If only there were more places to travel in my own country that are sustainable and mindful of the environment. There is nothing more rewarding than an ecological living.
The Starlight Machan
Have you ever seen a constellation in a bathtub? I have. At midnight, tucked away not into bed, but a cradle of warm water, out on the balcony where the bathtub was. The sky looked so different from my pent house in Mumbai, and with stars both above below me, floating on the surface of the water, I wondered if the stars would be reflected in my eyes. My dad, who joined me on the balcony a while later (pretended) to identify constellations. “See that bear? Those three sisters?” and I played along with the infallible confidence of a child as he pointed them out. I’m pretty sure that night we saw even Mufassa’s face in the stars and that’s when I knew staying at The Machan was the perfect place to celebrate my last Children’s day.
Earlier that day, when I was still at home, I wasn’t even sure of coming. I really needed wifi to submit my assignments and I was afraid it would be sporadic in a treehouse. Eventually, I thought to myself, “Since when did wifi get to decide the places I go?” and trust me, upon reaching our Starlight Machan, I forgot all about my assignments. I forgot all about wifi and social media and I think for those brief few minutes upon arrival I even forgot I was in the twelfth grade as I raced about like a child, wide-eyed, so excited about the treehouse I had just walked into.
The Machans are designed in a way that is both vintage and contemporary. On one hand, you’ll see traditional Indian paintings, the four-poster bed of Indian royals and seductive light and dark wood furnishings. On the other hand, you’ll see modern, socially conscious ideas in design, such as Upcycling. The majority of the Machan’s furniture is handcrafted by them onsite, made from recycled or sustainably farmed wood. From using parts of an old ship, to hand-carved ancient screens, to rugs made from recycled PET bottles and old cycle tubes. And I know one probably only looks at how cozy the bed is when they step into a hotel room, but it fills me with pride to have chosen to stay at a hotel that cares enough to give natural resources another lease at life. It’s a concept I’ve always admired abroad but this was the first time I’d seen it in my own country. When you stay in an aesthetic place your entire outlook towards life changes. It’s like forcing yourself to exercise and go out when you’re having the most tragic day and your hair is falling out. Over the valleys of Lonavla, one breathes different air, a lighter air, it’s addictive.
In fact, the design of the Machans perfectly reflects their philosophy: Conservation. Preservation. Community. When you arrive at The Machan, you’ll most likely take a path through the trees on the way to your treehouse. You’ll see natural water holes brimming with fish sunbathing on the surface. A butterfly might rest on your shoulder, just for a second if you’re still enough, and bright yellow birds I can guarantee you’ve never seen in the city will greet you with singing.
The Machan really does go out of its way to give to an environment that gives to them. You might not know this, but 10% of The Machan’s profits go towards preserving the flora and fauna of the Western Ghats. One of my favorite natural things to see as I ate breakfast was a corner of the open dining area where a tree was growing, and the edge of a table was cut out like a jigsaw piece to accommodate the branch of the tree. It was such fine detail, barely even noticeable if you weren’t looking for it, but it made me so incredibly happy because it seemed like there was a place for everybody, including the trees. This is something you need to see, our country is so beautiful in places like these, places that accommodate everybody.
My advice? Pack shoes. There’s a lot to do. Early morning sip Chai on your balcony then go on a hike. Let the outstretched arms of trees larger than life surprise you. When you’re back and hungry, learn to cook with the chef. Most of the staff employed are wonderful locals. Reminisce about how long it’s been since you last had that much fun cooking. Or the time to set aside for the secret ingredient of patience. Then look complacent about your very own dish. In the evening walk to where you can watch the sunset diffuse like warm tea into the valley. Head to the spa then and forget about the whole world. Treat yourself at a bonfire for dinner. Sleep like a log under the stars.
I haven’t even covered half the things to do there. Check out their website for more.
It is important to acknowledge places that make the effort towards sustainable tourism. It is important to lift them up high because it is not always easy to think of others, especially if they are flora and fauna without a voice. It sets our country way beyond her years and shows us that the great Indian hospitality that was born as inviting guests for chai ( and not letting them leave without snacks and cold drinks) is still revived in places like The Machan. Look closely at the places you travel to, and choose valuably.
Thank you to all the lovely people that make The Machan what it is.