Nawalgarh: Koolwal Kothi
In December 2012, we headed to Nawalgarh, Rajasthan for a 2 day vacation. Rajasthan is a popular tourist destination; both among locals and foreign tourists. The rich history of the state; beautiful palaces, distinct and colorful culture and the flavorful food makes it a great choice for a vacation. The popular cities in Rajasthan including Jaipur, Udaipur and Jodhpur are visited by several hundred tourists each month and have a lot to offer in terms of ‘manufactured’ fun; guided tours into the city’s sights, a night of singing and dancing with local costumes, puppet shows and traditional Rajasthani dinners.
Nawalgarh is a different experience from what you would expect from Rajasthan. Located about 141 k.m away from the city of Jaipur; the drive from Jaipur international airport took us much longer than the anticipated 2 and half hours.
The choice of Nawalgarh as a destination happened quite by accident. When we were looking at Rajasthan as a vacation destination; we were looking to stay at a heritage hotel managed by the ITC Welcome group. (click here for more information on Welcome Heritage hotels) A heritage hotel would allow us to have an authentic experience of staying in an original palace or fort but with modern amenities. December is a popular month for tourists and every single hotel in Jaipur and Udaipur was booked. We chose the Koolwal Kothi because it was available and close to Jaipur; so we could spend at least one day of the trip sight-seeing in Jaipur.
As we drove into Nawalgarh; I definitely had misgivings. The small town has over 300 havelis; but most of them appeared to be in pretty dilapidated shape. There were very few people around and I counted more starved animals than people. The road to our Kothi was a small dirt road and I wasn’t sure if we could actually drive to our destination.
When we finally made it to the Koolwal Kothi; it was a gorgeous place. With beautifully appointed gardens and fountains; we had a choice between staying in the original main building built in the 1930’s or the newly renovated building the Kothi was expanding to.
We decided to stay in the main building because I wanted the ‘real’ experience. Our lovely room had antique furniture and a huge four poster bed. The building was definitely renovated; we had modern bathroom fittings, a tv and wi-fi but the old character of the place was still intact. Each room also had original photographs of the Koolwal family descendants and furniture in traditional bright colors.
After a traditional welcome including marigold garlands; we had lunch in the Kothi’s restaurant. In keeping with the hotel’s decor; the restaurant was also appointed with antique furniture and an interesting floor pattern. The Kothi also sourced all their ingredients from a local, organic farm close by.
The food ( I am still salivating!) was simply phenomenal. I am not sure if it was the fresh ingredients or simply a great cook; we just polished our plates. But,definitely the highlight of the trip was the service at the Kothi.
Right from the friendly doorman to the very efficient manager; this place made me feel at home. I was down with a bad cold and the management sent me cauldrons of steaming water to use for steaming to feel better. Any request of ours; be it any type of food or drink; the Kothi’s staff went out of their way to accommodate us. They even found us a guide to take us through Nawalgarh who spoke perfect English (with an American accent too!). This guy had never been to school and couldn’t read or write but he spoke fluent English, German and Spanish.
On our last evening at the Kothi; as I sat sipping a cup of hot tea on the sprawling garden; I didn’t want to leave this place. The entire experience was surreal- I also met a lot of hardworking, friendly people who made their living at this little town but who were proud of their ancestry and the opportunities life gave them.
More to come on the beautiful Havelis at Nawalgarh in future blog posts!