It’s not hard to find urban dwellers on lookout for getaways to escape the daily grind and the cacophony of city life. For Delhites and denizens of Punjab, Gaj Retreat in Manaswal village (Hoshiarpur district, Punjab) is a convenient option. Just a little over two hours of drive from Chandigarh, the retreat is located in one of the quieter parts overlooking the Shivaliks and river Shwahn in the vicinity. In fact, the land on which the property stands today formed the river bed once upon a time. This is also evident from the fact that at the time of construction, smooth well rounded pebbles were found in plenty. They have been put to good use while planning the interiors. The owner, Mr. Nagendra, in addition to these pebbles, also made good use of other natural materials such as wood logs, local to this region. Most of the planning and designing are a result of his own ideas and without the involvement of a professional designer and architect.
Guests can choose from Chateaus, Pool Suites and Tented Cottages for their stay options. The Chateau is double occupancy room with a small pantry and long windows that offer uninterrupted view of the Shivaliks in the foreground. The rooms are housed in a two-storied structure and the ones on the ground floor have the added feature of private pool and patio. The Pool Suites are provided with separate living room in addition to the bedroom. It is well suited for families and extra beds are provided on request. A private pool makes it perfect for kids who love to play in the water. The Tented Cottages are designed to give the feel of luxury safari camps. There are six such cottages and are housed in an open ground area, little away from the other two rooms. At the entrance of each cottage is a sit-out, the best place to enjoy your morning coffee or your book with a cup of evening tea. Room service is available in all the rooms. Meals are served in a large dining hall that is set close to the entrance of the property.
To indulge in outdoor activities, guests can go around the village to get a feel of the rustic life, engage in some pottery at the premises of a local potter or even visit the dairy farm to try their hand at milking the cows. For the adventurous, there is an ATV (All-terrain vehicle) that looks like a scooter that one can hire from the property to go around the untamed landscapes. Guest can also take off on a bicycle trail and the early mornings – when the sun peeps out of the Shivaliks overlooking the property – is the best time. It’s also a good time to do some bird watching or go after the sound of peacocks. Early evenings are best reserved for sunset. The property also arranges for dinner or a quiet evening by the river side. In fact guests can check for customized options.
Before heading back to Chandigarh, we had a halt at Anandpur Sahib, famed for the Viraset-e-Khalsa museum and gurudwara Keshgarh Sahib. Set in a sprawling complex with ample parking, we entered a large hall that presented the history of Sikhs. Paintings, pictures and detailed descriptions helped in understanding many aspects. The other part of the museum brought to life everyday scenes from the countryside of Punjab through a picturesque presentation on the walls using highly creative imagery and special effects. Exhibits such as the Divine Light and thread work on mul mul fabric with Guru Nanak embroidered on one side and clever play of light on the other side are images worth capturing for posterity, but no cameras allowed!
This was followed by the visit to the gurudwara where even a few movements spent inside the sacred space felt good. One can never miss the kadha prashad and is eagerly devoured. After a hearty langar it was time to head back.
This trip to Punjab was sponsored by Gaj Retreat in association with TCBG (Travel Correspondents and Bloggers Group).