Kasauli, here we come! was the first statement we yelled when we woke up at 4.00 am to catch the flight to Delhi. The previous evening was all about packing and we were wondering if we should take the sweaters out of the attic. My false bravado led to me leaving the sweaters back in Hyderabad while my logically thinking better half and daughter decided to keep theirs in the suitcase inspite of weather.com showing the Kasauli temperature to be a sane 11 degrees Celsius. I learnt a valuable lesson - always trust the women. They go bonkers less often than males in their decision making.
The flight to Delhi was uneventful and boring. Indigo was as usual predictably on time. We were fidgeting all the way through and were thankful when the pilot landed the plane without the unnecessary bounce. Stepping out into Delhi for the first time, we realized the temperature was a little below 10. Felt great to feel the chill factor after so many years. Hyderabad just isn’t that cold anymore.
The taxi driver spotted us after many calls over the phone. We also realized our Hindi versions were a tad different. Hyderabadi Hindi and Delhi Hindi are more like Rajputs. Both are from the same breed but don’t accept one another. It took us about 10 minutes to understand that we were speaking the same language and the minor phonetic aberrations were forgiven.
We had our first taste of the Capital city. Big roads, enormous space occupied and a long drive to get out onto the highway. A dense fog had settled bringing visibility to a few tens of metres. Traffic crawled and we were photographing the fog only to realize all the photos looked the same. Cloudy. Didn’t make sense. We kept the cameras back in the bag and enjoyed the lack of view outside.
In an hour, it was breakfast time and our driver introduced us to the famous Sukhdev Dhaba. My eyes ballooned till they popped and the driver’s horrified look reminded me that I needed to explain my almost naked eyeballs. There were over a 100 cars at this dhaba. Most of them had alloy wheels. Heck, even the 800’s had alloy wheels. And so many of them were mammoth SUVs or sleek German models. The driver then reminded us that we were in Haryana. We had only studied about Punjab and Haryana being rich but seeing it in person was a whole different experience. Money flows in these two states. Apparently, during season, there are over 300 cars parked outside the dhaba. Service is super fast with so much floating population.
The Aloo parathas and the Chole baturas with butter and achaar were the best we had ever eaten till date. Period. The tea could be scooped out with a spoon with all that thick cream in it. The food at this dhaba was simply awesome. Just stick to the items that they are famous for and one will not be disappointed. Aloo parathas were Rs. 25 and dosas were Rs. 40. Naaah, no south Indian dishes to be ordered in Haryana.
The rest of the way showed us the might of agricultural power in these two states. Just acres and acres of green fields for as long as our eyesight permits. Buildings looked rich and the people, richer. On the way, there was a stretch of car showrooms one after the other. Audi, BMW, Merc, Jaguar, Range Rover, Bentley, Maruti, Hyundai, Honda. Yes, I actually counted them. That shows the money present in these states. The highways were all 6 lane till Himachal Pradesh. The final town in Punjab was Zirakpur which was supposed to be just a town. The malls in this “little” town were about the same size as GVK One in Hyderabad. Multiplexes and McDonalds dotted the scenery. Wow, these ARE rich states.
Then came the first view of Himachal. The foothills of the Himalayas. So grand, so strong. The big difference we say immediately is that the Western Ghats are mountains of red mud. The Himalayas are impregnable stone. The vegetation is different, the color of the earth is different. And they are just so grand. Entering Himachal, the road began winding up into Solan. Roads are great here. Very few potholes, smooth and quick to navigate if you have a good vehicle. Our driver was swaying more inside the car than the car actually was. The beauty of Himachal is the glorious view at every turn on the mountains. Rows of undulating mountainous stretches welcome us. Every view is breathtakingly different
We finally turned left from Solan to see a stretch of very bad narrow roads that led us to Kasauli. Nearing the Kasauli market, we saw that this place still had its old British charm. Kasauli has an Airforce base which is still operational. There are over a 100 resorts here and the advantage for all of them is the God given view. We finally reached the Kasauli Castle Resort, stopped, opened the door and…….
My word! It was so cold! I cursed the folks at weather.com and hoped they would freeze for a minute in their cozy office cabins. I began doing a dance not invented till now. We ran into the reception area, kept dancing and asked what temperature was. The gentleman pointed to the thermometer. It registered all of 1 degree. One degree. I mumbled another curse as my bone marrow began complaining and my toes refused to react. I couldn’t feel my nose and wondered if I was born with ears. All physiological extremities felt unwanted.
But coming back to the resort now. Kasauli Castle Resort is highly rated on tripadvisor which caused us to select it for our stay. And they did not disappoint at all. We took the 4 days/3 night package for a couple which included breakfast, dinner, complimentary tea and a fruit basket. Yes, a fruit basket.
