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!