My first visit to Himachal Pradesh in Dec 2017 was made memorable thanks to Club Mahindra who invited me to visit their property off Shimla in Kandaghat. After a rather long flight from Bangalore to Chandigarh and the two plus hour drive to Kandaghat, I was welcomed by a sea of colour courtesy the flowers blooming in small pots that dot the property. The pristine white architecture of this resort plays perfect foil to the colourful landscape that surrounds it – the lower Himalayan Aravallis that are chocolate hued, perfect blue skies and the natural greens that surround this place. To read all about what you can do in the resort check out my review here. However for me this place has many other reasons for a revisit and here are my top five off beat reasons why your experience of a holiday here will be wonderful.
The fact that I love the sky ensures that I always lookout for the sunset and sunrise especially in all new places I visit. Since it was early evening when we arrived here, I peeked out of my balcony and saw that the sky had changed to a pale pink. So I fetched my camera and took a few shots and busied myself with writing soon after. On a whim I looked out again in ten minutes and the pale pink I saw had turned into a close to fuscia pink with streaks of orange and blue that made the mountains glow even more. Thrilled to see this spectacle, I headed to meet Gagandeep Singh, Cluster Manager – Operations who told me that I was going to see a new sunset each day I was here. The next evening however I was out for most of the day and when I was returning, true to Gagan’s words, I saw another magnificent sunset – this time a fiery orange with clouds with what looked like tiny blobs of pink and blue. The colours I saw proved yet again what I always say – no one paints better than nature.
Come up close with nature
Being close to the Himalayas, Kandaghat is quite far removed from the urban chaos and the commercial development of its neighbor Shimla. What this means is that you have undulating views of the Shivaliks as well as a beautiful tree cover that is home a variety of flora and fauna. Being a keen birder, I was in for a treat as my first morning helped me spot the stunning Red billed blue magpie that to my delight moves in pairs! If you are adventurous there is a great trek here which is rather steep so I did not make it. However I enjoyed the natural vistas with more sightings of birds including the Himalayan Bulbul, Drongo, Swallow, Blue Whistling thrush, Rosefintch, Babbler, Oriental White Eye and Great tit. In fact the walking paths within the well laid out resort have heavy landscaping, bursting with colours. There are over 40 kinds of different coloured roses that are a big highlight here too.
Plant a Tree
While I was here, my green thumbs were at work as I was involved in a tree planting activity. Feeling a little self-indulgent, I smiled when I noticed my name next to a name board that was next to the plant. In fact this is an activity that is done for all guests and Gagan points out several plants growing here that have been planted by guests. Considering that the environment is fast depleting, this is indeed a thoughtful gesture. And wait it did not end at that. Almost a month after I returned Vijay from the resort sent me a picture of my plant captioning it saying “here is your plant and I must say its growing very well.” Now that is what made my day.
Meet the local women
As part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities, Club Mahindra is involved with local women to help them find a livelihood. In fact there is a store in the resort where you can actually purchase the products made by these women that includes colourful sweaters, caps as well as jams, pickles and preserves. I was lucky to meet several of these women who are real life heroes, managing a home, working in the farms alongside their spouses as well as working on making products like these. In fact it is heartening to know that all the women are well educated and are go-getters who still remain simple at heart.
Go for a village walk
The resort has extensively employed local staff who stay in the nearby areas and I had the chance to accompany them into the village. Navigating a small path with my clumsiness I could not help but admire how the locals navigated the same so effortlessly. My first stop was at a home where there were several cows being reared. This is where I saw a few lemon trees and the woman of the house even offered me a few when I was admiring them. I also made my way through the village into another home – this was of the staff of the resort where the family insisted I have tea and biscuits. The little children here were rather curious and kept peeping in and when I spoke to them, they happily posed for pictures too. It is the simplicity of small things like these that make travel more meaningful. And while having a to do touristy list is a good idea, look beyond and you will find the real destination hidden in the little things.