Review: Aman-i-khas, India

Aman-i-Khas

Aman-i-khas, Ranthambore, India
Room type: Luxury Tent
Duration:  3rd April -> 6th April, 2015
Booked with: AMEX FHR

Pre-sales

Similar to waking up on Christmas day, to find waiting for you at the end of your bed is not a sock filled with presents, but instead someone else’s used condom, I was leaving Amansara feeling disappointed.  In a sign of true customer excellence, the GM, Sally Baughen, used her super, inhuman power of “caring” to heal all wounds and spend over an hour discussing our issues and doing everything possible to reassure us.  There was a sense of genuine sadness from Sally that our stay was not perfect; I could tell it personally affected her and she wanted to do everything possible to improve on the situation.

4 months later we were in India.  It was apparent that Sally had been communicating with the Indian Aman’s and passing all our information on.  Every note, every piece of feedback, every stay list request was passed on.  I was introduced to the then Amanbagh GM, Harish Nair, with Aman-i-khas CC’d into all correspondence.

I was very close to giving up on Aman completely until Sally stepped in.  It’s one thing to be let down, but it’s another to be £10k down and disappointed.

Getting there

Train from Delhi to Ranthambore

We flew into Delhi on Virgin Atlantic’s Dreamliner (B787) in Upper Class, with it coincidentally being the planes inaugural flight.  Verdict: evolution, not revolution.  The improvements seemed too minor to truly make you go out of your way to really care whether you’re on a B787 or one of their older planes.  Come back next time for my equally detailed reviews of flights.

The plan was to stay at The Lodhi – an ex-Aman property – for the night, before heading at a more relaxed pace to Aman-i-Khas the next day.  I executed this plan to perfection, if I don’t say so myself.  At 6am the next day, there was a representative from Aman, Satish, waiting in the lobby of The Lodhi, ready to take us in a car to the train station and make our way down to Ranthambore.

For International travelers, Aman recommends taking the train from Delhi down to Ranthambore.  “What an experience it is”, I was told by multiple people.   What they didn’t qualify, which is always important, is that it’s a bad one.  It’s also then only experience I’ve ever had whereby I’ve seen another human being squatting and doing their business at a train station.

5 and a half hours, on a train so disgusting that I wouldn’t even go in the bathroom for a leak.  I am no germaphobe, but my standards stop at the point where you frequently need hand sanitisers even when you don’t touch anything.  Luckily they had some state-of-the-art technology in place to keep us entertained for the journey, called “talking” which came in useful.

It was only once we arrived in that I realised that Satish was in fact our butler, rather than someone to accompany us for the journey.  None of us realised this, so for once it wasn’t down to me not listening.  The Batman, as they are called, is your personal butler for the entire stay.  Fortunately, the Batman did not start off strong, before descending into producing total drivel in the final 3rd and then going onto duel with another butler that made no sense at all.

Arriving at Sawai Madhopur station

Setting

Entrance to Aman-i-Khas

Aman-i-Khas is set just 20 minutes from the train station and less than 15 minutes from the national park.  This is convenient, as when you’re woken up at 5am every day to go see the non-existent tigers, you can get there and back quicker.

Rooms

Aman-i-Khas tent

Glamping: noun; the ability to pretend you went camping, without actually doing anything similar to it in any way, and subsequently boast you did.  The equivalent of buying yourself dinner and saying you feed the hungry.

Aman-i-Khas has 10 identical rooms, meaning the maximum occupancy will never be competing with Wembley stadium.  As my father came along, I booked 2 tents, meaning that according to my GCSE in maths, we were 20% of the occupancy.  At one point there were only other 2 tents taken, giving us quite the focus of attention.

The living room, leading into the bedroom

There is a phenomenal amount of space available here.  At 110sqm, you will not feel you’re in a tent at any stage.  That is, until you get Delhi Belly and have only a curtain between you, your dignity and your loved ones.

Roses. Lots of roses.

Each tent has its indoor bathroom, bath, shower, vanity units, living area, bedrooms and outdoor lounge areas.  If you somehow find yourself unable to cope in this scenario, I genuinely worry for you.  Luckily, for those with real first world problems, every tent has a button you can push that will call your Batman and let them know you need something.  It’s a novel idea and worked perfectly, but is also quite a strange approach when most hotels these days that offer this butler service offer mobile phones, as otherwise you’re calling someone to then tell them what they want, for them to then have to get it.

There were some additional niggles too, such as the power going on and off more frequently than anyone would like, e.g. more than once.  There were also constant issues with the wifi-dropping and being unable to get online, although when online the speeds were not actually that bad.

Guess I’ll just have to stare at this then

Amenities

Swimming pool

You may think having only 10 rooms may reduce the size of the property, but it’s perfectly designed to offer maximum privacy, whilst offering plenty of areas to dine in, relax and walk around.

