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Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury: Submitted by: Krishnamrutam | Date Added: 2 Sep 2011
Listed in: Destinations / India - North India Synopsis

This vacation is a dream come true for more than one reasons. Because it was materializing after a long time. Because i had seen the settings in many movies – English and Hindi. And it was supposed to be an architectural marvel, a fusion of Hindu, Mughal and Saracen Architecture. And I have always wondered the creation of men – mighty, magnificent, elegant and extravagant. Yet when we saw for the first time – a huge, lofty marble wonder – from the speedboat with my wife transfixed to its magnificent sight, it was simply breathtaking. Our butler for the stay – Sreekant Ravindran – was fluent with his probably oft-repeated narrative, β€œthis palace was constructed in 1746 as a pleasure palace, later converted as a summer palace of the Rajput kings of Mewar. It was here the families of the Europeans took shelter when attacked by the rebels during the Sepoy Mutiny – my wife was quick to correct it as the First war of Indian independence. But Sreekant continued, β€œit is said that the Rana captured all the boats in the vicinity so the rebels could not make it across the Pichola lake.” We saw the vast expanse of the lake bordered by the Aravalis on the backside and a retinue of palaces on all other sides. The present dwelling of the current β€œking” of Udaipur HH Arvind Singh Mewar and his City Palace was on my right. The City Palace was partly a museum and partly a regal hotel run by the Ranas themselves. Princess Bhargavi Kumari Mewar was running it. The management of the Lake Palace was in the hands of the Taj and the Tatas deserve all the credit for retaining the heritage of the Indian Princely States, at least some of them lest the ravages of time and elements would have ruined the palaces. There may be newer, larger and more modern hotels to stay in but these can be found in any city around the world. Not so for The Lake Palace which is a unique experience. Staying there gave me the warm, happy feeling that I had absolutely made the right choice of hotel. Go for it - Its great. The real highlight was indeed the location- getting up at sunrise for the City Palace/lake sunrise and meandering cocktail-in -hand, through historic courtyards, terraces and rooms with majestic views and jewelled frescoes was fabulous. A luxury 20th century hotel (such as Udaivilas), could never supplant the atmosphere and location even if they could (somehow) better the service.

Putting an end to my thoughts we disembarked on the private jetty of the hotel, two elaborately dressed of durwans holding ornate umbrellas over our heads though there was any rain. But it still showered. When i looked up it was a torrent of rose petals showered by lovely lasses, all in brocade and period jewelry. Now it was the Taj no doubt. The magical experience started at the boat dock, just a few steps away from the city palace, where we were greeted with fresh limeade and a marigold garland. From there, a boat took us across the lake to the hotel entrance where you are received by your butler and the doorman. Our butler or hostess gave us a tour of the hotel’s grounds, an open air bar, and lounge, a courtyard, beautiful gardens, restaurants, pool and spa. After a grandiose welcome at the hands of the lovely ladies who garlanded us and put vermilion on our foreheads, we were taken in. The only thing that was a misfit for the occasion was our crumbled clothes and a slightly soiled appearance of ours after a tiresome train journey from Sawai Madhopur where we had ineffectively trailed the tigers in the off-season and had no occasion to change or dress up. The first gratifying thing we noticed was that the lake was full and the palace was really floating.The short boat ride in the water taxi from the jetty to the hotel gave us a view of the City Palace and the beautiful waterfront of Lake Pichola. Greeted upon arrival by the reception staff and the Operations Manager, Sumir Yadav, we enjoyed fresh-squeezed mango juice and relaxed in the glass-enclosed lobby. Before being escorted to our room, our butler gave us a tour of the grounds and pointed out the various amenities available to us during our stay.

