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Destinations · Asia · india · Rajasthan · Where to sleep ·

Shahpura Bagh, between Jaipur and Udaipur

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

A very tempting-looking motorway leads from Jaipur to Udaipur (it a bit of a surprise, compared to most Indian roads); and yet - a real traveller will never choose the straight road. It is way too boring. When, after about an hour on a narrow (yet asphalt-covered) local road, encountering the occasional passenger bus or a lorry (jam-packed with people like a tin of sardines), you notice that not a single sign says anything in English and the villagers you meet look at you as if you had grown a second head - then you can be sure you are on the right road. Don't even bother pulling one of your traveller Bibles - Lonely Planet or Rough Guide - out of your bag; they don't say a single word about the not-so-small Bhilwara district. And when a giant blue bull with a horse's muzzle materialises from thin air at the roadside (no, you are not hallucinating; apparently, there's plenty of these around) and your mobile finally goes dead, then at last you will feel a tiniest bit like a 21st century Columbus - at least for a moment.
Then the first real doubt sets in. The driver has finally found the way to the right village (having asked at least ten passers-by for the directions). You look at the roadside shacks and think to yourself: what the hell...? To make it worse, Shahpura Bagh was the only Indian hotel where they didn't even ask for your credit card details as you were booking a room, let alone for a deposit payment.
The doubt vanishes the moment the gate opens and Shahpura Bagh appears surrounded by a green park. It is a rather small 19th century manor consisting of two separate buildings, one of which is the summer residence of the Shahpura District maharaja, still occupied by heirs of the royal family: Sat, a professional fashion and advertisement photographer, the maharaja's great-grandson, and his wife Maya. The small eight-room hotel was opened only less than a year ago; in fact, it's really more of a family home than a hotel. And that's exactly how you feel there: like a guest. You breakfast, dine and sup with the family and the other guests, including, for instance, an incredibly beautiful Indian lady from the neighbouring raja's family. She has come to visit her friends while her husband and son are hunting in South Africa. The lady tells about her son's cousin's recent wedding with 10 000 guests. She is wearing a hand-painted sari she has made herself: painting is her hobby. Sometimes she accompanies her husband on his safari trips and paints savannah landscapes with zebras and antelopes. You won't find anything as delicious as the food at Shahpura Bagh in any of the best Indian restaurants. Everything is prepared from ancient family recipes, all the greens and herbs come from a nearby organic farm.
Nahar Singh, Sat's great-grandfather, the King of Shahpura, changed the life of the region by building a special water-supply system that provides water for the whole district. During the years of Indian independence a lot has changed. For instance, tigers - once upon a time so bold as to be seen dangerously close to the manor - are extinct now in this region. Sat and his brother are determined to restore their great-grandfather's kingdom to its former glory. And that's one of the reasons why Sat, giving up photography as a day job, has come back to his family home. The immediate objective is renovating the nearby family-owned fortress, currently inhabited by wild bees and bats. As you leave Shahpura Bagh, you take a tiny bit of it with you in your heart - for life. Who knows, you may even return.

Rates: USD 120 -150

Shahpura, District Bhilwara, 311 404

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