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Hot spots: Rambagh Palace, Jaipur

Tim Pile

 

Where is it? Rambagh Palace lies eight kilometres from the centre of Jaipur, capital of the Indian state of Rajasthan. The Pink City is part of the Golden Triangle sightseeing route, which includes Delhi and Agra.

Is it a proper palace? Although some rather ordinary hotels incorporate the word "palace" into their name, Rambagh is the real thing. The former residence of the maharaja of Jaipur was built for the ruler's favourite handmaiden in 1835 before being turned into a hunting lodge. The "Jewel of Jaipur" was later refurbished as a palace for the royal family, which it remained until it was converted into a luxury hotel in the 1950s.

So I can expect regal treatment? A hotel limousine whisks you from Jaipur Airport to the palace steps, where you're greeted with a rose-petal shower and flower garlands. Champagne corks pop, musicians serenade and a horse-drawn carriage materialises to take you on a tour of the sprawling grounds. Ostentatious? Not half; but by the time you reach your suite you'll feel like royalty.

The rooms are a notch up from Chungking Mansions then? The Grand Presidential suites originally served as the private chambers of the royal family and the Historical suites are a tasteful time warp of exquisite furnishings and olde-worlde verandahs fit for a maharaja. Before you can say "sumptuous extravagance from a bygone era", your butler will be hovering with a silver tray of Earl Grey and a copy of The Times of India.

What's on the menu? A lone bagpiper plays as dusk descends and guests gather for pre-dinner drinks at the Polo Bar. Dining options include Suvarna Mahal, the former palace banquet hall adorned with gilded mirrors and Florentine frescoes. For something more informal, wander over to Steam, a laid-back lounge bar set in a restored Victorian-age railway carriage with wood-fired pizzas to die for.

Stop the subcontinent, I want to get off. If India's "assault on the senses" is taking its toll, follow the preening peacocks across the lawn to the Jiva Grande Spa and yoga pavilion, where rejuvenating therapies, both ancient and contemporary, help recharge batteries and balance body and mind.

What is there to do nearby? Shop for precious stones in the old walled quarter of the Pink City and ride up to the ramparts of the Amber Fort on an elephant. If you fancy learning more about your big-eared buddy, head to Elefantastic, where you can wash, feed and water the pachyderms.

What's the bottom line? Early bird deals start from 48,000 rupees (HK$6,845) for two nights (double occupancy) in a Palace Room, including airport transfers and breakfast, and rise to 85,000 rupees for a Royal Suite.

The Rambagh Palace is at Bhawani Singh Road, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. For more details, visit www.tajhotels.com

 

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