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Get your Jodhpurs on Two hundred kilometres west, in Jodhpur, the palace of His Highness Maharaja Gaj Singh II is completely different. In the 1920s the grandfather of the present Maharaja was said to be the richest man in the world. The Great Depression coincided with drought in Rajasthan so that his people were among the worst off in the world. Using his fortune, the Maharaja financed what we would now call “infrastructure projects:” roads, dams, railway stations and a new palace for the royal court. The new Umaid Bhawan Palace became the largest private home in the world. One million square feet of marble were used in its construction, and so much sandstone that a railway line was built up to the palace gates. Construction began in 1929 and when it finished in 1943, a never-to-be repeated palace in the Art Deco style arose from a hill just outside the city. It is the last of India’s royal palaces. Cheers your Highness The Maharaja still lives there! This charming, tactful and insightful man joined our party for champagne one evening and was not shy about expressing his frustration with the Indian government, saying that it was much too bureaucratic and did not well serve a nation of entrepreneurs. And, as proud as he is of his country’s achievements, he did allow that it would have been “nice” to have been Maharaja in his grandfather’s time. But for someone who missed being the richest man in the world and exercising absolute power by just two generations, he seems quite cheerful. His palace home is not some frivolous, indulgent whimsy. It’s a massive and solid sandstone building that sits on its hill like a lion sits on its prey. Although the lead architect was English, it is contemporary with some of the menacing monster buildings of the Third Reich. The difference is that where Albert Speir put stone raptors, the palace has carved peacocks. Where Hitler would have insisted on assembly areas and marching grounds, this palace has manicured lawns, formal gardens and real peacocks. The spa is located under the 105 foot central dome. It’s an art deco grotto staffed by calm cheerful attendants who spend five minutes washing your feet and adjusting the aroma of the room before pummelling your body in a traditional massage. It must be authentic: in the historic Maharani’s suite, there’s a room for yoga and a room only for massage.

Udaipur: The Floating Dream In this trio of Rajasthani palace hotels, Rambaugh in Jaipur might be the whimsical appetizer that gets your taste for the good life awakened. The countless tons of sandstone that form Umaid Bhawan in Jodhpur can be nothing other than a main course. Dessert is the sparking jewel of the Lake Palace in Udaipur. This white gem does not actually float on the lake, it just looks like it does. Originally built in 1743 as a place in which the crown prince could entertain his harem, it has evolved over the centuries to an ultra exclusive hotel. Unless you’re staying at the Lake Palace, you may only look at it from the shore but you may not set foot on the private launch that gets you there. The suites and rooms are a mixed assortment of cavernous, ornate and cheerful spaces, each as different as the line of Maharanas who added to the palace. Exclusively for swingers Several suites have the traditional matrimonial swinging beds with bells in the bedrooms, and although they don’t come with instruction manuals, there’s no doubt as to their purpose. They can also be used for relaxing and looking out the window onto the lake. I was so relaxed that I forgot to book an appointment on the spa boat. On the roof of the two story hotel is a restaurant (again, open only to guests). I spent one evening there, pretending that I was the Maharana of Udaipur (Maharanas outrank even Maharajas). I surveyed the Udaipur City Palace which is 1.3 kilometres in length, I felt the cool breezes off manmade Lake Pichola as members of the royal family have been doing since they created the lake in 1362, I tasted Indian foods that I’ve never seen before or since.

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