An international brand which has adopted Indianness to the hilt, Amanbagh pleases with its Mughal inspired design, green surroundings and perfect standards of service
By: Aparupa Ray Ganguly, Hospitality Communication Professional
Posted on: May 11, 2013
It was a pre-dawn road trip to Amanbagh in Alwar, a small part of Rajasthan. Spring had clearly kissed goodbye although I was pleasantly surprised to find that the air was still quite nippy. And it was the last leg of the journey that got me excited. The last two hours of drive through the villages offered a spectacular view of the changing topography of the land. The rugged Aravalis stood out against the azure blue sky that added a soft touch to the otherwise harsh looking terrain. The valley on either side was vast and flushed in a golden glow, occasionally punctuated with remnants of old unacknowledged temples which had stood the test of time. It was a serendipitous moment as the song that played in my car was ‘Fields of Gold’! Peacocks roamed the fields looking happy and carefree. Tamarind trees and acacias swayed in the mellow afternoon breeze making for the perfect backdrop against the humble mud houses with buffaloes snoozing and children pottering around the streets. We had finally reached Amanbagh!
The regal experience
Bespoke luxury has a way of impressing you most when it is understated and effortless. And that’s something I realized when I drove into the walled compound of the Amanbagh.
A winding road lined with jamun trees ushered us into this haven of ultimate luxury. Set on a verdant oasis of palm, eucalyptus and several other fruiting trees, the resort is spread over 47 acres of land and is cradled in a valley, embraced by the gorgeous hills of Aravali from all three sides.
Our welcome ritual was simple, yet beautiful, with a traditional ‘tikka’ ceremony and the soft humming of the pious ‘gayatri mantra’ (a Hindu prayer) to welcome us into the ‘Aman family’. It was a bright balmy afternoon and the central courtyard of the main building opened up into the terrace overlooking the colonnaded pool and the manicured gardens encircling it.
The main building is a low-rise sand-stone structure built in haveli style with a very intimate atmosphere. A sweeping staircase from the reception area leads to the library and its outdoor terrace. The roof terrace is further up, above a canopy of trees, providing an unhindered view of the surrounding landscape. The alfresco dining area overlooking the pool and the verdant greens is a pleasing sight to the eyes. The domed cupolas and inner courtyards evoke a strong Mughal grandeur.
Anand Singh Shekhawat, the very polite and suave Executive Assistant Manager walked us around, and showed us Amanbagh’s private air-strip and helipad for jet-setters who choose to come here in their private jets. We also spent a couple of hours walking around the organic farm, identifying thyme, parsley, mint and homegrown lettuce and cucumber! He also interestingly narrated how this used to be the royal hunting ground for the Maharajahs of Alwar. I am told; they frequently invited Mughal Emperor Akbar to join them on their hunting expeditions.
At the Aman, luxury truly whispers. Subtle and discreet, every aspect of their service is tailored to indulge and give in to the wishes of a whimsical guest! Amanbagh’s 24 haveli suites and 16 pool pavilions are the ultimate in the world of uber-luxe hospitality set in a tranquil and dramatic rural landscape.
The luxurious Courtyard Haveli suites are at the ground level and come attached with a private courtyard and an adjacent bedroom that features a domed ceiling. The Garden Haveli Suites are also quite similar in design except that they come with a private balcony that overlooks a beautiful garden. The Terrace Haveli Suites are located on the upper level and have a spacious courtyard with sun-loungers and an outdoor dining area.
However the Pool Pavilion was truly the show-stopper! They come with a private swimming pool and a garden which overlooks the hills. As I walked through the stunning garden courtyard asymmetrically lined with date palm trees, I entered the foyer passageway which connected the master bedroom and living area to the lavish bathroom. The bathroom itself demanded quite a bit of attention! Blushed in pink marble, it was crowned with a domed ceiling and had a bathtub carved from a single piece of Udaipur green marble. There was nothing much left to be desired! The master bedroom was flushed in natural light with a day bed in black raw silk that looked very inviting. Spending two days of my life at Amanbagh’s Pool Pavilion was no ordinary feeling and it did take a while for the feeling to sink in!
