Caleb and I stayed at a number of luxury hotels in India—the Leela, two Taj Hotels, which were converted from palaces, and the Manor, a boutique shop in the middle of the Friends Colony, one of the nicest neighborhoods in Delhi. Thank god for fucking corporate America.
They all had their charms—who doesn’t dream of living in a castle?—but were also rife with faults. The Leela had water stains on the walls. The Taj hotels were infected with fleas and pigeons. And the Manor was something like a model home hotel, the kind of place the Bluths would live in were they to have invested in real estate in India. The furniture was cheap, the water in the bath tub was green, and the waiters at the restaurant pretended not to speak English. “We don’t want to have the chef’s tasting menu,” Caleb told one on the second night of our stay.
“Only chef’s tasting menu,” he insisted.
“I ate here last night,” I told him, baby-faced and lying. “Just give us the a la carte menu.”
Now, I’m not a snob about most things. (Who am I kidding? Yes I am.) But it’s my opinion that if you’re paying $300 a night (or more) for a hotel room—or even better, someone else is paying for you—then you should have a concierge that is helpful, a comfortable bed, staff that doesn’t try to steal from you, and clean water to bathe in. That could just be me.
Which is why the only place to stay in India—although I’ve heard rumors that The Imperial in New Delhi is nice, and that the Taj in Udaipur, in the middle of a lake, is stunning—as far as I’m concerned, is the Raas Hotel in Jodphur.
To arrive at it in the middle of the day, you have to park your car, and take a tuk tuk. It’s located smack in the middle of the walled city, amidst all of the noise and dirt of the ancient markets. The area where it is located is something of a backpacker district, which is actually nice. After ten days of staying within walled compounds, it was a pleasure to walk outside of the hotel, and be confronted with life, not sterility. It was a fucking oasis.
The hotel itself, comprised of both modern and ancient buildings, is built within the walls of an 18th century palace once inhabited by the Raas clan, a family of merchants. Built of red sandstone, it lies, in supplication, at the foot of the Mehrangarh Fort, the incredible rock that anchors the city.
The rooms are impeccable. The aura is magical. The two restaurants are delicious.
During the day, there are alcoves outfitted in white linen in which you can sit and read. At night, the entire place is lit by candles.
Each room has a balcony, that opens up with a direct view of the fort. In the morning, you can listen to the muezzins call at the mosque next door, and watch the sun rise over the city.
They have a no tipping policy, which means that unlike most places in India, you’re not constantly being harassed for money. The concierge (and the entire staff) was wonderful, helpful, and discrete. In our room, there was a really comfortable bed, and a stone bathtub that looked out over the balcony, and beyond.
There is a spa—untried by me—in the former stables of the palace.
Rooms start at about $200 a night, although they’re much more expensive in the high season.
If you make it India, as far West as Jodphur, even if you’re on a budget, treat yourself to one night at the hotel. It’s completely worth it. It changed my entire experience in India.