13 Wednesday June, 2012
Sacha, Catriona and Ellie have returned from their two and a half week research trip across North India and they are dying to tell you all about it. Their trip was too epic to share every detail here, so they have cherry-picked their top ten moments...
Their tracks: Delhi – Agra – Ranthambore – Alwar – Samode – Jaipur – Jodhpur – Deogarh – Delwara – Udaipur
1. Soaking up the buzz of Old Delhi from the back of a rickshaw. In complete contrast to New Delhi’s wide boulevards and rather formal splendour, Old Delhi is a cobweb of tiny twisting lanes, throbbing with jewellery, silk and spice bazaars – best experienced on a rickshaw to get in amongst the hustle and bustle without too much haggling or heat. Having just arrived, this experience was certainly a heady ‘welcome to India’!
2. The drama of seeing the Taj Mahal from the balcony of our room at the Oberoi Amarvilas – not to mention the stunning swimming pool and immaculate hotel grounds beneath us. Having checked out the other hotel options in Agra, Amarvilas is without question the best hotel in town and it holds prime position for gazing out over the world’s greatest monument to love – hard to beat!
3. Seeing a tiger drinking at a waterhole at Ranthambore National Park. We had spent the morning exploring the park and, though we saw crocs, deer, peacocks and some truly magical scenery, the elusive tigers were elsewhere. We returned for our afternoon safari and at about 5 o’clock this lovely beauty strolled down to the waterside for a drink (incidentally, this was the exact time that our driver, Parmode had gone to the temple to pray for our successful tiger spotting – bless him!)
4. Returning to Sher Bagh tented camp after our safari to be greeted by this immaculately turbaned man with a tray of champagne. We toasted our tiger sighting on the veranda of our tent before heading out to meet the other guests around the campfire. We enjoyed a ‘Tigertini’, Sher Bagh’s speciality martini and the perfect post-safari sundowner, before eating dinner under a star-spangled sky.
5. Relaxing at our supremely sexy private pool villa at Amanbagh. Secluded in a valley of the Aravalli Hills, the most ancient mountain range in the world and set on what was once the site of the Maharajah of Alwar’s hunting lodge, Amanbagh is an extraordinarily sophisticated retreat for such a remote rural location. There is a historic, almost spiritual aura here and I certainly felt like an ancient goddess bathing in my magnificent green marble tub…
6. Entering the echoey chamber that houses the indoor swimming pool at Rambagh Palace, Jaipur. We audibly drew breath at the drama of it… this is the original pool, complete with antique tiles, which the beautiful Maharani Gayatri Devi would swim in when she and Maharaja Sawai Singh II resided here. There is also a nice outdoor pool for sunbathing but we preferred to do laps inside, in this living slice of Rajputana history.
7. Discovering a remote gem in the desert called Lakshman Sagar – a gorgeous, newly opened resort two and a half hours drive from Jodhpur. It was a last-minute addition to our itinerary and we weren’t sure what to expect but we immediately fell in love with it. Set in a heritage fort, its rustic feel and roughly hewn walls are offset by candy-coloured blue and pink accents that you just know Jade Jagger and her boho-chic clan would love! Each of the 12 private villas come with a tear-shaped plunge pool and colourful ethnic Rajasthani décor – the perfect hideaway for some back-to-basics romance.
See more photos on our Lakshman Sagar Facebook album and please 'Like' us if you like us!
8. Ziplining over the mighty Mehrangarh Fort with the ‘Blue City’ of Jodhpur in the distance. Built in the 17th century by Maharaja Jaswant Singh, the fort is 400 feet high and whizzing across each of the six zipline routes provides splendid views of this majestic monument – perfect for daredevil sightseers and definitely the most exhilarating way to see Jodhpur.
9. The enchanting scene as dusk settles over Raas, one of India’s coolest little boutique hotels. Located at the foot of the Mehrangarh Fort amid the colourful old quarter of Jodphur, Raas is a soothing 31-room sanctuary built around a restored haveli. By day, these rose sandstone buildings are bathed in soft rays and, come night, the courtyard is subtly lit up with hundreds of little lights with the fort looming large above you.
10. Our afternoon on the Taj Lake Palace's "Spa Boat". With its wistful palaces and tranquil Lake Picchola, Udaipur is a place to relax and be pampered. And there is nowhere better to do so than aboard this customised spa boat equipped with a Jiva spa massage therapy room and a deck with a bathtub full of rose petals. Indescribably blissfull...