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A fragrance for every country

Fragrances are so potent – taking you back down memory lane, altering your perception of an individual and even doing away with depression at times. We associate every perfume we encounter with a different era, place and emotion. If paintings reach our soul through our eyes and music through our ears, fragrances are an art form designed to touch us through our nostrils. Here are seven intoxicating perfumes for women that are apt for a trip to each of these countries/cities (and there are bonus tips at the end):

  1. Chiffon by Emper for India

Chiffon by Emper

This floral and fruity perfume reminds us of fresh summer days and therefore, it’s perfect for India, a tropical country where the whiff of a good perfume is always welcome! Infused with vanilla, white musk, jasmine, rose, orris, sandalwood, mandarin orange and bergamot, this feminine and citrusy scent is ideal for the day and guaranteed to pep up your mood. We also feel it’s a great starter perfume for adolescents and those who are new to the world of fragrances.

  1. Gold by Louis Cardin for USA

Gold by Louis Cardin

This rich, decadent and luxurious fragrance is designed for the woman of accomplishment and mystery and we think the United States of America is the best embodiment of successful women. The intoxicating, floral and woody fragrance of Gold by Louis Cardin isn’t one that you’ll forget in a hurry. Wear it in the evenings and for a special meeting where you want to create an impression. The perfume comes with the warm touch of orange and spices like vanilla, saffron and cloves, along with lime, lemon, pineapple, rose, jasmin, lavender, Artemisia, iris, sandalwood, white musk and patchouli.

  1. Creation Pour Femme for Singapore

Creation Pour Femme

An extremely sweet and delicious fragrance, Creation Pour Femme reminds us of the nights in Singapore where the sophisticated partied at Marina Bay Sands and the secretive at one of the speakeasy pubs, open only to those who knew the password. This is a very feminine evening perfume that’s almost like an aphrodisiac thanks to the alluring scent of vanilla. The sweetness of the musky, floral fragrance is due to the notes of litchi, golden quince, kiwi, jasmine, white chocolate and orris root.

  1. True Reflections by Chris Adams for UK

True Reflections by Chris Adams

This is a summery sweet light fragrance that’s perfect for summer days in London. We’d recommend this for the day, as a non-overwhelming fragrance for those who like their perfume to be barely-there. The pleasant yet not overfriendly character of this perfume reminds us of the British. This fruity and woody fragrance is infused with a deep aroma of blackcurrant and pomegranate, along with the romance of rose and the curiosity of lemon. Other notes include red currant, raspberry, violet, musk and cedarwood.

  1. Viveca by Maryaj for France

Viveca by Maryaj

Viveca by Maryaj is the quintessential fragrance that all of us are familiar with one on some level. And what better country to associate it with than the birthplace of perfumes – France? This floral day perfume is a surprise performer – it develops depth as the day deepens. So don’t judge its floral, fruity appeal just by the initial fragrance. This young-at-heart perfume lets you enjoy a blend of neroli, bitter orange, raspberry, orange flower, jasmin, patchouli, amber and honey.

  1. Lady Presidente by Emper for Maldives

Lady Presidente by Emper

Walk on the soft beaches of Maldives at twilight with some Lady Presidente to enhance the beauty of the night. This sweet scent with sharp and spicy undertones is sexy, scintillating and alluring. A black sheath dress and wind-swept hair is what we’d visualise while you walk on pointy heels or perhaps even barefoot. This floral and fruity scent is a daring mix of coconut, musk, sandalwood, lotus, water lily, raspberry, mango, nectarine and blood orange.

  1. Sensual by Lomani Paris for Switzerland

Sensual by Lomani Paris

Sensual by Lomani Paris is a sweet, woody fragrance with sinister undertones. Exotic and multi-layered, the perfume has a personality you won’t fail to recognise. To us, it indicates perfection and a femme to reckon with. While the fragrance mellows with time, the notes of ylang ylang, vanilla and musk will ensure that you’re noticed, wherever you go. Other key notes include fruity green, aldehydes, jasmine, lily, orange, spicy sandalwood and cedarwood.

Perfume selfie by Perfumebooth.com

The good news is that you can try ALL of the abovementioned perfumes for just Rs 475 with the perfume selfie pack available on www.perfumebooth.com. The pack contains seven testers, a portable perfume carrier, tips on how to apply perfume and make it last longer and best of all, a 500 rupees voucher to purchase the perfume you love most. There are various combos for men and women to choose from; the one they sent us for review is called ‘Lurve’. Personally, we would go for a bigger bottle of Gold by Louis Cardin and Sensual by Lomani Paris. But it all depends on where you’re travelling next, right?

