oooooh! for a good treatment......

Monday, 2 December 2019


Carnoustie Ayurvedic Resort has constantly been receiving the Best Ayurvedic Resort in the Asiaspa and Globalspa magazine Awards over the years. Somehow it never came into my orbit even though I had the opportunity to visit all other luxury Ayurvedic Resorts in India.

Naturally I was very curious to experience the space and its offerings. Finally I had a chance to visit for a weekend.

The journey was long as there was only one direct flight from Deli-Kochi. I had to wake up at 3 am to catch the 6am flight. I caught up on my sleep on the flight as I wanted maximum waking time at the resort itself. I panicked for a moment when I landed and didnt see my name amongst the hotel chauffeurs waiting for their clients. I'd forgotten to slow down and accept the pace of suburban living. Delhi keeps you so on the ball.

The driver was having a snooze, he said, as my flight arrived 15 mins early!! Anyway we got in the comfortable Innova and there was box of sandwiches and drinks for my two hour journey to the Resort.

In Kerala there is no breathing space between villages. We drove non stop from the city airport through rural Kerala all the way to Marari Beach without seeing any breaks in the form of rice fields of coconut farms. The only stop was to drink some roadside coconut water, fresh from the trees.

On arrival, I was greeted by Sanjoy Ganguly, the GM ,who turned out to be a family friend. And I'm sure that's not why my room was upgraded but I nevertheless appreciated the gesture. It always makes you feel pampered.

I was given a luxurious Mallika Room/Villa with a private pool, outdoor shower and a very large bathroom with the softest, most gorgeous bed to sink into.

I could easily have slipped in to a slumber but the doctors had something else in mind!


I was introduced into their wellness Centre Aryavaidyashala and the programme by a very cheerful and smiling Dr Rejina. Since I was there only for 3 nights we were not able to do a formal 7 day detox or rejuvenation programme. Rather the doctor wanted to give me an experience of some of the more interesting options available on the spa menu. Meanwhile I opted to have the Ayurvedic food recommended for my dosha type, Vata/Pitta.

My first treatment started with a gentle full body Marma Massage by Dr Deepti. The Marma therapy here is a signature therapy given to all guests, every alternate day. This well known therapy integrates vital knowledge of the energy points within the specific techniques of Ayurvedic massage. A Marma point is a juncture on the body where two or more types of tissue meet, such as in muscles, veins, ligaments, joints or bones. By massaging such points the Prana (life force) in the body is allowed to move more freely.  Lactic acid that accumulates through stress gets released in Marma therapy thus helping to detoxify the body thoroughly. It is often used in conjunction with yoga practices and meditation. I have to admit that I did fall asleep on the table  after my early rise in the morning and left me very relaxed and supple as if my internal channels had been cleared. I guess thats what Marma massage is meant to do!

The resort is beautifully designed with private villas tucked in discreetly into a charming unmanicured garden. The footpaths weave their way through massage rooms, yoga rooms, restaurants, and villas. We had a bit of rain which also added to the monsoon/ayurveda vibe. The resort is dotted with charming outdoor pavilions to lounge read or meditate.

A grand and tall circular indigenous Bamboo structure contains the Ida restaurant of the resort. I was starving but was given a restricted portion of soup and main course with a sugar free dessert. Like all regular Ayurvedic restaurants they also served warm herbal water to drink( I dont much care for, the flavour of this drink. I dont know why Ayurvedic centres don't modernise their warm tonic drinks).

I had two beautiful treatments during my stay. The Elakizhi and the Podikizhi. Both were poultice massages but of different techniques and benefits. The first was a herb poultice dipped in warm herbal oil that was rubbed over my body to treat my joints, muscles and body ache. The latter was a dry herbal pouch which the therapists pounded on my body to stimulate my blood supply and to instigate sweating, while at he same time, taking care of my bones and joints. Both these treatments were preceded by an Abhyangam massage.

Post the massage I had a lovely barefoot walk on the beach and sat on the lounger to watch the vast monsoon sky at sunset. I stayed there mesmerised unable to bring myself back to my room. There was a gentle breeze as well as a drizzle!

I was happy to retire to bed early so that I could walk the beach in the morning.

