After spending the first part of my Rajasthan stay in the beautiful RAAS Jodhpur. The second part of my Rajasthan trip featured a stay at RAAS Chhatrasagar, the hotel group’s incredible new property in the district of Pali. Located approximately 2 hours from Jodhpur, this secluded boutique luxury style camp – gives a new twist to the concept of glamping.
Driving along the bumpy dirt road, past remote villages, we pulled up to the entrance of the camp. Upon arrival we were stunned by an impressive vegetable garden and a signature step well, mirroring those around India. The hotel staff greeted us warmly and led up the stairs to the main terrace. Our jaw’s dropped at the incredible sight of the expansive water before us, the sprawling terrain and remarkable scenery.
The terrace space itself was huge and sprawling with gorgeous old vintage style cane chairs lined up along the water’s edge to admire the incredible view. Either side was lined with blooming pink and orange bougainvillea plants which provided a striking pop of colour. The main building featured gorgeous verandas on either side, styled with elegant modern furnishings and sexy hanging chairs.
We were invited to settle in these comfortable kingly chairs by the water, and enjoy a glass of wine whilst completing the seamless check-in process. The water before us was incredibly calm and placid, and it was explained to us that this expanse was built as a dam some 100 years ago. The water now acts as a hub for some of India’s most impressive wild birdlife, providing an oasis for native species to come and quench their thirst.
It was gloriously calm and peaceful, offering pure relaxation from the crazy world that one has journeyed from. I loved the tranquillity that I felt sitting admiring the water before me, and the sound of birds chirping in the distance.
The main lodging beckons you in, playing home to the restaurant, bar and welcoming lounge area. It emits a comfortable style teamed with splendid luxury, sporting sleek chairs and couches, a sophisticated bar with stunning hand-painted lights all united with the amber wood finishes that bring the rural bush inside.
The RAAS group recently purchased the property at Chhatrasagar and gave it the welcomed uplift that it needed. Sprucing up the rooms with contemporary finishes, chic furnishings, new gleaming white marble bathrooms and modern fixtures. We were led along the pathway to our new dwelling, and climbed the steps to our five star “tent”. My jaw-dropped in utter amazement at the confounded beauty of the hand-painted canvas walls filled with images of birds, forests and nature which culminated all the way to the ceiling, with painted tree branches hovering above us.
Proving spacious and modern, the cloth walls make it feel as though guests are literally inside a tent, particularly with the triangular roof. The walls have been decorated with hand-painted landscapes by contemporary Indian artist Dhvani Behl, reinforcing that we are out in nature amongst the trees, birds and wildlife of Chhatrasagar. Local animals like deer and native bird species alongside cactus and flourishing trees line the walls in a stunning artistic backdrop.
The room is charmingly styled with the same beautiful wood finishes found throughout the hotel, from the headboard of the bed to the gorgeous arm chairs and small desk area (but who would want to do any work in this paradise?!) A plush lime green sofa layered with embellished hand-embroidered cushions bounces off the walls, harmonised by the same colour pallet adopted across the room.
One of the key attractions of the room has to be the amazing sky-opening roof. As the piece-de-resistance at the top of the tent-like ceiling, it is what at first appears to be just a black square in the roof. I am then told to press the button next to my bed. Magically this dark patch transforms into a clear skylight, welcoming in natural sunshine during the day or the dazzling starlit sky by night. It’s the truly magical finish that brings the luxurious hotel to a whole other level.
Meanwhile the bathroom itself is extravagant featuring brand new white marble finishes, a spacious walk-in shower, gorgeous big bathtub and generous wardrobe space separating either side. The hotel’s signature amenity range lines the shower and bath, and I love that they have adopted these large re-fillable containers instead of the mini bottles most hotels use, ultimately to minimise their plastic wastage and impact on the environment. The tub looks longingly out to the sprawling water beyond, and once settled I couldn’t help but run myself a bubble bath and dive right-in to relax as the sun set.
With decks on either side of the tent, you can choose to watch the sunset on the west entrance side of the tent, which boasts views of the flourishing forest beyond with the sun peeking through. Or enjoy your private terrace at the front, a huge open space mere meters from the water, with a deck, two comfortable armchairs and stylish lantern.
Guests can choose exclusive candlelit private dining experiences on the terrace of their room or in the gorgeous confines of the main restaurant. We opted for the restaurant which featured floor to ceiling windows of the exquisite water view.
