Thursday, October 26, 2017

36 fascinating hours in Munnar with Club Mahindra!

Kerala has always fascinated me for its beauty, experiences, history and variety of natural scenery - hill stations, jungles and coasts. However, other than Kovalam, which I had visited ages ago, I hadn't had an opportunity to go back. This monsoon on an impromptu family trip courtesy Club Mahindra, I finally got to tick off Munnar and Thekkady off my list. Work had been hectic and a break was much needed to recharge the mind and the soul as well as spend time with Aryaa, and the Kerala trip gave us just that. The Club Mahindra team had put together a lovely itinerary for us and 4 days just flew by in a jiffy.

I had read about how beautiful Munnar was, nestled in the confluence of 3 mountain ranges, and how once upon a time it was the summer resort of the elite British in South India, but it turned out to be something that I was totally unprepared for. This post is going to tell you and show you just why I say this!

Day 1

A visibly excited family of 3 met the sweetest Club Mahindra team at Mumbai airport and took off to God's Own Country. We landed in Kochi a little later than our scheduled time and started our drive to Munnar, breaking just for lunch at a quaint local food joint where we got to relish some great seafood. The road to Munnar has enough twists and bends to upset most peoples stomachs, so one tip is do not eat a heavy meal prior to the drive and also keep candy and anti vomiting medicines handy. Prateek managed a bit with that but he highly recommends that you roll down the windows and breathe in the fresh air once you hit the mountains, as it refreshes you in an instant and feels sooooo good! Lucky me enjoyed the entire journey with no complications while Aryaa caught up on her sleep. As we entered Munnar, I was mesmerized by the panoramic views of the green hills brimming with tea estates that enveloped us, the valley and the clouds that filled it all up. It looked stunning from the car as we drove along - unlike anything that I had ever seen before despite having travelled to some of the most beautiful destinations around the world.

We reached the Club Mahindra Resort at Munnar at around 7 in the evening, right when the temperature started to drop. After a warm welcome by the staff, we checked into our Studio Apartment which was perfectly equipped to handle all that we needed for a family holiday. The bedroom area was huge and the sofa cum bed became Aryaa's personal bed which she loved.

The cute dining corner opposite the kitchenette was one of my favourite areas in the apartment and also Aryaa's. Elements in the rooms like the woven chairs and bed head rest took me back to my childhood days to the furniture that existed from the British days at my grandparents house. The room did not have an AC but trust me you don't need one.

When you have a 3 year old kid around you, there is nothing called rest that exists in your dictionary, until and unless the monster wants to rest. So you guessed it right, we had our little munchkin running all over the room cause she was excited to be in a HOTEL room! Yes she has my genes 😉 Dinner was scheduled for 8 PM and so we quickly freshened up and headed to Barbeque Bay - one of Club Mahindra Munnar's prized possessions! It has a barbeque on the table and buffet concept, wherein the tandoor is on your table where fresh kebabs get grilled, and for main course there is a buffet spread. It had an open air seating with live coal tandoors placed on each table for the kebabs and other starters. It wasn’t the first time that we were experiencing a live starter counter on the table but it definitely was the best. The feel of the fresh mountain air hitting you and the live coal providing the heat is an awesome mix. The food felt tastier and the evening felt livelier thanks to the cool weather.

The kebabs were on point - succulent and marinated really well with just the right amount of spice! They were perfect even for Aryaa and she enjoyed them. The salads served were healthy and flavourful, and despite not being a salad person I really enjoyed them. The buffet had an increasing mix of dishes from North Indian to local South Indian delicacies, so that everyone goes back satiated and happy, as well as gets a taste of the local cuisine. Everything was delicious, tasted fresh and we could taste the different flavours in each dish unlike some other places where everything tastes the same. The weekend we were there, was the Ganesh Chaturthi weekend, and the dessert counter also had a marzipan Ganesha who blessed us to not gain any calories as we gorged on the yummy desserts!😉

We crashed early that night as we were tired from a day full of travelling and also because our next day was going to be a hectic and eventful one. We needed all the rest to have high energy levels the next day!

Day 2 

I woke up in the morning not knowing what awaited me. As I opened the doors of my room, and stepped out in the sit out area, did I actually understand the magnitude of the location of the property and the vast beauty that surrounded me! I had never woken up to something like this!

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It took me a good amount of time to soak in the captivating view of the valley in front of us and also realize that the property is in the middle of a tea estate (you can actually pluck the tea leaves while walking up and down from your room). I could sit there all day but then we had a big plan for the day - The Kolukkumalai Jeep Safari. We tried our best to capture the surreal view before getting ready and heading for breakfast to their multi-cuisine restaurant Tea Room. Even from the restaurant you get great vistas to accompany your breakfast.

While the breakfast spread was elaborate, we kept it light as the safari included off-roading. At Club Mahindra Munnar, they have an Activity Desk that helps you plan your day in the property and around Munnar, and they had arranged the Kolukkumalai Jeep Safari for us which would take us on an off-roading experience in the Kolukkumalai tea estate and to the world's highest organic tea factory. A Mahindra Thar was what would take us through it all and you can get a glimpse below of the unsurfaced stony tracks that we rode on for over an hour one way.