Evening gradually descended over the valley as winds danced along the trees, promising a beautiful evening ahead. Love and intimacy saw a new awakening as we decided to sit out in our private dining area by the poolside, talking about life, years gone by, things that kept us together and moments that we shared... The sky was clear and scattered with a million stars unknown to us. It was the month of April, but strangely the air was a bit sharp and nippy, yet very pleasant. It was indeed one of the most cherished moments of our stay. .
An Oasis of Calm
The sun heralded the advent of yet another brilliant day in the valley. As the noisy parakeets thronged the pale blue sky, appearing busy with their day to day activities, I strolled down the sandstone pathway trailing the colonnaded pool leading me up to the serene spa at Amanbagh.
Cradled by manicured gardens and an oasis of palm, eucalyptus and berry trees from all sides, there was something very intimate about the spa. I was welcomed by Nitesh Ranjan, the earnest and learned Spa Manager, who acquainted me with the beautiful environs of this wellness haven. The pronounced usage of pink marble and the beautiful panels of wooden lattices evoked a strong Mughal flavour in the ambience, while the overall essence still being very minimalist, truly the Aman way.
I chatted with Mr Ranjan about the menu and checked on why he chose to have a mix of Asian and international treatments. His understanding was that most of Aman’s discerning guests came from a cross section of European nations and other countries like Canada and Japan, who usually preferred treatments that were stress-relieving and which balanced the body and mind. While traditional Ayurvedic treatments like Shirodhara and Mantra Mugdha are popular and guarantee complete relaxation, signature massages like the ‘Maharaja and the Maharani Massage’ are usually the order of the day! In fact these massages had been customized to use a combination of techniques using both the thumb and the palm to release stress from the tired muscles.
So on Mr Ranjan’s recommendation, I settled and signed up for the Maharani massage. Chaitali, my young and friendly therapist, brought me a shot of chilled pomegranate juice and a cold towel soaked in mint and jasmine essential oil to freshen up. And voila! That was the start-up to my 60 minutes of pure-indulgence.
My tired body restored and rejuvenated, and my mind invigourated with all the pampering. I was left in a state of blissful stupor. But that was not it, there was more to come! Having been a student of Sivananda Yoga for many years, I was extremely excited to know that Amanbagh also organizes complimentary yoga classes for its guests. So one can request for private lessons in their own room or any of the resort’s tranquil and secluded spots. In fact, they also arrange yoga sessions at the stunning Bhangarh fort (about 15 minutes away from the property) or at Som Sagar Lake which is a perfect setting for meditation, with nothing but the sound of birds for company.
In the Countryside
Amanbagh has several exciting day excursions for its guests, but we decided to try the Bhangarh Fort trip. After a sumptuous breakfast, we hopped into our jeep. Rambabu aka ‘Rambo’, our guide from Amanbagh, was our chauffeur and guide for the day. I‘d say, the man may not claim to be so, but he was a fantastic story teller. The 15 minute drive through the countryside was stunning. A mellow sunshine kept me wide awake, the breeze caressed my face and distressed my hair (not that it worried me!), peacocks in abundance pottered around the fields as we drove along the narrow road, the Aravali chasing us all along. With breathtaking sceneries all around, the countryside revealed a ruin or a relic from a lost empire at every nook and corner.
The ruins of this mid 17th century village (infamously called the ‘ghost village’) left me baffled. According to a legend, the city of Bhangarh was cursed and locals believe that there are ghosts in Bhangarh, and that is why entry is prohibited for tourists in the fort after sunset and before sunrise.
Amanbagh gives that rustic feel, albeit in a luxurious, sophisticated way. A wonderful amalgamation of authenticity and comfort, Amanbagh knows how to pamper its guests.
A seasoned hospitality communication professional, Aparupa has worked in the luxury and lifestyle space and has been associated with iconic luxury hotels like The Imperial New Delhi amongst others. She started her career in media as a news reader and a professional voice-over artist and then dabbled in the creative world of advertising before she got into hospitality. Travel, she says is the best way of finding oneself, of connecting with who we are. Travel gives us a sense of freedom and identity. It enriches us and inspires us to explore. It makes us alive. Eclectic and personalised, her frequent sojourns have spurned travelogues that are fresh and inspiring with a poetic narrative.