It’s another bright and amazing morning in Jaipur. Peter, Percy and Paresh (our friendly resident peacocks) are still with us, they allowed us to have a lay in today.
Today is fairly laid back, we don’t have any sight-seeing scheduled however we do have two hotel tours. The first tour is our hotel, Rajvilas and the second one I am very excited to see which is Rambagh Palace, another Taj owned Royal Palace turned hotel.
We head for breakfast and meet the manager who joined us the morning before. He will be taking us on our Rajvilas tour. The hotel grounds are huge and whilst we did our own tour the night before, we haven’t seen all the rooms and suites.
After enjoying another breakfast fit for a princess (clearly that’s me) we head to the main lobby where we begin the tour. The hotel manager goes to collect some of the keys for the unoccupied rooms for us to see, while we wait we notice that there are huge vases in the main hallway. I decide to use this as a photo opportunity and ask Ishveen to quickly jump in the vase so that I can snap a picture. As the manager approaches we put our serious faces back on, he will never know how crazy we are. He leads us to one of the parked up golf carts, we all jump in and set off. To my joy we head towards the tented area that I saw the night before which is set back in the gardens away from the main hotel area. This is a luxury tent which is perfect for a honeymoon couple as there is quite a lot of privacy. As you enter the tent you are greeted with a large king size bed, the décor of the interior has the traditional block painting design. They have their own terraces and inside there is a curtain separating a fully equipped bathroom with a large bath tub and separate shower, there is nothing basic about the luxury tents. The tent will offer you the feeling of being on a safari.
We head back into the golf cart and drive towards one of the luxury villas which comes with its own private pool. The bedrooms of the villa are exactly the same size and design of our premier room with a king bed and bathroom. The bedroom of the villa is attached to its own lounge, in addition to this there is a large private terrace with a pool, beside the pool is a dining area.
The last room we see is the very best the resort has to offer and that is their Kohinoor villa. This is perfect for a family as it has two bedrooms, one room is a king bedded room and the second bedroom is a twin. The bedrooms are separated by a large living room and an indoor dining room. As with the last villa we saw this also has a full size private pool in the garden.
After seeing the top rooms within the hotel, we take a short drive around the resort and head into the garden area. At the back, they have a herb garden, everything used in the restaurants is their own fresh herbs and spices. You can book a cooking class at the resort which includes a tour of the herb garden allowing you to select fresh ingredients to use in your cookery.
The main pool is large and has an ample number of sunbeds around it, so there shouldn’t be any trouble finding a perfect spot near the pool. It is very quiet by the pool today but that is because its low season, there is not a soul or a frog in sight. It’s extremely hot, I am tempted to lunge myself into the pool to cool off.
Lastly, we head to the spa and fitness centre which is located at the opposite side of the pool area. The spa has a couple’s room as well as a separated male and female section. They have many treatment rooms and all the spa treatments are signature Oberoi treatments throughout their hotel brand. I highly recommend trying one, I am still in love with the massage I had in Mumbai.
Our tour is completed and before we say farewell, the manager invites us for a farewell drink this evening at Surya Mahal which we happily accept but advise that we will dine elsewhere tonight to try some local restaurants. The food is incredible at the hotel but to experience Rajasthani cuisine I recommend heading outside. Once we get outside the main entrance, we call Ranjit who is with us within two minutes. We are on our way to Rambagh Palace for our second tour and lunch at the hotel.
Rambagh Palace is an actual Royal Palace that was once occupied by the Maharaja of Jaipur Sawai Man Singh II. The Taj group have kept the palace in its original form but manage it as a top luxury hotel. There is no doubt that this is the best hotel in Jaipur, you cannot say it is better than Rajvilas because they are completely different experiences. For the best palace and historical experience this is Rambagh, but for a luxury resort, then the award goes to Rajvilas.
The Rajasthani history fascinates me, so as we step into the palace you can see historical pictures throughout, offering you all the details of the royal events that took place here. They have had very famous historical dignitaries such as Lord Mount Batten.