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BONUS: We’re reproducing some of the perfume application tips from our perfume selfie box.

How to make perfumes last longer

  • A perfume has a top, middle and bottom note so that it smells different at different hours of application.
  • Apply the perfume at the ends of your hair, behind your ears, inside the elbows, on your belly button, down your back, inside your wrists and behind the knees.
  • Spray the perfume from a distance of 5-7 inches.
  • Six to eight sprays at a time are good enough.
  • Never keep the perfume in sunlight.
  • Don’t rub the perfume after spritzing. Let it dry naturally.
  • Reapply the perfume every 4-6 hours.
  • Use the perfume on moisturised skin.

Perfume images courtesy: http://www.perfumebooth.com

 

Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon: Artful excellence

It’s proving particularly difficult for me to write about Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon. Frankly, the hotel has SO many redeeming qualities that I really don’t know where to begin. Should I start by describing its arty, renovated avatar with cutting edge interiors, a revolving art exhibition and a calming fountain outside the all-day restaurant that comes alive with mesmerising colours in the night? Or perhaps, I should introduce you to its legacy of winning awards every single year and the fact that it is the flagship hotel of the Intercontinental Hotels Group in South Asia, owing to its consistent excellence. But I guess I’ve already plunged into my review of Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon. It’s one of the best five star hotels I’ve stayed at, not just in India but the entire world. But rather than focusing on my experience, let’s assume that you’re the lucky one visiting Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon. Want to know how it all plays out? Read on, and don’t forget to share and comment!

View from my room at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
The view from your room, at night

You walk in.

You’ve probably driven down from the airport (which is only 30min away), or been chauffeured in a luxury Toyota Camri by the hotel. Either way, you don’t fail to smile when you encounter Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon. There’s a plush purple couch next to the reception (perfect for photos!), lots of grey and purple seating and smooth marble flooring. Tall wooden pillars balance the interiors with a touch of warmth. Beyond the transparent walls, you see water cascading over lovely green hexagonal structures, interspersed by miniature palm trees. It’s always nice to see flashes of green, even inside a hotel. Presently, the concierge tells you your room is ready. You quickly finish your iced welcome drink and proceed to the elevator.

Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
The hotel, as seen from the outside

You take in your room.

If you’re smart, you’ve asked for a seventh floor room, which is right at the top of the hotel. You walk down a narrow carpeted corridor, open the door, and breathe in sharply at the loveliness of the room. A large double bed with fluffy pillows and beautiful maroon cushions, wooden boarded flooring, wide flat screen television, ecru couch, writing desk and French windows that extend across the entire wall are laid out before you. The curtains are remote-controlled, you note. You watch them swish back slowly at the press of a button. The view outside is breath-taking, Gurgaon’s crisscrossing flyovers and skyscrapers in the distance and closer home, a long blue pool, surrounded by umbrellas and deck chairs closer home.

Room at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Your digs for the night!

Table lamps on either side of the bed swathe the room in a mellow golden glow, while a floral painting at the back helps settle your mind. On the table, you spot some fruit, cookies, chocolates and almonds with a welcome note. You almost missed that, didn’t you? You peek into the tea and coffee chest and there are several gourmet varieties such as hibiscus, chamomile, lemon Darjeeling and masala tea waiting to be tried. The bathroom has its own story to tell. A sweet bathtub promises to soothe you after a day of hectic sightseeing and a bundle of Biotique toiletries lie beside the washbasin. But it is the remote-controlled Toto toilet that captures your attention the most. There are buttons to umm, clean and dry your rear and many pressure options. This is luxury on a whole new level, you think. Now it’s time to drop your bags and lie down on that bed with some soft music. There’s even a speaker that you can connect your phone or music player to.

You look around at the hotel.

