau­ti­ful eco­log­i­cal park where you can do boat­ing, bird watch­ing or just walk around and in­hale the fresh air. Along­side the park there is a small creek, on the shore of which you can find rice beer man­u­fac­tur­ing cot­tage which is the best thing you can have to sit and let your hair down at the bank of the creek. Strictly rec­om­mended! The next day started with moun­tain trekking and visit to the vil­lage at the top of the hill. The trek was filled with mes­mer­iz­ing view of val­leys, moun­tains and wa­ter­falls. Af­ter reach­ing the vil­lage we went into one of the houses and were amazed by the wooden con­struc­tion, air cir­cu­la­tion and the warm floor­ing. Also I had the best green tea of my life till date in there. A walk around the vil­lage re­veals the higher clean­li­ness level of vil­lages than cities in our coun­try. The next des­ti­na­tion was equally mag­nif­i­cent as we made our way to Tashi Jong Bud­dhist monastery which is a par­al­lel world in it­self. We made our way

into the world of monks chant­ing in a bliss­ful am­bi­ence. The monastery is very cre­atively with paint­ings, stat­ues of Bud­dha and vi­brant coloured walls. The evening was on the same spir­i­tual lines as we vis­ited the Ba­ji­nath Shiv tem­ple; around a thou­sand year old the tem­ple is made of many dif­fer­ent types of rocks and withered down a bit due to the earth­quake but still at­tracts a lots of devo­tees. It is said that Ra­vana had wor­shipped Lord Shiva at this tem­ple so ow­ing to that peo­ple don’t cel­e­brate Dusshera in the area. There are many other tem­ples on the same line which con­sti­tutes for a com­plete pil­grim­age. Af­ter that there was a toy train ride which couldn’t hap­pen due to the land­slide but the visit to the train sta­tion was worth it as it’s so tiny with small of­fices and gates that you would feel it’s just for kids. As I men­tioned ear­lier the day ends pretty quickly in hilly ar­eas so we reached the re­sort and con­cluded the itin­er­ary. Next morn­ing af­ter I bid good­bye and set off for

the air­port I had my post vacation blues by just pass­ing through the lanes of Palampur. Now if you have not made your book­ings yet then you should do it now so that by the time the place reaches the ex­tremely pop­u­lar sta­tus you al­ready have sto­ries to brag about it. Happy book­ings!

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