We are welcomed with drinks and garlands as we enter the lobby, the hotel manager greets us and welcomes us to Rambagh Palace. He starts our tour in the main areas of the hotel, the first place we see is the restaurant Suvarna, this is a beautiful restaurant serving Indian cuisine, it looks like a large elegant ball room. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner and offers a more formal style of dining, it is quite popular so booking for dinner is recommended. The British influence is very apparent as you walk around the hotel, I particularly felt that in the Survana restaurant. If you prefer something a little less formal, then I recommend the Rajput Room which also offers Indian cuisine as well as international. This restaurant has the Rajasthan feel with its décor and design, this will also be the restaurant that we will have lunch in after the tour. For a few drinks in a bar then Polo Bar is a must. As you step into the bar you will see more historical pictures and some of the original artefacts used by the Maharaja in his favourite game of Polo. They have a selection of their own signature cocktails and a choice of Cuban cigars. Leading off from the bar is a large terrace overlooking the beautiful grounds. This is a very casual dining experience, serving pizzas and snacks along with Indian cuisine. This restaurant is open from the morning till late evening, a great place for a quick snack.
Continuing to the rooms, we try to see quite a few of the categories which start from a luxury room overlooking the hotel gardens and is located on the higher floors. The palace rooms are the next category up and has a slight difference in its size and décor. The two base rooms are sized very well both with stunning views of the hotel grounds. All the rooms are incredible so which ever category you choose; you will not be disappointed.
After seeing these rooms we make our way to the suites. The first one we see is the Historical suite which has a bedroom area and a small seating area, the seating area is not a separated room, it’s an open plan and comparable to a junior suite. I notice before entering the suites that outside by the door, each room is individually named after a royal figure. The Grand Royal suite is the next category we see, I looked at the name, this one is called Rajmata Gayatri Devi. The bedroom is very large and extravagant, I am saying “wow” as soon as we enter the room, the bedroom is attached to a large living room. The fabrics in all the rooms and the general décor is in keeping with the traditional Rajasthani royalty.
The grounds of the hotel are very spaced out so even at its full capacity it will never feel over crowded. There is an indoor pool as well as an outdoor pool plus a fully equipped gym. The signature spa within the Taj group is the Jiva Spa which is located near the fitness centre. The Rambagh Palace also have their very own resident Peacocks which we saw as we walked around the grounds. In fact, as we walked past one Peacock he started to do this very weird dance and opened his feathers, what a show off! I am not cheating on Peter, Percy or Paresh, they can shake their tail feathers a lot better than this chap.
After a light lunch at the Rajput restaurant we are all very keen to get back to the Rajvilas and have a swim. The whole time I have been in India we have not once had a swim or used all the facilities within the hotel. It is time for a bit of R&R.
We arrive back at the Rajvilas and get ready to make our way to the pool. I step out of my room fully clothed with my swim wear hidden underneath however my pal Ishveen has her swimwear on, an Oberoi robe draped over her, Oberoi slippers and her shades on. It was like Ishveen went into the room and some sexy Bollywood swim wear model emerged, she looks fantastic. I am not the only fan, the peacocks see her and immediately perk up making whistling noises. The Peacocks during mating season do this bum shake dance and raise their feathers, it is funny to watch because it is like they are twerking. We referred to it as the “Booty Shake” (after a song we all love). Well as we walk to the pool, every peacock that see’s Ishveen starts to do the booty shake for her. On top of the Peacock attention, we haven’t spoken to any other guest at the hotel however today an elderly gentleman passes us, he gives me an awkward smile but his eyes pop out his head as he sees our swim wear model pal and greets her. Paresh the peacock follows Ishveen to the pool and as Ishveen gets in the pool for a swim, Paresh leans over and dunks his head in and has a sip of water, it is such a romantic moment, Paresh is in love. Unfortunately, I don’t think Ishveen is looking to commit to him.
The bonus of being here in low season is that the pool is completely ours. The weather can be a bit temperamental in June/July time but we have been very lucky in Rajasthan. The weather is definitely swim weather, we have had a very hot day today. The touring and travelling can take its toll after a while so this is a nice relaxing treat for us all. After a couple of hours swimming and relaxing we head back to the lobby to see if they managed to locate our film. Ishveen is determined to have us watch it. The staff apologise that they still haven’t located it promise they will have it by the evening.
Tonight, we are planning to venture outside for dinner, as enjoyable as the dinners have been we want to sample some traditional local food. Once we have all freshened up we all meet in Surya Mahal as agreed with the sales manager, whose name I found out is Anshul to have a good-bye drink. We are also being joined by the very handsome general manager who met us the evening before Abhishek. I hope I don’t become a giggly weirdo again. The evening is good fun and it is nice to know Anshul and Abhishek in a casual atmosphere. They offer some dinner recommendations which we take a note of. We thank them for everything and say goodbye (I was a giggly idiot so a quick escape is needed).
