Part of our Pahadland trip, post our stay at Nainital, which is a blog post by itself, was an overnight stay at te Aroha, Dhanachuli, just before Mukteshwar. We drove down to Te Aroha from Nainital, a long winding road through the foothills of the Himalayas, through imposing coniferous lined roads and orchards, until we reached Dhanachuli bend. A call to the hotel to determine what route to take next had a very helpful staff member come to the bend to escort us to the gate. From the road, one can barely see anything of the resort, except for a cheery yellow painted line up of pots containing the most exquisite flowering plants. Which was a good thing, because when one entered, one was totally unprepared for how exquisitely the property would unravel before us as we climbed through one flight of stairs after another.
What struck me at first was how personal attention to detail was evident in every little corner of the premises, from the terracotta frog basking in the mild summer sun to the little niche at the side of the stairs leading to the main summer house which forms the lobby or focal entrance point to the property, each item whether ornamental or functional, has been selected with love and a clear vision of how it would fit in the property.
But then, Te Aroha itself is a labour of love. Corporate lawyer Sumant Batra fell in love with Dhanachuli when he visited it many years ago and built his summer house here. Over the years, he kept adding to the summer house and eventually converted it into a luxury boutique resort, with rooms that offered all the modern conveniences you could wish for, each done to individual themes with carefully restored antique colonial furniture.
Every room has tastefully framed posters, created by Sumant Batra on literary and musical icons, adding character to the rooms. Coffee table books, judiciously selected are placed in every room for a guest to flip through. My room, aptly, had a book on shoes–given my obsession with them, it kept me busy for quite some time. Sadly though, despite the glorious 180 degree view from the bed, the weather was too foggy for me to catch a glimpse of the Himalayas–something I’ve been missing out on each trip I make to pahadland, but I can only imagine how spine chillingly exquisite it must feel to open one’s eyes to the view of the snow capped range looming ahead.
“The property is a harmonious blend of traditional architecture and contemporary comforts. The original structure of a summer house that once stood on the property has been successfully preserved to retain its original charm. Huge decks and terraces, antique furniture, massive glass windows with breathtaking views of the landscape and the high ceilinged lobby replete with carefully selected furniture can transport you through time to the bygone elegance of the colonial era.”
Among the most interesting sections of the property is the studio, where Batra’s collection of antiques and kitschy collectibles like match cards, cassettes, radios, an old carefully restored scooter all occupy prime place. There is no television in any of the rooms, except for a TV room off the dining area. For guests who love to curl up with a book, there is a substantial collection of classics and contemporary fiction, both popular and literary that guests can borrow from the library on the premises. (psst, you will find a signed copy of The Reluctant Detective by yours truly there if you chance to visit) and the dining hall is quaint and old worldly charm, with meals cooked to your specifications–Continental or Indian, and the service is friendly, personal and most importantly, non intrusive. What I found most interesting is that locals from Dhanachuli have been employed on the property and trained so excellently they could be graduates from any leading hotel management institute. One of the young attendants in fact rushed off early from duty the day we were there because he had to give an exam the next morning. Heart warming it was, given how remote the village is and the tough life the locals there must undoubtedly lead.
I stayed in a wonderful room called The Attic, perched right on top of the property, like an eyrie.
Other rooms on the property had interesting names like Three Steps Down, The Long House, Black Roof, Morning Sun and each was done up to an individual theme.
According to the website, “The original structure of a summer house that once stood on the property has been successfully preserved to retain its original charm. Huge decks and terraces, antique furniture, massive glass windows with breathtaking views of the landscape and the high ceilinged lobby replete with carefully selected furniture can transport you through time to the bygone elegance of the colonial era. Furbished thematically, all guest rooms at Te Aroha are different in their aspect and ambience offering spellbinding views of Dhanachuli’s landscape and the snow peaked mountains.”
The Long House, a stand alone cottage meant for couples, especially honeymooners, is the perfect romantic getaway in its hues of white and peach. The cottage has a living room with a fireplace, an antique four poster bed in the bedroom and one of the most fabulous bathrooms I’ve ever seen.
The only challenge, for us, was keeping the nine year old engaged and I’m shamed to say the iPad and the PSP came to our rescue more often than we would have liked them to. Nonetheless, the boy declared that the food at Te Aroha was the best of all the places we had dined out at on our trip-so that sealed the matter, given how important a good meal is to him.