Full Review

Thanks to prior intimations and all that, we were taken train to the suite – Sajjan Niwas – a mini palace in itself. 1200 sft of sheer, decadent luxury. Superb suite with stained glass windows. . A huge living room, square, carpeted, with period furniture, all European. Huge wrying tables, sofa and settees and decorated chairs. All shining in black. If it was the way the kings lived it was inevitable they had to give it up all for lesser mortals. The bedroom was what i had seen in the Google picture albums – a huge bed with Italian linen, Shrike snippeted. Luxuriant pillows, the only difference from the Rambagh Palace was that the bed was not canopied. There were paintings of Radha Krishna, Rasaleela and palace maids in all natural colors. The sands of time have not eroded their beauty. The bathroom was another example of decadent luxury. A full size tub, ready for a luxury bath with rose petals, luxury bath salts, scented oils and the works. - all for her. A giant soaking tub with a panoramic view of the lake from the tub too! You simply could not find a better experience. Nothing is over looked. This hotel is worth every penny... The curtained cubicles with the WC and rain showers for lesser mortals. Shrikant took us back to the living room. The room with the views – full windows facing the lake. From the alcoves of the bedroom we felt we were rather in a yacht rather than a palace. The living room opened to a huge marble terrace. There was a classic jhoola and a balcony from where the kings gave audience to the citizens or watched the courtesans performing one of their ghoomer dances – fascinating as ever, enchanting as ever. We would get to watch it in the evening, Shrikant told. Vow. In all, The hotel’s public spaces are quite stunning and it is a pleasure to just stroll around the hotel and enjoy your surroundings - a guide will take you round if you wish. The sense of opulence when dining amidst the famous lily pond is ever apparent and there is a good standard of cuisine at the Lake Palace's restaurants. If you want the ultimate in luxury, service beyond compare and a setting right out of a fairy tale, the Taj Lake Palace will live up to your every expectation. Our two-night stay during our recent three-week tour of India was everything we'd hoped for and more. The lavishness here makes you feel regal, without being stuffy. Our stay of three nights seemed too short as there are many extraordinary amenities to enjoy such as the floating spa and private dining in the gardens or elsewhere. We would highly recommend the Taj Lake Palace to anyone who is contemplating a stay here. The Lake Palace casts its spell on you from the moment you take the boat from the jetty point to get to the palace doors - now a spectacular lobby. The palace is magical to say the least - where else on earth would you find a hotel with so much history, opulence and luxury - all rolled into one.

The checkin. Shrikant stretched a pad. One page, filled out on which to sign. The inevitable ID Proofs for me and my wife. Credit card authorization. All complete in the room itself. Within minutes. When we were left to ourselves, we hit the bath. My wife to the tub and i to the rain shower. After soaking in water for an hour scratching and scraping of all the fut we gathered in the desert journey overnight, we felt very hungry. There were 360 degree views from the roof. We had a magnificent view of the City Palace and Udaipur from our room complete with a couch in front of the windows! We just sat there enthralled. While in Lake Palace when you have rooms in Royal Suites and above, you don't get lost anywhere. There is one button on the telephone. Palace services and the butler appears to serve all your eccentric needs. He is more than a concierge. He is near you always, and you can make him disappear at the wink of eye when you need privacy. So when Shrikant escorted us to the Jharoka – all day restaurant, we had our pick of the table on the huge window facing the lake. The Jharokha is a great venue overlooking the Lake . Neel Kamal is their fine dining restaurant serving wood-fire cuisine. We would see it later, we assured ourselves.. The staff really know how to pamper you and make you feel like Royalty. The waiters here wear an elaborate Sheridan and huge turban. And they treat you like royalty. We are fundamentally foodies and nothing on the menu card suited us. And we informed so. Pat came the chef – a young little boy with his disarming smile. Rahul. He had magic in his hands as we would tell the GM, Shyam Kaikini the following day. The simplest of the food items dished out by Rahul had a unique royal touch. My wife was all smiles when Rahul churned out some masala poha.. Parched rice). I had my share of some non-veg items, smoked salmon included. We asked for some fish preparation for the lunch. And again continued with the palace tour. high-ceilinged rooms, suites, huge corridors. Our own suite had marvelous glass inlay works. Siddharth Jain Operations Manager called on us while i was in the smoking room facing the other side of the lake. A staunch young man who knows his job. Entertaining guests, those discerning guests who do not take anything less than what they are accustomed to. He narrated what was around to see. Between coffee-breaks he said that Sreenathjii Dwar was one of the famous temples frequented by Ambanis. At a distance of about and one and a half hours of ride. But darshan would be difficult. But no problem. He had his connects. One of the priests over there. We planned our visit for the following day and continued with the palace tour, which we continued in the evening also after tea in our living room. This time formally. Big big chandeliers. Stretches of white marbles. Huge portraits of bearded kings. Reminiscence of royal splendors. Royal durbars, war cries and victory processions. Evenings with ethereal music and folk dances. Political maneuvers and fine prints in agreements. They have all left their imprints – loud and clear for the discernible. Palace intrigues and zanana gossip. The palace has seen it all and survived all the ravages of time. The garden is lush, beautifully tended and heavy with the scent of tropical flowers (and no mosquitoes that we noticed). The service was faultless and the staff were friendly and helpful.

