Jodhpur's Ranbanka Palace: Fit for a weekend getaway (Travelogue)
Is a relaxing, solitary, but entertaining classic getaway on your wish list? Kaalbelia dances, delightful puppet shows, mouth watering 'laal maas' and the traditional paintings at the Ranbanka Palace Hotel in this historic Rajasthan town could provide the answer.
A weekend trip to the "classic heritage property", a title awarded by the union tourism ministry, can not only help de-stress but expose you to traditional entertainment activities amidst modern luxury.
In short, said to be the only heritage classic category hotel in Jodhpur, Ranbanka Palace, 590 km from Delhi, is a perfect fusion of old world charm and contemporary style.
The blue-washed walls of the impregnable Mehrangarh Fort and the Umaid Bhavan Palace on either side of the Ranbaka Palace conform to the overall concept of heritage and architectural distinctiveness.
Deriving its name from the Rathore war cry and built by Maharaja Ajit Singh, Ranbanka Palace is now run by polo ace Karan Vijay Singh and his wife Shweta Rathore, who converted it into a heritage hotel in 2000.
What makes it ideal is its central location, says Shweta, adding that it allows easy access to key leisure and business spots in the Sun City.
"The hotel provides a perfect amalgam of old-world charm and contemporary style. The guests are surrounded at all times with a refreshing ambience of heritage, peace and tranquility," Shweta told IANS while sharing the high points of the property.
In the last 14 years, there has been a constant upgradation of facilities.
Interestingly, it has become a hub for local crafts thanks to a revival programme set in motion by the owners.
Every evening, performing artists and craftspeople flock to the sprawling lawns of the retreat to showcase their skills. The performances include traditional puppet theatre, local dances and the music of the desert.
Handicraft aficionados can add to their collection at the Shopping Arcade, which includes handcrafted jootis (shoes), accessories, bags, trinkets and dolls put up by artisans on the lawns.
Away from the hustle-bustle of the overcrowded local bazaars and haggling, it's the ideal place for the foreign tourists to buy gifts for loved ones back home. Usually they dine at the open-air restaurant, the Ranbanka Bagh, and break off between courses to buy their handicrafts.
The most preferred are jootis in camel, buffalo and goat motifs.
"We are reviving the heritage crafts too and providing employment to villagers and local artisans. That is the way to go for heritage hospitality in India," Shweta Rathore said.
"The idea is to connect the two heritages - the ancient heritage of Jodhpur and the heritage of the palace - and combine the old and the new that works in India." she added.
After a tiring day, the guests can retire and unwind in spacious rooms, which vary from pool and courtyard-facing club and deluxe rooms to suites in the royal Heritage Wing and Jodhana Wing.
Walking down the spacious new lobby with full view of the garden is extremely relaxing.
"We started the hotel with 30 rooms in the main quarters and have now expanded to 70," Shweta Rathore said.
In the olden days, hunting was one of the preferred activities of the royals and this palace too has a range of stuffed and mounted animal busts, as also family photographs of hunting on display.
Dining is fun too: Guests can woo their taste buds at The Panchranga mutli-cuisine restaurant, which offers Western, Oriental and Indian dishes. The 150 seater air-conditioned indoor dining area overlooks the central courtyard.
Polo ace Karan Vijay Singh and his wife Shweta Rathore
Another option is Rajsthani Baithak, designed for unwinding and lounging and the most sought after dish here is the Ranbanka Thali.
Cosy and contemporary, The Jodhana lounge has a la carte on offer and the menu features delicacies from the erstwhile royal family's own kitchen. Some of the signature dishes are "junglee murgh" and "laal maas".
All the three restaurants are run under Chef Sayyad M.A.'s supervision.
Luxury destinations are incomplete without a spa and there is the Baradari here. Along with a massage, guests are treated to the Kaalbelia, one of the most sensuous dance forms of Rajasthan.
Shweta also pointed to a recent addition - BBQ by the Baradari: Ranbanka Palace.
"It's an al fresco restaurant serving unlimited kebabs along with a mini buffet consisting of curries and biryani. The USP of the restaurant is the open air ambience with a fountain in the centre and a live kitchen where guests can view the food being cooked for them," she told IANS.
So if you are someone who wants to visit a city with historical relevance, go for it. It is also an ideal wedding destination.
* Location: 590 km from Delhi
* How to reach: From Delhi, eight hours by road, or by Mandor Express overnight train, or by air.
* Tariff: Ranges from Rs.6,400 to Rs.9,800 per person per night. There is a discount of up to 50 percent during summer.
(Nivedita can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 25-01-2014)