It was 6am when my eyes opened and I immediately jumped out of bed not to miss even a moment of the sunrise. The fisherman were just returning with their catch. The haul was of small scanty fish, probably for the local village market. I was told that the big ships went out further into the sea to catch the big fish. The thought of David Attenborough's comments on the state of the depleting fish came to mind. Soon he said, we would not have any fish left in our seas if the human race consumes them all. Ah well, conscious living has still a long way to go.

After the first day I switched form the Ayurvedic food menu to the extensive normal Kerala food menu. It was all delicious but not sure it was very healthy.

I took a refreshing barefoot walk on the beach, and headed off for the morning Yoga class. Mr Gopal was our teacher. It was a full class with about 16 yoga enthusiasts. After some stretches, inversions and moolabandhas, Mr Gopal gave us a demonstration of Nauil kriya

Pranic Healing is also part of Carnousite's recommended healing treatments. All guests get marma massage and pranic healing every alternate day.

On day 3,  I was treated to my favourite Ayurvedic treatment, the Srirodhara.

This iconic massage never fails to get me into an alpha state. For 30 mins warm oil was gently poured on my forehead from a beautiful brass pot hanging over my head. This treatment is great for the reducing stress, anxiety and improving the Vata dosha and sleep. Not to mention that it puts you in a really relaxed state of mind.

After that I was invited to the hotel boat ride across the Kerala backwaters into Lake Vembanad, India's longest lake.

This was a sheer delight, as the boat was superbly comfortable and luxurious. We were treated with kids gloves and my lunch was even laid out in a beautiful dining room, all set with white table cloths and rose bowls!!! The dining room had glass windows so I could watch the waters as we sailed past the paddy and little villages along the river.

The last day, Dr Regina wanted me to try one of their signature wraps. So the treatment started with a scrub made of papaya and Navara rice. After which they wrapped my body up like a cocoon with a fruit paste made of mint, apple, cucumber, oats, eggwhite and lemon.

 This was a perfect send off from this magical place.

Carnoustie grew on me over the days. The ambience and setting was magical. There was no pressure to get involved in hundreds of activities, like most other wellness centres. There was enough time to enjoy the beach, the gardens and the several outdoor pavillions that are set up for lounging and reading.

The pool was also of a decent length to get my laps in for the days exercise.

Recomendation: The cuisine although delicious, needs to be updated to the latest wellness trends for conscious  and healthy food.

Thank you Sandra and Urvashi for the lovely weekend!

Monday, 2 October 2017


"Long before one can enjoy the Neemrana Experience, it is vital to humble oneself before the vast and continuous sprawl of history. Humans come later."- a quote from  their website.

Tijara Fort Palace stands tall and foreboding on a hilltop. As you approach this new addition to the Neemrana Group of Hotels, the tall grasslands play hide and seek with the view of the Fort. A wide but steep entrance through the palace gates reminds me of the established Neemrana Fort in Delhi.

I have known the owner of Neemrana Group, Aman Nath, for the last 17 years. He is a neighbour and a friend. We recently connected through work at the Indian Heritage Hotels Association, and I was almost embarrassed that I had not accepted his many invitations to visit his new "baby." So when I had some time this autumn, I jumped into my car and drove off into the wilderness, only to be surprised by the sheer enormity of the Fort and what Aman has done to convert the old 19th century ruins into a grand palace hotel. I cannot even begin to imagine what a mammoth task it must have been to renovate the old ruins of the Fort and transform it into this splendid Palace Hotel. Keeping to traditional architectural guidelines, getting licenses from the Government and even building the roads to access the Fort could not have been an easy task. Yet this is exactly why these boutique hotels of the IHHA are charming and unique - they are more a labour of love put together with all historic details in place.

Located only 2.5 hours away from Delhi, Tijara Fort makes an easy getaway for weekends from Delhi. My friend Meg Lambert a.k.a. "an english woman abroad" joined me on the trip. We were on a Mystic Asia journey into the heart of Indian heritage.

We arrived at lunchtime and were given a very elaborate Thali lunch of Rajasthani food. I indulged in some "normal" food after a long time!Aman told me they would be starting a new restaurant with "sattvik" food! I shall look forward to it! Food was delicious although a little oily for my liking.