Swimming pool at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
You’re going to enjoy swimming here

Eventually, you do wake up. And you want to know what the rest of this place looks like. You take the elevator and go to the ground floor, where the doorman greets you with a ‘good morning ma’am’. You smile back and start walking aimlessly, stopping at whatever catches your fancy. A lot of things do. Connexions, the 24 hour bar looks really interesting from the outside, with its multiple level seating, wide bar top and Glenlivet display. Further ahead, you take a left and encounter a series of paintings propped on easels. You enquire about them later and realise that they can be bought too. You take the elevator to go to the first level and survey the pool, spa and gym. The pool is temperature controlled but most of the foreign guests are simply sunbathing on the deck chairs. Unlike those in most hotels, the gym appears to be extremely busy. You duck out quickly, so as not to disturb the members. The manager tells you that it’s open 24 hours a day and has around 80 members. Body Zone, the spa, has an enticing menu of therapies and you decide to give in to temptation later. There’s also a nice lounge with computers and charging ports for club members.

Fountain at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
The fountain at night

You sample the buffet at Café G.

All the walking around has made you really hungry and it’s time for a spot of luncheon, as the British would say. Café G is really one of the warmest restaurants you’ve seen, full of cheery, knowledgeable staff, a variety of counters ranging from ‘make your own salad’ to Indian, Japanese, Thai and of course, desserts in an attractive glass cabinet. The seating space is divided into two areas, the first being closer to the band currently performing while the upper level is cosier and offers more intimacy. Guests also have the option of sitting outdoors for the cool and breezy weather (or smoking alongside your meal). There are cushiony sofas as well as chairs and you obviously choose a chair – well because you don’t like to recline when you eat! The chef says their teppanyaki noodles are really special so you place an order for the vegetarian version. In the meanwhile, you pick up some sushi and pile on steamed rice and yellow Thai curry onto your plate.

Cafe G at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Cafe G

You sit outside, watching the fountain while you eat. The server comes around every now and then, plying you with healthful juices, cappuccino and whatnot. Eventually, the noodles arrive and they’re as delicious as promised. The Thai curry is authentic, spicier than the Indianised versions restaurants here normally dish up. And you’d have had a second helping of sushi if you didn’t need to reserve space for dessert. You try the chocolate mousse in a jar (rich, smooth and truly divine) and a slice of red velvet cake (fluffy and light). They put you in the mood for a good, long siesta!

Teppanyaki noodles at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Teppanyaki noodles

You indulge in a spa.

You make an appointment for a 60 minute brightening and whitening facial (around Rs 5500 with taxes) after perusing the list of facials, massages and salon treatments that are available at the spa. The petite therapist asks you to lie down on a bed in a dimly lit room. There’s light music and as you vaguely feel her cleansing, scrubbing, steaming, massaging, exfoliating and coating your face in a pack, you tune out and enter a kind of relaxed stupor. The best parts are when she cleans your face with a warm towel. You decide to try that out when you’re home. You have no idea how an entire hour passes under her able hands. At the end, she asks you to wash your face thoroughly and towel. A sparkly new face gazes back at you in the mirror. You walk away with a spring in your step.

You want a drink.

Drinks at Connexions, the bar at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Drinks and something to munch on

Finally, it’s that time of the day when you can rightfully walk into a bar and ask for a stiff one, on the rocks. Connexions has a live performance on every other night and you just got lucky. You could sit at the lower level for a good view of the cricket match on TV, perch on a bar stool or proceed to the upper level for swankier seating. You can get anything you want here but whiskies are their speciality – they have 108 varieties! So you get yourself a good glass of scotch and watch the evening melt into the night.

You’re ready for dinner.

Wildfire restaurant at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
The view from your table

Are you now? Then it’s time to experience the inimitable churrasco (Brazilian barbeque) experience at Wildfire, part of the international chain of gourmet Brazilian and Italian restaurants. The rich brown and gold interiors lend a dramatic flair to this restaurant, in keeping with the flamboyant style of serving the barbeques. Soup and salad is available at a buffet counter and you enjoy a bowl of excellent potato and leek soup while you await the barbeque. The server comes to your table with your choice of meat, fruit or vegetable on a sizzling skewer from which you pick your portion with a pair of tongs. The food is fresh, succulent and flavourful. For vegetarians, the choice is between cheesy broccoli, fresh mushrooms and honeyed pineapple, which also makes for a great dessert. Wildfire has an enviable wine list as wine goes best with the Brazilian treats they serve. You decide to try the Ti Amo Prosecco and polish off an entire bottle with the meal.

On your way to your room, you catch a glimpse of the banquet hall decked up for someone’s wedding. It’s nothing short of a dream come true.

Banquet hall at Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon
Banquet hall

Ready to book?

