Monday, December 28, 2015

Resort review: Aamod at Shoghi


Have you ever aspired for a little place nestled in the hills? Till you pocket it, check into Aamod at Shoghi for a prelude.    

Picture this: A forest in the hills... the elegant oak racing up to the skies, a burst of shy rhododendrons somewhere in between, a poker straight deodar commanding attention and the ubiquitous pine preening unstoppably. Step on the edge and what greets the eye is a panoramic view of rolling green hills, happy flowers of the untamed kind, a few hamlets yonder, terraced fields tip-toeing up the slopes, lots of squinting blue skies, and oh! the sparkling sound of silence. So capturing are the environs it almost seems someone's pressed the pause button. It's a feeling so typical to the hills. It's a feeling Aamod at Shoghi induces. 

Aamod's USP is its location. On the NH 22, at Shoghi, a few km short of Shimla, and deep inside a reserved forest. Yes, you read that right. It's a lovely woody forest and not a tree was chopped to make place for the cottages which are quirkily placed at varying levels, most of them requiring you to hike and catch a breath as you make your way up towards them. The reason, this is not a place for wobbly-kneed elders or unfit juniors. On the flip side, should you decide to come here you are bound to feel a whole lot agile at the end of your stay. Nature has a way of cajoling you to do the dare and feel triumphant.    


Aamod offers a lot and does so with a large heart. It's got a spry courtyard restaurant right at the entrance which in a way sets the ball rolling. Adjoining it is the dining hall where a live kitchen whips up a range of cuisine. If the way to a guest's heart is through the stomach, Aamod strongly believes in that dictum and pulls out all stops to cater to your whims, even if that means baking a cake at night for your special occasion, which they did for a guest during my stay. The breakfast buffet has quite a choice and at dinner they pleasantly surprised me with guchhi soup. My pick would be its authentic Himachali spread, something you'll rarely find on the menu in these parts. Ever tasted the combination of sweet malpua served with savoury pumpkin? It's a traditional starter in the hills here, which I felt was very gourmet, and a clear winner.   

You're endearingly enveloped by nature at this true-blue eco-resort and you needn't step away for an up close green experience. Should you be in a mood to lazily unwind, you can do just that on a cosy chair outside your cottage. Else you could make your way to the charming machhan-like deck, a perfect spot to coil up with a book or just gaze into the forest and tune into its stillness or the song of the bird. Topping it all, however, is indulgence at the hilltop spa with a view, and its irresistible open-air jacuzzi. 

For those with an adventure bone there are easy trekking trails and hikes in the vicinity, mountain-biking, rock-climbing and rappelling, besides a host of team-building games. I opted for the railway trek which was literally round the corner and provided the thrill of walking along the century-old meter gauge track of the Kalka-Shimla toy train and seeing it whistle past me as it entered the tunnel. Quite fairytale like, that. The trek also gave me an insight into forest wealth besides clear morning views of the hills and its picturesque homes. 

I challenged myself to a bit more off-roading and joined my group on a cycling outing. Not having sat astride a bike in years I thought I'd be all rusted. That was not the case, though, and I covered the 6-km distance quite alright. To be true it was all downhill, thus! The reward at the end of the pedal-pushing was lunch at the Nal Thalak village home of Roshni Devi and Hemanand. It was food prepared with dollops of passion and regard and was delicious in its simplicity. What further sent the tastebuds soaring was the 24-kt liquid gold a.k.a. home-made cow-milk ghee, which Roshni Devi streamed onto our thalis. Fragrant and bursting with flavours, it got most of us asking for repeats.  

My tryst with adventure did not end there. Aamod has a comprehensive in-house 10-obstacle course, which includes flying fox. I would put this down as an absolute must-do. Considering my bulky profile I didn't think I would be able to go past the first rung of the hurdle. The fact that I could do it all and quite effortlessly goes to the credit of the two instructors Ravi and Jeetinder whose faith in their abilities and the equipment inspired confidence.  

All's good at Aamod, however, the cottages, I felt, required a little TLC. They are basic  -- yes, they have comfortable beds, running hot water, electric blanket, room heater, telly, de rigueur tea tray -- but lack a certain snugness associated with a place in the hills. The interiors on the whole are a tad monotonous (Pray tell me, why does one have to view the same set of black and white prints on every wall, be it in the rooms or dining, where in fact one wall has repeats?!). My experience is based on my stay in one section of the family suite. I had the desire to see other cottages to be able to present a fairer view but somehow that did not materialise. That apart, service at Aamod is with a smile, the locally-drawn staff being an enthusiastic lot, which irons out all glitches. 


Quickly: 
What: Eco-resort 
Where: On NH 22, at Shoghi, 13 km short of Shimla 
Tariff: Rs 5,600 onwards  
Resort-o-meter 
Location: 5
Ambience: 4.5
Cottages: 3 
Food: 4 
Activities: 4.5 


The visit was on the invitation of Aamod at Shoghi via Escape Route.

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