Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

In the lap of luxury

At the Oberoi Udaivilas
The exclusive vilas properties of The Oberoi Group of hotels have set a new trend in Indian hospitality. The four of the vilas - Rajvilas (Jaipur), Udaivilas (Udaipur), Amarvilas (Agra) and Vanyavilas (Sawai Madhopur) – live up to their name and reputation. Vilas, meaning “luxurious or lavish” in Hindi, should not be confused with the similar sounding and meaning English word `villa'.
Last weekend I was at the Udaivilas for the fourth time and it never ceases to amaze. It indeed is one of the best luxurious places to be in. I have on two occasions stayed in the other vilas property – Oberoi Vanyavilas – a jungle resort in Sawai Madhopur nestled in the natural beauty of the wilds and on the edge of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.
With Lake Pichhola in the background
This stay at the Udaivilas is special since I got an upgrade to the Regent suite which comes with a price tag of Rs 1.8 lac plus taxes per day. This suite has a private swimming pool, dining area and a telescope. There are, in all, four such suites. A sit down deck across the pool, guest powder room, period furniture with exquisite inlays, silken drapes and tapestries, private courtyard and opulent washroom with marble baths all come with it. You can just walk into the pool from the bedroom or drawing room.
I think, these four suites, are far better than the presidential suites of most other five-star deluxe properties. Udaivilas property's Presidential suite is named Kohinoor and is priced at Rs 2.8 lac plus taxes per day.
This property, spread over 50 acres, is a showpiece of Mewar and Mughal architecture. While the hotel building is built over 8 acres of land, the sprawling landscaped gardens claim 22 acres and expresses the design philosophy - “More odd the better” - of its famous US-born-Bangkok-based landscape architect Bill Bensley.
The remaining 20-odd acres is for wildlife conservation where you can see wild boars, spotted deer and peacocks dwell in their natural habitat. The haunting calls of the peacocks echo throughout the reserve. A children's golf course is on the anvil.
It was five years ago I last visited this place. Each time, I came here to attend wedding ceremonies. This property, a hot favourite for hosting big fat Indian weddings, has hosted scores of such events in the past decade.
My room the Regent suite (405) has a rear view of the Bara Mahal - the old hunting lounge of the Mewar dynasty - built by Maharana Fateh Singh in the late 19th Century.
Thanks to the Oberoi group they have kept this lodge as it was. The hotel guests love to visit this spot especially when it is feeding time for the animals. Few know that there is also a Chota Mahal in this property where the servants during the Raj era were housed. This too has been retained as it was.
The quality of the hotel service is simply perfect. Even the fussiest of guests would find it impossible to pick holes.
I regret that I could not meet Roop Singh ji, the care taker of Bara Mahal and the sanctuary for over 30 years, since he was on leave. Roop Singh's father and grandfather spent their lifetime serving the Maharana of Mewar. I had met him during my earlier visits and did chat up with him about things past and present.
On my way back from lake Pichhola I felt something was missing. Later, I realized that Bhagwanti - a 65-feet boat made of sagwan wood where I had once had dinner watching the sun go down the hills – has been removed since it could not be repaired.
ess bee

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