A Travellerspoint blog

Udaipur

like Venice minus the stench

sunny 21 °C

It felt like an endless drive. We were all grateful that this was the end of our bus rides – at least until we get to Kerala.

Our driver and “co-pilot” were wonderful – but the vehicle itself is a piece of trash – broke down at least once on every trip … the seats were really uncomfortable (if you weren’t careful you ended up sliding right down and landing on your tush on the floor) … and forget shock absorbers. Every time we hit a bump – which happened at least every two or three feet we’d bounce around like popcorn in a popping machine.

We were all looking forward to getting to the hotel. We had a free afternoon and some R & R would be a nice change from the frenetic pace of the trip so far.

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At long last we found ourselves near the water (our hotel, the Taj Lake Palace) floats in the middle of Lake Pichola and you have to get there by private boat. Breathtaking doesn’t even begin to describe it! It is a vision!

First you arrive at a dock – but what a dock!! It’s a huge, covered landing with comfortable furniture so you can relax for the two seconds it takes for the boat to arrive. Beautifully dressed staff, from the hotel, meet you and make sure you have everything you need – this is really your first welcome to what is an unforgettable experience.

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Once on the boat the trip only takes about five or ten minutes. The closer you get to the hotel the more glorious it becomes. Pure white marble, the contrast of the fuchsia bougainvillea and brightly coloured umbrellas from the rooftop dining room – especially in the bright sunlight – is absolutely staggering.

But even this doesn’t prepare you for the lobby and the open passageways to the rooms and other facilities that surround the pond where the James Bond movie, Octopussy, was filmed.

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I couldn’t wait to explore this place – until I saw my room – with its red, claw-footed tub which sat right beside a huge window that faced the lake.

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So I dumped my bags and had a soak first – then wandered around:

I visited the pool with its two jacuzzi’s (open 24 hours a day) … the gym … the spa … and of course one of the shops in the bazaar.

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There the very charming Farouk sold me some magnificent pashminas and I also ordered two tops – those Nehru-collared, button-down, side-slit long tunics the men wear – one in pale pink silk and the other in white linen (to wear with the jodpurs I had made in Jodhpur). Both would be ready the next day.

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Tried to blog but I was having some technical difficulties so I just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery until it was time for our tour of the hotel. I was shocked to find that the hotel is over 200 years old – 262 I think. You would never know, it is so well taken care of. We visited a spectacularly romantic rooftop restaurant that is available for private dining – and we also found out that the hotel is only available for guests of the hotel – if you’re staying elsewhere and want to come for a visit you cannot.

After the tour we enjoyed a cocktail or two while we watched the local talent and then we had dinner in the café – one of the three restaurants on the property. I had my first non-Indian meal of the trip – rack of lamb – the best I have ever had – so tender a knife was not required. I kid you not!! And the service? Impeccable!!!

Honestly I do not know how I will cope with the shoddy and rude service we often have to endure in Toronto – and other North American cities. You just cannot believe how they take care of you here, in India. And it is the same whether you are shopping at a primitive, tiny stall in the market or at the grandest hotel … whether it is the proprietor or the most junior of employees.

And their desire to take care of you … to pamper you … to please you, is completely genuine and heartfelt. The warm smiles you receive when you thank them (and they know they have succeeded in making you feel welcome and happy) could simply melt ice. I know I keep talking about the people here, but you just have tofall in love with them.

The wonderful meal made us all mellow and we were all having trouble keeping our eyes open – so off we went to our respective rooms. I slept like a baby – how could I not, though, in this magnificent former palace, in this fabulous bed with pillows that felt like your head and neck were cushioned by clouds.

Up bright and early and ready for our tour of the City Palace at 9.

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This Maharana’s palace (the largest in Rajasthan) stands proudly on a ridge overlooking the lake. Sand-coloured, it’s five stories high, built with a series of balconies. Cupolas crown the octagonal towers which are connected by a maze of narrow passageways – and the steepest stairs you’ve ever seen (thank you Lesley for preparing me so well). Inside you’ll find beautiful paintings, amazingly intricate enamel and inlay glasswork and antique furniture. Definitely worth the schlep up and down those stairs.

Then we went for a little tour of the city and stopped to do a little shopping. When we got back to the hotel I unpacked and re-packed for the umpteenth time. Where is a good butler when you need one? The packing becomes more and more of a pain because of the shopping. Oh well …

Although Udaipur (which was founded in 1567) is one of India’s largest cities its population is just half a million – so the crowds and congestion we’ve gotten used to don’t exist here. It’s a peaceful city, very clean, and very romantic, with a very balmy climate.