The evening saw all the guests trooping to the central court where musicians were wiring and tuning their instruments = drums and flutes and clarinets. Two girls in beaded, glass-fixed jumpers and huge petticoats bedecking themselves with sliver and bead jewelry. The scenario was for an evening of music and dance. My favorite ghoomer dance, i hoped. Within moments the music began followed by rhythmic movements of the girls who pirouetted around the courtyard, with their sylph-like figures bending backwards, sideways and forward with rhythmic sync with the music that was rising and ebbing in tune with the mood of the players first and the audience next. Even quite a lot of foreigners who did not understand a note or word were rolling their heads their wine glasses untouched. When it ended it appeared like a wild awakening from the dreams. The service at the hotel is of the highest quality and the staff are very attentive and go out of their way to be courteous and helpful at all times; my only slight gripe on this account, was that it could take a while to get served drinks at the bar around dinner but I then you can’t have everything.

The hotel had provided flowers and all puja materials for us. Our evening puja lasted till 1030 pm and we were so tired with all the tours around the palace. Though we had an appointment in the ethnic restaurant Neel Kamal, we had to content with room service. The room service in the Lake Palace was an elaborate affair. The lights, the carpet, the uniformed butler serving your wine and starters before embarking you on to the varieties of palace delicacies none too simple by the normal standard, none too expensive by palace standards. The sleep in the bedroom had a royal touch again something to do with the aromatic oils we had applied and the luxurious bath we had earlier. The pillows and the bed had magic in them and slept into the morning like babies.

The ride to Sreenath Dwar took about one and a half hours and was interspersed by various anecdotes of palace life let known by our butler and the well informed driver. The huge crowds in frond of the temple was a dampener. But Madan the contact priest of the hotel seemed highly influential. A bit ashamed we were to use the strings for a smooth darshan. But the priests in the temple have made it so difficult that unless you have a godfather over there it would be next to impossible to have a darshan of God. The temple is great and so is God. Of course we had to give a handsome tip to the priest. Our return journey was pebbled with many descriptive stories from our butler. Shrikant like any other butler of the Taj is highly resourceful, well informed, courteous, courtly and a linguist too.

There were places to see. But we have not seen the palace fully. The lunch was at the Jharoka again. This time around Rahul was not there. But there was Manish Joshi, executive chef. He concocted some flavorsome dishes at this late hour and we were so delighted. The only thing we regretted was we did not have enough appetite. The waiters make you feel even if for the moment that you are royalty revisiting the palace after a long sojourn. All handsome like ready for a modeling shoot. We became a fan of Manish Joshi. In fact when Shyam Kaikini, GM met us that morning in the breakfast table and inquired about our well being I had told him. The magic in the hands of his chefs. Shyam was a corporate honcho till some time past. But the way he managed the heritage hotel, your would tend to believe he was born in the hotel industry. Everyone speaks the language of inimitable hospitality – the Taj signature hospitality, unmatched by anyone else in the hotel industry worldwide. Who else than me could say this? Widely traveled, i have seen the hotel brands of all types. Luxury, boutique, business and budget hotels. But the Taj excels in every aspect of hospitality. Tired as we were, we would not miss the evening dance recital. Enchanting, captivating – all adjectives useless. Even if you ask the foreign guests glued to their seats not leaving the vantage points for their cameras.

It was the third day when we had decided to make a visit to Chittoorgarh, the fort of the legendary queen Padmini but the morning news about Anna Hazare's followers calling the bandh. Tied up with the palace, we crossed the lake and visited the City Palace. Beautiful. The paintings give a clear picture of the way royalty lived. Their political intrigues. Their romance and chivalry. It is not for nothing that Firsthand intrigues any traveler and enlists him for a lifetime as a repeat visitor. Like Rajasthan, like Lake Palace. Where, it is the birdsong that woke us in the mornings - delightful.