We call the Ranjit hotline, he is outside within a minute to take us restaurant hunting. Driving around we see several restaurants that we point out to Ranjit but as he looks he says “noooo maam this one is no good”. Ranjit is good like that, whilst he knows we want to sample the local food, his stomach will handle it but ours wont! The other concern he may have is that we have a 4-hour drive to Agra the next day and doesn’t want to make 25 toilet stops. Ranjit advises that he knows some places so we try them, the first one we go to is a recommendation that Ishveen also gave us called Spice Court. It is in an upscale area of Jaipur and offers a selection of Indian food, Chinese and continental. It is a very popular venue offering indoor and outdoor seating, a lot of residents use the restaurant but of the richer end of the scale however in the peak travel season it is also a recommended spot for tourists. The prices are a fraction of the hotel cost so you can expect to eat very well.
As we enter the restaurant it is very lively and brimming with people, we ask the waiter for a table to which he proudly advises that there is a one-hour wait. We wanted to give Spice Court a try but my stomach won’t agree to hold on for that long for some butter chicken and a naan (my favourite dish). Before we leave I notice next door to Spice Court is another restaurant dedicated to cakes called Dzurt. As you stand near the entrance you will have an alluring sweet smell with a wide choice of fresh cakes and deserts. I press my face up against the window like a naughty child and wonder to myself, “Can I eat desert before dinner or is that wrong?”. I manage to prize my drooling face away from the window and take a picture from outside. Next time I am in Jaipur I would like to eat every cake they have on display.
Ranjit seems shocked that we are back so soon, we tell him that it was a long wait so we will find somewhere else. Ranjit lets us know that he has another place he can take us to, we drive for less than ten minutes and pull up to another venue. The car park seems empty and it is definitely a lot quieter than Spice Court. We step out of the car and walk into a huge courtyard with a few table and chairs outside, they have more seats indoors as well. On the right-hand side of the courtyard there is a small group of men and women who are obviously musicians as they have musical instruments and are all traditionally dressed in Rajasthani clothing and turbans. The restaurant was not expecting foreign tourists today but as soon as they see us they are straight over to show us to a table; the musicians look surprised to see us and it is almost like someone hit a play button on them as they instantly perk up and start playing music. The ladies that were sat with the musicians are also up immediately and start to dance near our table for us. As we sat down we don’t pay too much attention to the performances which has become an exclusive private show as we are the only ones, we are too busy studying the menu.
Venturing out to eat is a must but try and do some advanced research and take recommendations from the hotel or your agent. Most of the time your driver will know clean and safe venues to try that are used to serving tourists, they will have entertainment whilst you eat as well. I checked our menu for the name of our chosen eatery tonight which is called Indiana (I’m unsure why it is called this as Harrison Ford was nowhere to be seen). The prices are aimed at tourists so it is a little higher from a local’s point of view, for a westerner it is incredibly cheap. Once we have placed our orders we turn our attention finally to the entertainment, the girls dancing notice we are paying attention so start to add a few impressive tricks to their performance. They start balancing three large pots on their head whilst they dance, they then add an additional pot on top of this which is on fire! We are now fully watching impressively to see what they are going to do next, they place a plank of wood with 2 small metal cups which the dancer now steps on, all the while with the flaming pots on top of her head. The performance is incredible and we are thoroughly impressed, we offer them all a tip which they graciously accept and then pack up to move to the next restaurant. This is how they make their money and restaurants such as this one welcome them to entertain their guest, the restaurant probably takes a small percentage.
Our food arrives quickly which we devour in record time, this isn’t just because we are hungry, the food is fantastic. The service has been very quick which again is a bonus of being here off season, we have had private dining and a private performance. So far this has been a highlight of my trip, the food tonight feels traditionally home cooked, the real deal of Rajasthani cuisine.
After settling the bill we meet Ranjit as we are ready to call it a night. Tomorrow is another leg of our India trip which is to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. I believe the drive is about 5 hours so this is yet another long day for Ranjit. We reach our hotel within 10 minutes and decide to have a slow walk back to our rooms to burn off our food, we also have another peek at the pool area to see if the frogs are enjoying another pool party. Before we even get to the pool we can hear them splashing around, we will miss the Rajvilas and all the residents (as in the animals not the guests).
As we get back to our room, our TV is on and there is a USB stick in the side with a film paused on our screen. The staff at the Rajvilas kept their promise and have located our film for us. It is unfortunately too late to watch the film today as we need to pack for our Agra trip however I am taking the film along with me so thank you Rajvilas.