Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sterling Holidays, Mussorie : From Pine Hill to Dancing leaves

Soon after acquiring a Sterling Holidays membership in 2014, I set out to explore its resorts in and around Delhi. While the experience of its leased resorts at Corbett and Sariska was mixed, we liked the Sterling owned facility at Mussorie. It was then named as Pine Hill, located 2.5 km off the mall road, along a pleasantly walkable road with a gentle slope. The 94 room resort is laid on a hill face with a stunning view of the Doon valley, specially at night. A lot of construction was going on at the site during our visit. Half of the resort was under renovation. Thomas Cook had acquired Sterling couple of months back prior to pur visit in 2014. The money being invested by the new owners to upgrade this facility was on display. We expected that Mussorie was probably on a path to be classified as a Gold Class resort. We had stayed for 3 nights in a spanking new room that year. There was something special about Pine Hill, exuding a kind of lazy charm to give you feel of home in the hills. We had planned to return here for a longer stay.

Sunrise view from Sterling Dancing Leaves, Mussorie
We did return to Mussorie in 2015 for a longer period of stay on the long weekend of Dusserah. Renovation is now about 90% complete. The renovated facility has got a new name. It is now called the Dancing Leaves. The view from refurbished restaurant is stunning. A new gym and spa is in place. A lift to cut the flight of 200 plus steps from reception to the bottom most level cottage by half was under testing. A swimming pool is also planned, though I doubt how many will use the pool at coolness of 6500 feet.

As I was familiar with the layout of the resort, we decided to take a room lower down the hill for an unhindered view of the valley. Some of the upper rooms, though easier to access, have almost no view. Though this involves climbing up and down the flight of steps many time, we took it as an opportunity to get ourselves some fitness. Once the lift becomes operational, commuting will be much easier.

Rooms are quite spacious and aesthetically done. A studio unit is meant for 3 adults. However the unit is large enough to accommodate a 4th adult with an extra mattress.  Kitchenette is well equipped with microwave, fridge and utensils. One of the attendant told me that rooms are better than the JW Marriot resort, where he had worked earlier. JW Marriot’s Walnut Grove is one of the prime property in Mussorie with charges of 15k plus per night. Being a Sterling member, per night cost for me was coming to about 2500 for 3 adults. This cost is calculated after taking into account my membership cost for 80 years and Annual Maintenance Charges. As I had already paid the one time part, I had to shell out only 850 rupees per night for my stay.

A dazzling Dehradun as seen from from my room in Sterling, Mussorie
Sounds wonderful. But I will also like to tell you about the flip side of it. My stay was on a long weekend of Dusserah and therefore I expected a rush. I had to plan well and book exactly 3 months in advance. I could do it because I have a premium / red season membership. For someone having lower season membership, it would have been near impossible. This is the problem with all timeshare holidays, be it Sterling or Club Mahindra.  Don’t expect to holiday on short notice. These companies are selling memberships every day, but their room inventory expands at snail’s pace. So the demand for each unit of room is increasing every year. If there is 3 customer for a room today, it will soon become 5 or more. Though there is a worldwide norm for this, these Indian companies have not set in any upper limit.

I had wrote in detail in one of my earlier posts about pros and cons of Timeshare Holiday membership. One of my reasons to buy a timeshare is to spend few days in peace, cocooned in a remote place, devoid of constantly ringing telephone, incessant noise and pollution of cars. I have matured from a sightseeing tourist to a leisure traveller. Being a wildlife photographer, most of travel takes to me national parks, most of which has become noisy and crowded. Some of the jungles are peaceful, just because they are difficult to access. Most of these timeshare resorts are located away from town centres, and hence provides you that peaceful ambience where you can enjoy the silence and unwind. Dancing Leaves, Mussorie certainly provides that ambience, with the mall road just half an hour’s leisurely walk. Or just take a leisure walk by the resort along the curves of the hill every morning and evening. We certainly have returned fitter and rejuvenated from our five days stay. We are looking forward to our next holiday there.

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