Have I enticed you enough with the artful excellence of Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon? If you’re heading to that part of India, you simply must experience their hospitality. And if not, schedule a trip in spring (March) and soak in the splendour of the National Capital Region (NCR) with Crowne Plaza Today Gurgaon’s full day city tours. Click here to book your stay.

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Travel essential: Himalaya Herbals mouthwash

Onions are a great accompaniment to Indian meals but the one thing they are not – is romantic. Many are the moments when I regret passing over a bowl of chopped kanda to go with the parathas. Because you know what happens later – monster breath!

Like many personal care products in recent times, mouthwashes too have acquired a questionable reputation.Why? Because most of them contain alcohol, and alcohol isn’t good for the teeth. There’s no point in harming your molars in the quest for sweeter breath, is there?

Himalaya Herbals Mouthwash Review
Last week, I received these three in the mail, with a card encouraging me not to be an ‘onion head’!

That’s where the Himalaya Herbals range of alcohol-free mouthwashes come in. They claim to have ‘no burning taste’ either. There are three variants and I put all their claims to test over the last few days.

Complete Care Mouthwash

Himalaya Herbals Complete Care Mouthwash Review

The Complete Care mouthwash promises healthy gums and teeth using natural ingredients like miswak, neem and pomegranate. Miswak is the twig that Indians used as a toothbrush in olden times and has a lot of medicinal benefits, while pomegranate juice has been documented to fight dental plaque. Neem has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. All you have to do is pour 15ml of mouthwash into the cap (there is an indicator for the measure) and swish it around in your mouth thoroughly for 30 seconds. At the end, you have to spit the liquid out, even if it does taste really good. Incidentally, I had a tooth ache when I used this mouthwash (I used it in the night, just before sleeping), and it had nearly vanished the next day. So I’d say, it’s pretty effective. Of the three variants, I liked this one the best for its taste, refreshing sensation and efficacy.

Price: Rs. 95 for 215 ml

Sparkling White Mouthwash

Himalaya Herbals Sparkling White Mouthwash Review

I have an important event coming up and I was so glad to see something that would help my pearly whites look prettier! Teeth whitening procedures at a clinic are not really good for your teeth as they erode the enamel but this mouthwash is totally natural. It contains papain, an enzyme present in papaya and bromelain, an enzyme present in pineapple for removing surface stains on the teeth. Apart from papaya, even strawberries are said to whiten teeth so maybe you can have a few before using the mouthwash! Other ingredients include water, sorbitol, polysorbate 20, glycerin, sodium benzoate, poloxamer 407, potassium sorbate, flavour, tetrasodium pyrophosphate, salt, cetylpyridinium chloride, menthol, citric acid and sugar. Since it has only been a few days, it’s too early to say whether it whitened my teeth or not, but I’m happy with the taste and sensation.

Price: Rs. 95 for 215 ml

Active Fresh Mouthwash

Himalaya Herbals Active Fresh Mouthwash Review

The flavour of this mouthwash mimics our favourite mouth freshener saunf (fennel seeds). The tradition of chewing on fennel seeds for sweet breath is centuries old. If you don’t have any dental issues, you can go for this one as all it promises is long-lasting fresh breath with the aid of fennel seed oil and mint. However, I found that it lacks the zest of the other two and is a bit milder. While the instructions ask you to fill the bottle cap fully with mouthwash, I find that a little less than 15ml works better for me. The swishing procedure and the subsidiary ingredients are the same for all three mouthwashes. There is no instruction with regards to whether you should drink water after rinsing with the mouthwash but I enjoyed the minty menthol sensation when I had a swig of water after rinsing.

Price: Rs. 95 for 215 ml

Packaging suggestions

Currently, the mouthwashes are only available in one size – 215ml, which is pretty large. In addition, there is a protective foil but once you remove that, the liquid spills whenever you tilt the bottle, even when the cap is closed. It would be nice if Himalaya comes up with a smaller bottle with a flip cap that would be more travel-proof. But until then, you could pour some of the mouthwash into an old flip cap bottle and add it to your travel kit. All three mouthwashes provide up to 12 hours protection from germs and are clinically tested. They are also free of other red flag ingredients like fluoride.

If you haven’t used a mouthwash before, you should start. Indian diets are known to be spicy and flavourful and no one was in greater need of a mouthwash than our tadka-loving desi community. And if you were using an alcohol-based mouthwash thus far, switch over to Himalaya Herbals. Natural products are always the best products in the long run.

