Posts Tagged With: Jaipur

A Luxury Alternative to $3 A Night

The courtyard dining venue at the Samode Haveli

The courtyard dining venue at the Samode Haveli

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.

 

The tranquil pool and bar area

The tranquil pool and bar area

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.

 

A Feast for the Eyes & Mouth, Jaipur

A Feast for the Eyes & Mouth, Jaipur

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.

 

My unique bedroom fit for a Maharaja

My unique bedroom fit for a Maharaja

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.

 

Its the little things that contribute to the big effect

Its the little things that contribute to the big effect

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.

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In Your Face, India (& Ears & Nose & Mouth)

New Delhi, India

New Delhi, India

Perhaps it’s a sign of conceit that I’m hardly interested in visiting anyplace that, well, just doesn’t sound all that interesting. Sure, I’ll still go, but there’s no doubt that I am a bit jaded, and these days, a little bit harder to impress. You can thank India for that. In fact, I do, & here’s why:

 

India is a fascinating, sometimes overwhelming, never bland or boring, assault on the senses. More than anywhere else I’ve been on earth, travelers run the risk of stimulus overload. Your eyes will be dazzled by the vivid palette that encompasses entire cities—such as Jaipur, the Pink City; Jodhpur, the Blue City; and Udaipur, the White City. The detail in the architecture is an explosion of curves and flourishes, and I’m convinced you’d be hard-pressed to find even one blank surface in the entire country.

 

Pole Position, Amber Fort

Pole Position, Amber Fort

You ears may not find as much pleasure as your eyes, since in all but remote villages, the sound you’re most likely to hear is a cacophony of beeping horns—all day and all night. When in the midst of things, you’ll also hear the sound of hordes of pedestrians, bleating cattle that wander freely through the streets of even major cities, and extroverted shopkeepers haggling in the market.

 

With all the poverty, you would think your nose would end up with the worst lot, but in reality, aside from the diesel fumes while crawling along in the most intensely absurd traffic imaginable, the smell of burning wood (and sometimes plastic) fills the air, making even the most urban setting smell rustic. And when you venture into a dining venue, things will just get better for your nose and then some.

 

A Feast for the Eyes & Mouth, Jaipur

A Feast for the Eyes & Mouth, Jaipur

Yes, your tongue will compete with your eyes when it comes to stimulus overload. Indian cuisine is much like its architecture—bold, saturated with flavor, and on occasion liable to bring tears to your eyes. Even the street vendors with their open-air woks that may not look like the kind of place you’d want to eat without really good health insurance, serve up delicious samosas and local fare that leave you not caring about where you got it. You’ll just want more.

 

No Blank Surfaces to be Found

No Blank Surfaces to be Found

So if I seem a bit blasé about “normal” destinations like Cancun or the Dominican Republic—don’t blame me. Blame India. It isn’t beginner travel, but if you’re open to new experiences, not agoraphobic, and wish to be dazzled, put India your bucket list. Your senses might be up all night with information overload, but along with your photo album, will thank you for it later.

For more travel pictures, be sure to follow Trip Accomplice on Instagram at @tripaccomplice

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Like Playing Chutes & Ladders With A Maharaja

Welcome to the Jantar Mantar

Welcome to the Jantar Mantar

If you’re around my age (39) or older you know the game I’m talking about. You spin the dial and move ahead X number of spaces—all the while hoping you land on one with a ladder to take you further up, and at the same time dreading the prospect of landing on a chute that will take you down (like that ridiculously long one from 87 to 24). This is not a board game one would normally associate with travel. But that’s exactly what came to mind when I visited the Pink City of Jaipur, India and toured the World Heritage Site called Jantar Mantar.

 

Built by the warrior-astronomer Jai Singh, the Jantar Mantar (from a term meaning place of calculations) is essentially an outdoor observatory. Construction of this impressive collection of sundials and other uniquely-designed calculators of the heavens and Zodiac was first begun in 1728. Each structure serves a specific purpose, and are quite accurate even in an age of GPS and atomic clocks. The biggest is a sundial called Brihat Samrat Yantra, meaning ‘King of the Instruments’. At 27 meters high it’s easy to see why.

The 'King of Instruments'

The ‘King of Instruments’

 

I must admit my interest here wasn’t so much in calculating azimuths or predicting the next eclipse. As anyone who has visited India can attest, it isn’t hard to go into architectural overload. Between the forts, palaces, temples and bazaars, my brain could barely comprehend so much ornate design. Strolling peacefully among the structures of the Jantar Mantar—that is until I tried to climb one and was reprimanded loudly by a man with a machine gun—was a pleasant break from the ‘norm’. It was also a fun place to play the shutterbug, as the angles, straight lines and slotted bowl-shaped structures were excellent, if stationary, subjects to shoot.

Busted! Taking teh 'climb down of shame' after the heavily armed guard told me to.

Busted! Taking the ‘climb down of shame’ after the heavily armed guard told me to.

 

There’s a lot more to see in Jaipur, particularly the City Palace, iconic Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds) and the enormous Amber Fort just outside of town. But for me, it was this astronomical playground resembling Chutes & Ladders if it were designed by a Maharaja, that made my visit here so pleasurable, as if I landed on 28 and took the ladder up to 84. If you spin the dial and wind up here, I’m sure you’ll feel the same.

 

Have you been to Jaipur? Share your thoughts here!

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