Siddhi Vinayak Resort: Sawai Madhopur doesn’t spill off the tongue easily and rarely conjures up images of why this tiny resort town is well known without guidance. It is in this town, in the eastern stretches of Rajasthan, where the world-famous Ranthambore Tiger Reserve calls home. And it’s where I arrived one night, tired and exhausted from a day of sightseeing with no reservations, no more bottled water, and no food. I needed a hot shower, any kind of meal, and WiFi. Well, that would have been icing on the cake.
Trusty India travel guides I keep on hand directed me to several big-name hotels in Sawai Madhopur (Ankur Resort, Tiger Safari, Aditiya Resort) situated along the strip. Small, dirty rooms carrying steep tariffs were the slim pickings on such short notice during tourist season. My options were dwindling to the nearby driver hotel where the definition of a budget hotel room and board was coined. And just like that, as I was making my way along Ranthambore Road, a long white two-story building set aglow by twinkling lights hanging from the roof caught my eye. The building was set back from the main road, somewhat hidden by an empty field of overgrowth. Freshly opened, had I arrived just 2 weeks earlier to Sawai Madhopur, the doors to Siddhi Vinayak Resort wouldn’t have welcomed me. As luck would have it, I had just stumbled onto a neat and clean budget stay near Ranthambore.
It only took one look at the newly constructed guest rooms to make the decision to stay the night. Ample sized rooms fitted with A/C, ceiling fan, LCD TV, double bed, seating area, and the phone seemed like a bargain when compared to the competition only a few hundred yards away. An ensuite bathroom, tiled floor to ceiling with western toilet, shower, and full time running water with hot water geyser completed the guest room amenities. Oddly situated, the hot water geysers are mounted on the outside wall, visible from the parking lot. Their exposure to the elements may cause performance problems in the future. For now, the red power indicator lights create a comical sight as guests walk along the outer hotel wall.
Siddhi Vinayak Resort also boasts a small pool nestled in one corner of the property. Newly planted landscaping hasn’t had time to mature into much of a shade covering or a block from the rather dull views from the backside of the hotel. Entertainment is provided just steps from the glass-encased, high ceiling lobby. Local musicians and dancers overtake the night’s stillness for a few hours. Best to make other plans during this time if silence or a good book is what you crave at night. Hungry guests enjoy a buffet meal of Indian food in the conference room also located just off the lobby. While the food is excellent, guests won’t come here for the atmosphere. The U-shaped table pattern preset perfectly for meetings doesn’t translate into a fine dining setting. Nor should it be. At Rs 250, the all-you-can-eat meal is bargain priced given the tourist area and array of hot Indian foods offered. Travelers can also opt for room service.
Even though the hotel in India was fresh and clean, the abundant staff of mixed-age Indian men was anything but green. Friendly accommodating guys ensured I was settled into my room quickly. And in typical Indian fashion, they tempted me with extra services like in-room massage (worth it). Breakfast is a little sketchy for early risers. I woke at 4:30 in order to reach the Tiger Reserve office before the general public tickets went on sale. Given the staff sleeps in the lobby, this required some careful footwork to find the front doors. By the time I returned, disappointed from not scoring a ticket but thankful as an unusually timed rain was passing through, the staff was awake and ready for business. Any other guests staying here were either off on morning safari or sleeping. Once again I had the pleasure of taking my breakfast in the empty conference hall complete with last night’s stained table clothes. I found it amusing.
Cost: Rs 1400. On the high end of budget hotels, worth every rupee. Parking is very tight so plan accordingly for early departure. WiFi promised didn’t work during my stay however the hotel computer was offered in lieu. It worked perfectly. Photos from the hotel website show what appears to be a more intimate finished dining area.