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Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport: Review

On my third visit to India’s regal capital city, I had the good fortune of staying at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport, a four star hotel popular among frequent business travellers. While the spacious rooms and stellar service make this hotel an obvious choice for those wishing to stay near the airport, what truly impressed me was the quality of their Lea Spa and Salon; Hangar, the innovative aviation-themed bar and the gourmet fare on offer at Bella Italia, their Italian restaurant.

Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
The reception area

The neighbourhood

Aero City is only 3 km away from Indira Gandhi International Airport and we reached Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport in less than ten minutes. The locality is choc-a-bloc with airport hotels and you’ll see a lot of foreigners walking around. Since it’s away from the hustle and bustle of the main city, it’s perfectly safe to go for a stroll and admire the paintings adorning many of the walls.

A lavish pool-view room

The swanky reception area with its installation featuring the monuments of Delhi (see featured image) and the supine stone head on a couch raised my expectations. My room on the second floor definitely lived up to them. There was no verandah or bath tub, but there was a lovely couch, huge television, writing desk, a three-way shower for ultimate pampering, toiletries from my favourite brand Biotique and a marvellous view of the swimming pool below.

Rooms at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
My room on the second floor

Best of all, a platter of strawberries dipped in chocolate, hand-made chocolates, cookies and a basket of assorted fruits awaited my attention. The mini bar was stocked with tons of snacks, soft drinks and beer. I enjoyed a good night’s sleep in my room after a wonderful Balinese massage (more about that later) and dinner at Vito, the all-day restaurant. And in the morning, Delhi revealed itself to me in all its soft, foggy splendour. Spring is really the best time to be in the city of Mughals.

Pool view room at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
The view from my room in the wee hours of the morning

All-day dining at Vito

Vito is the bright and cheerful all-day dining option at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport. Located behind the reception area, it has both a buffet and an la carte menu for lunch and dinner. The variety is not very extensive but you can always ask the chef to prepare anything you like. I loved the sweet corn soup (pictured below) and the masala papad rolls served in shot glasses filled with chutney. Since the hotel hosts several Japanese guests, there is a Ramen and sauteed vegetables section as well both of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Vito restaurant, Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
Papad, served with a twist

I enjoyed my breakfast at Vito much more (it’s anyway my favourite meal of the day). There’s an attractive pastry counter for those who love their croissants and muffins and an array of Indian options as well. I liked the idlis, poha and masala dosa. There are also fresh juices, cold coffee and flavoured yoghurt on offer. My advice – ask for a tall mug of cappuccino, find a table facing the outdoors and plan your day ahead. The hotel arranged an excellent eight-hour city tour for me in a comfortable Innova.

Soup at Vito, Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
The sweet corn soup was a definite winner

Balinese massage at Lea Spa & Salon

The highlight of my stay at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport was without a doubt, the hour long Balinese massage session (Rs 3500) at Lea Spa & Salon, followed by a luxuriant sauna, shower and Jacuzzi. My masseur Malli Mahato was very adept with her technique and use of pressure. Prior to the session, I filled a form stating my areas of concern (such as neck, shoulders or back) and the desired pressure (gentle or strong). The massage room was dimly lit with faint, relaxing music. Malli asked me at regular intervals if everything was as per my preference.

Lea Spa & Salon, Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
A couples massage room

It was a full body massage with adequate attention to every part, including the face and scalp. The oil was a little difficult to wash off but the steam helped. Lying in the Jacuzzi tub relaxed me completely and I felt like a whole new person when I’d toweled and changed back into my clothes. I was offered some refreshing green tea after the spa, along with a bottle of water. The best time for this spa session is before dinner, so you can soak in its benefits over a restful night’s sleep.

Hangar, the aviation-themed bar

Hangar, the bar at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
The bar is open in the evening

A good bar needs character and Hangar has oodles of it. You can spend hours examining the real airplane parts on display on the walls and the tables. Almost like a mini-museum, the bar has a large amount of seating space with many attractive nooks and couches and even a large smoking area with its own television set and seating. The service is quick and there’s a decent food menu for small bites so if you’re not too hungry, you could just end the day at Hangar and skip dinner. The music includes the latest English hits and dress code is smart casuals (not too many turn up in shorts and t-shirt).

