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A huge bird flew in front of us across the barren desert landscape. The wingspan was at least 2 meters and the height was a meter or so. It took us a while but our gracious host had soon identified the bird for us and it was a spectacular sighting, one that was very rare! It was the critically endangered Great Indian Bustard that we had just seen; only 200 of them remain today. We drove closer to the edge from where the bird had just taken off, we spotted it gracefully gliding across the desert plains, where it allowed privileged few a peek into its world.
For me, authentic travel experiences like these come before anything else. I care little for where I stay as long as I am getting to see something new and exploring like a local. So, while Suryagarh’s invitation to experience Desert Monsoon sounded very appealing, I was a bit worried about the luxury part of it. I would never associate luxury with authentic local experiences. Is it even possible to be immersed in luxury but still explore a destination like a local?
And that’s where Suryagarh scores big and rises above than being just another luxurious stay. Situated in the outskirts of the Golden City, Jaisalmer, Suryagarh looks like a structure straight out of the bygone era. It’s sandstone walls, the bastions and the regal elegance might fool you into thinking that this could be a renovated structure. But the truth is it’s a newly constructed property using yellow sandstone and designed so that it effortlessly blends into the desert landscape, just like Sonar Qila(The Golden Fort).
The folks at Suryagarh will leave no stone unturned in making you feel like royalty – from escorting in a jeep with two tall traditionally dressed men holding up fluttering orange flags to raining down rose petals as we entered the property. The rooms were super comfortable and grand but the highlight again was the many different ways in which the local traditions and styles were incorporated in the interiors of the rooms and the property as such.
I personally loved the vast and open courtyard that would reflect the shiny lights when it rained. And it did rain while we were there. There are a lot of accessible open spaces within the property and around it so it never felt I was confined. The day we arrived we were taken on a drive in the desert for a sundowner, the sun was down already but the thunders and lightning matched the high-spirited melodies of a Manganiar singer while we enjoyed wine and cheese!
Dinners can be quite the experience at Suryagarh, one night we dined under the starry skies on a hilltop and the next amidst pristine dunes with no one else around. The little attention to detail goes a long way in providing truly unique experiences for the guests, for instance as we arrived at the dunes, the local folk singers’ melodious and timely rendition of “Padharo Maro Des” [Meaning welcome to our land] lent a magical touch to the evening.
|I'm not a Spa person but looking at this, I had to try. The Spa is named "Rait", meaning sand.|
The very young MD of Suryagarh, Manavendra Singh Shekhawat, has explored the deserts around Jaisalmer and has found brilliant little spots with no name. At the end of a crazy but super-fun desert offroading, it was such a pleasure and a surprise to arrive at an oasis. It was him who took us on a ride in the barren hinterlands where we spotted the Great Indian Bustard.
|Oasis in the middle of the desert, one of many secret locations that Suryagarh can help you discover!|
Along with the MD, the entire team at Suryagarh is focused upon offering authentic experiences, like the haunted trail fondly known as “Chudail trail” where we went exploring the haunted places in the dead of the night. Or visiting the abandoned villages of Khaba and Kuldhara where legend has it that 84 such villages were abandoned overnight and were cursed that they never be inhabited again. No one lives there today. In another place, we were shown several tombstones with stone structures and inscriptions in Devanagari script; it could be the burial ground of the Paliwal community villages but there was no way to tell, another visit with a historian might clear that up.
|A Burial ground in the middle of the desert, not information available on their history, fascinating place though.|
But like I said earlier, it wasn’t just the luxury that made the experience special, instead it was the pride everyone took in upholding the culture and tradition of their land. The local stories and legends were valued, passed on and displayed with much gusto. Suryagarh very well understands that a traveler is interested in discovering the secrets of a place and not just luxury, by combining these two they have the perfect offering for the discerning traveler.