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Trip review: Aman-i-Khas, Amanbagh, The Lodhi - Ranthambore, Ajabargh and Delhi

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DISCLAIMER: I was hosted by Aman and hosted 1 night at The Lodhi and paid a reduced rate for the 2nd night. I am under no obligation to post a review on FlyerTalk; thoughts below are my own

Without wishing to be too hard sell - feel free to contact me for bookings with Virtuoso benefits and all that: @zebrano.com]

Now that I've gotten that out of the way, onto the reports.

I didn't write individual reports because this is almost an itinerary within itself (and a 'suggested' one at that) so I thought it best to do a write up.

We landed in Delhi on September 30 - and having decided to take a car down to our first stop of Aman-i-Khas (a good 8 hour drive from Delhi!) we made the smart choice of staying overnight in Gurgaon instead to avoid the crazy traffic. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency overnight, which was more than adequate for the stopover. Doing this, we shaved a couple of hours off the drive.

A huge shout out to IndiabyCarandDriver (

AMANBAGH

We stayed in pavilion/suite 29. Please note that the tent I videoed below may be a different number.

Positives:

- Picturesque, remote location: There's no complaining about the location here. Foothills of the Aravali range, and we had visited just after the monsoon season so everything was still relatively verdant

- Design: Ed Tuttle at his finest. The main pool in particular is a real treat. The rooms are quite nicely done too, and the Pool Pavilion is worth the extra splurge for the space and private pool.

- Food: Again, I'm not sure where to place this really. On the whole, fairly good, but I expected better. Some standout dishes, particularly on the Indian side; the Western offerings here (pasta etc) were quite poor.

Points to Note:

- The point of Amanbagh? Echoing bhrubin's comments from his review, I can see how Amanbagh would appeal. But I think you have to choose it very carefully and set your expectations accordingly. We're of Indian origin, and we've seen much of rural India. I see two-three reasons why anyone would choose Amanbagh: 1. To experience a different sort of India after the palaces of Jaipur, Udaipur etc; t. same as #1, but instead of a cultural tour around rural Rajasthan, using it as a final relaxing layover before heading back home; 3. same as #2, but if you're based out of or living in Delhi/anywhere in India, it's a great relaxing Aman getaway. However, you have to really come in here with expectations set accordingly.

- Service: Karin, the GM, was not present at the property during my stay. Unfortunately, it seems like service suffered here in absence. It's hard to pinpoint it, but right from arrival, it seemed like the place lacked the signature 'Aman warmth'. Everything just seemed so robotic. There were a couple of incidents in particular that really grated:

1. A clothes hangar in our pavilion was broken. Amanbagh uses wooden hangars, and the end had come off and was splintered. Very dangerous. Before leaving for breakfast one morning, I left this hanger out in a deliberately broken state so housekeeping could take care of it. When I returned, housekeeping had done up the room, and 'fixed' the hanger by simply pushing the broken piece back in and hanging it up rather than replacing it. I had to specifically call in to get this replaced.

2. One afternoon, I went to the main pool. I put down my equipment (camera, book, laptop etc) on a lounger while I went to the boutique to browse. I returned 10-15 minutes later to the lounger. There was staff walking around, but no one came over to check up or offer me a menu or drink (or even a glass/bottle of water). It took 20 minutes, before I finally had to grab someone's attention.

At the same time, there was also some good service from some key individuals and recovery following the above incidents which I do feel the need to highlight:

- I love sunsets and golden-hour shots. I went to the main pool one late afternoon to take photos looking back at the main building. However, I do not carry a tripod with me so I make do with what I can (ledges, coffee tables etc). I left my drink and book at the lounger where I was seated, while I went to the edge of the pool to take the photos. Upon seeing my repeated struggles, a local attendant named Shiv, without my asking, moved a sun lounger, drink and holder over to where I was attempting to take photos from.

- Excursions: Amanbagh had planned out an excursion sheet for me, including a complimentary excursion as part of my stay. I was hoping for the cowdust tour or one of the more unique excursions (Bhangarh Fort) to be provided complimentary. Sadly, the one they provided complimentary was a religious ceremony at a local temple. Being of Indian origin (and surely Aman knowing of this), this seems like the one we'd be least interested in! As a result, we advised Aman that we were to skip this excursion and will decide on further excursions later. To their credit, they then switched this around to the Cowdust tour, but by then it was too late as the weather had taken a turn for the worse.

- Amanbagh heard about Aman-i-Khas missing to provide me with a luggage tag, and went out of their way to ensure I received one before I left the Aman properties. They also noticed that I was looking at a hat/cap at the boutique but didn't proceed to buy it. They provided this as a gift.

- As a general note, I'd be curious to see if they'd expand here by building private residences/villas.

Photos and videos:

This is the photo in question where Shiv went through all that trouble. I think he'd be disappointed I didn't do better!

THE LODHI

Positives:

- The rooms: Size, space, terrace/balcony, pool etc. What's not to love?

- The location: Maybe it's to do with how the hotel is designed, but it really feels quite serene here considering you're in the heart of Delhi.

Points to note:

- The main pool: this is a study in how to ruin beauty. The main pool at Lodhi is absolutely gorgeous and, based on the above comments about serene location, a serene place to be. Except in the late afternoons and evenings - The Lodhi has 'generously' opened up the Lodhi's pool, spa and gym facilities as a members' club, meaning the who's who of Delhi comes in after 4pm. It gets crowded, everyone is swimming laps in that pool at different paces, and people are generally loud and obnoxious, including a particularly hilarious incident where a guest complained very loudly non-stop for half an hour to staff about the fumigation that is carried out every afternoon/evening.

- The pollution: This seems contradictory, but do you really want a terrace in Delhi? If you're staying at The Lodhi and paying a premium, presumably you're doing this for the private pools and terraces. The minute we opened our windows/doors to the balcony/terrace, you can TASTE the acrid air. It's disgusting. Having said that, I did spend a whole afternoon by the pool working.

- Food: Very much a mixed bag. Since we had plenty of Indian food during our stay, we decided not to eat Indian at the Lodhi. Some of the sashimi and sushi on offer (despite being cut poorly) was of good standard. But they managed to screw up my eggs benedict (I can never understand how hotels can't get eggs right...) and the pasta I ordered for lunch was doused in so much sauce that I could have called it a soup.

- Service: for the most part, it was ok without ever being very good. The final day was tedious though. We were granted a late 4pm checkout. After early days at both Amans, it was nice to finally sleep in. Except Lodhi staff tried to ensure we didn't. On the final morning, we were awoken at 7:00am by staff bringing us tea. We informed we had not asked for any - but the staff was adamant we had. And left it in our room while he connected with his team to check where the mistake was. And as we had said we had not ordered any morning tea, he had to come back in to take it away.

* You get spoiled by Aman housekeeping who would even do up your room if you're scheduled to leave at 9:00am. Now, while I'm not expecting every place to do that, I do expect housekeeping to do up the room at least once (breakfast? lunch?) if we are scheduled for a 4:00pm check out. Our room was never done up.

Video (note: this is an old video from a site tour):



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