Hangar bar at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
Real airplane parts on display, including the infamous black box

Gourmet food at Bella Italia

While Vito is multi-cuisine, Bella Italia is a dedicated Italian restaurant with top-notch salads, pizzas and pastas on the menu. The wooden interiors feel very welcoming and the kitschy wall art depict various facets of Italian culture. There is a lot of colour here and interesting touches to the interiors, including brick-patterned walls and mosaic tiled flooring. We noticed an upstairs seating area as well but it didn’t seem to be operational.

Bella Italia restaurant at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
Stunning interiors

Coming to the food, we ordered a salad, pizza, dessert and cocktails. The server recommended the salad over a portion of garlic bread, and I’m glad we complied. Misticanza was a delightful concoction of romaine lettuce, rocket leaves, frisee lettuce with cherry tomatoes, ample goats’ cheese, walnut, creamy avocado and balsamic dressing. The walnut provided crunch and the avocado and cheese practically melted in my mouth. We were provided a complimentary portion of bread and dip, which was so tasty we couldn’t help finishing it all.

Pizza at Bella Italia, Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
A close look at my pizza

The pizza list isn’t extensive but everything is beyond perfection. We had the Campagna, a vegetarian pizza topped with red pepper, red onion, mozzarella, goats’ cheese, tomatoes, rocket leaves, pine nuts and a sweet balsamic glaze. I’m fond of pizzas that have sweet overtones and the pine nuts were a unique addition. My sparkly Bella Bellini, a delicious combination of Prosecco, peach puree and peach Schnapps kept me company while I worked my way through the food. I didn’t have much room for dessert, which is why the ‘dessert shots‘ were a lifesaver. For Rs 300, you can have any two shots. I had an orange cheesecake shot and a caramel chocolate mousse shot and both were exceptional.

Bella Italia restaurant at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
As seen from the upper level

Good to know

The hotel also has a fully-equipped fitness centre with a great view of the pool and peppy music. If you have children along, you’ll be happy to know that kids under 12 stay and eat for free at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport. With a banquet hall that can accommodate 450 people and a total of 265 rooms, the hotel is also a great MICE and wedding venue. For added luxury, check into one of the 13 suites at the hotel. Rooms start at around Rs 7000 per night and for bookings, you can head over here.

Fitness centre at Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport
Fitness centre

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Holiday Inn New Delhi International Airport: Review

Barahi Jungle Lodge: Primeval Nepal

In another country
But one that feels like home
From the blankets of green to the drongo’s trajectory
Everything echoes of the forests I used to roam.

We move through life craving new experiences, but all the time unconsciously, seeking something that resonates with that which we already know and love. When I first encountered the forest, it wasn’t like anything I’d ever known. I’d been born and brought up in one of the world’s largest, richest and most populous cities after all. Yet, I knew I was home. The trees, the birds and the wilderness struck a primeval chord deep within my soul. That was when I realised that cities aren’t the natural habitat of humans either, a fact we are often lost to. And that’s why the mind quietens, the soul sings and the body rejoices in the scent of the wild when one is in the jungle. We’ve all left fragments of our selves with the trees but lucky for us, they are loyal gatekeepers.

I exited an airplane and found myself in Kathmandu airport, along with numerous other Indians, Nepalis and the odd white-skinned traveller. Catching a domestic flight to Bharatpur was like a mini-adventure. These are small and chaotic airports and while some staff speak a smattering of Hindi, you can’t really count on it. But the flight itself was twenty minutes of stunning mountain vistas and the best view of the Everest I could ever have hoped for. We flew higher than any bird and we towered over the highest creations known to man. I felt blessed to be in Nepal and even more blessed to be venturing into the Terai, the subtropical region known for its rich biodiversity.

A lilting breeze
Nudges the wooden chime into motion
The sweet cries of Tharu children
Enhance the rustic notion.

The first thing I look at when I enter any room, is the verandah. It is my own private window to the world, a limbo of sorts, where I’m home and still flirting with the outdoors. The verandah of my cottage at Barahi Jungle Lodge came with a pretty wooden chime that tinkled in the morning breeze and sent me rushing for pen and paper. I saw a jackal peek from between the bushes on one occasion and a bunch of local children enjoying boisterous games on another. Beyond the woods lay the Rapti River which is arguably the best part of the lodge. The ethereal boat rides in the morning fog and the dazzling sunsets unfolding over its shallow water will not be easily forgotten.

