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A royal welcome to Suryagarh

Suryagarh: Top 5 memorable moments

In August, I got a chance to travel to the beautiful town of Jaisalmer on invitation from the Suryagarh resort. It was my first time in this part of the country and I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the experience. The rains heralded our entry as we reached the outskirts of the city. And then, we had a royal welcome as we were escorted to the resort, a few kilometres from the main city.

Looking back at the trip, here are some of my top moments from the visit.

#5 – Our royal welcome
Fit for kings (and queens). A jeep adorned with flags with the Suryagarh emblem were waiting to escort us right up to the resort gate. They definitely don’t spare any effort to make you feel special and important. We reached after lunch, just as the sun was setting and we took in our first view of Suryagarh – fashioned on an actual fort – we we had to wait for a moment to drink in the view. Later, we’re informed that the resort is constructed out of the local material (sandstone) found in this area.

A royal welcome to Suryagarh

A royal welcome to Suryagarh

The hotel has been built from ground-up and took around 3 years in the making, informs Karan Singh, the very welcoming and informative general manager of the hotel. He made sure we all felt at home as soon as we reached. And then just as we stepped inside, rose petals fell upon us. For a moment, it was easy to feel we were royalty!

#4 – Sundowner under the starry skies
It was a moonless night but the sky was filled with shining stars. We were transported by the vehicles to some distance from the resort to the sand dunes. We couldn’t see much but we’re informed this is one of the lesser frequented dunes. There isn’t anyone in the vicinity. The night is dark and a flashlight helps us reach out for the cheese and wine. We enjoyed the quietude for a while. This experience would only be topped by dinner the next night – cooked for us specially, under the stars again.

Wine and cheese under the starry desert sky

Wine and cheese under the starry desert sky

#3 – The well appointed suites, fit for kings (and queens)
Elegant and spacious, you could probably play football in the king-size suites in Suryagarh. I just wish I had more time to spend in the room itself as we were rushing in an out most of the time. I eyed the alcove in the suite with a table and a few chairs and wished I could sit there for a few hours and write. With light filtering in from the long windows, it could be the perfect spot to get rid of a writer’s block!

They have several options including the Palace and Grand Heritage Rooms, and the Signature, Luxury and the Jaisalmer suites. The prices start from Rs 12,000 onwards.

Luxurious and well-appointed suites

Luxurious and well-appointed suites

#2 – The delicious, and endless meals
If breakfast lasted a few courses, we soon lost count of the number of dishes we were served during lunch and dinner. The staff had been well trained in plying their guests with food and didn’t offer the option of saying “enough”. In fact, they’re akin to smiling assassins well trained by Karan Singh. They keep feeding you until you’re reeling out of the door, clutching your stomach!

I exaggerate, but while you’re visiting, if you want to make sure you don’t pile on a few extra pounds, make sure you visit the gym and the beautiful blue swimming pool, “Neel” at Suryagarh. I did both just to assuage a bit of my guilt after all the over eating. The food is extremely tasty, and the effort put into the dishes by the chefs is quite apparent. There were plenty of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian options.

One meal ends and another one begins!

One meal ends and another one begins!

#1 – The night view from the hill
It’s night time. The desert sky is simply breath-taking, I haven’t experienced anything like it before. The stars twinkle. Did you just sight a shooting star or was it too much wine? Ah, well. Anything is possible out here.

From the small hillock adjoining the resort, it’s a sight to behold in the evening. All lit up, it’s like a gem in the dessert landscape. A jewel shining brilliantly in the dark. We had a group of Manganiar singers who are employed by the resort full time (and very well travelled too, having performed overseas) so we were lucky to have them with us as we were treated to more food.

Shining like a gem in the desert landscape

Shining like a gem in the desert landscape

As we listened to the soulful melodies, the light glowing from the resort, it was possibly one of the most magical experiences I’ve had. And one I’ll remember for a long, long time.

