It can't be easy, being a hotel in Khajuraho. To begin with, you're in a crowd &mdash virtually undistinguishable from your neighbour, your whitewashed-bungalow aesthetic pleasant but unremarkable. The other thing is you don't get to make friends. Rarely do guests stay above a night, the tourist's sole purpose being to tick off the famous temples from a list of places to see before death. It can get lonely, not to mention less than lucrative.
That said, it's also a good setting in which to aim for stardom. At first sight, The Grand Temple View Khajuraho is yet another two-storey sprawl set in gardens that have yet to achieve their full potential. But enter, to a rapturous welcome, and things begin to sparkle a bit. I notice that there's a really nice pool here. It's pretty and curvy and by it, under a mahua tree, a man is playing the flute. I like him too, because somehow he's a little less than ostentatious, the gentle notes of his flute a slight but important remove from tacky performance. My eye moves beyond him to encounter the pleasing symmetry of a multiple-picture-window façade. I turn around and see, startlingly close, the vimanas of the Lakshmana, Kandariya Mahadeo and Devi Jagdamba temples.
If you are the stony-hearted type, the kind that remains unmoved by such charming but obvious attempts at seduction as flute-players and inviting pools, you'd still have to agree that the hotel's location is unbeatable. The big reason is that the smart Grand Temple View was once the scruffy Temple View Ashok &mdash an ITDC property, which, like so many others, enjoyed considerable natural and structural advantages. So this hotel continues to be excellently located, a mere 600m away from the Western Group of temples. In a few months, the building next door will house Khajuraho's important ASI museum.
I am shown to my room with a flourish, and while it's spacious, bright and comfortable (perfectly hard mattress), it's not going to win any design awards. But I'm cheered by the generous array of Forest Essentials toiletries and, once showered and better-smelling, led off to the heart of this hotel's excellence &mdash the spa.
Hotel reviewers tend to take boasts about spas with a pinch of salt scrub. But the Rejuve Spa here is a happy shock. For one, it's extensive, not simply a nod to the current craze for spas &mdash with separate treatment rooms for ayurvedic and Thai treatments, for couples, for their 'signature' treatment and for yoga. I am introduced to Amar Dev and about three minutes into my reflexology session, know he's the real thing. Amar Dev and Krishna, who conducts yoga and meditation sessions, contrive to coax a chronic non-believer into not only reflexology but also meditation, as well as extract a promise to appear for yoga at 6am I sleep till 7am, but I'd like to think that a compliment to Krishna's yoga nidra session with me the previous evening.
Only-one-night visitors to Khajuraho are making a grave mistake. Look what they're missing, and what I didn't &mdash three spa sessions, two temple visits, a sound and light show, one trip to Panna National Park (only 45 minutes away) and one to the astonishing Raneh Falls (20 minutes).
Where Opposite Circuit House, Khajuraho
Accommodation 40 rooms, 3 executive/2 luxury/2 presidential suites
Tariff Rs 13,500 (room), Rs 15,500 (executive suite), Rs 22,000 (luxury suite), Rs 30,000 (presidential suite)
Contact 07686-272111, www.thegrandhotels.net