The RAAS executive chef is renowned across India, as one of the best chef’s for Rajasthani & Indian cuisine. Given I was yet to experience the signature Indian “Thali” we decided on this for our dinner. A Thali is a selection of signature dishes which are served in little round bowls on a round platter. Thalis were traditionally known as the “rich mans” food and only the elite and rich would feast but now they can be found across India for only a few dollars. The notion of a Thali is to serve 6 different flavours of sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy on one plate. According to Indian food traditions, a proper meal should be a perfect balance of all these six flavours. A Thali traditionally comes with rice, pappadum and/ or naan bread.
After a tough day trying to figure out travel plans in the midst of the Covid crisis, I enjoyed a few of the house martinis. The first was a pomegranate infused martini that was bright fuschia and went down a treat. Whilst the second was your traditional dirty martini straight up with olives.
Our first course included an appetite whetting soup which was warm and comforting, and then for the Thali. Definitely proving to be one the best Indian meals of my time in the country, the gleaming silver platter was filled with eight little round platters including raita, tomato chutney, basmati rice, chicken, braised lamb or mutton and eggplant curry with a parantha in the middle.
The flavours were mind blowing, and the meat just melted in your mouth. I love the idea of being able to try many different things and have just a taste of everything. Plus, it was great to embrace the Indian way of eating, using the bread to pickup the food and bits of curry with your fingers.
For dessert, we had a lovely creamy scoop of strawberry ice-cream and the traditional “Gajar Ka Halwa”. The ice-cream had a rich strawberries and cream flavour that took me back to my childhood. The Gajar Ka Halwa was a dessert I’d come to enjoy at the Indian weddings I recently attended. It consists of a grated carrot mixture which is cooked with milk, ghee and sugar syrup. Interestingly, ghee which is clarified butter is also considered an Ayurvedic ingredient with anti-aging and digestion properties. Due to the ingredients, the dish is actually quite rich and a little proves very satisfying.
My little brother started talking to the waiter about his favourite Indian dessert, Jelebi from his travels around the country. Jelebi is basically deep-fried maida flour in circular shapes like spirals or pretzels, which is then doused in sugar syrup (like every other Indian dessert!) Before long, our waiter had gone literally above and beyond, and delivered us fresh Apple jelebi to our table! Rings of apple had been coated in the maida flour batter, deep-fried to golden crispy goodness, served with a smear of finger-licking good sweet almond puree. This dessert blew the other dish out of the park and truly left me in heaven! We hobbled back to our bungalow with full bellies ready to sleep under the stars of our in-room skylight.
At dawn, the sun rises over the water just outside the room, and it peaked through the curtains the next morning, glistening beautifully as we awoke for our bird-watching walk. Bright and early, our alarms dinged for the nature walk with the in-house bird watching expert. We met at the main terrace and set off exploring the paths of the sprawling property and enjoying the tranquil serenity of this early hour. A beautiful view is to be had at one of the first lookouts of the walk, reflecting back on the property and the sweeping mountain the hovers beside it. The water is placid and still, providing perfect mirrored reflections of the landscape onto its surface.
We spotted native birds, deer, my favourite: peacocks, and the sacred animal of India: cows between bushes of cacti, native trees whilst sampling some local berries off some of the trees. I almost felt like I was in a Bear Grylls episode sampling nature’s own cuisine and examining foot prints in the sand. It was a nice start to the morning, but perhaps would have been made even better with a nice with a cup of coffee or tea along the way.
On our return, we passed the incredibly impressive vegetable garden, neatly lined with rows and rows of different varieties such as cucumbers, chilli, okra, onion, lettuce, garlic, beetroot, spinach and much more. The garden gave the notion ‘farm to table’ real truth, and it was great to know how environmentally friendly and self-sufficient the hotel was endeavouring to be.
I settled on the main terrace in a hanging chair to enjoy breakfast with the sun rising above the water. Rajasthan is one of the hottest areas of India, and the sun was beginning to beat down warmly. I began with a fresh fruit salad, and then enjoyed one of my favourite Indian breakfast dishes, dosa. Dosa is a paper thin large crepe which is either prepared plain, or quite commonly with a cooked potato mixture inside. It is served with “sambar” a lentil soup, coconut and tomato chutney. It is designed for one to eat the dosa with their hands, dipping it into the lentil soup and garnishing with chutney! Its truly delicious!
I enjoyed the remainder of my stay by the pool with the heat of the day settling in. The pool is the perfect temperature, with rows of sunbeds on either side and luscious green trees framing the side. One of the waiters brought me a delicious berry sorbet shot that sank down dreamily. I was sad to leave, but it was time to venture back to reality!
Rajasthan 306303, India
I Ate My Way Through stayed as guests of RAAS Hotels