  • Swimming pool
  • Shop
  • Gardens
  • Restaurant
  • Multiple outdoor areas, including hammock and seats by the lake.
Main seating area

Spa

One of the most simplistic spa’s that you’re ever likely to find at an Aman – a simple, 2 person tent.  And that’s all I’ve gotta say about that.

Spa tent

Activities

There are a variety of activities available, although you’re really here to see the tigers in the nearby national park.  When aliens visit, they will look at us and wonder who the dominant species is.  Then they’ll see a lot of tall standing creatures with opposable thumbs and think “maybe this is it”, but then they’ll see us sat around in a large vehicle doing absolutely nothing for 3 hours solid.  So they’ll come back the next day and see the same.  Then again a few days later.  They’ll assume that whatever these opposable thumbed species are looking for most be truly important.  By day 3 the aliens will conclude we’re morons.

The closest I ever got to a tiger

As you may guess, we did not see the tigers.  Upon going home, some of our friends who recommended that us to go in the first place then decide to mention that they too never saw any tigers during their first attempt, which was over 5 days.  Thanks for that.

Just to pour salt into the wounds, there was torrential rain during our last attempt.  Due to how how the weather would get within 30 minutes of being out in the jeep, I was only wearing a t-shirt, so found my fingers turning blue from just how cold it was.  When you’re reading the BBC News and the headline is talking about how bad the weather is and it’s a freak of nature for this time of year, you know it’s bad.  I bring the apocalypse with me wherever I go.

In between waking up at times not designed for any human being, you can go on a camel ride, enjoy a forest dinner, have guided tours of nearby villas and experience a varied list of other activities.  Part of the magic of Aman-i-Khas is in fact in the simple being made sublime.  Whilst we had been on camels before, the experience that they put on for you is truly memorable, to the point that writing this over a year later I can still vividly remember it.

A bird, not a tiger, but so, so close

Food

This is a hard one for me to judge, as I was suffering from Delih Belly from The Lodhi, so rarely ate anything.  My father, always trying to one-up me, was severely ill and needed a doctor.  To this day he complains about the trip, which I think is his way of saying “thank you for taking me”.  Of course, my girlfriend managed to stay strong throughout and never had any issues, once again proving something.  That women are the superior species?  No, I see it as proof that they can argue even with bacteria and win.

Full-board was part of the package, which included my beloved mini bar too.  I’m sure it would have been great.

Service

This is really what Aman-i-Khas is all about.  Whilst the experience of pretending you’re camping is wonderful and kidding yourself that you’re going to see a tiger is fantastic, the service here is simply extraordinary.  It set the standard for everywhere we’ve been to since.

There is not a single evening where there are not surprises along the way.  One simple part of the trip summarised it perfectly.  As we’re on the camel activity and right near the end, we’re climbing a hill and see the resorts vehicles there, ready to take us back.  Yet behind a wall appears your Batman, who has remembered all your favourite drinks and snacks you like.  Already watching the sunset would be special, but having that extremely personalised service was something that I’ll never forget.

There is simply an unbelievable attention to detail taking place here.  The creme de la creme of service and the standard for everywhere else.  Aman-i-Khas perfectly organised everything, ensuring we had to just turn up and everything else was thought of for us.

No tigers here either

Worth Knowing

  • There are frequent offers in place if you stay at both Aman-i-Khas and Amanbagh.  It is well worth seeing what is available before booking.
  • Aman, for their infamous service, are strangely not the best at passing on your information between each resort.  Upon leaving Aman-i-Khas, all our preferences were remembered and passed onto Amanbagh. There really was no need to do anything.  Once again Iniala set a standard here, as they are the only other company that has managed to successfully do this, and it wasn’t even going from their property to another – it was a completely different chain in a different part of the country.

The Good

  • Glamping at its best
  • Plenty of activities to keep you occupied
Hammock

The Bad

  • Mosquitos – seriously, why do I even bother mentioning this anymore, when it’s just so obvious?  In this case, I once again made it a high priority, yet strangely Aman came back to me even made a point that there are none out there and acted shocked when I showed them all of my bites.
  • April is the beginning of off-peak season, so you may want to come a bit earlier.  I chose the dates as it fell perfectly for the bank holidays and meant less time off work.
  • If you have not been to India before, prepare yourself to be violently ill.

The Luxurious

  • Service that will make you weep all the way home back to your solitary butler that you left at home.

Conclusion

Despite being ill, despite not actually achieving what we were there to do and despite being abused by India’s extreme weather, I rank Aman-i-Khas as one of the best resorts I have ever been to.  However, I don’t feel the need to rush to go back, so will likely only return if something dramatic was to happen.  Like the tigers started an uprising and took over the resort, whilst maintaining the same service levels.

If everywhere could offer this level of personalised service, I am convinced there would no longer be any murder, which we all know means no Tom Cruise.  That’s a world we should all want.

Aman-i-Khas lake

One Comment

  1. I like this review even more than Tokyo. Thank you

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