The following article was recently published in the Mumbai Connexion’s Chalo! magazine, reprinted here with some additional photos.
A 3-day visit in March to celebrate my husbands ‘special’ birthday.
When I first arrived in Mumbai in September 2013 probably like most newcomers everyone I met was very keen to give me their suggestions of places that should be seen before I left India. With my limited knowledge of the region I had already penciled in the usual suspects – The Taj Mahal, Goa, Jaipur and Delhi but one name that kept coming up was Ananda Spa in the Himalayas. As the line from the movie goes (with some poetic license) ‘You had me at spa”.
Fast forward six months and my travel itinerary, while extensive thanks to three daughters living in the US and an ongoing house renovation in the UK, has not included any domestic Indian travel. However, much to my delight my husband decided that for his birthday he would like to get out of Mumbai and visit a place that his colleague Vivek had raved about and thus the “Couples Connect” trip was booked.
Ananda is located in the town of Narendranagar. From Mumbai we took a Jet Airways flight for the two-hour trip to Delhi and then a further 45-minute plane ride north to Dehradun. Luckily we did not need to change planes in Delhi, merely sit on the same flight while some passengers shuffled off and others joined, entertainment in of itself!
We had pre booked a driver from Ananda to meet us at the airport and take us the remaining 45-minute scenic trip through the Rajaji National Park and up the picturesque and very windy Himalayan foothills road to the resort. Our driver gave us a running commentary during the trip but I must admit we were totally enamored by the sheer number of monkeys everywhere. I’m guessing he was used to this reaction as he parked the car briefly to demonstrate how the monkeys would gradually swarm all over the car. Stories of the many Asian elephants, Bengal tigers and black bears that call the park home ensured that our eyes were peeled for the remainder of the journey.
Once through the park it took another 15-20 minutes before we arrived at the stunning Ananda resort, the entrance being in the palace of the Maharaja of Tehri Garhwal, popularly known as the Viceregal Palace. It was like stepping back in time as we were adorned with garlands at the entrance of this grand palace and shown into the Viceregal Tea Lounge resplendent with life-sized portraits of previous Maharaja’s and furniture that seemed far too delicate to be used by us disheveled travellers.
Following a few formalities of check in we were driven via golf cart to our room that had a stunning view of the Ganga valley and given our white Kurta pyjamas that we had seen all our fellow guests wearing. I feel donning the Kurta played into the integral philosophy of Ananda that of seeking harmony and balance with oneself and ones surroundings. There is something quite calming about everyone walking around in their PJ’s. There are various packages offered at Ananda and our Couples Connect adventure started as soon as we arrived with our first visit to the spa. Thankfully we didn’t have to select from the 80 different body and beauty treatments that are offered as our program ensured we would enjoy various forms of massage, facials and body wraps. My memory of this trip will be one of being constantly smothered in oils with my only concern being not to fall asleep and miss my next treatment.
The food was also a delight, and choice in abundance. Although going to a spa can’t help but make one conscious of being ‘healthy’ I loved Ananda’s philosophy that it is not a place to diet and lose weight but instead a place to enjoy fresh natural foods that are low in fat and calories. I was particularly happy to see that wine was not a forbidden fruit. The numerous juice combinations and smoothies on offer for breakfast were simply delicious. Main course dishes were cooked fresh to order and not smothered in sauce. There was a buffet style option at all meals so you really could eat as much as you so desired.
The resort is famous for its yoga and so now I must rather sinfully admit that we did not try this particular exercise – I know hands up in horror. We came close when we passed the amphitheater where the early morning classes took place on our morning runs and we thought about going to a class in-between our numerous treatments but to be honest we just enjoyed being in such a peaceful location.
The pictures of the resort that I posted to my Facebook page made many of my friends ask if we were the only guests at the resort and while this was not true the setting is such that you can wander the grounds and feel at one with nature. It was somewhat of a shock to be in India and breath fresh air and hear nothing but the birds singing – no horns, no ‘haze’ covering the landscape. The service was wonderful, everything ran on time and smoothly and our visit came at the perfect time for us to unwind after a stressful first six months spent in Mumbai. Now when can we go back……