In my piece, “The employees of the Taj Mumbai”, written soon after 26/11, I wrote, “As a member of the Inner Circle, I have had many occasions to be pampered by the quietly friendly and dignified staff of the Taj Hotels of India. I have always admired their reassuring presence, their impeccable demeanor, their desire to help us guests and make us feel at home, and their excellent training. It is a treat, though it is true that only a select few in the country can afford to be thus pampered.”
Today, after having experienced the Taj Lake Palace Hotel in Udaipur, I stand corrected. The employees of the Taj Hotels of India do not pamper you – they spoil you. Consider this: We booked one of the cheapest rooms in the hotel because that’s what we could afford, and they “upgraded” us to one of the costliest. With a smile, I should add.
But, I am jumping the gun. Let me start at the very beginning.
Our taxi dropped us off at Badi Pal, the point in the City Palace where you take the ferry to get to the Lake Palace Hotel. Some smiles, a cold towel, and some water set the tone for what was to follow. We were ferried across the water to the Hotel in quiet efficiency. At the Hotel, rose petals were showered on us and we were welcomed with Namastes and Khamaganis and a nice welcome drink that left a sweet taste in the mouth for some time to come.
That is when the young lady who showed us to our room told us we were upgraded. We were pleasantly surprised. But not as much as we were when we actually entered the room. Did I say room? I should have said apartment. Actually, I need to consult a good dictionary or a history text book here – to find out what they call a self-contained apartment that is a part of a palace. “Apartment” sounds too commonplace, in my opinion. Anyways, our suite took our breath away. Breathtaking views of the lake from two sides (and from multiple rooms), the quietly elegant furnishings that we have come to expect from the Taj, and the way everything works just as it should – right from the shower to the lights.
We thanked the young lady, only to very quickly follow it up with thanking our stars. What a windfall!
After freshening up, we went to Jharokha – the Coffee Shop. If you have not eaten the grilled sandwiches at Jharokha, you have not eaten grilled sandwiches. Scrumptious. Filling. Need I say more?
Ms. Sonam then took some of us guests on a heritage walk. We learnt about the palaces, the Maharanas and the lakes of Udaipur. We were also shown all the important parts of the Hotel and offered a complimentary drink at the bar to complete the heritage walk! Awesome!!
At 6 o’clock, it was our turn to take the boat ride. We were taken around Lake Pichola in a boat, again by Ms. Sonam, and she pointed out the various palaces and temples and other attractions that dot the shores of the lake. We spent some time on Jag Mandir island, one of the four islands on the lake.
At 7 pm, we were treated to some delightful dancing and thumri recitals on the violin, a show that was enjoyed by all the guests present.
We were relaxing in the room, when we got a surprise visitor – the Hotel butler (or should I say, the Palace butler?). He had brought a cake with “Congratulations” written with chocolate sauce on the plate, and a nice bouquet of red roses, to wish me on my 50th birthday! The butlers and Lalita sang “Happy Birthday” as I blew out the candle and cut the cake. Pleasant surprise!
We went to the Neel Kamal restaurant for dinner. Accompanied by some live instrumental music, we had some nice lightly spiced Indian food. When the check arrived, we noticed a couple of items missing, and were told with a smile that “it was Okay”! Pleasant surprise again!!
When we returned to our room after dinner, we got yet another pleasant surprise – the “turn down service”! Have you ever had to struggle with the bed covers and cushions and various others items that lend elegance to the bed during day but are utterly useless at night? Felt lazy to put them away, or even confused as to where to put them away. Well, we did not have to, because that is exactly what the “turn down service” does. Puts them away neatly and efficiently.
We now have a dilemma – we want to come back to the Lake Palace at some time, just to relive the golden moments. However, since we have been spoilt with such a beautiful room, we are apprehensive we might just get what we booked, in which case it will be a letdown. Some would say a good problem to have, but we look at it as a serious problem.