This is a review of stay at taj Lake Palace. Restaurants have been reviewed separately.
In a NUtshell:
Priceless experience that we would fondly remember forever – though pricier than some foreign trips, I would say it is worth saving up for months to go for it.
Address & other details: Taj Lake Palace
Stay for 2: 20k onwards
Disclaimer: All restaurants / eateries reviewed by YUMMRAJ were visited by YUMMRAJ himself & he has paid for the full Bill & tips also. http://www.yummraj.com does not have even one featured / sponsored reviews.
We booked thru tajhotels.com and paid for hotel.
YUMMRAJ believes in going to a restaurant in anonymity, as a normal guest, experience everything & give a honest account of the same to you.
I rate all the food items & then give a final overall rating which is a simple average of the individual item ratings. What the ratings stand for: 5 = Excellent, 4 = Very Good, 3 = Good, 2 = Fair, 1 = Disaster
We had of course read about this place in magazines and on social media for long. When my friend rakesh stayed here many years back with his family, i got to hear about some stories. Our friend Christine from Boston USA stayed here almost 8 years back and fondly remembers this.
We had this in mind for a long time . So decided to go here at the onset of monsoons – expecting not a washout rain and also the fact that in off season it wud not b overcrowded.
We watched Bollywood movie named ‘mera saaya’ starring Sunil Dutt, b4 the trip as a good part of the movie was shot in this hotel. James bond movie Octopussy was also shot here.
We booked the stay thru tajhotels.com – liked the experience of booking thru this site.
Start of our trip
We reached Udaipur very early in the morning as that was the only pre noon flight from mumbai. We spent some good time visiting tourist places in town and eating at local food shops. Our cab driver turned out to b a very enthusiastic man around 50 years old. He really made our morning itinerary comfortable and kept telling us local stories.
Around noon Our cab dropped us at the private jetty of taj hotels. As we alighted from the car, taj employees dressed in pagdis (traditional head gear) and sherwani s (traditional long top wear) welcomed us in the traditional way. Security check happened in the jetty and so did the baggage scan.
As we stood waiting for our boat to get ready, one of the Young men from the hotel offered to click some pictures and chatted with us for a while.
The jetty had beautiful gateways that looked like chhatris but unlike the traditional ones, they were made with metal rods instead of stone.
There were some period lamps, beautiful outdoor cane sofas and chairs on the jetty. The wooden flooring had a natural wood polished finish.
The motor boat was the most silent one I have ever experienced in india and the quality of ride was outstanding too. The floor of the boat had a beautiful carpet , the seats along the wall of the boat were cushioned. Transparent plastic curtains were also there, in case of rains.
We did a 1 km journey to the 270 year old palace which is situated in the middle of lake pichola.
For the uninitiated, lake pichola is an artificial freshwater lake created in the mid 1300s mainly for storing water for irrigation and other purposes. Its about 4km long and 3 km wide. There are 4 islands in the lake. On two of them palaces were built in later centuries – jag niwas and jag mandir.
Jag niwas was build around 1750. The story is that when a prince and his friends were thrown out of jag mandir for creating too much noise during a ‘party’ (if you call it so) by the king, his father, The prince decided never again to go to jag mandir. Later when he became the king, he built his own palace, jag niwas.
During the sepoy mutiny of 1857 (when the Indian soldiers of British East India Company army revolted), many britishers and their family took refuge here in jag niwas as the maharajah of that time provided them a safe passage and then destroyed all the boats in the lake so that the sepoys do not reach the island.
In 1960s the then maharaja decided to convert the palace to a hotel as it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain it. He had the vision of making this udaipur’s first luxury hotel.
In 1970, the taj group took over the hotel, added rooms to it and renovated and restored the whole place. The new buildings do not look much different than the older ones and if one is not into architecture, he/she will Hardly b able to make the difference.
Tajness started from the point we got off the boat. Every guest was being treated like a maharaja or his family member. A gentleman in traditional attire was waiting near the hotel entrance with a huge chhatri (traditional umbrella). He walked us from the boat to the palace door. As we were about to enter the main building, someone from somewhere upstairs showered rose petals on us.
