'Operation Family Vacation" was mounted in January. It finally arrived at a consensual decision after much email exchange, website touring and cross referencing. The final choice was the'Tree House' on the Delhi-Jaipur highway for a family of eight, out to celebrate the patriarch's 75th birthday. The idea of having rabbits scurry around almost like personal pets of the 10-year old niece, vintage jeep rides for the strapping young lads, archery for the ex-fauji brother, spa for the sister-in-law, quiet walks for parents and the luxurious thought of a getaway for yours truly, clinched the decision for a memorable action-packed three-day family holiday.
Taking the early morning Shatabdi train from New Delhi to Jaipur was a good idea. With breakfast on board and a short nap, we took in the sights of Jaipur as we whizzed past in our Innova, making a mental note of checking out early on the concluding day and spending 4-5 hours in the pink city, before taking the Shatabdi back to Delhi. During the 45-minute car journey, we had the option of stopping at Amer fort which is enroute but decided to skip since we wanted more time at the resort.
We reached by 12 noon and after being shown to our rooms it was time for a sumptuous Rajasthani lunch of gatte ki sabzi and jungle maas (mutton) with a host of chutneys, pickles and accompanying side dishes in their dining hall - a kind of log hut overlooking the vast greens through glass windows.
Waking up to the sound of several winged visitors of all hues and shapes, chirping merrily outside your windows, they present rather unique morning alarm call. With a magnificent view of the Aravallis, you find this eco-tourist destination tucked away almost secretively from the public eye, opening up only for those who make the effort of seeking it out. The chirping of the birds is the first thing that strikes you and you discover that indeed, this is a welcoming home for migratory birds of all kinds. Nested beautifully in the scenic Syari Valley at Nature Farms, surrounded by hills and forests, close to rivulets and streams, the Tree House Resort is a nice green, well run property.
Build atop strong, sturdy and live Indian Keekar trees, the fascinating tree houses are akin to those found in Kerala. Here, rooms or 'nests' as they are called, sit pretty on top of large trees, equipped with all modern amenities. Each of the tree house cottages have been built to a height of 15 to 30 feet by local craftsmen using indigenous materials and construction technologies. They have their own private niche and the choice of milling with other guests is entirely yours.
Wooden stairs lead up to the structure that rests on an iron frame wrapped around tree trunks. All rooms have a different design based on how the tree has grown its branches. Effort has been made to retain the live branches of tree trunks, which in most 'nests' run through the room. These may have to be navigated a bit as you watch your step, especially when you get up and are disoriented.
Ideal for a three day retreat, the good thing about the resort is that there is no temple, fort, mountain or stream that you need to make a touristy visit to. You have to be at the property and willy nilly let the hours go by. Time actually stands still as you slowly soak in the place. From a warm and vibrant morning to a soft focus romantic evening, the food, ambience and service complement one another to give you a sampling of true bloodied Rajasthani hospitality. With a nice open air theatre, on popular demand they will run a movie for you or organise a live Rajasthani dance. In winters they put out smouldering coals and mashals and in summers, soundless tall fans keep the evening air pleasant.
The bar is a 400 year old carved wooden structure with a small and cozy seating and rough benches made of jungle logs outside. Even if you do not drink, try a mocktail or fresh lime just to feel the breeze, birds and silence as the rustling leaves keep you company. The spa is outsourced by the resort to a private company. Its perfect, in that it allows you to indulge yourself in an unhurried foot or body massage. There is a lot of variety here and the service extremely good.
The 22-cottage resort built by Sunil Mehta has a near 'house-full' tag through the year. Future plans include floating water cottages and mud villas. The concept is right and it thrives on word-of-mouth publicity which is why service and hospitality score high on his wishlist that also puts the Jaipur Tree House on one of the ten best tree houses in the sub continent
At Rs 16,000 a night (inclusive of taxes) the place may be a bit pricey but then it is the experience of a jungle holiday that you are paying for. Bhairav Singh, one of the attendants who during the day is a uniformed concierge, at night in his green jungle fatigues is responsible for lighting the lamps and marshals. He says "we are trained to just merge with the surroundings and be in the shadows, anticipating the needs of the guests but not getting in their way." That in a sense is what the Jaipur Tree House is all about.
How to get there: If coming by air or train, you will have to reach Jaipur and then take a cab or bus. The Tree House is on National Highway No. 8 and about 40 minutes from Jaipur. If coming by road from Delhi, you will take about 3.5 hours to reach.
Best time to visit: Through the year, but best between October to March
Must do's: You must spend at least half a day in Jaipur shopping and soaking in the festive sights of the tourist city that has forts and palaces galore. Amber Fort is a bare 15-minute drive from here. You could also go to Nahargarh Tiger Fort or Project Tiger Sariska National Park, an hour's drive. Also, visit the ancicent twin cities of Ajabgarh and Bhangarh
What to carry: Medicines, odomos, some magazines and board games, binoculars, walking shoes, flit flops, shades and a walking stick.
Taru works in the development sector on communications and is gradually succumbing to wanderlust as she finds the light-footed traveller in her