We strolled around the huge property comprising of the three main buildings, the Mardana Mahal, the Rani Mahal and the Hawa Mahal. Seven terraced gardens connecting these Mahals command a magnificent view above the tall ramparts that have now been lovingly completed and restored.

My favourite spot was the stunning Ikkat floor tiles that formed a carpet in the main hall of Mardana Mahal.

The rooms have been designed by well known personalities of the art world and painted murals adorn the walls and ceilings of several of the rooms. I was pleasantly surprised to find that "Anjolie Mahal"

which was allocated to me, had walls painted by one of Indias most talented artists, Anjolie Ela Menon.

Her signature was inscribed on the walls for posterity. Beautiful!

In the evening, Meg and I got down to do some much needed stretches and Yoga after the long drive from Delhi. 

The sunset lit up the radiant hues of the red sandstone of the Fort. Ending with some meditation we headed straight to the spa.

Oh yes ! and on the way I spotted something that was interesting.......

The double OM!!

Raja Sitlhou was warm and welcoming to the Oriental Senses Spa that he runs at Tijara Fort. He was almost apologetic that the new spa premises were not yet ready for use. Never mind, I said, we will be back!

The Oriental Senses spa is run by husband and wife (Raja and Ahoi) team with what seems like a hands on, personal attention, vibe.

They seemed very sincere, very caring, very eager that we have a good experience. The temporary spa was set up in one of the rooms and the two therapy beds were separated by a makeshift screen for our purpose. I understood that special therapists were brought in for us too, which was very touching indeed. They had only one gown so we couldnt pose in "white"! I always have an immediate rapport with North Eastern staff so it was easy for me to feel at home. My therapist Mesavino or Avi, for short, was of Naga origin. I amused her with some of my Nagamese knowledge and then we got down to business. I opted for a deep tissue massage.

The spa menu was non fussy, compact and to the point with the standard therapies on offer. 

We started off with a foot soak in lukewarm water and rose petals, Thai style. 

Avi gave me an unusually large disposable underwear to change into and began kneading my body with a sensitive touch. She was petit girl so I almost felt bad to ask her to go deeper into my tissues and muscles. (I like my massage to be quite painful, nicely I mean!). I think I reached her limits, poor girl, as I continued to ask her to go deeper! The oil smelt nice with a combination of lavender and lemon, homemade by Ahoi herself. I think the base oil was sesame, I was not sure.

I have to say here that the hospitality shown by Raj and Ahoi was refreshingly personal and caring and I think what most spas dont realise is that a customer comes to a spa to be spoilt, to receive some TLC. So being caring, sincere and some kind words can always touch a soul. This was the best part of my experience with them- the warmth with which I was welcomed.

As the massage relaxed me into a state of sleep, an hour later, I was woken up on my table. Meg was almost asleep too. We yawned, stretched and filled ourselves with gratitude for this amazing journey that we were on.

We sauntered off to dinner soon after that and decided to have an early night so we could catch the morning light at sunrise the next day.

Sure enough, at 5.45 am we were up

at the Hawa Mahal to watch the sun rise and I was treated to a fabulous sun "wash" through my Sahasara (crown) Chakra !!

We found a nice spot amongst the corridor of pillars to do our yoga 

and then moved to the edge of the building for some meditation.

A hearty breakfast of yummy Poha and an hour of swimming is how we spent the morning. The enormous open air pool is set at a lower level.

The water was cool and inviting. Am sure it would be stunning to swim in the night and watch the stars while on a backstroke!

I spent the rest of the morning enjoying the balcony outside my room,

feeling the gentle breeze while I caught up with my reading on Devdutt Patnaiks interpretation of the Devi (in keeping to the theme of Navratri and Durga Puja!).

We quickly grabbed some lunch and with heavy hearts said bye to our short sojourn in "Wonderland"!

It felt like a dream.

I am so grateful for every moment that comes my way in this wonderful world of travel, specially moments like these that are precious and unforgettable. Little sparks of magic that make life very worth living.

Thank you Aman, Vivek and Raja and Ahoi.

Recommendation: Im sure the new spa will have a more aesthetic space than the one we experienced and I wish them luck with that. I hope to visit again soon. The collaterals could also be brought in line with a definite brand image.