A Night I Will Never Forget...
13.11.2012 - 13.11.2012
Diwali night, Jardin suggested that we go to a palace for a drink. We had been to so many palaces earlier that week, so I didn't think anything of it. Low and behold was I about to experience one of the best, most luxurious nights of my life. We rolled up to the gates of Umaid Bhawan in our auto rickshaw I'll admit, we looked slightly out of place. Fortunately we had called ahead to the bar there to ask what time it closed, so when we got to the gate and were greeted with a lady with a clipboard who said, "Reservation name?" we at least had something to reply with. After some back and forth where we explained we called ahead, finally she agreed to let us through the gate, carefully explaining that all of the dinner reservations were obviously booked up for the evening, but that they supposed there would be room in the bar for us to have a drink.
So we walked through the gate and were greeted by a perfectly manicured garden leading up to an astonishing decadent building with a red carpet leading up the stairs. I want to explain something. I've been to 5 star hotels. I've been to amazing country clubs in the United States. I've been to Versailles, but I had never experienced opulence like the Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur.
We walked up the red carpet to enter and were immediately greeted by luxury everywhere we looked. It was marble from floor to ceiling..
Stuffed leopards and tigers lined the walls from the days when the maharajas hunted them
Jardin and I immediately looked at each other and smiled, like that moment in the movies when you know you've arrived. We walked down the hallway and saw this grand ballroom open before us. If you've seen the movie The Beauty and The Beast, then you'll understand what it was like, because the ballroom before us reminded me so much of the one where Belle and the Beast dance at the end. It was a circular dome ballroom multiple floors high that was truly out of a fairytale. At the center of the ballroom was a flower arrangement with candles in some Hindu symbol for Diwali.
We left the ballroom and proceeded down the right corridor to the bar. As we walked, we passed many of the other opulent rooms.
A gentleman who was dressed up in local Rajastani garb waited for us outside of the entryway to the bar, making sure we didn't go exploring further than we were permitted. We entered the bar to find that we had the entire room to ourselves. There were stuffed leopards and tigers hanging from the walls. As we ate some hors d'oeuvres and sipped delicious bourbon, I decided to ask the gentlemen if there were any dinner cancellations for that evening so that we could dine there. At first he said no, but he came back 30 minutes later with a table for us.
So we proceeded to a lovely table outside and set in for the evening...
From where we sat on the veranda, spread out before us were hundreds of candles on the steps leading out to a beautiful white structure (where I presume people get married). Fireworks exploded off at the horizon.
Then all of a sudden, over to our right much closer to where we were sitting on the palace grounds, we saw little girls and the staff shooting off fireworks. We were quickly informed that these little girls were in fact princesses, as the sitting maharaja was lighting off fireworks with his family. So essentially, we were entertained by princesses and a sitting king. Not bad for a typical evening, eh? (The maharaja, who lives with his family in part of the palace, leases out the rest to the Taj Hotel Group, the owner of the nicest hotels in India)
After dinner, Jardin and I took a walk to explore as much of the grounds as we could. That's one beautiful pool. Apparently, 2 weeks before we got there, Naomi Campbell had rented out the entire Umaid Bhawan Palace for one week to celebrate her boyfriend's birthday. One of the evening's cocktail parties took place around this pool. By the way, in case you were wondering, we asked what the minimum night's stay would be and were told that the cheapest room was US$850 a night.
Beautiful Greco-Roman Architecture where I presume people get married, etc.
The look back on the palace from the greco-roman structure. We had dinner at the top of the steps on the veranda. It really reminded me of the veranda of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, looking out at the vast Lawn.
One last look at that gorgeous centerpiece in the middle of the ballroom
Our waiter and us pose for a photo in the ballroom
The dome of the ballroom
We left our magical dinner and headed back out to the entryway. As we waited for our driver to pick us up (this time we decided not to go with the auto-rickshaw--not really appropriate once we've had a night of luxury , we took one last look to admire the tiger and looked at each other after our amazing night and realized: we are both so screwed when it comes to our honeymoons. The bar is set, gentlemen. So batter up!