I hope you like this review... this stay was part of a round-the-world trip that we're still on, so read on!
For everything that Varanasi is, this place is not. Varanasi is filthy, dirty, depressing, and a living example of what the caste system has done for India, which isn't much. For the world's 4th richest nation, they sure do treat other human beings worse than dogs and they could care less about anything but themselves.
But this place is a lot different - just steps away from the cremation Ghats and a river of sewage, this is heaven. This is not trying to be like the Taj hotel, instead this hotel is about the true Indian experience. The rooms are great, have everything you need (even safes!) and wonderful showers and excellent and quiet air conditioning. I'd strongly suggest that they get wall-mounted dispensers for shampoo, conditioner, shower gel, etc... it's just what 5-star hotels are starting to do these days, and it's the right thing to do.
Their internet was free, total bonus, and in my book this earns a free additional star on my reviews!
The service and experience were what truly made this experience.... pay for their car service from the airport, for sure, or you're bound to get lost. On our way, there was a group of people running behind our car with a dead body on the way to the cremation ghat, which was part of the experience! When we arrived we were greeted with a great ceremony - I'll leave it as a surprise as it should be. Their food was AMAZING, and the kitchen was as clean as any American kitchen, which is saying a LOT for India.... in India, always ask to see a kitchen, or don't eat at all! They had live music on the rooftop at night. The next day we took a guide out in the morning - they charge you a lot more, but we're talking $20 or $30 for two people versus $15 for two people if you were to barter on your own, but their guide was excellent and took us to many, many more places - I think he spent about 8 hours with us, on the river, then through town to different temples, and don't miss driving through the university to Shiva temple.
Again, this is a class act... a completely 5-star experience in every way. Splurge and spend the extra money - we stayed the following night at a guest house that was 1/4 the price and let me tell you, we thought we were in prison or hell, and we wished we could go back to this place but they were sold out.
A special thank you to Aman and the rest of the staff... for a 18 room property I think they have about 50 employees, and they're all very well qualified to do their jobs. Compare this to other hotels in India where many times the employees are not paid in anything but scraps of food, and you'll see there's a huge difference.
Oh also, they didn't seem at all concerned that we were two men in a relationship traveling together... this is not the case everywhere in India.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Suryauday Haveli on Shivala Ghats is a reflection of the spirit of the holy city of Benaras. The Haveli traces its history back to the early 20th century. It was built by the Royal Family of Nepal as a retreat for the aged. Its now been painstakingly put together again to provide the best ghat experience in Benaras. Your stay begins with a 15 minute boat ride upstream along the famous ghats of Benaras to reach the Haveli. The Haveli is also connected by small alleys and streets leading to the Famous Kashi Vishwanath Temple (15 minutes walk). ... more less
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