What is it waking up in the middle of an apple orchard overlooking snow clad mountains, and a little distance away is the Beas, a tributary of the Indus, its roar filling your ears and its thump echoing in your heart? The beauty of Manali can never be put in some prosaic forms, and I had chosen to miss the hustle-bustle of the town, and settle in some secluded corner to live the rawness of the Himachal. I could feel a sense of adventure as I arrived in the quaint little village of Haripur, heading to the LaRiSa Mountain resort. Perched in the middle of an apple orchard, spread out to endless horizons, overlooking the electric green fields, with stone and wood cottages seamlessly fitting in this beatific landscape, LaRiSa sent a strong cue. A connection was made the moment I stepped in the resort. And to make things livelier, rain gods played merry. And as the clouds danced in gay abandon, the greens and yellows of the valleys and the strikes of white on the mountain top, came out in their pompous best. And the resort seemed like a magical pot placed in the middle of this heavenly landscape.
I wondered if mornings could be so blessed and beautiful. It was a riot of colours as I crossed the wooden bridge, to enter Haripur, the yellows, reds, oranges, and the blues were in full blossom. And the surreal, earthly charm of LaRiSa came as a nice icing on the cake. It was an ‘India meets England’ and that too in a take it slow mode. And when you have headed for the clouds, it is important to stay in a place that can stand out as an apostle of fun, comfort, and sunshine. LaRiSa mountain resort stood in the middle as the snow clad peaks kept their guard over it. LaRiSa proved a view with a room for me. Each room provides a 360 degree view of the mountains, the deodar forests reaching to the tops, the lesser known trek trails, and the zeal of the apple orchards. The stone and wood styled cottages with a contemporary European décor, scoops out little pleasures for you – a tub for a rose petal bath overlooking the mountains, a capacious room, and a balcony opening to rolling green lawns for a quiet talk. As I headed towards the restaurant, I couldn’t but feel amaze at the space given for nice strolls and the minimalism in the décor to make things natural and local. I could imagine glasses of wine on picnic tables under trees strung with fairy lights, somewhere beside the pool, on a clear, starry night. Soon I was taken on a property tour (maybe call it detour to maintain the romanticism of the moment), on a secluded corner is tucked a small library, from where you can borrow a book when you want to recline in front of the fireplace. Another corner hosts a spa, to take the word ‘detox’ to more technical realms. In every sense LaRiSa provides a welcome sense of luxury, privacy and serenity.
More than the fine blend of inimitably and characteristic eccentricity in the design and structure, I was taken by the finest sense of hospitality in LaRiSa. The resident manager Shashank, takes personal interest in curating your vacation and sees that you don’t miss on any trail, and my cab driver proved a bag full of stories, from local politics, cultural to folklores of hidden trails in the mountains, snow leopards, and even the mythical Yeti. The staff personally sees to it that when you leave the place, you have laden just with views, but also memories to cherish on. Anyway, in the sheer wide open spaces filled with green, it’s easy to forget the world, and prepare oneself to make new friends. Even your digestion gets a break from an urban routine, fed with an organic diet instead. And cold nights, proved a good excuse to feed on local wine, trout from the local pond, and the Himachali Dhaam, seasoned with herbs from the organic garden. More than luxury, it was the experience that was the main take-away from the resort.
The next day I chose to take a detour around the Haripur village, a quintessential Himachali village, with men dotting the trademark Manali cap, set in the inspiring backdrop of the resplendent snowcapped mountains peaks, the apple and cherry trees in every backyard, and several hidden paths leading to the forests, rapids plunging down rock faces, and a mountain stream racing to merge with the Beas. I trailed down the path to the stream. The NGO ‘Healing Himalayas’ had undertaken a cleanliness drive in the region, and the efforts are very palpable as you walk through the narrow streets. And as we passed the village, we were witness to endearing vignettes of rural life: couples working in tandem in the fields, a group of teenage lads with their nest cast to get a good catch, a farmer with his herd of sheep on the meadows next to the river, a village girl handpicking wild flowers, houses in the village with thatched roofs, each with a solar panel propped against the eaves; it was all Manali and yet it was different from the way we picture the place.
Coming back to LaRiSa was always about smiles, warmth, and great food. This hallowed retreat seemed all that Himachal stands for – comely smiles, endless stories, and moments to pocket in.
(Check more here @ LaRiSa website. I was invited by LaRiSa Resort, the opinions are however, unbiased.)