TUTC's camps at Chamba and Kohima in India deliver a level of luxury not easily available at those rarefied environs. Or indeed, anywhere!
Posted on: October 7, 2015
It will be impossible to find a prettier camp than this. Well, while that may be only slightly debateable, the sheer spectacular beauty of Thiksey, and its monastery, is sure to leave any visitor spellbound.
Thiksey, located approximately halfway between Leh and Hemis, and about 17 kilometres from the centre of Leh, is no ordinary monastery. For starters, this 12 storey monastery built on a hilltop,is noted for its architectural resemblance to the Potala. Yes, the real one in Lhasa, that is the stuff of legends and effectively out of bounds for most. It is also the largest gompa, or monastery, in central Ladakh, and is located at an altitude of 3,600 metres in the Indus Valley. Not for the faint hearted. Did I forget to mention it is located by a still young and vibrant Indus, and in an area of indescribably stunning beauty?
It is in the grounds of this monastery that The Ultimate Travelling Camp (TUTC) offers its camp. Even in the world of stunning settings, it is difficult to match the Chamba Camp at Thiksey.
For the love of luxury
Again, pause a moment. For it is no ordinary camp. Instead, this is glamping at its most spectacular. Almost everything you expect in a luxury hotel is yours for asking. The tents are imported from Kenya and South Africa, and designed to blend into the local setting – here in white and sand colour options. Every tent is propped upon on a wooden decking and has a private outdoor seating too. A triple layer protection ensures protection from the outside (remember this is Ladakh and can get quite cold suddenly).
The interiors – designed as a tribute to the Raj-era - are climate controlled to suit individual preferences. All tents have uninterrupted electricity supply. They are all stocked with a writing desk, writing pads, slippers, eye masks and ear plugs. A 7-foot long wooden four poster bed ensures adequate space even for the tallest among us. Note the en-suite bathrooms with shower cubicles. Each tent has its own private sit out deck.
International, Indian and local cuisines are served. Expecting Indian breads is not such a surprise but freshly baked breads approximating focaccia is. Getting vegetables such as broccoli or even carrots and potatoes must not be easy at such rarified zones, but its all there, as are meats, soups, salads and everything one would expect at lower zones. Of course there is a lot of local food too – try the delicious thukpas and momos, thenthuk, or noodle soup, and a lot more. Also, if you have a taste for it - local butter tea. If not, the more regular ones are on offer too!
Each tent comes with its own 24/7 personal butler service! Daily turn down services? Definitely. In-house laundry services? No problem. Yes, all of this in a barren desert, albeit white and uniquely wonderful.
Glamping has become the buzzword in luxury travel, says RajnishSabharwal, COO, TUTC. “Glamping gives travellers the taste of a nomadic lifestyle, only amidst a royal setting of super luxury experiences when it comes to accommodation, dining and other aspects. Glamping is an attractive option for HNIs and those who like an intimate experience of a region that is visually spectacular, and do not mind paying a premium price.”
And no, you need not stay confined to the tent. One can join the monks for a magical early morningprayer ceremony at the Thiksey Monastery and experience the local culture and tradition up, close and personal at a Ladakhi hamlet in Stok village. Guests can attend a special prayer ceremony at the Diskit Monastery. They can explore hidden treasures of Turtuk village and ride on the double-humped camel through the Hunder sand dunes. For the movie struck, visit the lake Aamir Khan’s 3 Idiots immortalised – the azure gem that is Pangong Tso. There’s the neighbouring Tso Moriri.
For the adventurous, there’s white water rafting on the Indus and Zanksar. Do not miss the ‘Grand Canyons of Asia’ at Zanksar. Cycle down Wari La, the world’s fourth highest motor able pass. For the less active, there are village explorations through the many hamlets of happiness like Shey, Stok andSaktithat dot this mesmerising high altitude cold desert. For those unwilling to venture out, there’s croquet, archery, volleyball and table tennis. You could also take cooking classes or learn to play the Kapong, a traditional Himalayan folk music lute with seven strings. For the lazier glamper, your luxury tent can double up as your sauna or spa! Order your beverage of choice, open your paper book or Kindle.
Yes, there’s lot to do. When you opt for a package here, itineraries are already built in, though a guest may also choose to venture out on one’s own. “All our tour escorts are locals and have been handpicked and well trained to execute each file to the zenith of perfection,” says MrSabharwal. For those nervous about being away from medical assistance, the camp site has an in-house paramedic with a fully functional medical inspection room. As for being fairly close to both China and Pakistan borders, there’s 24-hour security cover.
Each tent can accommodate two guests in double or Hollywood twin bedded basis, or three guests per tent on triple sharing basis, where an extra bed will be provided. There are two categories of tents: the Luxury Suite Tent has a an area of 420 square feet comprising of one bedroom, bathroom and veranda, while the Presidential Suite has an area of 520 square feet. Needless to say, they are very spacious.
Technicalities to bear
TUTC also has other camps, notably the Kohima Camp in Nagaland, which coincides with the Hornbill Festival. There is a relatively nearby camp at Nubra Valley, which lies at an altitude of 3,048 meters above sea level, though reaching it means crossing the Khardung La – the world’s highest motorable road at 5,602 metres.
However, before you decide to opt for a holiday in this slice of heaven, do a quick self check. You need to be ready for cold – even in September, the nights can be close to freezing. Weather can change very suddenly, so have options for passing time! There’s wifi in a designated area in the camp, but do consider other options, especially as weather is not human controlled. Be adequately prepared in terms of apparel and footwear. Most importantly, in case you have cardio issues or are asthmatic, consult a doctor before considering this trip.
Precautions apart, there are few experiences that can match the Chamba Camp at Thiksey in terms of uniqueness of experience. That you are staying in a place that so few humans have the fortune of seeing only adds to the sense of wonderment and awe. Get fit and drop in for an unforgettable experience. All as a glamper!
SumanTarafdar is a journalist and writer based in Delhi. He has worked with a number of leading Indian media organisations, and writes on various aspects of luxury, lifestyle and culture. When not writing to earn a living, he likes to travel, read, cook, chat, shop and watch all kinds of soppy stuff on TV. Yes, current politics bothers him.