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

Thursday, 10 August 2017


Ive seen Aashyana Lakhanpal grow from its inception to this beautiful sprawling property that is cared for, yet looks uncared for. That is the unique magic of this place. Owner Ajai Lakhanpal has been a dear friend over the years and has often invited me to enjoy his home -turned -resort on one of Goa's most popular beaches, Candolim. He is a man of good taste and little fuss. He wisely decided that instead of having a manicured garden he would allow the garden to be natural and grow organically. The concept has worked incredibly well and hidden amongst the grounds are his commitments to the environment in the form of rainwater harvesting, composting, organic garden etc.

Firstly, the entrance to the property is archaically narrow, and requires us to switch over to smaller cars at a certain point, in order navigate through the lanes. After a short drive the majestic gate suddenly appears and as we drive in to the property, we are greeted with tall coconut palms and a beautiful entrance hall with a grand spiral staircase.

I am here this time, to shoot my second Indian healthy cookbook with my co author Nandini Gulati, our stylist Vidhi Jain and two photographers. Our book is whole plant based and uses no oil, sugar, gluten or animal products!

We arrived in Goa with bags and bags of styling crockery and food ingredients which we knew we would not find easily if Goa.

We were here to cook, style and shoot 118 recipes in 10 days. It was going to be intense work and I was sure I would need some good relaxing spa treatments!

Ajai very kindly opened up his property for us to capture some of the magic of his gardens and incorporate it into our book. And so it was. Every leaf, every corner, every wall, provided us with unique surfaces to place our dishes on.

We would start early in the morning to capture the light.

But wait!

My morning doesn't start until Ive done my practice! The beach was only a stones throw away.

A good morning walk allowing the wet sand to massage the soles of my feet is a great therapy.

I believe its now also been given the name "earthing" and often included as a spa therapy!! It certainly helps to ground me and absorb the energy of the earth! We had spectacular sunrises as it was the monsoon season . I dragged Nandini out to do some Yoga and meditation on the beach.

Our cottages were set amidst a lot of greenery and the birds made sure they woke us up in the morning. I also noticed a new resident here- the peacock. But was not able to capture him in my camera. These cottages have been gradually added to the property and they are soooooo close to the beach that you can hear the ocean as you sleep.

After a hearty and healthy breakfast of fruit, smoothies, brown rice poha and badam milk we set to work.

We scouted the property for interesting spaces to photograph our dishes on. So while I paid attention to producing the dishes,Vidhi and the photographers went hunting for surfaces. We did so want to capture the cottages and villas of the property but with food shots we needed to have close ups. Nevertheless, what we found was amazing.

Sometimes some moss..........

Sometimes a Buddha Statue

sometimes on the rooftop

and sometimes in the pond!

Day after day we worked non stop for 12 hours a day taking breaks to review the work. Sitting out in the verandah of our cottages till dusk dawned and the mosquitoes decided to descend upon us. The cottages inside were very comfortable, fully air conditioned and a great tea making service!

We even went to Mapusa vegetable market to get fresh veggies for the book. (Yes, it was avocado season!!)

And got to taste our own haul from Mapusa!

 But most of all, I would be on my feet all day. My tired soles were aching. I tried to relax in the picturesque pool.

Nothing worked. My feet needed a workout.

I finally decided that the only remedy would be to take a walk down to the spa.

Shobha and Biju are a husband wife couple that take care of the spa at Aashyana. The spa, if I remeber right, was once an exclusive Ayurvedic spa but has now been converted to a general spa with both Ayurvedic and Western therapies.  The couple are from Kerala and are able to handle both forms of therapies. I opted to have a deep tissue on the first day for my aching body (after so much hard work!!)

It was Shobha who took care of me, gently digging into my muscles and soles. 
The spa was very simple and basic. No frills and no fuss (just like the owner likes it). It has a feel of au naturalle about it. I asked for a deep tissue massage and she did a good job using her lower arm and elbow to dig deep into my back and soles as required. They use mainly Ayurvedic oils at the spa and dont give you much information unless you ask. I think what she used on me had a sesame base.

After a weeks gap I chose to have the Ayurvedic rejuvenation therapy as well, on the wooden massage table.
I dont know about you but I always have a fear that Ill slip down from the table!! I usually hold on tight when I need to turn over. The two hands Abhyanga treatment was given using a Tridoshic oil combination call the Dhanwanthaila (the Hindu God of Health Dhanwantari and Thaila meaning oil). Shobha is an experienced therapist and explained to me thats its a myth to say that Ayurvedic massages are given only under the instruction of doctors. I think what she meant was there is a difference between massages with tridoshic oils (which would be suitable to all dosha types) and those that are prescribed by doctors as Ayurvedic treatments with specific dosha oils.

And so be it.

I would say then that this could only be considered a "massage" rather than an Ayurvedic treatment! Still it was nice and relaxing. I bathed after, with the home-made moong dal paste that she had made.

I left the spa feeling rejuvenated and ready for another days work!

Our time in Aashyana seemed to have gone my very fast. We wrapped up the shooting by taking some portrait pictures for the book. Aashyana Lakhanpal is the kind of place that grows and grows on you. You just dont want to leave it. However we celebrated by having a nice meal made by Jagat Singh and Lakhan, our two chefs and eventually we had to say byeeeee!!

Recommendation: I would definitely recommend improving the aesthetics of the spa and also work on spa etiquette. It could be much more charming set in those beautiful grounds.

I'd like to thank Ajai Lakhanpal, Priya Shaikh. Pradeep Sethi and Rajendra Tiwari for the support they gave me and my team during our stay at Aashyana Lakhanpal. It was memorable.


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