Ideal, really. I could live here easily.

Just before dinner we had a boat tour of Lake Pichola – very pretty – and the sunset, from the water, was so beautiful.

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Tonight we had Indian food – but the most bizarre thing happened. We were having a drink and watching the dancing and there was a girl there – from London – who Haidee knows. Can you believe it? You come to India – half way around the world – and end up bumping into someone you know! Anyway she was lovely and we invited her to join us for dinner.

By nine, though, we were all yawning – and we had 4 a.m. wake up calls the next day off to bed we went. I tried again to post blogs, to no avail.


  1. ^&$*!!!!!!!!!

Posted by a_broad 08:24 Archived in India Tagged luxury_travel Comments (1)

definitely not a plain 'jain'

the treasure that's nestled in a glen

sunny 22 °C

We left Deogarh very early so we could visit the Jain Temple in Ranakpur on our way to Udaipur.

Dedicated to Lord Rishabadeva this 15th century, three-story temple is built entirely of marble. It took 88 years to complete and has 27 halls, which are supported by 1,444 elaborately carved columns – no two of which are the same!

Stand in it and gaze – upwards, downwards, in any direction and there is only one possible reaction: Awe.

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Posted by a_broad 08:22 Archived in India Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

deogarh

a fairy tale castle come to life

sunny 21 °C

Jodhpur passed in a whirlwind (although the drive to Deogarh did not because we had yet more trouble with our vehicle)!!

I think we all felt we would have loved another day. Of course we’ve said that everywhere we’ve been.

In fact everyone on the trip has decided I should really call this blog “Can’t we have one more day here?” because I have asked that question every single time we’ve checked into a hotel and again when we check out. But sadly the answer is always the same.

And Deogarh is no exception. A town of only 14,000, the former palace which is now a hotel – Deogarh Mahal – is this town’s main employer – both directly and indirectly – because they both hire the locals but also buy from them all the food they serve etc.

So tourists are extremely well received – which explains the cheers, waves and smiles we received as we drove through town on our way to the hotel. It was amazing!

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What I loved the most about this hotel is it’s simplicity and the fact that while it is slowly and carefully being refurbished, its antiquity has not been sacrificed. To lock my door from the inside, I laid a heavy chain across the two doors … the light switches were a sight to behold – heavy brass knobs, in fact.

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And inside it’s like a labyrinth – full of twisting corridors that lead to staircases that don’t seem to go anywhere in particular – up and down, this way and that – every corner revealing a treasure – a carved archway … a colourful streamer … a bit of lattice … a statue … some bright fuschia bougainvillea cascading down a wall that has been weathered by time to a creamy, pale golden shade of yellow.

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We were lucky enough to meet the two brothers – Princes – who own the hotel. They were lovely and warm and we spent a lot of time with them – learning about their family, how they came to buy the palace, what their hopes and dreams are for their community … it was a very special evening.

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Just before we left them to have our dinner one of them shared some wisdom with us that he learned from his Guru: “Poverty is the true sister of wealth because if you have it you can be sure that something will happen and the other will come.” He also said that while everyone wants wealth, once you have it, it doesn’t bring you peace.

Now how’s that for food for thought?

Posted by a_broad 08:18 Archived in India Tagged luxury_travel Comments (2)

Jodhpur

otherwise known as the blue city

sunny 22 °C

I know you must be sick of hearing me go on and on about the hotels we’re staying in; and to some degree I understand, because what could hotels possibly have to do with the sights you come to see when you travel to a foreign country.

However … I’m going to do it anyway, because …

In our case they have everything to do with it for two reasons: First, we’re staying in heritage properties – so staying in them gives you a history lesson. And second they reflect the kind of unfathomable wealth and opulent (over the top) lifestyle that India’s ruling class enjoyed – another history lesson.

So there.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll introduce you to the Umaid Bhawan Palace – our home away from home in Jodhpur: Let’s start with the fact that it looks exactly like what you think of when you think of a castle – and the sight of it, perched high on its hilltop overlooking the city makes you feel like you are about to walk right into a Walt Disney movie – except it’s for real, not make-believe.

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Once inside, you can only gasp in wonder. Ceilings at least thirty or forty feet high … marble floors … ornately-carved gilt furniture (art deco) … tiger heads mounted on the walls … glorious flower arrangements … beautiful music playing softly in the background … a billiard room … a trophy room … huge, imposing portraits of the Singh dynasty – the heroic warriers who ruled this fabled desert kingdom of Marwar for more than six hundred years – the descendents of whom (the present Maharaja of Jodhpur) still live in the palace … and what feels like a ratio of eight staff members to each guest, literally at your beck and call constantly.

