Every time I go to India (for context – almost always for business and to Mumbai) I come away with the strangest feeling of inspiration. While it may sound slightly contrived or clichéd it’s completely true. You see our business deals with retailers, of all sizes, in all places. From massive hypers and wholesalers to tiny one container / room stores selling a mix of half cases to the local residents. The reason I’m telling you this is because I get to see a lot of areas, good and bad, when I go to India.
I can help but find myself smiling when I’m standing outside a ‘store’ with the owner sleeping behind the counter, a family of flies buzzing on and around him, waiting for his fresh milk delivery that will be poured into a 50 liter steel drum and labeled out to the customers on their way home from work.
The reason I feel like this is because when I look around I see vibrancy, energy and a soul of people that cannot be defeated, cannot see failure and will survive to make their lives better. They are happy and content with what they have and more often than not it is less than nothing. They will try any way any plan and any path to improve their lives. There is the most powerful underlying feeling of self-improvement which I have yet to come across as a general feeling in any country in the world. As always it make me irritated with the general entitled attitude of South Africans in general!
This time though I saw a different side of India. I headed up to Rajasthan to experience a bit of regal majesty, what I found was a history of extraordinary wealth and power, but somehow the ability to continue to survive and thrive in a modern context.
The other side of India is so luxurious it takes your breath away. When you enter the city of Udaipur you quickly realize the pre-modern rulers of this place had a similar taste for decadence that I do! There is the City Palace used for formal events, stays and the like (today it stands a magnificent 1000 meter long building).
Then there is the palace built for the sole purpose of having parties on the lake. The lake i forgot mention is completely man made. Imagine a time with no machines, bulldozers, graders etc and trying to build a lake?
The dome like structure in the middle is where Shah Jahan (the guy who built the Taj Mahal) lived for a long time while exiled by his father and this is where, they say, he got his inspiration for the Taj.
Then finally (well there is also a monsoon Palace up on the mountain because, well, you know, one cant be in ones normal palaces when it rains now can one?!) the magnificent Lake Palace that is now rented and renovated by the Taj Hotel group and is a hotel. You know when you check in on a ‘dock’ and a boat arrives to take you to your corner suite that its going to be on hell of an experience!
The small boat off the hotel is the Spa
A 5 hour drive through rural India, a few monkeys, alot of tiny villages, many cows in the road, one elephant and many many cows in the road later we arrived at the Jain Temple at Ranakpur. An 800 year old temple that is hand-carved out of marble. Each and every square in inch is carved in a unique and delicately detailed way. The highlight of which is the 1444 pillars each carved from top to bottom rising into the most spectacular circular domes.
Driving through the tiny narrow roads of the old city you start to wonder if you will end up sold for body parts at some point but all of a sudden two quick turns and arrival at the incredible boutique hotel called the RAAS. Checked in and into the double story hotel room with a balcony, the view from which literally made my jaw drop. Over the pool and dinner setting up over the city and onto the Great Fort of the the city. Built into and onto the mountain this towering show of stregth and greatness is one of the most mind-blowing things (I’ve said that a lot this trip!) I’ve ever seen!
Inside the fort you start to realize the genius of design built to protect a city and its people for eternity, and it did! In fact the city walls were never even breached let alone the fort itself. Now it serves as a museum to the past and to the kings that once occupied it.
The last and perhaps most decadent part of this excursion was Umaid Bhawan Palace. Currently home to the royals of this part (the left side) and the Tajj Hotel (the right side). Literally sharing the same roof as a royal fam!
This palace / hotel is truly spectacular and my few photos here dont do it justice (in fact not to any of the above!) but have a look at these and go to the hotels website!