One of the numerous upsides of traveling to and around India is the tremendous value that could be had, and I don’t necessarily mean just low prices. For example, though one can find lodging for around $3 US a night, how many of us would want to stay in at the kind of place that can cover its expenses by charging $3 a night? The value is in finding excellent options (lodging, tours, food) at low prices. Perhaps nowhere was this more evident on my trip than when I stayed two nights in the luxurious Samode Haveli in the pink city of Jaipur.
The hospitality industry in India offers the opportunity for guests to stay in what are called heritage properties. This means that visitors can stay in former palaces and mansions (a.k.a. havelis) built long ago and refurbished to accommodate modern travelers. The Samode Haveli is one such place, belonging to a former nobleman, and providing an oasis of luxury among the dusty streets of Old Town Jaipur. (for info on what to see in Jaipur, see my blog post: Like Playing Chutes & Ladders with a Maharaja)
From the outside it seems quite unassuming—aside from the finely dressed doormen waiting to allow access. Once inside, guests are treated to the sight of a gorgeous courtyard with tinkling flower-petal shaped fountains and an outdoor dining venue. And this is just one of several courtyards to be found in the sprawling pale-yellow complex in the heart of the city.
There is an outdoor pool and bar area tucked away in one wing of the hotel. Covered and cushioned cabanas are there for those looking to relax with a drink in hand after cooling down from a day of touring. At night the discreet lighting and evening breezes make this a tranquil spot to unwind.
For those wishing to dine indoors (though as mentioned before, the outdoor dining in the main courtyard is a beautiful setting) there is an equally-gorgeous restaurant inside the main building. To say the decor is ornate would be like saying Arizona in the summer is ‘a little warm’. The artistry from times past is always on display on the Samode Haveli, which brings me to the best part—the rooms.
Just as in most homes each individual room has its own unique style and decor (as well as function) this ‘home’ offers a multitude of rooms each with its unique style and decor as well. From decorative arches, ornately-painted pillars and artistic tile-work, every room is different—a refreshing change from the homogeny of modern chain hotels. The only constant is a sense of history and architectural imagination. Try getting that at a Holiday Inn Express.
To continue with that vein, one of the nicest features of this heritage property is in fact the architectural nuances that permeate the buildings. A short stroll will lead to narrow, curving stairways, engraved flourishes in the corners, hidden fountains, and as is common throughout Indi—one-of-a-kind doors and doorways. All this contributes to a character that is often imitated but never fully grasped by new construction.
If the Samode Haveli were located in New York, London, or Tokyo, for a certainty the nightly rates would be astronomical. But since this is India—home of the $3 hotel—rooms can be had in the neighborhood of $200 a night, which is well below the going rate for a luxury hotel in any of those cities.
So if you’re planning a trip to India and wish for a little variety in your accommodation, speak to your travel agent or tour operator about the possibility of staying at a heritage property. And if you are going to Jaipur, I heartily recommend a stay at the Samode Haveli. It will cost more than $3 but the difference is well worth it.