In The Hall Of The Mountain King
National Geographic Traveller India|September 2018
In The Hall Of The Mountain King

What do you get when you add the Himalayas to colonial romance, and curios to Kumaoni cuisine? A heritage hotel in Nainital

Sohini Das Gupta

To my left, Nainital Lake coils with the stillness of a crouching tiger, moonlight staining the dark shores that our car shins up. I have eyes only for the road, but can’t see much. Tailed by a midnight mist and a turning stomach on the hour-long drive from Kathgodam railway station, now would be a good time for the hairpin bends to end. Was I thinking out loud? For Rafique, who seems to have driven the trail a hundred times, turns to me and says, “Ten more minutes, madam, and we reach.” Indeed we do. Naini Retreat— formerly the residence of the erstwhile Maharaja of Pilibhit, and my haunt for the next couple of days—is carved into the slopes of Ayarpatta like a neatly-tucked cravat. But it is 12.30 a.m., which means no amount of squinting would unveil what I imagine to be the steep, stony frame of the hotel. So I hobble to my room in the Maharaja Wing, shovel in some mutton curry and rice, and call it a night.

Azaleas and artefacts

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September 2018