I know that Aman means peace, but surely in some language “Aman” must mean “perfection.” While I said that the Rajvilas in Jaipur were Aman-esque, a stop at the genuine article is always a good reminder of the chasm between “aman-esque” and Aman.
The ride from Jaipur to the Amanbagh, located way out in the sticks in Alwar District was the worst yet. The road for the majority of this trek doesn’t even pretend to be a highway. It’s one lane, unpaved in parts and potholed with gusto throughout.
All the headaches of a three hour ride in a vibrating tin can melt away when you pull up to the Aman. The staff assemble outfront to great you. There are cold towels, cold drinks (pomegranate juice), wreaths and a ceremony during which the staff sing a song of some sort then tie bracelets on your wrist.
On arrival, Tim, the manager of the Amanbagh looked familiar. As we got to chatting, it came out that he had been the #2 in command at the Amanjena in Marrakech when I had been there, so certainly our paths had crossed.
Everything about the Aman experience is seamless. This is the main difference between the Aman and all other hotels. You can be at at the George V, the Peninsula, wherever there is always unwanted interaction with the staff. Be it someone calling to hassle you about when you want your room made up, or a mini-bar restock, it is unavoidable. I often turn on my “do not disturb” light because having to go to the door every 15 minutes to say “I don’t need ice, I don’t want the room made up and yes my stay is fine…but it’d be better if we weren’t currently having this conversation,” is not good service…it’s a hassle and it detracts from the quality of the stay.
At the Aman all of your whims are met without having to vocalize them. The staff know what you want and they do it when it’s convenient for you, without having to ask when that might be. You pop out of your room for 20 minutes to take a stroll? When you come back your room will be made up. Leave for dinner? They know you’ve gone, you will come back to a turned down bed with a gift (a different one each night) waiting for you on the pillow. This is Aman service. This is how hotels should be.
Beyond the superlative service, the rooms at this hotel were absurd. I am almost embarrassed to post pictures along with this review. The bathrooms are huge with partially sunken, large bathtubs, two sinks and two dressing areas. The bedroom has a large bed, a desk and a lounging area with a built in couch and a smaller table nearby. This area is convenient for taking dinner. In between the two rooms is a hallway/foyer. You can exit any of these areas and get to your private pool which also has a large outdoor lounging area.
Should you not opt for a pool villa, the rooms were (I believe) clustered around smaller semi-private pools at the rate of four rooms/pool.
The one trifling complaint about the property is there seem to be a large number of hornets (or perhaps souped up wasps) around the grounds. They are enormous and fairly difficult to kill as they require multiple whacks with a shoe before they go down. Also local monkeys sometimes shit on your pool deck.
As mentioned, the setting in Alwar district is like so many of the Aman properties, very unique and specially selected. It is however very, very rural. There is no town close by, so you will spend most of your time on the hotel grounds and eat your meals at the hotel.
There are of course excursions in the surrounding area. The first day I did a jeep tour of a local Meena village. While it was interesting to see the village, this felt a bit too much like poverty tourism to me and I could only imagine how the locals felt seeing some asshole westerner drive through their village in a jeep gawking at “how the backwards natives live,” so I quickly told my driver to wrap it up and went home.
Another night, I went to a local temple and assisted with a Hindu blessing. Apparently this consists of banging a gong for like 45 minutes then walking around in circles in the dark. It was rather strange, but at least it made me feel a bit like Indiana Jones.
Finally, there are ruins of an old city nearby and this was amazingly interesting. While not close to as old as Pompeii, the ruins had a similar albeit more preserved feel. You can stroll through the town and then climb the ruins of an old fort. There is also a nearby temple complex where locals go to swim. Legend has it that black magic was used to raise the city (only the temples survived) and that staying on the grounds after dark will result in your demise. Depends on whether or not you want to chance it I suppose…I’m the superstitious type.
This Aman, like every other Aman property I have visited is truly special. In my mind, hotels can be divided as Aman, and everything else. I was sad to leave when it was time to head back to Delhi, and not just because I was facing six hours on a sorry excuse for a road.
Pros: Amazing rooms, unbelievable staff and service, good food, relaxing, interesting nearby excursions.
Cons: You have to leave
Verdict: Do I even have to say it? I would happily give up my apartment and spend the rest of my life living in Aman hotels if it weren’t prohibitively expensive. If you haven’t been to an Aman resort before, go now (but not to the ones in the U.S.A or Courcheval). If you’ve been to an Aman before…you’ve been good lately, you deserve a reward…go treat yourself.