As many of us itch to travel, we're also being mindful about where we go. Open-air spaces and being one with nature, finding that balance between #WFH and disconnecting from it have become the new normal. I’m not much of a trekker or wildlife junkie but I sure enjoy nature and being outdoor. The oneness I feel between the soles of my feet whilst walking on fresh grass or an open air Surya Namaskar, are exaggerated in spaces that offer comfort in the outdoors. I travelled to two outdoor boutique-luxury hotels in Rajasthan to experience nature in it’s grandeur.
Aman, a name synonymous with luxury, privacy and exclusivity around the world with it's 32 primo luxe hotels was first established in Thailand. I had the opportunity to experience both the Aman hotels in Rajasthan with a seasoned travel writer and chef - Karen Anand.
Two nights at Amanbagh
As they rightly define it, Amanbagh is an oasis lost in time. A two and half hour drive from Jaipur, located in the obscure distract of Ajabgarh, I'd highly recommend you book yourself a hotel car which comes topped with snacks and beverages. (Weaknesses you see!). 39 suites built in pink sandstone and makrana marble sprawl across acres of manicured lawns against a backdrop of the Aravali Hills. We checked into the Pool Pavilion with an en-suite heated plunge pool, a bathroom equivalent to a Bombay apartment with a one-piece Udaipur green marble tub, twin vanities and walk-in wardrobes, a Bose sound dock.
What I loved:
A kind gentleman who you never see but is always around when the monkeys are visiting. (No, monkeys is not an innuendo. There are plenty of playful black-faced langurs in the area.).
One phone number for everything.
High speed WiFi for #WFH
Branded face masks
Interesting cocktail program
A library (What more must I say!)
A sweet gesture every night during turn down service (We got the Rudraksh book mark and a luggage tag)
Reeta is an excellent yoga teacher. Don't miss her 9am sessions. She also doubles up as a spa therapist, master of all.
A well curated breakfast menu (Chia Pudding and Pain Perdu #FTW)
A store with select designs from Gem Palace and handwoven pashminas (Great for gifting!)
Marble market for sculptures
Beautiful jeeps stocked with a picnic basket if you choose to go on a safari at Sariska Wildlife Park (Pretty under rated as compared to Ranthambore, far more dense and scenic.)
Private helipad (Just in case)
Private gas station (Yeah, you heard that right!)
Take home: Hot stone massages and a candle-lit dinner on the terrace.
General Manager: Hemendra Singh
Room Rates: Rs 62,000++ (check for special rates)
Two nights at Aman-i-Khas
Ranthambore National Park is part of the Sawai Madhopur district, a popular destination for tiger lovers and also guava orchards. DYK: 40% of the guava production in India comes from here!
We drove straight from Amanbagh which takes about three hours. The fastest way to get to Ranthambore is a three-hour drive from Jaipur. As the car pulls into Aman-I-Khas, be prepared to be hit with Glamping 3x. Ten primo luxury tents spread across ten acres of wilderness. Don’t be misled by the tents. They are at par with most luxury hotel rooms with heated and automated toilets, stone-cut bath tubs, a mini bar, #WFH desks or shall we say Work From Tent desks. What takes the cake is Batman! If you’re hoping for Christian Bale (Yes, not accepting Robert Pattison yet) to jump out of the wilderness, don’t get carried away. A Batman is your companion during your stay at Aman-I-Khas. He makes sure that you think it and it’s there for you (Obv. Reasonability is key!). From your itinerary, to your meals, to local info and absurd requests, he’s got it all sorted.
What I loved:
A buzzer to reach your batman anytime. Our Batman - Satish is from Maharashtra which means there was an instant bond. We tried to poach him but in vain.
Zero waste + Fully sustainable (Tent canvas every few years is recycled into table linen)
Organic garden which is the primary source of their meals.
Farm fresh, seasonal menu. Including all their jams and pickles.
Their very own bottled water.
Hot Toddy in the library.
Their take-away canvas totes, face masks and safari caps.
Their in-room slippers can make anyone have bad thoughts (Stealing is injurious to health).
The fully loaded safari jeep. Bharat, our driver and Pankaj our safari guide took us on two Safaris in Ranthambore National Park where we spotted the tigress Siddhi on both days (Daughter to Arrowhead and Sister to Riddhi, look at me boasting about my tiger knowledge). The highlight, other than the tigress obv., was the picnic basket. We stopped by the lake in the forest and had ourselves a little tea and banana bread breakfast.
A trip to the guava orchard. You are free to take as many guavas as you like. Farm to Table is so 2020. Tree to Mouth is the new experience.
Beautiful patch under the trees for yoga.
Courtyard bonfire for a book from their library and a basil martini made with Indian basil from their farm.
A trip to the nearby Dastkar store. Dastkar has a curated range of block printed designs (look out for their tiger motif PJs) created by local women who are part of their Income Generation Initiative. These are the women who run the show, design the prints and create the products. Great for gifting.
Every meal at Aman-I-Khas is an experience. The Jungle Dinner: Your Batman takes you down a torch-lit path to an opening in the forest with a bonfire and a chef ready to cook for you. Pond-side Breakfast: A picnic table set up by a pond on the premises and you can enjoy your breakfast with the sounds of the birds chirping and the crisp cold air.
Take Home: The Guava Breakfast was my favourite experience at Aman-I-Khas. After our safari, Bharat drove us to a Guava Orchard where we were greeted by Satish and Shankar who is a driver at the hotel. Shankar has a patch of land that has been developed by Aman as a guava orchard to create a second stream of income for Satish and his family. Fully equipped with a modern toilet and kitchen, Satish leads us into the heart of the orchard, Under a canopy of guavas, a breakfast table awaits us. The air is heavy with the fragrance of freshly fallen guavas. We are served a leisurely breakfast of guava juice, methi parathas and aloo parathas served with their home-made chutneys and pickles, trikona parathas and egg bhurji and kulhad chai. The guavas in this region are known as Barf Khan Gola - Barf because the inside of the guava is the colour of ice, Khan because the Khan clan that descended in Sawai Madhopur were the first to harvest them and Gola for their round shape. Unlike our Maharashtian guavas, these are more flavourful than sweet.
General Manager: Anand Shekhawat
Room Rates: Rs 88,000++ (check for special rates)
Summers are popular for sightings on safaris since the heat brings the animals out to the water bodies in the reserve. However, the overall experience is far better in the winters.
Cover your ears, head and neck on a morning safari. When you enter the reserve, the air picks up a chill and in an open-air jeep, it could be a bit bitter.
Toilets have been set up in the wildlife reserves so don’t hesitate to ask for a loo break.
There are no bugs at Aman-i-Khas if you’re one who can’t handle creepy crawlies (like me!)
Dinner settings are beautiful so carry a nice outfit to add that extra chic to your photographs.
PS: Both Aman hotels address you as ‘Sahiba’. One can totally get used to that.