When Calcutta was experiencing a heat wave in the last week of April, we were lucky to get an invitation that allowed us to escape the scorching summer in the city. It was a three-day stint to explore three properties of the Hotel Polo Towers Group in the North-East, in the ‘abode of clouds’ — Meghalaya. The dip in temperature and a view of the lush green hills while driving out of the Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport in Guwahati, Assam, was a sight of relief and an indication of a happy, much-needed break.
A five-hour-plus drive from the Guwahati airport, the recently opened property of Polo Towers — Woodstock Farmhouse, was our harbour for the next three days. Zooming down the scenic road of this North-Eastern state, its landscape painted with nature’s brushes in shades of lush green, yellow, brown and limestone white on the hills, beautiful blues and greens on the lakes and foamy white on the falls, kept us in high spirits, despite the long distance we covered to reach our destination. We, of course, stopped at a few spots for some quick groupfies. Lake Umiam on our way, with its varied shades of blue and green, remains my favourite from the lot.
Woodstock Farmhouse, a budget property of the Hotel Polo Towers Group, is built with a modest appearance in the tranquil and peaceful 8th Mile Lumdewsaw village in Mylliem block of the East Khasi Hills in upper Shillong. Perfect for a pleasant stay amidst nature and away from the hustle-bustle of city life, it is interestingly themed on the Woodstock Music and Art fair of 1969 in New York. The six cottages of the property are named after some of the artistes who performed there, including Indian artistes like Pandit Ravi Shankar. Our welcome at the farmhouse’s vibrant living room, with coffee mugs themed on music artistes and tea bags as welcome gifts, was cordial that extended through their service during our stay there for the next two days, too.
Conveniently located between Shillong and Cherrapunji with good road connectivity, the farmhouse offers the opportunity of sightseeing some of the prominent locations within a short distance, like Elephant Falls, Air Force Museum, Sacred Forest and Dawki. After spending a comfortable night in the farmhouse’s suite room, with a soul-soothing view of green hills and a vast farm harvesting potato and paddy, we made an early start the next day to experience a day-long stay at Polo Orchid Resort in Cherrapunji.
The boutique hilltop resort of the Polo Towers Group, Polo Orchid is a 44km drive from Woodstock Farmhouse and is spread across a vast 5.5acres area, with the recent addition of an enchanting infinity pool. Lodged at the lavish 1,100sq ft presidential villa for the day, our exploration of the colossal property and its services began with breakfast at its infinity pool, with a splendid view of the Seven Sisters waterfall flowing down the East Khasi hills. Luck favoured us with a cloudless morning and evening to experience a clear view of the falls and a scenic sunset by the poolside.
The presidential villa stands secluded at the far end of the property, down the hill, and is designed in a duplex style with one bedroom, an attic room and a private balcony with a pool. After spending a relaxed afternoon chilling in the villa with a view, we visited the resort’s multi-cuisine restaurant for lunch. Having both outdoor and indoor sitting facilities, the 110-seater restaurant called Sohra House Bistro has an Irish bar inside. Decorated with a wooden rooftop, umbrellas and local objects of daily use, it treats guests to local, Indian, Italian, Chinese and Continental cuisine. We enjoyed a simple lunch including healthy salads and Indian cuisine, sitting in the outdoor section, enjoying the view of the Seven Sisters falls. After a quick tour of the various rooms and recreational facilities in the resort, we were treated to a special tea at the restaurant to keep us warm. It was followed by a bonfire evening that is usually accompanied by live music and a live snack counter and an elaborate continental and Asian spread for dinner at the indoor section.
Dinner was accompanied by interesting snippets about Meghalaya from general manager Rohit Kapoor. “Since childhood, we have read that Cherrapunji is one of the wettest places on earth. My perception was it is going to rain here 24×7. But surprisingly, the place has a dry season from September to March and experiences rains from April to mid-September. This is the land of waterfalls, so tourists can experience the falls in their full glory during the rainy season and those who want to avoid the rain can visit during the dry season. Both seasons are great for tourist visits to experience the beauty of this place,” informs Kapoor.
Visiting the place with a team of fashion enthusiasts, an impulsive desire to discover the fashion scene in the hills deprived us of the quick sightseeing around Polo Orchid planned for the first half of the third day. Other than the Seven Sisters fall, Nohkalikai fall, which is the highest waterfall in Cherrapunji, Arwah Cave, Wei Sawdong waterfall, Garden of Caves and Elephant Falls are some spots of tourist interest located within a 10 to 30 minutes distance from the resort.
Having great company made the long drive back to the airport from upper Shillong fun, informative and less tedious. We stopped at the ML O5 cafe in Upper Shillong for a quick glimpse of the automotive-themed cafe, before resuming our journey uninterrupted and enlivened by folk tales of Sohra (the local name by which Cherrapunji was earlier known) narrated by our driver and some upbeat local tracks playing on the radio. While getting dropped off at the airport, we picked up one of the most useful words in the local Khasi language from our driver, ‘khublei’, which means ‘goodbye’. We wanted to thank him, what should we say? ‘Khublei’, he taught us, which means ‘thank you’, too! Khublei Meghalaya, for a soul-soothing escape amidst hills and clouds!
