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Chail Palace, Himachal Pradesh
Former Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of Patiala built the charmingly manageable-sized palace of Chail, in 1891, after a fallout with the British and consequential banishment from Shimla. Vowing to make a better summer residence, the Maharaja set his sights on Chail for its lush green forest, high mountain tops, and direct views of Shimla in the distance. Sitting higher than Shimla, Chail Palace helped to heal a Maharaja’s bruised ego while creating another lasting architectural building that still entertains visitors to this day.
Most of Maharaja of Patiala’s buildings and property were donated to the Chail Military School and Government of India upon the acquisition into the Indian Union. Today, the HPTDC (Himachal Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation) owns and operates the palace as a heritage hotel. I stopped by the palace for photos and a look-see with the hopes of grabbing breakfast while passing through the area. Tourists come to Chail for treks through the deodar forest in the Wildlife Sanctuary, but my stop was purely a logistical overnight on the way to Sarahan from New Dehli.
An early morning arrival around 8 AM caught the staff lazily milling about the parking lot. No official Indian doorman for a proper heritage in-take was present. In fact, the sole employee behind the quaint front desk, built with beautiful dark woods in an early 1900′s fashion, was nearly oblivious to my presence. I asked for permission to take photos for which he waved me onward. The building itself is impeccable. Walls and baseboards are perfectly painted, furniture is polished to a high shine, with every picture, vase and knick-knack precisely positioned.
Guests are greeted to the main room with high ceilings, possibly a dining and/or dance hall initially. Sun coated the inside walls, painted yellow, which lit up the interior with natural ease. Antique furnishings are on display throughout the public areas. The main hallway runs the entire length of the building with exiting doors on either end. Well maintained gardens are reached either by way of the inside hallway or just past the main entrance outside. Flower beds mixed in-between bushes, trees, and the greenest of green grass soften the dull gray stone exterior.
Chail Palace is unlike the regal heritage properties of Rajasthan. Comfortable, relaxing, and somewhat reserved, this former summer residence is perfect for honeymooners, anyone looking to get away from the city or those passing through (like me) on the Monastery Circuit of Himachal Pradesh.
Plan for 30-60 minutes if stopping only for pictures. No admission charge.