As we walked in, we were welcomed in the traditional way and invited to sit on the sofa. As we enjoyed our lovely welcome drink, the duty manager helped us with the formalities. We were also assigned one person who shared his land line number – we were told he is our ‘go to person’. The guy was nice but we never saw him later and we never needed him. This was unlike the memorable experience given to us by Mrinal at taj Falaknuma palace, who was chatting with us on WhatsApp, suggesting new things to do in the hotel and was available any time to respond to our queries.
The palace tour
We were given a palace tour in the evening by a guide, followed by a champagne at their beautiful bar by the water. Was amazed at the beautiful detailing on the walls.
We were told that unlike in Agra taj mahal, where White marble was cut and coloured stone was inlaid to make a design, here it was a White base made with resin and animal bone that was used to make the base and then coloured glass cut in different shapes were inlaid into it while it was still soft.
The 3D peacock was unforgettable.
While the palace tour happened, we could hear music in the backdrop.
As we climbed onto one of the terraces, we found the source of the beautiful music that we were hearing for some time. A gentleman wearing traditional attire sat in one of the alcoves and was playing a flute….
From The terrace we could see water on all sides and the Udaipur city palace right across
The boat ride
After the property tour we were taken on an hour long boat ride of the lake pichola.
Absolutely loved the tour. The guide kept on telling us stories of all things we saw around.
We halted for some time at the jag mandir and returned back. Weather was perfect – not hot, not cold, nice breeze…… no rain
There was a beautiful large boat parked near the hotel. Our guide told us that the boat could be hired by hotel guests to throw a party …..
The unreal performance
After the boat ride we were invited to a live music show in the courtyard of the palace. At the beginning it seemed like a normal tourist place evening set up where local performers do a song and dance sequence. But it turned out to be a memory for life.
There were 3 performers on the front row and two ladies and one elderly man in the back row.
The guys played harmonium, dholak and one of them sang. The music was outstanding. The Young guy who was singing was however good – he has a long way to go to be called outstanding.
The ladies put up a beautiful dance performance.
The show stopper of the evening was the elderly gentleman who did what I would say is among the top 5 most memorable live performances I have seen in my life. This 70 year old man actually did this :
stage 1 -placed a 14 kg cart wheel on his head (no cushion / padding) and danced with free hands (without holding the wheel)!!!!
Stage 2, he took a metal plate in one hand and spun it over his fingers and it kept spinning
stage 3 he lifted one leg, one hand doing the mudras, the other hand spinning the chakra (plate) and the wheel still balanced on his head!!!!!
It was real but it seemed unreal. I was almost abut to pinch myself to make sure I was not dreaming ….
We had 2 choices – the multi cuisine restaurant jharokha and the rajasthani and other north Indian specialist restaurant neel kamal. Jharokha is always open and breakfast is also served here. Neelkamal opens only for dinner. So we chose to eat authentic local food at neelkamal and it turned out to be a memorable evening with mesmerising live music by a maestro and outstanding authentic local food.
We enjoyed a good massage at the spa. My therapist was just outstanding.
We had a good time at the game room playing billiard.
The hotel had some common areas – Reception , lounge room, a courtyard, garden area, few shops, two terraces with lovely chhatris and a beautiful fountain area.
The reception area had a small office desk on one side and beautiful sofas on the other. One side of this area overlooked the water body and hence had a great view. The intricate and colourful floral designs were mind blowing.
The lounge area had 2 sides open – one looking into reception area and the over looking into the courtyard. The pillars here were again a piece of art.
The courtyard had the beautiful lounge pillars on one side and the bar on the other side. One the third side was neelkamal restaurant and two guest suites on the fourth side.
We booked a historic suite and we got upgraded to something better, since there were few guests.
The suite had a small lobby area, a bedroom and 3 beautiful waterfront rooms where we just sat and spent some good time sans the phone and sans reading material , soaking in the beauty of the palace and nature outside.
As mentioned earlier, the designs on the walls and ceilings we made with coloured glass cut in floral shapes and inlaid on a layer of resin and bone dust.
The designs were just beautiful. We kept seeing those over our stay and never felt satiated.
Hats off to the artisans who made these and the artist who thought of this.
A super memorable stay ….. highly recommended by Yummraj. If it seems expensive, its still worth saving up and staying here on that one special occasion.