We had this royal chance of enjoying a cup of hot tea with ginger, served in a silver kettle with cookies, while we were basking in the sun in the winter cold weather of Rajasthan in the open air cafeteria located next to the lake and Gajner palace. The cost of this royal experience – Rs. 150 (only) per head.
Rajasthan is replete with many palaces and havelis (mansions/fortresses) which are still owned by families of erstwhile rulers, merchants and rich people. The colourful and intricately carved havelis are beautiful architectural marvels and excellent heritage. Of late, many of the haveli owners have converted their properties into five-star hotels and they charge tourists a hefty sum for experiencing the stay in the palace with courteous services of the palace staff. We were enjoying our royal tea in one such property – Gajner Palace near Bikaner.
Since many web-sites describe this as a must visit place, we stopped at it on our way from Bikaner to Jaisalmer. Having been converted into a hotel, we were not sure if we will be allowed an entry just to see the place. Most of the Palace Hotels do not allow such visits. We felt elated when the staff at reception confirmed that entry can be obtained for a ticket. Having paid a maximum of Rs 50/- for an entry ticket so far at any place in Rajasthan, I pulled out Rs.200 notes for entry for four of us. The staff politely informed that the ticket is Rs 150/- per head and total cost would be Rs. 600/-. I must have probably spent same or lesser amount than that to see all the places in Jaipur!
Four of us looked at each other. We were almost ready to walk out without visiting the palace. I was about to keep my money back in my wallet, and the receptionist said, “Sir, the ticket also includes tea/coffee with cookies at our lakeside cafeteria.” The weather was cold and we were in need of tea for quite some time. The idea of drinking warm tea sitting near a palace lake under the bright sun was very tempting. In that moment of weakness, I decided to bite the bait.
Below are the photos of the palace. Beware, what you can see inside the palace is pretty limited.
Gajner Palace is built on the embankment of a lake in the Thar Desert by Maharaja Ganga Singhji of Bikaner. This Grand Heritage property is spread over 6000 acres.
Gajner Palace was used as a hunting resort by the former Maharajas and visiting British dignitaries during the days of the Raj. The hall above is the place where they used to rest and chat after returning from their hunt.
After showing the hall, we were shown a hotel room and then taken to a temple inside the hotel complex. Our palace tour ended at the temple. We were then escorted to the cafeteria for our tea.
As mentioned at the beginning, we thoroughly enjoyed our royal tea. Was the experience worth the price we paid for the entry ticket? Who knows? Now that the pleasant memories have become more prominent over the pinch to the pocket, it probably does not matter anymore.