Neemrana Fort, Rajasthan (India)

May 2009

This trip resulted more out of the urge of an early-morning long drive at high speeds with open car windows than our curiosity for the Neemrana Fort. As such, we did not study the destination very deeply and rolled off at 5 AM from our place in Gurgaon.

The fort is located around 100 km from Gurgaon, in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. The direct route is to drive 90 km straight from Gurgaon to Shahjahanpur on the Delhi-Jaipur highway (NH-8), and then take a right turn. The locals don’t know it by the name Neemrana Fort, so just ask for the ‘quila’ – Hindi for fort.

Actually the building is not just a fort; it has been made into a plush hotel with room tariffs ranging from Rs. 2000 a night to upwards of Rs. 20,000. So it is known as the ‘Neemrana Fort-Palace’, quite like Udaipur’s Lake-Palace. They say one of the luxury suites here is Kate Winslet’s ‘most favourite room in the world’.

We reached there around 7 AM and saw a number of cars parked on the slope leading to the fort’s gates. The number plates read Delhi, Haryana, UP – Neemrana Fort is indeed a popular weekend getaway for Delhiites who come here for a day’s stay to revel in its glittery beauty by sundown.

As we were parking our car, a staffmember of the fort-palace, clad in traditional copper-colored kurta and white pyjama approached us and told that all rooms were booked and the fort opens for visitors at 9 AM. Plus, entry is not free – you need to pay Rs. 500 per person and can stay inside till 4 PM. If you wish to have breakfast in the fort, that’ll be another Rs. 400. Likewise for lunch.

Waiting for two hours till 9 AM and paying Rs. 500 just to take pictures did not sound like a fun thing to any of us. So we decided to turn back after clicking some pictures from the outside and exploring the surroundings for a bit. Though we did agree that it could be a good holiday idea to book a room at the fort-palace for a Saturday and swim away to glory all night in the fort’s fantastic swimming pool. But for now, this was not the plan – we just wanted a long drive, and a long drive is what we got.

On our way back we did the amazing ‘breakfast menu’ at McDonalds in Manesar (20 km from Gurgaon on NH-8). There we met the G.O.D.S. – ‘Group of Delhi Superbikers’ – a gang of around 15 men who probably zip on the NH-8 every weekend on their Ducatis and Hayabusas, and stop by at McDonalds for breakfast. You know what could be a good tag line for McDonalds? “Try our fabulous Breakfast Menu. Even the G.O.D.S. are lovin’it.”