Location: The resort is located at a fairly higher altitude than most other resorts. It comes with a great view and if one walks up the same road for just half a kilometer, there are fantastic views of mountains from there. Kasauli is a place to explore by walking around. There is nothing much to do here. It is a place for relaxing and unwinding.
Rooms: The rooms were neat and clean, well maintained and smelled of sweet tobacco. Not tobacco smoke. But sweet tobacco which is a warm and welcoming smell. The room came with an LED TV, Tata Sky connection, a room heater, a kettle, water jugs, blankets and a cupboard with hangers. The spic and span bathroom had a water heater, towels, soaps, toothpaste all provided by the resort. Complimentary tea, milk and sugar was also present. As they say, a picture speaks louder than a thousand words. There is a nice mini-bar with resonable rates for liquor. So here are the pictures of the room.
Service: This is why the resort has such high ratings. The staff are extremely polite, courteous and responsive. They attended to our every need with a smile. They never hang around for tips and never ask anything other than what is required. Two names to be mentioned here are RK (Rajender Kumar) and JK (Jeetender Kumar). RK was always helpful and went a step ahead to suggest and get anything done for the occupants of the resort. I did make a miserly request which he fulfilled the very next day. There was no point in my buying another sweater in Kasauli for just 2 days only to bring it back and stash in the attic again. So I asked RK if he could spare me a sweater or jacket for the 2 days. He just said “no problem Sir” and got me one of his own the very next day. Now that’s customer service. I returned the jacket on the last day and will keep memories of it in my photos. We did not find any sad or frowning faces here among staff. Service at this resort is indeed great. Room service is very quick and the staff are ready to do whatever they can within their limits to accommodate requests.
Food: They have a great and exhaustive menu that covers Continental, Chinese, North and South Indian dishes. The resort was flexible enough to a large extent. On the day we arrived, there were only 2 rooms occupied. It did not make much sense to open a buffet counter. Instead, they let us order a-la-carté and did not charge us anything extra for it. It was like having your pick of food free of choice. Coming back to the dishes, let me be frank. The noodles was very Indianized. But then, these guys are mostly Himachali and Bengali. So we decided to stick to the Indian dishes. And they did not disappoint. All Indian dishes were very good and were made exactly how we liked them. We heard some of the other guests say that their sizzlers too were excellent but it was a common opinion that their Indian food tasted the best. The next day, the resort was nearly full and the buffet section was opened. Once again, their Indian items were the best. The Chinese items were just above average. They also make great omelettes and sandwiches for breakfast. So no complaints from us as they are excellent in preparing one set of items.
Facilities: The resort has a DJ and dance floor, an XBox Kinect, a foosball table and a snooker table. Many resorts charge on an hourly basis for using these but all were free here (except for the air hockey table) for as long as one wanted. Movies are also screened everyday on the projector for those who wish to sit in the lawns in the evening and feel the breeze. On the first floor is a children’s park with swings, a slide, see-saws and a hammock. Kids would enjoy their time here while adults relax.
Highlights: I nearly forgot. Even though the resort was not full for the 3 days, we were still treated like royalty. When we booked the hotel, we were informed that children would be charged extra over the package rate as it was only for couples. During checkout, we went to pay the extra and were informed that our child was not charged. When asked why, the staff said that since our child ate so less, there was no point in charging anything extra at all. That was a pleasant surprise for us. The manager then informed us that they observe their guests keenly to satisfy all their needs. But as part of the observation, they are also flexible on the final charges especially if the guests have not consumed much. That is truly great customer service.
This resort is great value for money. Rest assured that we recommend this place whole heartedly. We may not visit Kasauli again but if we do, we know where to stay. By the way, the morning walks up the road by the resort are very enjoyable. The evening walks give a great view of the sun rays coloring the mountain tops.
There are not too many attractions at Kasauli. As mentioned before, this is a place to walk and explore. The most important sight which should not be missed is the Manki Point which is in the Airforce base. As this is a restricted area, no cameras or phones are allowed. But the view from the top at 6430 feet is amazing. On one side is Chandigarh and the other side is Kasauli. And when the clouds form, the view is magnificent. We spent nearly half an hour just sitting and watching the great Himalayas as they kept rising in height. On the second day, the air was clear. The Airforce officials remarked saying that the visibility was well over 200 kms from the top. And we could see the snow capped mountains from so far away. Truly marvellous.
The sunset point is a very romantic spot. Old English homes are still present and the orange rays change shades as you see the sun setting below the horizon with pine trees in the front. Unforgettable.
Many memories abound after the trip. The undulating mountains, the cable car ride at Timber Trails, the glorious sunsets, the misty mornings and the superb service of the staff at Kasauli Castle. Definitely recommended.