A Home Away From Home: The White Peaks

IMG_4976Just a one-hour drive from Kathgadom Station or eight-hour bakery from Delhi brings you to the sloping village of Gagar. Greeted by the mild-mannered housekeeper Mohan, who will grab your bags and whisk you away to your new home for the next few days. This two-bed cottage, with views of the foothills of the Himalayas, and on a clear morning the Nanda Devis. An idyllic home away from home. Owners, Aparupa and Abhijit have decorated it as though it were their own private home (and they do come and stay here as often as life allows)! Feature walls of framed Rajasthani artwork paired with old family photos create an eclectic and lived in feel. The living room, dominated by a large, stone, open-fireplace is the definition of homely. While away an evening with a good book (of which you’ll find plenty around the house) in front of the log fire.

IMG_4992Both of the bedrooms are cosy with soft white linens and proper feather down duvets. The beds might be regular doubles but you’ll sleep like a Queen. Colourful cushions and wool dhurries add a pop of colour whilst antique writing desks double as bedside tables. Bathrooms are simple (it’s a bucket shower affair) but the hot water flows. You’ll find an electric heater in your room for those chilly evenings (once you manage to tear yourself away from the fire). An all-inclusive property, this is a place where friends and family (and well-behaved dogs) are meant to come and congregate. There is no Wi-Fi, however, there is a television, but the whole point is about spending quality time over a heated game of Rummikub.

IMG_4972Meals are cooked by your housekeeper Mohan: daal, rice, steaming hot chapatis, as well as home-style butter chicken, and seasonal vegetable preparations. For breakfast eggs to order with brown toast with local jams. A constant flow of masala chai is on hand, just let them know what time you’d like your bed tea for the morning.

IMG_4977Great walking routes right from your front door, the forest trail will get your legs walking and the blood pumping or make the day trip to the Talla Ramgarh river. Bhimtal and Nainital are also just a short drive away, should you wish to explore further afield. A writer’s retreat, a dog-lover’s holiday, or an escape from the city, The White Peak’s is a breath of fresh air.

For direct bookings click here.

Bujera Fort: The Modern Mughal’s Abode

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Image courtesy of Bujera Fort

You’d be fooled for thinking that the little rural village had a long and colourful history with the imposing Bujera Fort. So seamlessly do its coral pink walls, cascading with bougainvillea, run through the town. One wonders about the tales of ruling Maharajas and long disbanded feudal systems. But in reality, this property is only a few years old. A miracle, that a new build fort could be created with such elegance and style; whilst most of its counterparts end up looking like gaudy cheap representations.

 

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Image courtesy of Bujera Fort

Bujera Fort balances the best of both worlds. Enter through a Mughal inspired quadrangle garden, complete with would be step-well turned swimming pool. No ancient crumbling walls in need of repair, instead pink stone (inspired by the walls of the nearby Kumbalgarh Fort) blending in seamlessly with the surrounding architecture. There are fourteen suites, each decorated in a unique style. Antique four posters, marble inlay drawers, and private balconies. Chintz fabrics add a quaint effect. Marble clad bathrooms include capacious baths, block printed dressing gowns (available to buy at the hotel gift shop) and complimentary Kama toiletries.

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Image courtesy of Bujera Fort

Owner Richard, believes that all guests should be made to feel at home, rather than as though they are staying at a hotel. This means that each of the rooms includes hand-picked book collections. The recent addition of two Labrador puppies makes this hotel feel even more like a home. The food is something to write home about, Richard is a keen cook and believes as much as possible should be made from scratch.

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Image courtesy of Bujera Fort

As British as apple crumble it was no mean feat for Richard taking on such an extensive building project in Udaipur and it was not without its high and lows. But hard work pays of and Bujera Fort is an utter success. An ideal spot from which to base yourself if you don’t want to be right in the heart of town.

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For direct bookings click here.

The Chamba Camp, Thiksey: Nomadic Luxury At Its Best

The Chamba Camp, Thiksey: Nomadic Luxury At Its Best

Published on The India Tube:

A former playing field of “The Great Game” Ladakh was once considered a destination so remote “only your best friend or worst enemy will visit you”, or so the local adage goes.  But with daily flights from Delhi to Leh, it’s now a firm favourite for a long weekend getaway from Delhi. And The Ultimate Travelling Camp really is the ultimate way to do it.

The Chamba Camp in Thiksey is TUTC’s flagship property and will be running until the end of September, before packing up and journeying to Nagaland for The Hornbill Festival, where they will be stationed from the 1st–7th of December. With four-poster beds, a designated butler service and bespoke menus, TUTC takes the concept of “glamping” to new heights – over 10,000 feet in this case.

blowing-conch-shells-before-the-morning-prayers-thiksey-monastery-02

It is the brainchild of an unlikely duo; General Deepak Raj, a former army general, and Dhun Cordo, wedding planner to the stars, combined creative flair with military precision to bring this pioneering venture to life. The concept is simple–a luxury nomadic camp that’s focused on seasonal or date-specific itineraries–but the execution is not: each tent fills one truck, and there are 14 tents. It is quite the convoy.

white-tent-interior-01The White Luxury Tents at The Chamba Camp, Thiksey nagaland-68The Khaki Tents at The Kohima Camp, Nagaland

An oasis of colour, The Chamba Camp sits serenely in the rocky embrace of the Ladakh and Stok mountain ranges. By day its 28 acres are a symphony of birdsong, and by night they are unbelievably romantic, bathed in moonlight and the flickering glow of more than a hundred lanterns. And with those views of Thiksey monastery you’d be forgiven for not venturing out your tent.

With the luxury market in Ladakh almost as barren as its terrain, The Chamba Camp could rest on its laurels, but it’s the attention to detail here that really set it apart. There are several private dining options for a start, from meals in the organic garden, by one of its many water-bodies, in and amongst the alfalfa fields, as well as several outside the camp, every experience is tailor-made, as are the menus. Chocolate momos? You bet. High-altitude scallops? Why not!

picnic-set-up-02Lunch by the Indus River

harvest-threshingA pastoral scene during the harvest season

Surprises abound, like the live kitchen that greeted us after a day of exertion at water rafting, or the train of red-robed monks perambulating the camp while I sat sipping on a gin & tonic. Needless to say that G&T disappeared quicker than you can say “om mani padme hum”.

I visited the Chamba Camp during the 33rd annual Kalachakra, hosted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Richard Gere was there, but namedropping aside, it is the perfect destination for those interested in both the spirituality and history of the region (you can barely drive a few hundred metres without stumbling across another monastery or stupa) as well as a luxury break.

trekking-01A walking tour of Ladakh

If Ladakh is a spiritual Mecca then it is also the adrenaline junkies Elysium. With everything from trekking and white water rafting to mountain biking and climbing, there’s no shortage of activities to give your travel insurers the chills. There’s also horse polo matches which seasoned riders are welcome to try their hands at, and a list of activities so long I defy anyone to try them all. Yes, the Chamba Camp, Thiksey is both an adventurer’s paradise as well as a recluse’s hermitage.

The Ultimate Travelling Camp offers a luxe route to India’s more offbeat destinations.

 hornbill-festival-01 hornbill-festival-03Tribesmen at The Hornbill Festival, Nagaland