Soulful music under the magical skies

Soulful music under the magical skies

There are of course, many more aspect of the trip that I want to go on about. Driving out into the desert, enjoying the stark and yet haunting beauty of the countryside was another one. We were joined on such a trip by the young Manavendra Singh Shekhawat, who currently runs this property. He’s young, educated and definitely knows what he wants. He tells us a little more about his legacy, his plans for upcoming properties as he steers the vehicle along familiar roads, obviously very proud of his heritage and confident of the future. It’s always a pleasure to talk to young enterpreneurs who seem to have it all together. Manavendra’s engagement, as an interesting aside, was also featured in an episode of Master Chef; also get a glimpse of Suryagarh also in this clip.

The young and enterprising Manavendra Singh Shekhawat

The young and enterprising Manavendra Singh Shekhawat

During the trip, we also had a glimpse of some of the ruins of the Kuldhara village (read more about it here) – a community of Paliwal Brahmins – which overnight deserted over 80 villages and disappeared. Legend has it that the king was unhappy and it was over a woman. We’ll never know for sure, but the curse left by the community ensured that to date, no one lives in these villages anymore.

Th ruins of Kuldhara

Th ruins of Kuldhara

While we had a fair share of rains, we also had clear skies with beautiful cotton clouds. And this against the background of the sandy desert made for some picturesque imagery. Our cameras were busy for a while.

Beautiful and stark desert landscape

Beautiful and stark desert landscape

We went up to a few sights like the fort at Khaba (from where you get a view of one more deserted village), another temple on a hill, and then the famous, but very crowded Jaisalmer Fort.

By the time we get back to the resort, it’s time for another meal. Under the desert skies again. There’s only one word for this experience – magical.

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Heralding the monsoons in Suryagarh

Heralding the rains in the desert

After experiencing the abundance of the monsoons in Kerala and Goa this year, it was a welcome invite when I got an offer to experience the magic of the monsoons in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

And I know exactly what you might be thinking. Monsoons in the desert? But then stranger things have been known to happen. So filled with anticipation and lots of hope, I hopped onto a plane to Jodhpur, which is the closest connection to Jaisalmer from Bangalore. It was a long journey but the thought of the destination was enough to keep the spirits high. Besides air travel has become quite pleasant these days, thanks to all our swanky airports (well, okay not all of them!).

At Mumbai airport, I met with Neelima and then with Anuradha (who I hadn’t met for years) and we killed some time chatting and catching up. After a short wait, it was time to board the flight to Jodhpur. A couple of hours later, we finally touched down in Jodhpur and our welcome party was there outside the small airport with a sign with the “Suryagarh” emblem. We were escorted to our waiting vehicles and then we got our welcome drinks (non-alcoholic, let me clarify!) to prepare us for the long road trip.

And then we set off on the last leg of our adventure – the long and straight road from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer spanning around 300 kms. The driver estimated it would take around 5 hours so we sat back and enjoyed the scenery whizzing by.

After a much needed lunch break at a place called Manvar, we were on the road again. As the vegetation got more and more sparse, we suddenly noticed rather dark clouds.

Could it be? Were we going to get some rain just as we landed in Rajasthan? The driver told us that a 25 km radius around Jaisalmer hadn’t gotten any rain at all so far. Maybe we had carried the rain with us from the South.

Well, apparently we had. As the rain drops started falling onto the windshield, much to our delight, we even heard a few claps of thunder. What a way it was to welcome the monsoons in the desert.

Not only did we welcome the rains, we also got to experience the magic of Suryagarh – a beautiful resort in Jaisalmer, where we ate meals fit for royalty under the star studded skies, in the middle of the desert; listened to haunting melodies of Mehboob Khan and his troupe, went on a nightly safari called the “Chudail trail” and walked around Jaisalmer fort and even got a peek into a government certified bhang shop! All that and more, coming up in Part 2.