So there is something about the sun-baked terrain of Rajasthan that has always fascinated me, and as I was cruising on NH-8, leaving behind the concrete jungle and the crazy urban lifestyle that revolves around it, I felt that majestic feel of royal Rajasthan sinking in to me, even though my planned weekend getaway to Neemrana was rather frugal.
The drive was rather short, merely two hours of burning rubber and diesel in our SUV. The geography past Bawal started turning typically Rajasthani, as the loamy soil covered the earth and scenic views of a handful of hillocks rolled in to the horizon. We checked into Hotel Neemrana Palace, a newly-built budget hotel which is located right next to NH-8 at Neemrana. I must mention here that in Rajasthan, you don’t have to be a maharaja to be treated like one, as the attitude of the hotel staff towards us was genuinely hospitable in spite of the fact that we were not opting for a luxury suite but a deluxe room.
As soon as the hotel staff transferred our luggage to our respective rooms, we were off to visit the heritage Neemrana Fort, which was faintly visible while we were trying to figure out the way to get there. Driving through confining corners asking the friendly locals for the way up to the fort, we finally reached the 15th century architectural marvel, now restored as a heritage resort which earns royal currency for Neemrana Hotels Pvt. Ltd. Not that I have a problem with it, but if paying Rs. 750 for the entrance ticket to visit the public area was not enough, the buffet lunch at Rs. 1200 did seem a little too heavy, both on my appetite as well as my wallet. There I go about money again... please forgive my middle-class instincts!
The beauty of the fort is indeed admirable; it has been restored in the best possible manner and looks very much like the original fort, never mind the air conditioners poking out of guest room windows. The fort offers breathtaking views of the adjoining hills and the town of Neemrana. After a sumptuous lunch, we took another stroll around the fort, checking out the exclusive “Loo with a View”, which added an element of fun to the impressive architecture.
We called it a day after the long walk through the palace, and went back to our hotel for a quick nap. As we had the evening at leisure, I decided to check out the local market to get a hang of the lifestyle and Neemrana’s local delicacies. What amazed me more than the lip-smacking delicacies was their pricing; I mean, where in Delhi do you get 15 golgappas for 10 bucks?
As we were checking out of the hotel the next day, planning to drive further towards Jaipur in pursuit of some nearby tourist attractions before heading back to Delhi, the manager of the hotel suggested that we visit Neemrana Baoli, a historic stepwell approximately 5 kilometers away from the hotel. The stepwell is huge, and extends to 9 storeys underground. The locals educated us that the Baoli was used both as a reservoir and for “leisure” purposes; well, whatever. There was no water in the well, but Neemrana Baoli appeared enigmatic with its complex architecture that has been crafted within the earth’s surface. We wandered around for a while, trying to gain a better understanding of how it used to work. Since none of us was an archaeologist, we gave up after an hour or so and hit the highway to drive back home. The stay over turned out to be worth it, as there was more to Neemrana than just the fort palace or rather the heritage resort that has been heavily marketed.