The Machan

1:03 PM

Imagine you could spend a holiday, or even just a weekend in a secluded place with little mobile network, no TV, no WiFi, and nature for your sole in room entertainment. How does that sound to you? Now imagine you can get all this while fulfilling a childhood fantasy of living in a tree house in the jungle while still getting the comfort of a good bed, electricity and running water in your tree house. This is what I got to experience this weekend in Lonavla. In a Eco-resort called the Machan.

Machan Forest 2

A Machan is a tree house, and is normally what you would expect one to be: made of sticks and hanging in the trees. In the area these platforms were used to hunt it seems. The resort in question redefined the term "machan" and has a couple of glass panelled houses built on stilts at a height of above 45ft  to offer a breath taking view to the forested hills around.To give you an idea of what it looks like, here is the picture from our room for the weekend :

Does it get any better than that or what?

Though speaking of a room is a bit of an understatement. The term suite is probably more accurate, as the quarters we occupied in our Machan was on two levels, one master bed which was in the picture above, and one other queen sized bed on a loft. The place also had two bathrooms, one of them gigantic enough to have a bathtub, indoor shower and...hold your outdoor one (yes two showers and one bath!). The main room also had a big indoor sitting area and a big outdoor viewing deck to soak in the nature around.

At this point you might be wondering what hotel category it falls into, and I am going to come clear on this topic immediately:  This is a luxury hotel of the 5 star category, but a 5 star with a big difference.
The price of a Forest Machan is 12k a night for two persons, additional guests staying in the suite pay a nominal charge, children under the age of 5 are free.
The price being so high despite lacking the typical 5 star amenities like a TV and free wifi might seem odd to some. But trust me it isn't as high as you might think.
In Lonavla itself there is a business hotel that charge you nearly as much for a standard hotel room with all its generic amenities, including TV and an AC unit that will prove to be useless most of the year in this hill station. Sure they have a Swimming pool and water park for the kids...But really, Lonavla is known for its amazing greenery, cloud kissed hilltops, amazing climate, and eerie sight during the monsoon. Going to a hotel that will divert you from all this seems a bit silly to me, especially when for about 2k more you can get a 400-500 square feet private suite with an unbeatable view and still have the comfort city dwelling creatures are used to such as running hot and cold water and electricity.

The Machan makes its guest privacy it's up most priority, this is in my book, the best definition of luxury. The hotel is off the maps, and you won't find it on your own. You receive a set of direction to it when you book your room with them. And after many kilometers up winding hill roads and down a dirt path you are greeted by this sight :

This is the reception area, build in a hut on stilt, with no windows, totally opened on the element. The reception has cosy furniture, and a book shelf stocked with books and board games the guests are encouraged to take advantage of.
The reception is the first and one of the few structure you get to see in the open. The others being a Dinning hall Machan and a small covered fire place lounge area. All the guests quarters will at this point be hidden from your sight entirely, tucked away in the forest. Apart from the common area buildings, the other two structures visible to all will be two windmills and an array of solar panels.

The hotel is completely off the grid when it comes to electricity, they produce their own via solar and wind energy, and every single lights you will see in your room, in common areas and outdoor come from LED and CFL bulbs. The rooms have no AC, which are totally unnecessary in that hill top resort. During the hot Summer months, the heat is dry enough up there that mini coolers can do the trick, and each suite is equipped with one. Along with it, the gentle reminder from the staff to use it only on a need to basis. The rooms all have such big windows that the light is only really needed at night. The hot water comes to your Machan courtesy of a gas powered geiser (water heater).

When it comes to room service and food, don't expect a huge menu. They will serve snacks to you a la carte, but you will need to tell them a few hours in advance if you plan on having lunch or dinner on site as the food is a home cooked style type of food served on a buffet. They have one type of non veg item, rice and dal and two choices of vegetable dishes along with soup for dinner and one or two desert.
The food tasted greater than anything I ever got in any 5 star place, it's genuine, hearty, filling and has the right balance of oily and spicy. Breakfast is included in the price of your room, and is again a delightfully home style breakfast with the staff making your eggs to order, and a selection of the day when it comes to other desi breakfast items. All the fruits are seasonal and local. And, you get to have all your meals in the glass panelled Dinning house, during the day you eat taking in the sights of the hills and jungle around, at night they light candles and keep the lighting dimmed to give you a cozy feeling.

The Machans hosting the rooms fall in 4 categories which you can check on their website, and the Forest Machan in which we stayed is connected to the land by a wooden foot bridge, which is guaranteed to bring your childhood fantasies back to life (come on, tell me I am not the only one with those).

They made it their mission to blend with nature as much as possible and immerse their guest in the beauty of their surroundings.
Every evening at around 5.30pm, guests can join a nature walk given free of charge and in the company of a local guide that will teach you about the local plants and trees, as well as animals. The area had leopards around when the owner of the estate first purchased it 25 years ago. But none will be found in the area today, so don't fear a thing, they haven't seen a venomous snake in years either. That said there are rat and vine snakes a plenty (we sadly didn't see them) and critters like mice, rabbits and other rodents are apparently common as well.
They informed us they regularly get visits from barking deers, and wild boars have been spotted on occasion. We heard a lot of birds during our stay but saw none. But then, DH and I aren't really into bird watching. The only big animals we saw were fresh water crabs (there were quite a lot of them) and a snake in a pond. For the guest wanting to venture on the estate's trails on their own, the hotel provide a map in every room and has thoughtfully put signs on all the trees explaining what type they are as well as their medicinal or otherwise use.

The days at the Machan are eerily quiet, only to be disturbed by a chirp of birds here and there. The nights are however alive with sounds and sights. There is no such thing as "the still of the night" up there. We were were lulled to sleep by a symphony of cricket chirps, and frog croaks while fireflies danced in the trees. During the Winter months, the resort apparently also organize some star gazing session, and DH and I are tempted to come back during that time.

We left on Sunday morning with great reluctance, the place grows on you and it is hard to keep that kind of landscape behind when it means going back to a crowded city like Mumbai.

If you are curious about the hotel, do visit their website for more details. When you go there, make sure you have a print out of your reservation in hand, you will need it at the gate as they do not allow outsiders inside the estate in order to respect their guests privacy. The reception does not have a computer, the office is not on site, so be prepared to have the deposit amount quoted on the reservation in cash, along with enough cash to settle your in house expenses bill at the end of your stay as well. The resort being so off the grid they don't have a good network signal so don't expect your mobile phone and mobile data plan to work at all time.

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  1. Susan5:49 AM

    Wow! That place is beautiful, perfect for relaxing. I could sit and read on that balcony for hours. Happy belated birthday!

  2. Oh yes I could do that too, this weekend I had a nearly 5 years old hyper daughter along who hasn't yet realised the place is a place to relax, sit and watch LOL
    I told DH I would. To mind living in such a place provided the Machan has a kitchen :-)

  3. Thank you for the birthday wishes :-)

  4. Alexandra Madhavan3:14 AM

    So cool! I LOVE this!!!

  5. I miss the place, I wouldn't mind having a house like this


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