Wednesday, February 28, 2007

24 Hours As A Maharani

An expeditious early morning taxi ride (Vik swears the cabbie was Steve McQueen’s stunt driver in a prior life) took us to Jaipur Airport to catch our early morning flight to Udaipur. The foliage visible during our descent into Udaipur foretold that our stay here was going to be worlds apart from our time in Jaipur.

As we made our way into the city from the airport, we got a chance to take in the scenery. At first glance, Udaipur reminded us a lot of Palm Springs. The contrast of the greenery was striking against an austere backdrop of desert mountains amidst a clear blue sky, and this was literally going to be only the second best view we would have during our stay. Along the way, we passed through the city’s cramped center and past the stunning City Palace complex where the Udaipur royal family still resides.

Minutes later, we arrived at the jetty for the motorboat ride across Lake Pichola, which roughly translates as Lake “Behind the Palace.” The Lake Palace Hotel, which was the royal family’s summer residence, sits in the center of Lake Pichola and offers magnificent 360-degree views of the City Palace and lakefront. The story of the palace’s creation is a familiar refrain to many of us: son wants to party 24/7 with the ladies, dad says “not while you live under my roof,” son is forced to wait until he becomes boss to build his own party pad.

The palace’s magnificent white façade and the setting were immortalized in the rather cheesy 1983 James Bond film Octopussy (featuring dialogue that could have been written by a chimp – Vijay Amritraj’s lines are particularly excruciating -- and a villain, Kamal Khan, who is about as intimidating as Richard Simmons).

From the point that we set foot on the slip, we were quite literally transported into the life of royalty. We were first greeted by a guard in traditional Rajasthani court attire who led us to a waiting area where a woman handed us warm handtowels. After a quick ride across the lake, the doorman welcomed us to the hotel and shielded Kaberi from the sun with a massive Rajastani silk umbrella. It was a good glimpse of what was to come. Inside the lobby, we were given fresh watermelon juice along with the opportunity to upgrade to a suite for a “nominal” additional sum. In a moment of profound temporary insanity, Vik took the upgrade, thereby allowing both of us to enjoy the good life for 24 hours.

After unexpectedly finding an unwelcome 6-legged guest in our room (we named him “Lalu” after the shady and self-promotional Indian Railway Minister), we had the terrible misfortune of being moved to an even more magnificent heritage suite, which used to serve as the private quarters for the queen, or Maharani. The suite was situated adjacent to the spa area, where the current swimming pool had served as a bathing area for the ladies of the royal court. Our accommodations boasted a huge bed, a living and dining area and a marble bathroom with a clawfoot tub for two. Kaberi also noted that the space had tasteful and stunning gold molding, the largest chandelier she’d ever seen and an incredible triple window seat with an unfettered view of the City Palace. In contrast, Vik was more appreciative of the wireless Internet access, 50-inch flatscreen TV and double sinks.

We spent the day lounging next to the mango tree shaded pool, taking a historical tour of the palace and enjoying magnificent sunset views from the rooftop. In the evening, we enjoyed a romantic candlelight dinner for two on the Maharaja’s private terrace with a clear view of the older Jagmandir Island. In order to make up for Lalu’s intrusion earlier in the day, the hotel staff coordinated with Vik to surprise Kaberi with 12 long-stemmed red roses and a chocolate marshmallow cake dessert. When we returned to the room, we found another mini-dessert of five Indian sweets, a bottle of red wine, silk sheets and large white candles awaiting us. Vik is a little worried that Kaberi is starting to get used to this.

1 comment:

Donna said...

Thanks, Kaberi, for taking me away from the winds and snow of Chicago and letting me tour with you and Vik! You are making me get out my atlas, and now I want to reread The Raj Quartet!