I finally made it up that slope.
At one point I felt I possibly had no energy and that everyone would have to disembark and even then my engine would not revv up enough to make it till the top. It is only about a km from the village road to the top of the hill where stands tall the Tijara Fort. I was keen to come to a rest, as were the passengers sitting inside. I had gone all hot and bothered as am sure were they because of the smoke that was beginning to emanate from my nethers. The person behind the wheel braked, let me slide back a few metres, asked everyone in a monotone to buckle up and then stepped on the gas.
The caretaker of Tijara was looking down awaiting the new guests. Why on earth was he not coming down to help push me up? I hope it is suggested to Tijara Fort Palace management that they should make the road or else have a car park down below and escort guests up in jeep or an SUV. Poor me! Did anyone spare a thought for me? I was hot from inside and all dusty from the outside. But they parked me, disembarked, a very liveried-in-medieval-dress turbaned person came up to take the luggage and that was it!
The entrance of the Fort Palace is grand like all hill forts in Rajasthan. There are a dozen steps and a ramp (possibly used by horses or elephants) up to the Reception. That was the last I saw of my passengers as they disappeared. However, I found them all happy and satisfied on the return journey so I take it the weekend getaway was worth it.
As I was driven down the hill 2 days later, much more easily, and disappeared into the jowar fields, this is what I heard them say:
The drive: It is a 2.5 hours drive from the city of Gurgaon. Most of the road upto Dharuhera is good as you are on NH8. You then branch off towards Bhiwadi where too the drive is reasonably ok. Closer to Tijara the road disappears (though you are still on a State highway!). However, as happens in Haryana and Rajasthan, most of the villages come onto the roads so you are driving on a highway through an inhabited area which has potholes or speed-breakers which not only break your speed but can hurt the car if the clearance is low. Don’t ask me how many times I got scraped!
The destination: The Tijara Fort Palace is the newest addition to the Neemrana group of unhotel-hotels. It stands high on a Hill (the story of which you have already read!). The Fort palace is spread over extensive grounds and very well-laid out gardens. The main building is Hawa Mahal where you check in and where you find the sunset lounge and the Alwar lounge; the former for magnificent views and sumptuous tea; the latter in case you wish to watch some TV. ( the only place in the entire property which has a TV set and a few games like chess and carrom strewn about).
You descend a few steps or walk around on the ramparts and the periphery. From every vantage point looking through the arches you will be greeted by an oasis of palm trees. Across some gardens and you reach the pavilion which is the center of the grounds and the designated dining area.
A few more levels down and you reach the 4 storeyed Rani Mahal which is part of the original Fort and is now refurbished. Boasting 21 rooms over three floors and a huge suite on the 4th, Rani Mahal has nooks and corners, jharokhas, arches, turrets and incredibly beautiful sitouts. One turret has been left untouched while the three others have been converted into rooms. The rooms or Mahals as they are called, are named after leading Indian women painters. Their paintings, in original, adorn the walls and the room décor matches the colour scheme elegantly.
The experience: We stayed in one of the turrets, Anupam Mahal, and it was a delight to be in an octagonal room with so many windows and an almost 360 degrees view of the countryside. Our other group members stayed in Nilima Mahal which has paintings by the famous Baroda-based artiste Nilima Sheikh. Most of the rooms were sold out but we did get to see the Vivan-Amrita suite, the Pushpmala Mahal, the Nayanaa Mahal and the Jaishree Mahal between checkouts and subsequent checkins.
A third area, the Mardana Mahal, is under construction. Rooms here will be designed by male Indian artistes. It promises to be sheer splendor and knowing what is in store, you do not mind part of the property looking like a construction site. If fact it adds to the ‘history in the making’.
Note: There is no room service . The property does not have a bar license yet so the starry nights can well and truly be observed and enjoyed, without the proverbial glass in hand. 🙂 There is also no wi-fi in the rooms ensuring that you detox and disconnect from urban trappings.
The staff is courteous and pleasant. Given that they have a lot of ground to cover service may be slow at times. The food is ok. And you might as well enjoy it as there are no other options in the vicinity! Here I must add that I wish the buffet served some Rajasthani food and not chholey and paneer and bhindi masala!
The swimming pool is a nice area to relax. The pool is big but be careful as it has a built in Jacuzzi in one corner and many steps which you may miss. If swimming lengths it is advisable to do so in the centre of the pool! At the time of writing this post the changing rooms were still under construction.
Tijara Fort Palace is your ideal weekend getaway to unwind, to watch the countryside, to curl up and read a book and pretend to be royalty from yesteryear. Like all Neemrana properties there is nothing to ‘do’ at the hotel but isn’t that is the reason you escape to such places? To do nothing and continue doing nothing whilst the mind and body energise and refresh.
A request to visitors: Respect the sanctity of the place and the privacy of other guests. It would be nice if Honey Yo Yo Singh’s music is not played on a loud speaker in public areas!