Monkey business

Captivated on the drive towards my destination, Amanbagh, I take in the beauty of the surrounding Aravilli mountains in Alwar, deep in the heart of rural Rajasthan. On the streets through the small township women in brilliant coloured saris buy their vegetables at roadside vendors; buses carry workers spilling out the windows while many sit on the roof; and motorcycles cruise down a small road flanked by lush green fields and hills. As I edge further from the town and deep into the seclusion of the valley and my Aman accommodation, I get the feeling I am in for a very special stay.

Amanbagh means ‘peaceful garden’ and the sense of tranquillity commences on arrival – as we’re presented with a cool towel, music and singing to greet us and a picture on the sandstone of India’s national bird, the peacock, created from flower petals.


Floral display of a peacock on arrival at Amanbagh | Katrina Holden


I’m escorted to my room by Yoghita who will act as my ‘personal manager’ during my stay. I’m shown where all the controls, facilities and amenities are and Amanbagh has truly thought of everything – there’s even a ‘monkey stick’ points out Yoghita, who advises me I am welcome to carry it while moving throughout the resort, just in case. 

The resort has 40 suites and pavilions. I’m staying in one of the top tier rooms, a pool pavilion which features its own green-marble pool surrounded by lush, private gardens. Inside, the Mughal-style design is elegant and fuss-free but seriously impressive – with high ceilings, pink marble and sandstone and a spacious hexagonal bathroom with his and hers dressing facilities surrounding the centrepiece – a jade-green coloured bathtub carved from a single piece of Udaipur marble. I make use of this tub on more than one occasion, throwing open the doors from the bathroom to the outdoor pool. The entire property is made from sandstone that has been locally sourced in Rajasthan.


Pool pavilion bedroom | Katrina Holden


Green marble bath in the pool pavilion | Katrina Holden


None of the rooms feature televisions because Aman believes its guests come here for leisure and to rest. Instead onsite you may choose to be distracted by the gymnasium, steam room, spa treatments or just flopping in the enormous swimming pool surrounded by the hills.


Swimming pool | Katrina Holden


At breakfast, I tuck into mint tea and an Indian specialty, dosai with sambar (a rolled crepe with spicy lentils). I cannot get enough of the sweet lime juice. Amanbagh has its own fully-organic kitchen garden which guests can tour. If, like me, you have a sweet tooth you’re sure to find the dessert menu after dinner difficult to choose from, with such dishes as basil panacotta, treacle tart, lemongrass soufflé, gulab jamun (pistachio dumplings) and kulfi (milk parfait first created by an Emporer’s wife).


Terrace at Amanbagh | Aman Resorts


Amanbagh, as is the Aman way, offer specialist tours that highlight the cultures of the surrounding communities. Don’t miss the Cow Dust tour that takes you through the villages to Bhangarh, a national heritage site built in the 17th century by the Jaipur Royal Family. Here the monkeys really come out to play and after a tour of the site, we sit to take in the view over tea and biscuits (and a lurking hungry monkey).  Driven in an open-top jeep driven by Aman staff from local communities wearing peach-coloured turbans, we pass through the local streets where women from the Meena tribe wear vibrant-coloured dress, school children wave and run after us and we stop for masala tea before heading back to Amanbagh. On the return drive, the sun is setting behind the mountains forming a pink sky and a mist is rolling in low between the hills as we make our way back to our green marble private pool where I flop, beneath the stars – not fussed whether a monkey is watching on.


Sunset with our guides from Amanbagh on the Cow Dust tour | Katrina Holden

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