THE GATEWAY HOTEL, RAMGARH LODGE

RAMGARH, JAIPUR

USP: Soak in old-world charm

It's difficult to bid adieu to Ramgarh Lodge, the hunting retreat built by the Maharaja of Jaipur, Sawai Madho Singh II way back in 1920. I do that, but with a silent promise that I will be back soon only for the sake of the pristine and rustic beauty of the place.

The fatigue endured by a delayed flight and hour-and-a-half journey from the Sanganer airport, vanishes in no time as I land at the lodge which is now managed by the Taj Group of Hotels. Surrounded by the Aravalli hills, the lodge overlooks a vast expanse of mustard fields.

I spend the first few moments in the lawns of the lodge gazing at the farmlands where several Rajasthani women clad in colourful lehengas are working. The quietude is punctuated by the incessant tweeting and chirping of birds, one of them a long-tailed and chestnut-brown. “That's a treepie which is supposed to be the ‘tiger's toothbrush'. They help take out the flesh stuck in a tiger's teeth,” tells Nagendra Singh Hada, the general manager of Ramgarh Lodge who is also a self-confessed wild-life enthusiast. With more than 200 species of birds in the close proximity of the region, Hada points out that the place is a haven for bird lovers and ornithologists.

Solving the mystery of the huge iron structure placed in the middle of the fields, Hada tells me that this is where Ramgarh Lake once flowed and the lovely water body hosted the rowing events during the 1982 Asian Games. Now, mustard, rose and various other crops are cultivated in the dried-up lake. Right across the lake is a five-storeyed hunting tower or the Hawa Audhi built in 1925. From the lawns, I see another historic structure on the hills, the Ramgarh Fort. This and the area surrounding it, says Hada, were originally intended to be Jaipur.

Some of the trophies — black bear, tiger, single-horn rhino, bison and bull — of the extensive royal hunting expeditions are on display in the lobby of the hotel.

In the 14-room property, where Shyam Benegal's “Zubeidaa” was shot, I stay where Rajmata Gayatri Devi had stayed. The spacious rooms with furniture and upholstery done up in Art Deco style offers uber luxury with a huge lounge area and spa-pool. After a delightful lunch on the balcony — a short nap and deep tissue massage at The Spa, we head out to the watch tower in an open jeep. The place with exquisite araish work, and a decorative wall finish still intact was languishing till the Taj group decided to make it a tourist attraction. As dusk falls, I sit atop the hunting tower, feasting on snacks, as more tales tumble out of Hada's treasure.

How to get there

Sanganer airport is situated 12 km from the city. Hire a cab as the lodge is 60 km from the airport.

Or, take the Ajmer Shatabdi which departs from New Delhi Railway Station at six in the morning. The lodge is 40 km from the railway station.

If travelling by road get on the NH8 Delhi-Jaipur Highway.

Things to do

The hotel arranges visits to nearby archaeological sites such as Bhangarh, believed to be haunted as it was abandoned overnight somewhere in the 17th century. ASI doesn't allow visitors between sunset and sunrise.

Explore the countryside in an open jeep. The hotel arranges visits to nearby villages such as Raisar, known for carpet weaving. Have breakfast on Sainthal dam or a typical Rajasthani lunch amidst mustard fields.

Tariff

A two-night, three-day package for a Deluxe Room is Rs. 12,750.

A Deluxe Suite is Rs. 15,000.

A Historical Suite is Rs.17,500.

The rates are exclusive of tax and include breakfast and dinner.

For details look up www.thegatewayhotels.com