This was originally the summer palace of the Maharajas of Bikaner. It was built in the 19thC and has an air of Scottish baronial architecture.
It is a splendid building with jali screens shielding windows in the main building. It has been an hotel since 1962 and has an air of 1930s decaying grandeur. There were lots of staff. I was carrying a small rucksack, and was immediately approached by a porter – ‘it is my job to carry that’. It suddenly made me realise how important service is to keeping a job.
The Palace is on the outskirts of Mount Abu on the road to the Dilwara Temples. It is surrounded by large gardens with a small lake. These had become overgrown and are gradually being restored. There is a tennis court in front of the hotel and tables for afternoon tea on the lawn. Look out for the monkeys on the roof tops.
In the grounds is the Shree Saha Janad School, a small private boarding school for boys. We went for a walk one evening and as soon as the boys saw us we were surrounded by about 20 of them. They wanted to know where we came from, our names, what currency we used… Michael showed him $1 and $5 dollar notes and also £5, £10 and £20. There were amazed whistles when he said the £20 was worth 1400 rupees. That was regarded as great wealth. As soon as they found out I used to be a teacher, I was shown all their exercise books. These were beautifully laid out and very neat. Different coloured ink was used for questions and answers. The science was very old fashioned – flower structure, yeast, ferns, plant anatomy and very detailed information on soil profiles. Physics covered sound and light but there were no diagrams or indication of any practical work. We were struck by their keenness to learn in conditions where they didn't have computers and all the 'must have technology' which our kids seem unable to learn without. If you visit do make a point of walking down to the school. The boys love to see foreign visitors.
The family of the Maharajah still visit and stay in part of the hotel. There was a security guard patrolling the grounds making sure guests didn't stray into the private gardens when the Maharajah was in residence.
Steps lead up to the grand entrance. There is a large reception area with an elegant lounge with a small bar to one side. There were two dining rooms off the lounge. One with lovely view over gardens.
We were in a separate courtyard block (probably the old servants quarters), with rooms off. Our room had a huge sitting area with desk and easy chairs. Through a door was a big bedroom with 2 single beds pushed together. These were very firm and creaked well each time we moved. There were 2 bedside tables, 2 easy chairs and an extra table. There was a long low chest of drawers (with extra blankets) to put suitcases on and a cupboard with plenty hanging space. There was an ancient fridge which wheezed away like the ghost of one of the maharajahs.
Off the bedroom was a large bathroom with Victorian towel stand. There was a huge old fashioned hand basin and big bath with shower over. There were plenty of good towels which were replaced when asked and the room serviced on the first afternoon after we had had showers. There was a beautiful white marble floor with black marble decoration throughout.
We ate in the restaurant every night (easier than trying to get a taxi into the town). The evening meals were good. Soup was served to the table and then you went to help yourself to a buffet. There was plenty of choice.The hotel was busy, mainly with large groups.
There was a simple but good breakfast of cornflakes, fruit juice, eggs and toast.
Restaurant staff were good.
We had an enjoyable and relaxing two nights here and can recommend it.?
Website for the Palace Hotel: www.palacehotelbikanerhouse.com/
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