Q&A: In conversation with passionate traveller, Manisha Roy
Manisha Roy is one of the most passionate travelers we have met on our Q&A sessions at AIRDA. She also leads from the front in the interest of independent women travelers, and says they need the active support of their families and spouses to go out and discover the world.
She says her husband Lalit Roy is a good example of being supportive. “He has given me total freedom and of course, the means to travel with my core group of friends. And our group has travelled the length and breadth of the country to discover divine paths, the romance of history, and nature at its beautiful best.
We catch up with Manisha in the first of many story sessions. She’s so full of information and narrative, that her stories could fill the pages of an entire travel guide.
Well, I have done holidays in practically all formats you can think of. I’ve done Siddha trails, retracing the paths of Gurus, I’ve done exotic getaways with my core family across the world, I’ve done large family reunions at theme resorts, and I have even accompanied an elderly aunt along our whistle-stop tour of South India. I have also done vacations at places like Jungle Retreat and Jungle Lodges – which is pretty close to a sanctuary experience.
On one of my trips to Rishikesh
Let me add here that I have done several vacations with my core group of women friends – I call this my gang of girls, because we share the same passion for finding uncharted paths and lost horizons – totally fueled by curiosity and the hunger for adventure.
Let me see - our trip to Rishikesh is one I recall fondly, when we stayed at “Aloha on the Ganges”. What a beautiful choice that was for our stay. The resort is on the banks of the Ganges, near Laxman Jhulia – a location where the river flows swiftly. The flowing water and the gurgling sounds of the river give you just the right accompaniment for meditation and peace. What a lovely setting that is for a retreat into inner solace and peace.
At “Aloha on the Ganges”
Our trip to Sadhana Mandir Ashram was also elevating in a similar way. This retreat is at the foothills of the Himalayas – again along the banks of the Ganges. The setting here is a picture of beautiful flowering gardens, a lotus pond and a magnificent panorama of trees. The quiet and serene atmosphere here is just right for long periods of meditation.
My 10-day tour right across South India with my elderly aunt was different and unusual – because I was going along to keep her company and visit the places she had in mind. We did this tour almost entirely without prior bookings - wasn’t easy with my aunt’s long bucket list – Mysore, Madikeri, Ooty, Kodaikanal, Munnaar and more. We even did a day-long boat ride along the backwaters in Kerala.
Doing the backwaters in Kerala
I don’t think I would have the energy to do something like that today - because we travelled long distances by road, and were prepared to rough things out. But I gained hugely in terms of travel experience, information and a historical perspective of the places we visited.
Talking about resorts, I have been to several timeshare locations. And the Club Mahindra name comes up, right on top of my recall list. They have resorts all over the country at the most popular locations, and have set a very high standard, in terms of facility, service, food and the vacation experience.
At Club Mahindra Puducherry for instance, you have a panorama of lush green landscaping, and direct beach access. Other resort facilities compare with the best anywhere in the world. The theme kitchens here present signature specials from Tamil, French and fusion flavours. If you’re looking for activities, there’s horse riding, archery, water zorbing, land zorbing, paintballing, and more.
At Club Mahindra Puducherry
Our gang of girls liked visiting the tourist attractions around the resort. We visited the Aurobindo Ashram, Manakula Vinayagar Temple, Pondicherry Museum, Arikamedu Archaeological Site and the Puducherry Rocky Beach. There’s a hand-made paper factory here that’s worth visiting.
We have also been to two other Club Mahindra resorts in Coorg - and yes, to Orange Country as well. Evolve Back (their new name) has set the bar high in terms of international standards, with an amazing mix of guest experiences and activities at their locations.
Firstly, it is a lot of fun, and we can really let our hair down without being responsible for a typical family’s needs on a vacation. Secondly, we also enjoy being pampered – at the spas, the restaurants, the rejuvenation centres, and other service areas. When we girls vacation together there’s a different sense of togetherness and bonding that we experience. Nothing can come close to that.
As free as birds, on a women-only vacation
Let me add here that the staff at these resorts too are now getting used to solo women guests and groups of women checking in. And they have learnt to understand our need for privacy, or assistance when the need arises. Even 10 years ago, people would find it unusual to find a group of happy women at a resort’s bar – now it’s all part of the story.
I think, to start with, you need to have a group budget and an individual budget – and the idea is not to overshoot these budgets. Which may be difficult at times, because of changes in local tariffs and transport fares.
Secondly, I think you need one person in the group who can make sensible decisions and inspire the group to go along. Thirdly, when you get to a new destination, please find a cab driver you can rely on - drivers are excellent tour guides. They know the right places to eat local food, the right places for stop-overs, and the shortest ways to go from one place to another.
I am lucky I don’t have to travel on work, because when I’m travelling, I like to be relaxed and unhurried – without a diary of meetings and events. On a vacation, I would rather be with my gang of girls, or my family.
Let me add here that I have done a lot of travel with the family - with Lalit, our two sons and their wonderful wives. And unlike a hotel, a timeshare location becomes the destination for good times together and plenty of sharing.
Travelling with the family is also nice because unlike traveling on work, we are all together going to one single destination – where we could be spending four to five days unwinding together and giving the family some quality time.
Finally, I’d like to leave your readers with one thought: wake up thinking of a well deserved vacation, and you will get there . . .
All images used are courtesy of Manisha Roy.
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