POLO ORCHID RESORT
A traditional welcome with drums awaits guests at the property. Guests can experience a local touch in the property, be it in the Jainsem attire worn by the resort staff or local food served at the restaurant.
Room tariff: (dynamic pricing, including breakfast)
Orchid: Rs 15,000-plus
Dew Drop: Rs 22,000-plus
Rainforest: Rs 25,000-plus
Log Hut: Rs 28,000-plus
Misty Mountain: Rs 35,000-plus
Presidential Villa: Rs 45,000-plus
The magnificent resort gives a partial view of the Seven Sisters waterfall from most parts of the property, a clear view of Bangladesh from the rooms other than Orchid rooms, and the hills. The 26 rooms of the property are segregated into six categories — the 150sq ft Orchid rooms, the 350sq ft Dew Drop rooms with private balcony and bathtub, the 450sq ft Rainforest rooms with private balcony and jacuzzi, the 220sq ft Log Hut rooms with plunge pool for couple stay, the 950sq ft Misty Mountain Villa with additional living room, a bedroom and private pool, and the 1,100sq ft duplex-style Presidential Villa with private pool and balcony.
Apart from standard amenities in all rooms, the property has additional facilities of an infinity pool, gaming zone with indoor games such as table tennis, chess, billiards, carrom, outdoor activities like badminton, archery and cycling, and spa for indulging in a pamper session.
Lunch and dinner are served a la carte at the restaurant. Breakfast and dinner plans are also available with rooms.
Start the day with a planned nature trek and seal the experience with a memorable breakfast by the pool or waterfall breakfast, or opt for a buffet breakfast at the resort restaurant between 7am and 10 am. Pool and waterfall breakfast is charged at Rs 2,999-plus per person. Breakfast in the pool include fresh juice, cheese omelette, cut exotic fruits and a platter of English Breakfast.
The charming and inviting Woodstock Farmhouse has seven cottages in total, including six Rock ’N’ Roll cottages and a suite room. The Rock ’N’ Roll cottages are segregated into deluxe (166sq ft) and premium cottages (199sq ft), offering double occupancy and an extra mattress. The suite room is spacious, accommodating four people comfortably in two separate rooms. The rooms are done up in a simple manner with carpets on the floor and cupboards. All types of accommodation come with hill view or farm view and complementary basic amenities, like electric blankets, room heater, geyser, kettle with tea and coffee sachets, TV, bath essentials and wi-fi. The common living room-cum-reception of the property has a variety of books and a cosy sitting arrangement with swings and floor mattresses for spending a relaxed time alone or interacting with fellow visitors.
Food during the stay can be ordered at the vibrant 30-seater cafe, with the farm view, offering a multi-cuisine food and beverage menu. Guests can choose from Indian, Chinese, Italian cuisine and hot or cold beverages.
The banquet hall inside the property accommodates 300 people and can be booked for parties, occasions or conference purposes. Extra kitchen facility is available for banquet booking.
ROOM TARIFF (dynamic pricing):
Suite: Rs 7,499 (including taxes and breakfast)
Premium: Rs 5,000-plus (including breakfast)
Deluxe: Rs 4,5000-plus (including breakfast)
ML 05 CAFE
The 90-seater automotive-themed ML 05 cafe is tucked away inside a pine forest and is done up vibrantly, perfect for chilling with fellow travellers or solo. Drop in on your way to the resorts for a taste of the local cuisine, a quick bowl of Maggi or a cup of hot chocolate.
“Live luxuriously in North-East India’s most iconic resort, Polo Orchid, situated on a cliff top, which is a part of the charming Nohsngithiang village. Featuring our stunning infinity pool overlooking the Seven Sisters falls, fantastic rooms, and suites with private plunge pools, the picturesque resort offers a rare landscape that showcases the rich offerings of the North-East. The poolside Sohra House Bistro and Bar offers sweeping views of the valley, local and international cuisine including our famous pizzas and sizzlers. The seamless balance of Sohra spirit and modern features makes the resort perfect for an immersive experience in the lap of calmness and peace. Woodstock BnB Farmhouse celebrates Shillong’s love for retro music by reliving the cultural revolution that the Woodstock festival 1969 was. Located near rolling paddy fields ending at a beautiful hillock, the farmhouse features rooms themed on individual artistes and vintage photographs. The farmhouse also features a living room, a beautiful double-height banquet hall and a cafe to fuel up any pre-concert binge. ML 05 Cafe in Upper Shillong is our tribute to Shillong’s love for all things automotive, featuring custom murals, automatic memorabilia including an old Royal Enfield, nestled in the midst of a pine forest. Activities include cycling and the menu features all-day breakfast, lunch and dinner based on a mix of local favourites, quirky street food inspirations and mountain food,” said Deval Tibrewalla, CEO of Hotel Polo Towers Group.
Pictures: Pabitra Das