We were meant to stay two-nights at “Suryauday Haveli”:http://www.suryaudayhaveli.com/ on the River Ganges, Varanasi, but our flights were changed at the last minute, so we only had one night.
The traffic from the airport was dreadful, but eventually the car stopped in a dirty, rough looking area, where two boys from the hotel greeted us. Having hoisted our suitcases on their heads, they set off, with us following in their wake, down litter-ridden narrow lanes trying to avoid tuk tuks and bikes. We wondered where on earth we were heading, especially when rounding a corner, we met a group of buffalo wandering in the opposite direction.
Eventually we reached the hotel. In the office, we were presented with a welcome apple juice drink, had shawls and flower garlands placed round our necks, tried to concentrate on one person telling us about the history whilst another requested passports and asked us to sign the mandatory guest register. Here we discovered that the restaurant was vegetarian and alcohol free.
The hotel, located on Shivala Ghats, was built by the Royal Family of Nepal as a retreat for the aged so it seemed an appropriate choice for two Silver Travellers.
The 13 rooms are centred around an open courtyard on two floors. Our river-facing room, on the second floor (204), provided a view of the Ganges from a low-level window about four foot by two foot.
The room was relatively spacious with simple wooden floor and bedside rugs. There was a wardrobe, safe, tea and coffee making facilities, complimentary water, mini bar with soft drinks, a desk, TV and heater. The modern bathroom was a good size with a walk-in shower and plenty of powerful hot water, if you remembered to switch on the boiler 15 minutes before your shower.
Having been out on an early evening walk and boat ride, we collected our key from reception and confirmed a dinner reservation wasn’t required. However, after changing, we found a full restaurant but were offered a table in the open courtyard which despite braziers, was very cold.
Everyone was most apologetic and assured us a table would be ready in 5 minutes which turned into 10 and then 15. When the restaurant manager said it would be another 15 to 20 minutes, we had a ‘theatrical tantrum’ and within a couple of minutes, a table miraculously appeared in the restaurant.
Service was then understandably attentive with complimentary sparkling water and spicy poppadoms. The meat-free meals were very good: dum aloo benarasi (potatoes cooked in a gravy of tomatoes, cream tempered with fennel seeds and fenugreek leaves) and paneer shahi (cottage cheese in cashew nut sauce gravy) with steamed rice and a bread basket.
Breakfast was a small, but good, buffet of fruit, strawberry lassi, and a hot Indian selection with eggs cooked to order from a menu provided. The masala omelette and poached eggs, served with hot toast, were excellent.
If you’re staying longer, and the weather was warmer, there was a good roof top terrace with loungers (and naughty monkeys) which provided great views of the river.