I enjoyed wonderful French press style coffee in my room, thanks to the fragrant powder and plunger the lodge provided. Funny little frogs sat in sockets carved into the wall behind my bed, staying guard while I slept. The colours of the decor were borrowed from the earth and the elegant simplicity of the cottage gave me restful sleep and much poetic inspiration. The day we arrived, we caught a last glimpse of the luxurious pool before Meghauli found itself in the grip of darkness. But darkness was good, because it meant we’d get to sit by a bonfire and watch a series of beautiful Tharu dances, compered by the multi-talented in-house naturalist Saket Shrouti. They weren’t professional dancers – mainly members of the staff but their joyous faces and the stories interwoven into the performances were such a pleasure to witness. In the end, we broke into dance ourselves, while the women crooned softly into the night in lieu of recorded music.

Tharu dance at Barahi Jungle Lodge

A jackal peeks from between the bushes
While Chitwan forest stands sentry
Clouds of fog float over the Rapti River
What is this if not nature’s poetry?

Truth be told, we spent less simply soaking in the beauty of the lodge than we’d have liked. But what could we do, the treasures of Chitwan National Park were hard to resist and there were so many things to do, like bathing Ranikali, the elephant who enjoyed a good scrub, going on a walking safari and hunting for the remains of legendary rhinos, watching seabirds in flight and lazing crocodiles on a boat safari, visiting the local Tharu community and being treated to a peacock dance in the middle of the forest. But there was one night when I felt the spirit of the lodge come alive, as truly as the flames of the crackling bonfire. Varun Kumar, the respected manager of the lodge and Saket put together a glorious bush dinner for me and a few other guests. We tried the local beer Gorkha, talked about the transience of life and allowed the trance music to seep into our senses. It was my second night in Nepal and I was so glad there were two more before I left the Terai.

Sunrise at the lodge
Sunrise at the lodge

One morning, we took a birding tour through the lodge and in a clearing close to the river, we found a treasure trove of winged beauties, all fluttering around the cotton silk trees with their vivid red and orange blooms. Butterflies sporting enticing colours and patterns flew restlessly, pausing only for a moment or two, while we scrambled for our cameras. On our way back to the lodge, we chanced upon the living enclosure of the in-house elephants. They were feeding on their favourite ‘sandwiches’ rolled in hay that the elephants expertly untied and shook off with their nimble trunks. Food at the lodge was a melange of Indian, Thai, Chinese and Nepali cuisines but what I loved most was the sumptuous Nepali thali with many varieties of vegetables, rice, roti, the ubiquitous saag preparation, yoghurt, Nepali tomato chutney and dessert.

The blissfulness of Barahi Jungle Lodge extends far beyond the lodge itself. The neighbouring river, the surrounding forests and their exotic denizens are as much a part of the experience. While I’ll reserve the wildlife safari tales for another day, I’ll leave you with this beautiful video of a sunset we witnessed at the confluence of the Rapti and Narayani Rivers after a mellow boat ride. The wind blew fiercely, perhaps to compete with the passion of the setting sun. I stood on the edge of the cliff, listening to the merry sound of the water flowing between the pebbles. The river was far below me, flanked by a little stretch of white sand. It was enough to create the illusion of being at sea. But where we were was even more magical – the meeting point of two beautiful rivers, both reflecting the flaming sun. Two glasses of wine later, everyone else returned to the lodge. But we remained sitting there, unwilling to leave that world of glowing saffron behind. I might have never left, but for the promise of more adventures the following day.

Practical information

Barahi Jungle Lodge
Courtesy: Barahi Jungle Lodge

Barahi Jungle Lodge at Meghauli, Nepal is a premier wildlife luxury resort owned and operated by Pugdundee Safaris. All cottages at the lodge face the Rapti River and one has to cross the river to reach Chitwan National Park, a World Heritage Site. The park is best known for its rhino population. Read my concise TripAdvisor review here. All the activities mentioned in this post were organised by the lodge. Rooms begin at Rs 16000 per night.

  • Address: Andrauli, Meghauli-1, West Chitwan, Nepal
  • Bookings: http://www.barahijunglelodge.com/contact-us.html
  • How to reach: Fly to Bharatpur airport and then it’s an hour long drive to the lodge.
  • Best for: Wildlife enthusiasts and couples and families looking to relax in the lap of nature. A minimum of two nights stay is highly recommended.
  • When to go: Chitwan National Park is open throughout the year.

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