Rawla Narlai
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Rawla Narlai

Just back from five weeks in Rajasthan, India. It was my 16th trip – you could say I’m hooked. I do have my favourite places I visit regularly, but each trip, I try to find somewhere new. This time, I stayed at Rawla Narlai, a 17th –century hunting lodge owned by Jodhpur royalty, and now a heritage hotel.

Set in the village of Narlai, it is a quiet retreat and a perfect escape from the normal hustle and bustle. I actually stayed there twice. The first time was for just one night as we were on a busy schedule, but I took note, and on my second visit, requested to stay in the what was the bedroom of the Maharaja back in the 17th century.

Original frescos covered the walls – some beginning to fade with age, but this just made them even more beautiful, and I was so glad that they hadn’t decided to try to restore the work.   The photo above is of one of these faded artworks. Around the room, there were small alcoves where I imagined candles or lanterns would have lit the room. I spoke to one of the young men who cleaned the rooms, and asked if he would find me some candles.   He returned just on dark, and we lit candles in each of the alcoves and a beautiful golden glow brought the room to life. I also managed to see the bedroom of the Maharani and it too had been decorated in beautiful paintings – each one telling a story of a time past.

The other great thing about my room was that it had a direct view to the mountains and just outside my door were two large day beds. I spent most of my time there on those beds, reading, writing and sketching and just taking in the beautiful scent of the frangipanis that wafted through the air.

Just on sunset, a troop of huge monkeys seemed to appear from nowhere and perched themselves on the wall outside my room, one of them positioning himself as if he himself were royalty and watched the sun set, and then disappeared back to wherever he had come from.

There are lots of activities to keep yourself busy at Narlai, but I had fractured my ankle and it was a perfect spot for me to rest up and enjoy the close surroundings. You can go leopard spotting, hiking, or climb the seven hundred odd steps to the top of the “sacred” mountain at sunrise or sunset. Needless to say, I wasn’t up to that.

I would like to go back there again though, and go to dinner at the stepwell nearby. Until fairly recently, I had not known much about India’s stepwells, but am now fascinated by them. So far, I have only seen two – one in Delhi, and one in Jaipur near the Amer Fort, but there is a book I would like to buy called “The Stepwells of India” and it gives details of where to find them.

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