Location: Oberoi Sukhvilas Spa Resort
This month is about the newly free India that burst forth at Independence in 1947 after a long struggle. It’s about optimism, dynamism, high quality. It’s about 70+ years of creative growth rooted in a phenomenally rich past. So, in a country awash with world class monuments you won’t be tripping over temples or visiting ikat weavers. Instead, this month your senses will be just as stimulated and indulged – albeit virtually - by two contemporary wellbeing experiences.
First the hotel. If wellness for you involves serious luxury then Sukhvilas Spa Resort hits the spot. This is the top notch Oberoi hotel group’s most luxurious property in its elite ‘Vilas’ collection (find earlier ones at Jaipur, Udaipur, Agra… ). Oberoi does everything so well. Spacious rooms scattered through the expansive garden estate typify true luxury: restrained, not over-furnished, perfectly appointed – a tented room with private pool is the ultimate. Food is as sophisticated as you like, with the wit to offer authentic and irresistible Punjabi street food at breakfast, highly rated by my Punjabi colleague! But the hotel’s most valuable asset is its location next to the 7,000-acre rugged Siswan Community Reserve whose Shivaliks hills mark the start of the Himalaya region - great for hikes with the hotel’s naturalist when the spa team is not helping you find your own wellness in their impressive facilities.
Then the outing, or outings. Jawaharlal Nehru wanted a modern city for a modern nation. He commissioned Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier, dreamer of better city living, to turn his dreams into reality for once and create Chandigarh, Capital of Punjab and Haryana states. From Sukhvilas it’s a 40-minute drive to well-preserved Chandigarh where you can lose a day or so exploring restored public buildings and a variety of museums, eat good local food and even visit Le Corbusier’s own offices.
Must-do wellness experience: Sunrise walk in the Shivalik hills with the hotel naturalist to help spot the birds
Sukhvilas buzz phrase: never mind the calories, that Punjabi breakfast was worth every one!
Ideas for unpacking your kind of slow-down wellness at Oberoi Sukhvilas and Chandigarh
Enjoy the invigorating wellness of exploring Chandigarh, finally inaugurated in 1966. See monumental buildings at the Capitol, recently restored by Abha Lambha. Here is Le Corbusier's Open Hand Monument, the city's symbol, indicating man's search for peace, prosperity and the unity of all people.
Soak yourself in Chandigarh's inherited heritage at the Le Corbusier-designed Government Museum and Art Gallery which since India's independence houses 40% of the spectacular holdings of Lahore's Central Museum collection (the rest stayed put).
Feel the presence of Le Corbusier when you visit his offices in central Chandigarh. Rooms and corridors are full of his designs (like this idea for the Open Hand Monument) and furniture. Imagine him at the big desk with fellow designers including his cousin Pierre Jeanneret, British husband-and-wife team Jane Drew and Maxwell Fry, American husband-and-wife team Charles and Ray Eames, and the young Indian architect B V Doshi, who would go on to win the Pritzker Prize in 2018.
Pick out what interests you from the dozen or so remarkable museum collections, most housed in remarkable buildings. Here is Gandhi Bhawan (devoted to the Mahatma) designed by chief architect Pierre Jeanneret, who was on site throughout the building years. You can also visit his spacious villa in the upmarket residential zone.
Enjoy a deep experience of 'sukh', which Sukhvilas staff translate as 'a state of sustained happiness as opposed to transient pleasure'. It starts with the turquoise reflecting pool at the entrance, continues into your room, and ripples through the spa, bar, gardens, restaurants and parkland.
Episode 17: Usha Kiran Palace Gwalior
Is it now time to start planning your Unpacking Wellness experience for 2022?
We shall emerge into a more cautious world. In preparation, I have designed some slow-travel Unpacking Wellness experiences. They are suffused in wellness, interaction is controlled, crowds are avoided. You pick and mix your selection from four week-long, in-depth visits to South Indian spots I especially love - on plateau, coast, forest and delta. Do one, two, three or all four.
Enjoy privately or in a small group (dates to be announced)
If you have not traveled with me before ....
Please know that we experience great sights in the best possible way, with lots of add-on encounters and visits to off-beat places.
We meet conservationists, curators, craftsmen and musicians, we walk with naturalists, we cook with local chefs.
In sum, we imbibe the essence of each area thanks to my four decades of studying and visiting India - and making great friends who I share with you.
For private travel ....
I work with you to create your tailor-made trip to any corner of India, to any budget, for all interests and special needs, for families and parties of friends, for business groups and for honeymoon couples - India is ideal for everyone!