Sylvan delights of Chamba beckon
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Sylvan delights of Chamba beckon

If you?re looking for a getaway from the madding crowd then Chamba is the place to head for.

india Updated: Nov 04, 2003 18:05 IST

The chill is setting in and nothing can be as cosier than being by the fire with some hot stuff to savour. It can get even better if you are on a hilltop when someone strums the guitar or send some more shivers down your spine with a few ghost stories. In our group, however, there were no guitar players, but storytellers, yes, who never seemed to run out of ideas. The manager of the resort began by targeting me specifically, when he said that the room I was occupying has a history of supernatural occurrences. It is strange how in the forlorn, dark and cold ambience of the night, these bizarre tales can sound so very convincing. The Classic Hilltop in Chamba (Uttaranchal), in fact, has more stories to tell.

One of the highlights of Classic Hilltop Resort in Chamba, Uttaranchal, is the amazing variety of flora that the whole area is dressed up in, many of which have medicinal value. All this thanks to its owner Manmohan Singh Chawla, a garden lover, who even tried (without success, of course) to grow plants that grow in the deserts of Las Vegas.

For the health freak, there is Hitayu – a sprawling spa dedicated to massages, yoga, cosmetology, steam bath, and the works. Other facilities include billiards boards, a swimming pool with a bar by its side, conference rooms and a cool Glass House with comfy cane sofas and a magnificent view for chilling out and sipping something warm. On the cable TV, you have only Aaj Tak, but never mind, you don’t go all that way to be a couch potato! The restaurant is multi-cuisine, but you’ll do well to order meals two hours in advance – for the resort is terribly short-staffed. We walked in to the kitchen to find a surprise: The suited-booted manager happily working alongside the Chef. “Here you have to do everything,” he said tossing a pan full of veggies. The rooms are comfortable tnough, but again, don’t be surprised if the plug on the bathtub is missing or running hot water in irregular supply. “We have to buy water here for Rs 2,000 per tanker,” was the explanation.

But the charm of Chamba is such that you tend to overlook all these. Sundown, and it’s time for clouds to take over. As the filmy cotton balls float by you, the whole place looks mystical.

At nightfall we were ready to spend a Saturday night complete with music and bonfire some 7,000 feet above sea level. The resort also makes arrangements for wildlife safari in the nearby Rajaji National Park, known for elephants, white-water rafting in Rishikesh (just half-hour below) and trekking in the hills nearby.
And finally a word of advice: To make your experience complete, avoid taking the Shatabdi Express. Drive instead. Mark my words, you are going to enjoy your holiday much more. Of course, at 290 kms. the distance is not too far, which you should cover in seven hours flat.

You may also take a break at Haridwar, where there is the excellent Classic Residency hotel, part of the same New Age Hotel & Resorts chain. You may stay overnight, go for the evening aarti and of course the mandatory holy dip in the Ganges, before setting off to Chamba. Or you may decide to stay in the hotel itself and refresh yourself in the spa before the uphill drive. The highway is smooth so your drive will be as good an experience as the destination itself.

First Published: Nov 04, 2003 13:33 IST