The best holidays are made of relinquished inhibitions, cocktails, and meditative trance. Hoping to live up to these set expectations, I travelled to Amanbagh in Ajabgarh in the Alwar district of Rajasthan for a three-day-long weekend. And let me tell you, it didn’t feel long enough.
As one moves away from the city, everything changes. The six-hour drive away from the hidden folds and seams of the metroscape that is Delhi leads you to Amanbagh, one of the two Aman properties in India (the other one being Aman-i-Khás in Ranthambore). Celebrated across the world for its uber-luxe hotels and resorts, Aman certainly pays a hefty tribute to what is known as a sybaritic lifestyle with heritage and wellness at its core. Amanbagh, designed by architect and interior designer Ed Tuttle, brings to life two of the natural colours of Rajasthan — pink and green. While the pink hues are courtesy of human engineering, the healing green is the gift of the Aravalli, serving as a lush backdrop to this expansive property bang in the middle of the arid Ajabgarh.
After zig-zagging nooks and corners of this sleepy town, passing through Pratapgarh fort close to Sariska National Park, the roads start forming shape as if being moulded at the moment. Wellness begins at the doors of this garden oasis. The warm welcome is marked by a celebratory drink as sweet as the saccharine goodness of its hosts. They take me to our suite through the courtyard’s collonaded walkways, walking past their sweeping lawns and manicured bushes that complement the date palm and bougainvillaea.
And I enter the Pool Pavillion. All lined together on the left side of Amanbagh’s entrance, these suites are where all the great sundowners must happen, including next morning’s rejuvenation by the private pool. It has three sections: A convex-roofed bedroom with glass over the headboard, a pink marble bed and a glass corridor topped with a cupola, and a domed structure that houses a bathroom built-in bottle-green Udaipur marble. The suite may be awe-inducing, but it’s the little things such as chocolates on the pillow and handprinted cards made by locals that make you smile. Apart from the Pool Pavillian, Amanbagh also features Terrace Haveli Suite, Garden Haveli Suite, and Courtyard Suite.
Later in the evening, I venture out to explore. There’s a lot to do around Ajabgarh, especially when Amanbagh is planning your itinerary. A cow dung tour at sunset is highly recommended. They take you on an olive green Mahindra jeep, with a colourful raconteur whose tales of the cursed town, the haunted Bhangarh fort, and the Chhatri dinner (oxidised dome-shaped monuments) leave you mesmerised. As history has it, Ajabgarh was once a campsite for royal tiger hunts for the Maharaja of Alwar. Cursed by sorcerers and black magic practitioners, it became a ghost town in no time. During the tour, you traverse through the lanes of dilapidated houses and meander through the greenery around with locals equally amused by your sight. Bhangarh fort is open till 6:00 pm, and lunch and dinner can be arranged here by Amanbagh. Another attraction is Somsagar Lake, which is a trek best executed early in the morning. The trek is steep, so pack walking shoes. Because Ajabgarh is two hours from Jaipur, it also cancels tourists, leaving you a place of peace and tranquillity. However, a roar here and there may turn your night around as tigers have been spotted in the area due to dense forests.
No Rajasthani experience is complete without a traditional meal. While there’s a lot of funk on the menu, it was the Rajasthani thali and Laal Maans for me that packed authentic deliciousness. It was a starry night, and two local musicians serenaded the diners with their soothing music, which seemed to reach a crescendo as I downed my last drink. Seriously, there’s a lot on the menu here to leave you suffonsified, but if it’s not local fare, you need to re-check your priorities as a traveller. The breakfast — white omelette with greens and bacon — by the pool is another meal that was more than important; it was divine.
Amanbagh also promotes organic living. Everything is sourced from their herbal garden, supporting the farm-to-table concept for healing cuisine and Ayurveda treatments. And they serve locally produced dairy, too. This form of wellness is an extension of their world-famous and bespoke spa treatments. Unfortunately, I couldn’t experience it first-hand due to the pandemic. Nevertheless, that didn’t stop me from being thrilled for their new retail collection, The Essentials by Aman. An e-store right now that will soon have physical boutiques at all Aman properties. The Essentials is an expression of their ideologies and comprises loungewear, activewear, knitwear, swimwear, resort wear, and soft accessories.
One night turned into two, and I was not quite there. Not ready to leave. I guess it was the feeling of not doing much without feeling tedious that wrote an exceptionally well-played staycation for me. You’re not really ready for Amanbagh till you reach here. The grandeur, the gracious service, the goodness of flavours, and the greenery envelopes a larger than life experience, which comes with little joys like langurs cackling around the lawn and the pleasant chirping of migratory birds.
All images: Courtesy Amanbagh