They carry your fruit from the buffet table to where you are sitting … they walk you to the ladies room … they help you down the stairs … they even unpack for you (I think they’d carry you, if you let them).

Never have you been pampered until you come to India!!

It is, quite simply, an exquisite hotel with equally exquisite service. Nothing is spared to ensure that your time spent here is the most perfect experience you will ever have – the ultimate gift to yourself.

Unfortunately we were only here for one night so we never got to try the pool that is heated to precisely room temperature … the spa where you can get holistic treatments using exclusive blends of oils … or just lolling around the magnificently groomed gardens. I did, however, write yesterday’s blog lounging on my private terrace, which overlooked one of the many palace gardens.

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Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I can tell you about everything else we did in this magical city:

We started off at Mehrangarh Fort. In truth some of us whined that we’d seen enough forts already and they were all starting to blur in our minds. But Rashmi, God bless her, wasn’t having any of it. She insisted we go, telling us over and over again how special it is.

And boy, was she right!

Most of the other forts we’ve seen housed palaces and everything we saw was about the no-expense-spared lifestyle of the inhabitants – pure gold on the walls, and the ceilings, and the floors … frescos and paintings museums around the world we die to have … mirrors, the finest porcelain, music rooms, and meditation rooms, and women’s quarters, and throne rooms, and on and on it goes.

But here it is all about the architecture … and the architectural details. If I could have I would have left with every door and every shutter and every piece of lattice that covered a window. Worn with time it is exactly the kind of “shabby chic” I absolutely love!! There was a very ornate, iron, spiral staircase that I desperately wished I could have carried out of there!!

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Built in 1459 by Rao Jodha when he shifted his capital from Mandore to Jodhpur, this enormous fort is even more beautiful at night, when it’s bathed in yellow light. You approach the fort by climbing a steep walkway (approximately a 40-minute hike).

We ended up spending most the afternoon there – and had a great time. Then it was back to the hotel for a couple of hours of R & R before a whirlwind tour of a local market and a stop to get a custom-made jacket for Marney before dinner. She’s tall, with really long arms and legs, and every single top or pair of pants she has tried on have been too short for her.

I had read, in a guidebook when I was doing my research, that Jodhpur is famous for jodpurs (shouldn’t come as a surprise, really) – so I decided to have a pair made – especially after seeing some of the staff at the hotel wearing them.

So the two of us quickly had our measurements taken, we picked our fabrics and off we went to a terrific dinner at a charming restaurant near the hotel. We sat in a beautiful garden and consumed yet another feast!!! Tandoori chicken … chicken tikka … puleo rice … mixed vegetables … dahl … roti … Kingfisher beer. Marvelous!!

And then back to our amazing hotel for a long soak in the huge tub!

Believe it or not Marney’s jacket and my jodpurs were delivered to the hotel at 8:30 this morning. The tailor worked on them all night. Les than 24 hours to make two custom-tailored, made-to-measure garments!!!

She looks like a million dollars in her jacket and I love my jodpurs so much I called and ordered another pair in linen. They’ll be waiting for me in Udaipour – the stop after our next.

Now that’s service.

And if you’re wondering why Jodhpur is called The blue city, this little tidbit’s for you: It is the colour that the Brahmins paint their houses. They do it because it keeps their homes cool and clean; and they use a combination of indigo, lyme and glue.

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None of us wanted to leave this paradise … and I am determined to come back here …

Posted by a_broad 08:14 Archived in India Tagged luxury_travel Comments (2)

where is a techie when you need one???

I'm banging my head against the wall as I write this

sunny 22 °C

Wondering why you haven't heard from me in several days? Maybe you could send an email to travellerspoint and complain about it.

I have 5 blog entries I can't do anything with because for the last 4 days I've been having problems -- first actually being able to get into my blog ... the travellerspoint website ... or even being able to email them and find out what's wrong. Tonight I can finally get to my blog but now I can't upload photos.

Can I email them so I can report my problem? NO!!

So I am sorry but I guess we're all going to have to wait until what ever's wrong gets resolved.

Since I last posted an entry we've been to Jodhpur, Deogarh and Udaiper. Tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn we fly to Khajuraho -- where, among other things, we'll be visiting the Kama Sutra Temples. Hopefully I'll be in touch soon.

Posted by a_broad 09:12 Archived in India Tagged luxury_travel Comments (2)

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