AT first, I suspected my voluminous travelling pants marked me out as somewhat unsuitable for a stay at this palatial hotel. The security guard, in his finery, wasn’t about to let me in.
A second guard intervened and the confusion was cleared up: I was trying to march into the private residence of current Indian royalty which is adjacent to the hotel. With lodgings this luxurious, it was an easy mistake to make.
We are greeted with garlands of flowers and after only a hint of a wince at our tired looking luggage, we are settled in with a welcome drink.
The Shiv Niwas Palace, nestled within Udaipur’s City Palace Complex, was built for Rajasthani royals in the late eighteen hundreds and later converted to a hotel in tougher economic times. It has since played host to Queen Elizabeth II, the Shah of Iran, and Jacqueline Kennedy.
Led past resplendent lawns, through sweeping archways and past a glistening marble pool, we revel at our escort’s calls of “this way Maharajah and Maharani”.
The guest rooms are nice but not overpriced so you can splash out on a suite (from about US$660 a night). Preferably one of three of the Imperial variety. You will be rewarded with opulence beyond belief.
Dangling over Lake Pichola with unrivaled views of the Lake Palace Hotel, made famous as a location in James Bond’s Octopussy, the suite is aglow with antique furnishings, mother of pearl mosaic, and original artwork predicting kings of yesteryear.
The emerald color scheme suffuses everything from verdant chandeliers to chartreuse bed linen. A kitsch duck-themed clock is a highlight. Try not to let your jaw drop too far down as you settle into the cushions of the huge window seats to catch the sunset armed with a cold Kingfisher beer.
We dragged ourselves away to dine one evening at the excellent Ambrai across the water, but you can’t go past right royal room service. You may as well use that decadent dining room table. The mutton curry is memorable, the service a tad obsequious. Then again, I remember where I am.
It’s not perfect. The bathroom does not live up to the opulence of the rest of the suite and the air conditioning is akin to a jet engine in timbre.
However, this is easily forgotten as I nibbled on housemade French pastries at breakfast only to be presented with a candle strewn cake and a bouquet of flowers as the hotel had remembered it was my birthday.
Wandering through the palace grounds at night when all the tourists have been ushered out and the clamor of Udaipur’s streets fade to serenity is a treat.
Should you get bored of the cinematic views, the spa is a lovely distraction: a body scrub restrained, a facial a tad aggressive, but my husband’s haircut turned out to be an unexpected masterpiece.
This is India at its boastful best. I might not have hustled my way into the current Maharajah’s household but I have briefly lived like a proper princess. Despite my traveling trousers.