Rajasthan is a fascinating state and I have always visited it in bits and pieces, as small trips. This time, I was there, after a good year and a half, after Deeg that I visited as part of Braj Bhoomi. This time, Suryagarh – a luxury boutique hotel in Jaisalmer, invited me and I was more than happy to go. After a daylong journey back and forth to the border city of Jaisalmer, I got to spend little more than a day in the city and around. While soaking in the luxury-laden hospitality of the palace hotel. Let me first talk about the hotel. Overall, what I liked about the whole experience at the hotel was the inherent Indianness that they celebrate in all their aspects, be it architecture, food, music or hospitality.
Architecture at Suryagarh
This brand new property gives you the impression of being an old fort converted into a hotel. But the truth is that it has been built from scratch less than a decade ago. Styled as a fort, you have to cross three tall gates before you reach the entrance. And none of them in a straight line just the way it used to be in old forts as part of security strategy. The yellow stone that is visible across the region in buildings right from Jaisalmer fort to small makeshift walls has been used to build the hotel structure. Inside the lobby, they have re-used the old teak panels as flooring. The marble for floors comes from Makrana and other nearby marble supplying areas. Some of the marble used in rooms was far better than any Italian marble that I have seen.
The design of the main building is like an old Haveli with a huge open courtyard in the middle with a pillared corridor running all around it. Walls facing the courtyard have colored glass sitting on top of sandstone making the place look majestic. Luxury overflows from all corners. One example of it is the velvet-cushioned seat in the elevator to sit even when you move only two floors. A gym, a spa, a bar, a swimming pool, a performance area, and a restaurant are meant to pamper the guests.
Music at Suryagarh
The palace hotel has made music an integral part of its existence. I was surprised to know that they have an in-house team of musicians that has traveled globally to play music. Here they play the music every day in the morning, evening and on the arrival of guests. There are special performances during the dinner that they arrange at various hillocks around the property. Or on the sand dunes. The first day we got to hear Salim sing with Sindhi Sarangi as he sang folk songs telling tales of Dhola Maru under the open sky with clouds. Creating a huge opening just above us to let us observe the bright stars. The lightening in the backdrop added to the bizarre ambiance as the staff served wine and cheese.
I missed hearing the Algoza in the mornings but thoroughly enjoyed the performances on the sand dunes. Where musicians and dancers were seated on one dune. We on the other and the music never let us forget that we were in Rajasthan.
Food is again very local, cooked with locally available ingredients like Ker Sangri and served in the traditional earthenware. I liked the concept of a Halwai breakfast. I know many of us will raise an eyebrow thinking about a number of calories that would mean. But believe me, I loved the sight of Pooris, Parathas, Kachoris, and Samosas served with pickles and chutneys. To top it all there were piles of Laddoos, Gulab Jamuns and Rasgullas on the table that was just mouth-watering. The first day we had dinner at the hill beside the palace hotel overlooking the well-lit property. The second day it was at the dunes and besides the good food, the ambiance that they created for us was incredible. It is an experience that would remain in my memory for a long time.
From the time you reach the periphery of the hotel, a ceremonial jeep with flags of Suryagarh escorts you to the property. Where you are welcomed by a Pandit Ji, who puts Tilak on your forehead followed by the showering of rose petals. As the musicians play ‘Padharo Mhare Des’. Staff in traditional attire pampers you everywhere.
Experiences at the Palace Hotel
I am happy that they appreciate that travelers come to visit a destination. And like to see the place besides enjoying the luxury of the hotel. They have designed some unique experiences and that are available to their guests. Like a trail through the ruins in surrounding areas at midnight, a temple trail, a city tour, dinner on dunes. And a visit to the desert national park. I would be writing about these soon enough.
Personally, I got to meet many fellow travel bloggers. Some I had met earlier, some I had known only online and some were absolute strangers.
Thank you Suryagarh for the hospitality and for making Indian – a way of life.
Recommend you to read the following places to visit in Jaisalmer.