Anyway...Friday in Delhi was a great day sightseeing with Tanya and her cousin Dipi. I've already been to Delhi so we got to hit a few places I hadn't been to before including the Akshardham
temple complex which is the worlds largest single Hindu temple complex (read more here
). The security at this place is so strict and even strong than most airports I've been to. I had a pen drive in my pocket that I forgot about and was told to turn around and take it back to the check-room
. And the friskings where a bit...I guess evasive is the right word. Anyway, there are no cameras or cell phones allowed so you'll have to google it to see pictures or click the link above. It was an incredibly hot day in Delhi so the three of us practically ran from place to place within the temple to escape the heat. The best way for me to describe it would be "Disney World for the Hindu Religion". The temples were very beautiful and the underground water-ride which took you on a historical animatronic re-enactment of thousands of year of Indian history was most definitely eye-opening. Did you know the airplane, space ship and plastic surgery were all invented in India? I didn't... :-) After the temple we visited a school program that offered education and housing for street children. Their "summer location" was in the basement of a crumbling, dilapidated building that would be a condemned structure in any other country in the world. But the students were cute and we enjoyed playing games and taking pictures with them for about an hour. Lunch was followed then we went back to Tanya's family home for a bit of R&R. When Tanya's other cousin, Ishy, got there, the four of us went for a great seafood dinner and then back to the house to have a glass of wine with the parents before Tanya, Ishy and I went out to a bar called Smoke House Grill. The nightlife scene in Goa, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore makes me really not want to go out anymore in Hyderabad. Hyderabad is years behind these cities and we teasingly call it "Hyderabad High School" for a reason...it's pretentious, boring, childish and immature
. Needless to say...we had a great time and by the time I got tired it was nearly 3AM. Back to the house to take a quick shower and pack and then Tanya and I were off in a taxi to the airport where we both fell asleep waiting for the plane.
The trip to Udaipur (with a quick stop over in Jaipur) was quick and comfortable. By 8:30 we had landed and were met by a car and driver from the Taj Lake Palace. The Taj Lake Palace is consistently voted as one of the top hotels in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine and in 2006 it was the number ten hotel in the world (THE WORLD!). It took nearly all my Taj hotel points to secure a one night stay here...but I think it was worth it as we arrived at 9:30 in the morning and then didn't check out until after 5PM on Sunday...so we really had two full days. I've posted a few pic's of the hotel...but sometimes videos are better so I've found the below videos on youtube courtesy of other travelers if you want to check them out. Video 1
, Video 2
, Video 3
. Our car dropped us off near the famous Udaipur City Palace at the palace boat jetty which looked like something out of the 1920's...very elegant and lot's of pampering even before we checked in or arrived at the hotel. The jetty overlooked the lake and in the middle was our hotel...the white marbled Taj Lake Palace. The boat ride over was great and when we asked about our luggage, the reply was "Oh sir...your luggage will be coming over on a separate boat...not the 'guest' boat."
. Nice....even the luggage has it's own boat. As we arrived close to the hotel boat jetty (snapping pic's like mad) we saw our welcome committee was the hotel concierge and a very nicely dressed Raj-style doorman complete with a silk umbrella to shade us from the sun. As we entered the hotel lobby Tanya made a slight squeaking scream as someone from above had showered us with rose petals. Cold fruit drinks, peach flavored cold-towels, garlands of jasmine and tikkas were given to us as we were escorted to our rooms. We asked the concierge to give us a quick tour of the property first so she showed us the three restaurants, the spa, the pool, the garden area complete with a flutist and then finally our room which was very nice. We had a palace (City Palace) facing room complete with a window seating area that Tanya spent most of her time on. As we'd been up the entire night before, we were both a bit tired, but decided we would trudge on and got cleaned up, changed clothes and had the hotel boat take us back across the lake so we could tour around the City Palace. The City Palace was built in 1559 and is the second largest city palace in all of India. Inside are multiple museums, shops and restaurants to explore and check out. We visited the Crystal museum which houses millions of individual pieces of crystal including crystal beds, lights, benches...not to mention silverware and glasses. The Maharajah at the time was so obsessed with crystal that he ordered it in bulk from a place in England
. But because he ordered so many thousands of pieces, the shipment took years to prepare and actually showed up after he died. Then the palace staff decided not to open the boxes for another 100 years. When they finally opened everything they the were shocked by how much had come. The City Palace itself was a maze of rooms and passageways and we were both ready to get out when the exit sign finally came into view. Lunch was at a restaurant in the City Palace and after wards we walked back down to the boat jetty to catch a ride back to the hotel. After a very nice massage (where I fell asleep) and a couple hours of lounging by the hotel pool, we went out with some other hotel guests for a sunset cruise and visit to another small island in the lake called Jag Mandir which is the location for many a Bollywood weddings given it's large courtyard and exclusivity (not to mention great views of the City Palace and Taj Lake Palace). Back at the hotel just after sunset we grabbed some seats in the lobby bar where a show of traditional Rajasthani dance troupe were preparing to put on an amazing show. Tanya and I both had a very nice $20 martini that Anthony Bourdain said were a "must-do"
when visiting the lake palace. The dance show was amazing...my pictures won't do it justice....the girls dancing had elaborate costumes and thick bells around their ankles. Tanya was nice and buzzed after her martini so while I got cleaned up for dinner, she took a nap. Dinner was on the rooftop restaurant with views of the City Palace lit up at night
. The food was amazing and the chef stopped by our table to make sure we were enjoying our experience. Freshly made chocolates were served for desert...they were too good for words. We took a quick boat ride after dinner to catch the Lake Palace lit up at night and then passed out from pure exhaustion given our complete lack of sleep on Saturday.
Day 2 wasn't started until around 10:30 and it only started that early because the breakfast buffet was going to close at 10:30. This was an amazing buffet with so many options including 7 different types of honey for your morning tea, eggs, pancakes, cheeses, Indian food, teas and coffees. We gorged ourselves and ate for 2 hours all while enjoying the views of the lake and palace...before heading back to the pool where we wanted to spend the last remaining hours we had at the hotel. Lunch was more martinis and the best french fries I've ever had. As our check out time was 5PM and we had a 6:30PM flight back to Delhi, we left the pool around 4 feeling very relaxed and not wanting to leave the hotel at all. Even though the hotel room was free, during checkout, our bill was still close to $500 given that we decided we would want for nothing on this trip including luxury car transfers, massages, great food, sunset tours and most important....martinis, martinis, martinis! :-)
It was a great trip and I think it might be the nicest hotel that I've ever stayed at. Definitely on my recommended list. Enjoy the pics.FYI: I'm off to Greece and Turkey from May 23 thru June 6th so the next blog entry won't be for a while...but it should be full of good stories and pics from the trip.
Decided to cash in a bunch of my hotel points from staying at Taj properties for a one night trip up to Udaipur with a friend in from the U.S. On Friday morning I got up at 4AM to catch my 6:30AM flight from Hyderabad to Delhi where I met up with Tanya (Dallas friend) and her family at their home in the Defence Colony. Tanya and I were leaving Delhi Saturday morning on a 5:30AM flight to Udaipur so the decision was made to stay up all night and not sleep...why do I do this to myself.