City Secrets | Unique Escapes in India
If living in a heritage home is your idea of luxury, then head to Gratitude, a 19th-century French colonial mansion that was restored by the Pondicherry chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, a non-profit organisation dedicated to heritage conservation. In September 2010, after the three-year restoration, the family-owned home was re-opened as a guesthouse that favours writers and artists looking for a quiet retreat. The guesthouse has a roomy courtyard, cheerful yellow walls, wide arches, tall white columns, a Madras terrace roof supported by thick wooden beams, and eight rooms furnished with restored 19th-century furniture.
GRATITUDE: A HERITAGE HOME
Best for: Artists and writers seeking uninterrupted solitude.
If living in a heritage home is your idea of luxury, then head to Gratitude, a 19th-century French colonial mansion that was restored by the Pondicherry chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage, a non-profit organisation dedicated to heritage conservation. In September 2010, after the three-year restoration, the family-owned home was re-opened as a guesthouse that favours writers and artists looking for a quiet retreat. The guesthouse has a roomy courtyard, cheerful yellow walls, wide arches, tall white columns, a Madras terrace roof supported by thick wooden beams, and eight rooms furnished with restored 19th-century furniture. Though none of the rooms have televisions, there is a library, free wi-fi, plus free yoga and meditation sessions, and massages at an additional cost. Check on their policy for children before making a reservation, as guests at Gratitude are expected to abide by firm guidelines for maintaining decorum.
Rates: Room numbers 1 to 3 are priced at Rs3,500, numbers 4 and 5 at Rs4,500, numbers 6 and 7 at Rs5,500 and number 9 at Rs3,000. All prices are exclusive of taxes but inclusive of breakfast. All rates apply to two persons per night.
Location: Nagarhole, Karnataka.
Best for: Wannabe David Attenboroughs who want a taste of Kenya in India.
Wildlife enthusiasts will find plenty of four-legged action at this idyllic riverside resort, made up of 10 tents, one luxury cottage and two machan suites. The three-year-old Bison is located on the banks of the Kabini river, at the edge of the 643 square kilometres Nagarhole National Park, which is home to Asian elephants, sambar deer, four-horned antelopes, sloth bears, tigers and jackals. Seven of the 10 stilted tents are luxury suites with views of the river and the forests beyond. If wildlife spotting is your main agenda, the hotel organises safaris by jeep or boat, elephant rides through the national park, and bird watching walks. The Bison has a swimming pool that overlooks the river and several observation decks across the site, should you prefer to watch the wildlife from a distance, with a pair of binoculars. While the hotel has a common TV room and offers free Internet as well, you?d probably have little need for these at this rustic retreat.
Rates: Tents are priced at Rs5,250 per person per night, machan suites at Rs6,900 per person per night and the cottage at Rs4,500 per person per night. For a group of four sharing the cottage, the rate is Rs3,750 per person per night. All prices are inclusive of taxes, meals and a conservation walk.
Location: Morjim, Goa.
Best for: Couples looking for R&R in bustling North Goa.
This verdant boutique hotel set up by a French-Spanish couple has the luxurious appeal of an Oriental spa. The hotel is constructed entirely out of wood and bamboo and surrounded with lush tropical plants. The tranquil hideout, located about 50 metres away Morjim beach, houses a South East Asian restaurant, which has received high praise from guests who have described the Vietnam- and Japan-inspired fare as the ?best Asian food in Goa?. The restaurant, which is open to the general public, can only seat 15 guests and offers a new specials menu daily. Ku only has two, sparsely-furnished Japanese style rooms with sliding race paper doors and bamboo walls. The hotel, which re-opens on Tuesday, November 1 is best suited for reflective pursuits such as reading, yoga and meditation.
Rates: The rooms are priced at Rs4,000 for two people per night. All prices are exclusive of taxes but inclusive of breakfast.
THE TREE HOUSE RESORT
Location: Jaipur, Rajasthan.
Best for: Families seeking respite from city life.
A tree house resort is an unusual find in Jaipur, a city that abounds in palaces-turned-hotels. The Tree House Resort is a half-hour drive from the tourist-infested Pink City. It has eight bird-themed tree houses or ?nests?, such as the Wood Pecker Nest, the Falcon Nest and the Imperial Eagle Nest, and one regular cottage. Each foliage-shrouded nest has plush furnishings and viewing decks that overlook a valley fringed by the Aravalli range. The resort has a pool, a tennis court and is in the process of getting a spa and putting green. While they organise desert and jungle safaris, there?s plenty to do in the resort, from archery sessions to outdoor movie screenings.
Rates: The Oriental Buzzard, Pied Harrier, Imperial Eagle and Woodpecker Nests are priced at Rs16,000, and the Horned Owl, Crested Eagle, Hawk and Falcon Nests at Rs12,000. The Ground Cottage is priced at Rs8,000. All prices are exclusive of taxes. All rates apply to two persons per night.
SAMODE SAFARI LODGE
Location: Bandhavgarh National Park, Madhya Pradesh.
Best for: Couples who want a balance of adventure and luxury.
The tall and thick grasslands of Bandhavgarh are the habitat of tigers, wolves, barking deer and cheetals. The Samode Safari Lodge is a few minutes drive away from this sprawling national park, which allegedly boasts the highest density of tigers in Asia and over 250 species of birds. Spread over 11 acres of grassland and farmland, Samode comprises 12 luxury chalets, each with its own courtyard, verandah and outdoor private bathroom with a tub and shower. The rooms, made of mud, wood and other local materials, may appear traditional and rustic from the outside, but are equipped with all the fripperies of 21st-century living?such as iPod docks, plasma TVs and espresso machines?on the inside. Once you?ve had your fill of game drives, picnics and excursions to Bandhavgarh Fort, you can soak in a heated swimming pool, a spa with a steam room and Jacuzzi, or pop into the art gallery. Winter-deprived Mumbaiites would be happy to know that Samode lights campfires daily during the colder months.
Rates: The chalets are priced at Rs45,200 per night. Prices are exclusive of taxes but inclusive of park fees, forest guide fees, three meals, two safari activities and an elephant ride. All rates apply to two persons per night.
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