My first experience with Manali mostly involved walking on the crowded Mall Road, visits to Old Manali, shopping for colourful socks, and some of the more touristy experiences one could gather in that ever-popular summer destination. While it was a great trip, I could never look back and recall any moments that had stayed deeply etched in my memories. I visited Manali again last week, and came back with my heart full of cherished memories. The difference this time was the place I stayed at – Tall Trees Resort.
The resort revealed itself like the jungle’s favourite secret. I got off the NH-22 Chandigarh Manali highway, about 12 kilometers before Manali, and drove through a beautiful bridge that is a unique relic of Himachal Pradesh, and to me, a magical passage into a zen-like wonderland. From amidst the cluster of tall trees (hence the name) the resort emerged, and I could hear the feisty gurgle of the stream that starts off as a waterfall uphill, and then saunters through the resort, rushing down to meet the sparkling waters of the Beas river. It was a cold April morning when I reached Tall Trees, as winter has chosen to take its sweet time departing from the valley this year. Well, I wasn’t complaining. Mumbai’s heat and dust can sometimes begin to settle on your soul, and my first glimpse of the resort alerted my traveller’s intuition that this place would be the perfect cure for those city blues.
A HOME IN THE LAP OF NATURE
Even though I had an early arrival at the resort, the property manager, Amit, was already there, smiling and hospitable, and concerned about my reaction to the cold weather. The staff’s first priority was to get me settled into the room, with a cup of hot coffee, and small platters full of cookies and fruits. My first floor Superior Room overlooked the garden, and had a stream running right under the balcony. The property has eleven rooms, with wooden floors and ceilings, large enough to give you ample comfort without being overwhelmingly imposing. The décor is minimal and tasteful. Every room comes with its own balcony or patio, with a private seating area. At Tall Trees, the concept of luxury and comfort speak in hushed tones, rather than in-the-face. Every room has a heater, and mine had been switched on well before my arrival, so when I walked in, the room was already cozy and comfortable. Really, it’s these small details that stay with you long after your trip is over.
Nothing works to kick up your appetite than good, old-fashioned cold weather. I am, of course, no exception to the rule. And Tall Trees is the perfect place to get hungry, often. The food here has all the elements of fine dining, without the unnecessary frills. No smoking bowls and exploding caviar-like pebbles in your meal here – just fresh, flavourful, and wholesome meals, plated beautifully. The kitchen staff, headed by Chef Anoop, are prompt, efficient and smiling.You can choose to have your meals at the quiet restaurant, at your room, or at one of the tables by the stream. I explored all these options, as Anoop and his team served the very best from their menu, and even beyond that.
The use of the freshest local produce ensures that your food is uncomplicated, subtle but with layers and layers of delightful flavours. There is a good mix of options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, and I tried both. My favourites were the rajma with parathas, and the grilled fish with lemon butter sauce. The highlight of my stay was this elaborate breakfast spread that I devoured sitting next to the stream – fresh fruits, fluffy cheese omelette, and delightful pancakes served with a drizzle of honey. One of my readers on social media labeled it as her life’s #BreakfastGoals, and I concur. That heady combination of a great morning meal, cool mountain air, and the picture-perfect setting of lush greens and a sparkling stream should definitely be on your bucket list.
My average set of activities in the city include the weekly grocery run, running after the cabs, work deadlines, elusive electricians, and diva-like plumbers. At Tall Trees, all my worldly stresses were given a firm backseat. I met the lovely and indulgent owners, Harjinder, and her husband Kawaljeet, who took me for a leisurely trek through the jungle surrounding the property. Believe me, it’s like walking through a golden summer in the magical forest of Narnia. A mysterious, quiet, and calming atmosphere prevails through the trek, with a stirring chorus of a hundred birds chirping away amidst the large trees. It’s humbling, cleansing, and healing. No city crowds, no noisy tourists, no smoke-spewing cars – just the tranquil sounds of the jungle.
But I was just getting started. The Tall Trees way of life was taking over me, and fast. I signed up for a fishing trip, and ended up getting a crash course in patience, perseverance and humour. My local guide, Rambo, turned up with a fishing rod, worms dug out fresh from the ground, and an impermeable determination to help me get a prime catch. His determination, however, was matched by the river fishes’ resolve to stay alive. We laughed our heads off, moved from spot to spot, drove uphill on his motorbike in search of more worms, discussed his two kids, met some elderly folk from his village, exchanged pleasantries and fishing stories with some locals passing by, and nearly got caught in the sudden rain. We didn’t catch any fish that day, but I came back with some of the most fun memories I have gathered in a long time.
Tall Trees is governed by a different set of rules. It urges you to leave behind your city habits and slip into the pace of the mountains. You read, you watch the sunset, you hear the stream sing, you look up to spot a new bird, you count the butterflies dancing through the flowerbeds, you learn the first names of all the people working at the resort, you grab a mountain bike and go exploring, you step closer to nature, and closer to yourself. You can’t have a to-do list to tick off here. When they say they’re a jungle resort, they mean it.
SERVED WITH A SMILE
I did mention that one of the things you’d end up doing at Tall Trees is to learn the first names of nearly everyone working there. How can you not! The genuine smiles, and the sincerity with which the staff here serves the guests will make you never, ever want to leave! You will know where this warmth comes from when you meet the owners -Harjinder and Kawaljeet. The couple has a very warm hospitality vision and they have it in their hearts to offer exemplary standards of service to every single guest at their resort. It is this attitude of the management that reflects in every interaction with every member of the Tall Trees staff. I will forever be impressed with the genuine warmth, and dedicated concern for my comfort, experienced in every aspect of my stay at the resort.
Travelers don’t always like to visit a place over and over again. But it’s places like Tall Trees that compel you to make an exception. It was almost heartbreaking to leave it behind, and I for sure, am already plotting a trip back to this exquisite gem, tucked away within a dream forest.
GOOD TO KNOW
- Tall Trees Resort is located about 15 minutes away from Manali – a perfect combination of peace and seclusion, while you will still have accessibility to the main town of Manali.
- Choose at least a two-day stay in order to enjoy the activities offered by the resort – fishing, trekking, mountain biking, rock climbing.
- The property has eleven mountain-inspired rooms that give you all the privacy you require, while giving you full access to some of the most rejuvenating views of nature.
- Beverages and snacks are served throughout the day at the restaurant.
- While spring and summer are the best times to visit Tall Trees, carry ample of woollens, as the weather even in the summer months can get cold.
- Carry comfortable walking shoes for the treks.
- With a 24-hour advance notice, you can request a private barbecue at the resort.
- This is a great place to visit as a couple, as a family, or even as a solo traveler looking for a few days of rest and rejuvenation.
For reservations, click here.