Kumaon stories -When the King of Askote hosted us

Aaditi

Member
My husband Tejas, our four-year-old daughter Ovee, and I took a 15-day roadtrip to the Kumaons this month. We flew from Pune to Delhi, rented a Zoom car from Delhi, and drove to Lansdowne in Garhwal, Kausani, Askote, Chaukori, Binsar, Bhimtal, and Jim Corbett to return to the capital.

This is my first Kumaoni story about out stay at King Bhanu Raj Singh Pal's palace. He is the ceremonial king of Askote who stays at this palace, whereas the queen and their son stay in Lucknow. His daughter is married to a prince in Rajasthan.

An Introduction



King Bhanu Raj Singh Pal -the ceremonial King of Askote with Tejas

Askote was one of our most awaited destinations during the Uttarakhand -Kumaon roadtrip. It is a small village of about 2500 people, 30 km from the Indo-Nepal border. The main attraction here is the Jauljibi mela -a 103 year old market where traders from China, Nepal, and India come together to sell their goods and the confluence of Kali and Gori ganga rivers...not to mention the mesmerizing mountain views.

While planning, Yogesh Sarkar suggested that the current ceremonial king of Askote -Rajwar Bhanu Raj Singh Pal offers accommodation. We called him up and he agreed to give us a room. He refused to take any advance booking amount and reserved the room for us on just sending our name and address.

No details of the accommodation -photos, description, or first hand experience were available on the web. And we were too awkward to ask the king for pictures or the room rates. Nevertheless, we took the risk of uncertainty.

We were travelling from Kausani to Askote -around 150 kilometers drive. The king sent one of his orderlies -Raman -at Narayan Nagar to lead us on a shorter route to Askote, instead of the longer one coming up on google maps. We had arrived the king's palace at around 4.30PM.



King Bhanu Raj Singh Pal welcomed us from atop these steps

He showed us two rooms. One was on the first floor right above the King's bedroom. This room opens to a corridor and is a bigger room with a lot of ventilation, including a table fan.


The room used to be his daughter's bedroom. She is now married to a prince in Rajasthan.

The second room was smaller, with good ventilation, opening to the courtyard. We chose this room after which the bed was made and our luggage was shifted inside.


We preferred this room as it opened to a beautiful courtyard


Formal review of the stay

Basic
No toiletries are provided, old-style bathroom, commode available in all rooms. The room in which we stayed was a 16th century room plastered with a mix of urad dal, that was gradually coming off. Since the King wanted to maintain the old-style charm, it was never re-plastered. There is no fan/ AC in the room.


Plaster coming off the walls


The bed

Royal touches

The period style study table and dressing table reminded us that we were living in an erstwhile palace.


The old-style sofas in the sit-out area of the room


The dressing table

Staff

The king has two staff members -his cook Raman and an orderly -a simple old man in his 70s who has been with the King's family all his life. The two usually attend to your needs as well.


The old man in his 70s, Raman -the cook and the King

Electricity
Power availability is intermittent. Inverter backup is available only in the rooms where the King stays.

Pricing
The room in which we stayed for Rs 800 per night exclusive of food. The room on the first floor costs Rs 1000 per night exclusive of food. Out total cost for the stayof two nights, including food at all time -breakfast, lunches, dinners, and evening tea and snacks was Rs 2960. Monetarily, it was one of our cheapest stays in this road trip.

Food
We had left it to the King to decide vegetarian menu for us. In return we got delicious Kumaoni style home-cooked sabjis, fresh salads, hot rotis, sweet dishes and amazing conversations over dinner. We dined at the the King's dining table near his kitchen. Unfortunately, we do not have any photos any of the rooms where he stays.

The King dined with us almost all the times that we ate at the palace. No exaggeration, he even cooked egg curry for us for one of the lunches. He was very candid and shared a number of stories with us. We have long and interesting conversations with him during our stay over food and tea.

Ditch the modern amenities and experience this stay

Askote is out of bounds for most tourists as there is no modern-style hotels available in this quaint village. However, for those looking for off-beat stays and experience, this place is a must-visit.


View from the palace


View from the courtyards as we opened our room

We visited two places in Askote -The Jauljibi Mela -a 103 year old market where traders from Nepal, China, and India come together. While the Mela is help in November, the place is worth visiting for the pedestrian bridge connecting India and Nepal. You can walk over this bridge on the Kali river for a stroll in Nepal. You can also see the confluence of Gori Ganga and Kali rivers here.


The Jauljibi bridge connecting India and Nepal

The second one was a Mahadeva temple atop a hill. It is the oldest temple in Askote built in the 17th century.


The swing near the temple on the hill
 
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