Off-roading in itself is an experience - we were bouncing in all directions in our jeep and I was worried about Aryaa, but we kept her in the front seat with Prateek and she seemed to enjoy it thoroughly especially the Malayalam songs blasting on the jeep speakers, which was a huge relief for me. Half way through the track came this one particular spot which had a dream like setting with tea estates all around, the sun and clouds playing with each other, and it resulting in this beautiful drama in the sky and on land - I obviously had to get my shots.

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As far as my eyes would take me, all I could see were immaculately manicured tea plantations all over Munnar. These tea plantations are about a 150 years old, but did you know that a tea plant has a life of 2860 years? The safari included a cross over from Kerala to Tamil Nadu as the tea factory is there. An outstanding moment on the safari would be being at the point where one side is Kerala and the other side is Tamil Nadu and you get to experience sweeping panoramic views around you. After going through sharp curves, a few bruises and bumps (happened to the ones sitting behind in the jeep), we reached our destination - the worlds highest organic tea gardens and tea factory. Established in 1935, the tea factory stands at about 8000 feet and uses old, traditional machinery and methods to produce organic tea. We took the guided tour where the whole tea making process was explained by our guide, who had a lot of patience to answer ALL our questions, because I think we were the only curious ones! The tour ended with us getting to sample two difference varieties of teas - one that could be used with milk and the other which would be for lighter flavoured teas like lemon tea. Be sure to ask for sugar on the side or be prepared for a generous helping, the Kolukkumalai way! 😊

We began our downward descent hoping it was the end of the bouncing but we had not seen the famous photo point. So off we went on another off-roading experience, this time downhill. The valley behind you, the clouds around you, the shadow of the clouds on the mountains, and some rain, it was breathtaking!

Aryaa got so comfortable( I wonder how!), that she went off to sleep while we descended and made plans for the rest of the day - after all we had to make the most of the time we had there! By the time we reached the resort, it was late afternoon and we were immediately whisked off to experience the traditional Kerala Sadhya served on a banana leaf with over 15 dishes at the a la carte restaurant New Tea Room. In the monsoons this is what they serve everyday for lunch and I am glad I got to try it out. The piping hot sambar rice, hot rasam and mouthwatering avial with a generous amount of coconut were my favourites. In Sadhya the main dish is plain boiled rice and it is served along with other veggies and gravy dishes collectively called Kootan. Jackfruit chips, pickle, salt and papaddum are the accompaniments. Most of the dishes are prepared with coconut oil which is supposed to be very healthy. Payassam is the traditional dessert served at the end of the meal. We were so famished since we had barely eaten anything in the morning, that I do not remember how many multiple servings I asked for!

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After a much needed one hour nap, we all caught up again early evening for a fun time at the Treehouse, which you can book for yourself and have a fun personalized experience. While we decided to watch the sunset from there over tea, you can even book a romantic candle light dinner if you are travelling as a couple. For families, tea time is perfect! Ask for some crispy corn, spinach and cheese sandwiches, chicken nuggets and some hot South Indian Tea to make your evening memorable.

Finally it was time for some pampering - Prateek and me had a Kerala Ayurveda Massage fixed for us at the resort's spa Svaastha. As soon as I entered the massage room I started feeling relaxed - the aroma, the lighting and the whole set up puts you at ease. We got the Snehana Abhyangam treatment done which is a traditional Indian oil massage therapy that involves a combination of soothing and symmetrical long strokes to regulate the circulatory and the nervous system. The sesame based herbal oil specific to my body's constitution was used and it heightens concentration and leaves one feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. End it with a steam, scrub, shower and herbal tea to put you in a state of Zen. If you come to Kerala and do not get a traditional massage, your trip is not complete!

While we got ourselves pampered, Aryaa had her share of fun at the Kids Activity Centre which has a plethora of games and activities planned for children. Colouring, games, rides - you name it and they have it!

As we got out of the spa relaxed and Aryaa out of the activity centre happy, we unanimously decided to chill outside our rooms and eat dinner there. Gourmet Express, Club Mahindra's in-room dining is what we decided to try. What I love about Gourmet Express is the packaging in branded hygienic boxes, and the fact that it is all delivered to your room in hot insulated bags so that your food stays hot till you get it. Once you are done, conveniently dispose off the boxes! The food quality and taste is just like what is served in the restaurants.

While we enjoyed the cool winds and hot food in the sit out outside our room, Aryaa had a quick dinner, spread herself out on HER sofa cum bed and dozed off! She had had a long long day for a 3 year old! Super happy with how our day turned out as well, we too decided to call it a night. The next morning we had to leave for Thekkaddy and it was once again going to be an action packed day. However, I made sure to get up really early in the morning, as I was unsure as to when again would I get to experience mornings like those in Munnar, and so I had to make the most of it!

I have been enjoying such holidays for the last 10 years thanks to my parents as they have a Club Mahindra Membership and we have had some really eventful trips together. This trip also gets added to my list of memorable holidays with Club Mahindra.

With just Munnar done, I was convinced why Kerala was called God's Own Country - after all, he had taken special care to make something so beautiful! But to make it possible for me to experience it all, Club Mahindra was responsible! I couldn't thank them enough for this awesome trip to Munnar and making this one of our most #MagicalMonsoons! 😍 Now we couldn't wait to see what Thekkady had in store for us!

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