Like many city slickers, our pets enjoy weekend breaks in the outdoors too. Not far away from cramped Mumbai, and nestled in the hills of Lonavala, is a quaint pet-friendly escape where one can spend hours of bliss
Located in a less crowded, convenient spot in Lonavala, House Of Bliss not only welcomes city folks but their pets too. Surrounded by lush greenery and openness, it’s a pet haven — especially when you pay just R1,000 (per pet, per day). When we dropped by, we met with Mumbai-based Lakshmi Varyani Makhija, who had brought along her pet dog, Whiskey for a short break. It was her fifth visit, and whiskey accompanies her often, as the open spaces are a huge attraction for the space-starved canine. “The caretakers are warm. Whiskey is a little fussy about food, so we usually carry his food along but the caretakers help us prepare boiled rice and boiled chicken for his meals. This makes it convenient for us and keeps us coming back,” reveals Makhija, getting back to her ‘me-time’ with her Boxer.
The house story
The bungalow’s oldest caretaker, Gangoobai (fondly called Maushi), Chandan (also called Babu) and his wife Shilpa, treated us well. What we liked most was the two beautiful, green stretches of manicured lawns at the front and the back of the house. It’s perfect for kids to play, pets to run around, and even for you to park yourselves in an armchair with a book, just like we did. It’s easy to spot birds and squirrels here too.
Lakshmi Varyani Makhija , a guest with her pet, Whiskey
Equipped with most modern amenities, including a 42inch LED TV, it’s also possible to convert the space into your private movie hall, or a dance floor, to cater to larger groups. It is equipped with a projector and sound system. The villa houses three bedrooms, two large and one small. The two rooms and the living room have enough space for additional mattresses. The rooms open to the lawns. In the distance, one can spot the lower ranges of the Sahyadris. There is also a kitchen with all cooking equipment and crockery in case you’re in the mood of cook-outs (See box: for options).
The green lawn after a passing shower
Manasi Bungalow was founded nine years back by Kamlesh Bhatia and Minal Bhatia, when the concept of a homestay wasn’t popular. Their daughter Manasvi Bhatia currently handles the bookings and management. “The idea of renting out the property emerged since my father had to move to Kutch. Since we couldn’t visit the Lonavala outhouse often, they decided to let out the bungalow to friends and family for gatherings and parties.
Chapattis, rice, salad, Mutton Curry, and beans cooked with potatoes cooked by in-house chef Sunita at House Of Bliss
In nine years, we’ve achieved a vast clientele,” shares Manasvi. What sets this space apart from typical homestays is that they offer a free platform to budding as well as established women entrepreneurs to sell products without taking a charge or a commission on the goods sold. One can choose from labels such as Gia Bath And Body Works, Pappco Greenware, Accessory Funk and Its Our Studio.
The bungalow supports women from rural villages of Kutch by showcasing their handcrafted quilts. The caretaker can display the goods to interested folk. They also offer their premises to NGOs for complimentary one-day picnics or one-night stays with a basic staff. Recently, they played host to the National Association For The Blind (NAB). Senior citizens are offered a tariff with a discount according to their age and a special package where the accompanying members get a 50% off on their stay. Soon, they will be hosting an event for women photographers from across the country as well.
What else to do?
We relaxed for most of the day, as it’s ideal to unwind. Several of Lonavala attractions are nearby so if you’re around for a longer stay, driving down to reach them is perfect. If you are large group, the spacious living room and the lawn make for good options for activities. What we didn’t like The two spacious suites have bathrooms that need to be reworked with modern fittings while a few plumbing issues need fixing. There are a lot of mosquitoes despite the coils so do not forget to carry a repellent.
How to Reach
From Mumbai: Take the second exit for Lonavala. Once you pass the Khalapur toll on the right you will see Man Shakti’s hoarding. Drive through the lane next to it and go straight. After passing Lodha villas, Hotel Aristro take the slope right before New Royal Caterers and the second right after going down the slope, you’ll spot Manasi Bungalow.
Tariff for small group bookings
Rs 2,000 per head for a suite attached with living room and addition of a veranda and lawn for a 24 hour stay.
Weekday and Weekend packages
Rs 25,000 for up to 15 people for a one and a half day stay
Check in: 10 am
Check out: Following day, 6 pm Weekday packages Rs 12, 000 for up to 15 people for a one day picnic
Check in: 10 am
Check out: Same day, 7pm
Just like home
One of the best things about the stay is the food. Orders can be placed with house chef, Sunita, who works at the nearby TCS guesthouse. Her mutton curry, stuffed brinjal, dal and chapattis are simple and delicious as were her mixed pakodas, which we savoured in the evening when it rained. She is open to suggestions and requests as well. The portions are generous. It would cost R400 per person (veg meals), R500 per person (non-veg meals). This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can also order food from hotels, dhabas nearby, many of who offer a basic discount on being a Manasi Bungalow guest.
Travel firm that lets you holiday with your pet (Read more)
Travel special: Pet-friendly holiday destinations (Read more)
Photos: Deepika Padukone, Neha Dhupia and Soha Ali Khan at event
In pictures: 15 facts about kissing that will surprise you
Birthday special: Shahid Kapoor's best performances in Bollywood
Photos: Kim Sharma, Sagarika Ghatge, Zaheer Khan at launch in Mumbai
Photos: Kangana Ranaut looks pretty in pink