The Story of Two Very Crazy People

You can never “do” India. India is totally undoable. People say “oh, yes, I’ve done India”… but they haven’t. In most cases they’ve only bitten the cherry on the cake. In most cases they have only bitten the icing on the cake.

India, that vast, restless, multicoloured, tribal, chaotic country with its multiple religions and sects, shouting, praying, chanting and chanting everywhere, will allow you to travel for a lifetime.

I love every second I spend in the country, from the street life, with its stray cows, donkeys and dogs, not to mention the occasional elephant. To the busy highways filled with seemingly uncontrolled traffic… that never seems to collide… to touring the iconic cities of Bombay, Delhi and Kalkata or Calcutta, as many would prefer. Or tour the countryside of Rajasthan and visit the many restored royal palaces, many of them still in ruins, but now converted into fabulous hotels offering the ultimate in five-star living and service, renowned the world over.

The lakes, the mountains, the scenery, the wildlife, the bazaars, the bargaining, the weaving, the craftsmen and the prices… and shipping home is easy. Indians are very good at selling. And let’s not forget the people. Most of them speak English. If you get the chance, a crowd of smiling locals will surround you if you stop to ask for directions… and they never know where you want to go, but they do.

know where you want to go, but will send you off in any direction with a big smile. Silly English in the midday sun.

On my last visit to the country, I had a particular quest. I had read about two “madmen”, I thought, who instead of buying a country house in the UK or mainland Europe to retire to every weekend or during the summer months, they, in their wisdom, decided about 10 years ago to buy a remote field not far from the glorious City of Lakes, Udiapur, in Rajasthan, western India, and build themselves an Indian house.

So, with the silhouette of the Aravalli mountain range as a backdrop, they built the glorious Bujera Fort in traditional style with local builders, materials and architects, with spacious rooms and a welcome touch of European country house. It looks as if it has been there for centuries. To see their home visit

And if that wasn’t enough, they have decided to open the Fort to paying guests. My recent visit was perfect in every way; from the comfort of the beds, the spacious rooms, the beautiful gardens, the tranquillity, the staff and the food. It’s like staying in someone’s private home, but with the host keeping a discreet distance and leaving plenty of space for the guest to relax and unwind.

Richard Hanlon and his best friend Trish MacFarlane are the “crazy” couple in question. It is they who have created this magical place. And that’s the word that comes up time and time again as you leaf through the extensive guest book ….. “magical” …. among many other words of thanks.

Richard downplays what must have been a truly traumatic experience: building a five-star luxury building from scratch in a barren field in India. You can tell it is an experience he is grateful to have had, but one he would not want to repeat. We have all dealt with builders.

Now, the shady cloisters enclose a courtyard with cool green lawns planted with frangipani, orange, lemon and sweet-smelling mango trees. The pool is in the centre of the courtyard and a pair of “onion” towers adorn the fortress skyline on the first floor and below are the two gracious master suites. There is a large terrace surrounding all four sides of the fort that offers sweeping views of the surrounding mountains and the countryside towards Udiapur. All rooms lead off the central courtyard on the ground and first floors.

Trish is in “diamonds”, still working in London, but making frequent visits, so Richard runs the day-to-day running assisted by the ever-efficient Shakti, the quiet manager in the background with her enthusiastic team of locals.

Richard, now in his 60s, trained at Sotheby’s in London, worked as an estate agent and then as an interior decorator, and it is this aspect of his career that he shows guests. Bujera Fort is a dream for anyone interested in interior design, from the use of fabrics to the painted furniture, the tiles and those little handcrafted touches throughout.

If you’re not too busy, Richard will take you to explore the local area to abandoned temples and secret viewpoints. He is also a goldmine of shopping suggestions in Udiapur. We were recommended Aashka, a shop belonging to Princess Bhargavi, daughter of the Maharana, and the magnificent Ganesh Handicraft Emporium, where the rooms of a 17th century haveli are filled with embroidery, miniatures, carvings and beadwork, old and new.

The couple know everyone in the area and go from drinks and dinners with local kings and maharajas to the man on the street who supplies the hotel with vegetables. They source everything or almost everything locally, from food from the fort’s own gardens to fabrics and furnishings, and where possible, everything they grow is turned into jams, pickles and bread, and they support the local people and the village as much as possible.

Richard and Trish were inspired by Bujera Fort and a life in India after reading Deborah Moggach’s book, “These foolish things”, which in turn inspired The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It is a beautiful and charming fictional story, but this couple has created reality and that reality is divine.

Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *

You May Also Like