The swimming pool over there is not very huge or deep. But the princely settings of the pool makes it so special that hours of soaking in did not satiate me. The pool was fairly small but considering it is in the middle of the lake it is hardly surprising. The staff were amazingly attentive and very friendly. There are so many charming nooks and crannies to sit and contemplate the beautiful surroundings. There's a lovely water garden in an interior courtyard with pots of colorful petals. There is also a pool with sunbeds near the Spa and views to die for. I should mention also that there is an area with a few shops which I found had both reasonable prices and excellent quality.
We wanted to utilize the jacuzzi but it was very hot and told so. The lifeguard over there called a few workmen , emptied the jacuzzi pit and filled it again with warm water so we could soak in for at least an hour. For the evening walk before the theater experience with the dancers you just walk around the four acre palace. Good enough. We made it to Neelkamal restaurant on the penultimate night. A full show kitchen, where you can sit and watch the staff cook up incredibly tasty food. That day, we had dinner in the Neel Kamal restaurant and it was the best Indian food I've had for some time. The Chef, Chote Lal had line up his whole crew, even the musicians for our dinner over there. What was lovely to my mind about this hotel were the small touches - the musicians in the restaurant were ace - musicians at hotels playing in the background are not always top quality. I had already asked for some Lucknowi starters like Galauti Kabab and my wife's favorite was anything dished out of the country stove there cooked with firewood. WE were given a warm welcome and we were embarrassed to have detained them late. We started with the starters and there were many in the line up. The galauti kabab was just delicious. Any other description would be a misfit here. But maas ke sule, a mutton preparation of mutton was really superb. The chef knew it was late and the following day was our check out. So made out some sample items for our sake and even that was too much for is. What mattered was their unadulterated love for the guest. Their wiliness to walk the extra mile to satisfy the guest. The Neelkamal was unique not just because of its desi decor. Not just because of the rich menu that gives a real flavor of Rajasthani and other Indian cuisines, but because of the people who man it, run it and entertains its guests. I would make a special mention of the F&B Associates. And the chefs Manish Joshi, Chhote Lal and not the least Rahul, who captivated our minds forever with a vow to come again.

Next day during our break fast I told this to Dilip Nair, F&B Manager said it again – the Lake Palace was not just made of marbles but it is made of people who man it, rewriting the rules of Indian hospitality. When it was time to check out, Afrikaner brought out a memento from Siddharth Jain who was off duty that day. I could not see Kaikini either. He was out on a meeting. So it was Dilip Nair who saw us off. As he came down the steps to the jetty to board us on the hotel boat, all the front office staff came running to bid farewell to us, we felt we are leaving our family on a long vacation. Our luggage boarded in the other boat as we reached the far end of the lake, we had reason to be elated. Still some moments until our luggage arrived, which did at last. On our way back Shrikant who escorted us also shared our melancholic mood. Manish Joshi had packed some sandwiches and kichdi – for the road or air, as one may take it. A special word about house keeping. Thanks to the Executive Housekeeper Ranjit Das and his assistant Vandana. The housekeeping was excellent and every corner was squeaky clean and all the furniture and fixture was gleaming and glistening. Service was always timely and non-intrusive.

We had not gone to Lake Palace with an agenda. In fact one does not need an agenda at the Taj because the Taj is an agenda in itself. The only complaint we had was that the palace tied us up eternally to its charms and beauty that we could not see any other place in Udaipur. But the main agenda of seeing the palace in all its charms and splendor and unmatched hospitality again and again stayed forever in our mind. Some desires never die, even after you had achieved them. The Lake Palace is one. I cannot praise the staff enough in this hotel they make you feel very special and welcome and are as much a part of the experience as the hotel itself. It is also worth noting that although the hotel is expensive, the services within the hotel are not and are very reasonable indeed If the Tatas make huge profit from the Taj Chain of Hotels, they did not make much with me. For me it was real value for money. We have promised ourselves that every time we are in Rajasthan we will have at least one night at the Lake Palace.

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Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury Udaipur Lake Palace – the ultimate in royal luxury
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