Monday, December 7, 2009

MY PASSAGE TO INDIA: Part One

Just Back from Glorious Delhi and Jaipur:
Shocks for the Senses, Glittering Jewels and Glamorous Palaces Are All the Raj


Follow me on this series of features to discover a rich heritage of gems, palace hotels, temples, bazaars, silks, gilt-edged books, and modern chic style. And I’ll be introducing The Pencil Project.

“Pink is the navy blue of India”
—Diane Vreeland, Vogue editor-in-chief, after a visit to Jaipur in the sixties

I have just returned from a vivid and fragrant and over-whelming visit to my favorite region of India, Rajasthan, in the northeast. I flew in to Delhi, stayed at the chic, ultra-private new Aman New Delhi hotel, then headed south into historic and romantic Rajasthan and the city of Jaipur. Then on to remote Ajabgarh to head back centuries into village life.

I stayed at the Taj Rambagh Palace hotel (formerly the residence of Gayatri Devi, Maharani of Jaipur), and later at Amanbagh resort, one of the most tranquil and elegant hotels in India. I’ll tell everything about them next week.

I love India. I love the intensity of every waking experience, and the clamor and cavalcade of each moment.

Jeweled elephants, maharajas, monkeys on the roof, camels, clanging temple bells, palaces, holy men, sari’d beauties, gypsies in spangled skirts, wandering sacred cows, silks, and spills of sapphires are just the beginning.

As I step into the excitement and drama of each day, I’m captured by the bright refracted light, the hullabaloo, the jangle of sitars and tabla drumming, and the life and vibrancy that swirl around the streets and bazaars. The air itself seems charged and sensual, thick with history. I’m in another universe, planet India.




I promised my friend Ayoosh in Jaipur that I would not write about ‘heat and dust’. She watched me writing notes in my Moleskine note book one afternoon and said dryly, ‘Oh, Diane, heat and dust?” That’s what everyone writes about India and it’s such a cliché, missing the beauty and glory. And I promised her, no, I was looking further. Heat and dust are the least of it.

I’ve been traveling to India since I was a college student. And still, the variegated vigor, the clamor, the incessant bustle of mediaeval street scenes and clatter and color take me by surprise.

Imagine visiting a jewelry shop—to be shown a maharajah’s treasure trove of diamond-encrusted bracelets, emerald necklaces with stones the size of walnuts, and earrings of dazzling rose-colored spinals that could have been worn by queens and empresses. Or Hot Pink, the atmospheric shop founded by my friends Munnu Kasliwal and Marie-Helene de Taillac (both jewelers), with dozens of cashmere wraps and a kaleidoscope of quilts and sequined dresses and embroidered pillows.

I wander into Tripolia Bazaar, with swirls of silken saris and groups of women shopping for their finery. Girls in Galliano-esque saris flicker past, gold nose rings and bracelets shimmering in the sun.

Black kites and crows fly in the pale sky just out the window. On the street below, men in cotton dhotis (think Ghandi) ride past on rusty upright bicycles (very raj-y), and four-year-old gypsy girls with wild hair and ragged clothes do cartwheels in the mid-day traffic, leaping through the throng to tap at the car window, shrieking ‘madam, madam’, and tapping, hauntingly, at the car window with their little fingers. I can’t think about it or I would start crying.

Imagine driving helter-skelter thought teaming traffic, perched in a rickety cycle rickshaw. And later the same day, I am driving sedately at barely 20 miles an hour in the cocooned comfort of a black 1937 Daimler, formerly the favored ride of the maharani. That’s Jaipur.

Vintage collection at the Rambagh Palace hotel, Maharaja entrance.


One moment, I am sipping a rose-flavored lassi (a cool yoghurt drink served in a terra cotta cup) and the next I’m in another century in a fabric bazaar, with saffron and ruby and indigo and shocking pink sequined silks flung onto the floor as groups of women select textiles for saris and wedding dress.

Peacocks shriek and cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and turmeric scent every waking moment. Horns honk incessantly in the aggressive battle of motorcycles, iconic Ambassador taxis, people, cows, stray dogs, camel carts, bicycles, motor rickshaws, pedal rickshaws, and even the occasional pony carts. Women in pink and blue saris float along dusty sidewalks. A cow or two (or three) wander into the melee. Palaces gleam serenely in perfectly groomed gardens. Rythmic drumming throbs in the air. In the darkness, a spangled and gold-turbaned bridegroom appears on a white horse, followed by an oompah band in Victorian uniforms jangled with gold braid. Here, nothing is mundane.


I once spent months exploring all corners of India—from Delhi and the Thar Desert to the beaches of Goa, north to Calcutta (as it was then named) and far south to Pondicherry (formerly a French colony) and Madras, and up to the Himalaya, and into the center to visit the Ajanta and Ellora caves (third-century Buddhist temples).

Rajasthanis love adornment. Jaipur, with centuries of tradition, making jewels for royalty (Indian and European) is now the world’s center of precious stone cutting and jewelry crafting. It is also the place to find exquisite shocking pink, turquoise and amethyst-colored sari silks with gold-thread borders, as well as traditional tribal silver jewelry, armfuls of sparkling bracelets for the princely sum of $1 each, dresses by India’s top fashion designers, and Gem Palace Indo-Russian-style diamond chandelier earrings.

To luxuriate in the treasures of Jaipur, visitors may spend mornings at the City Palace (home of the current maharaja and his family) or the Amber Fort (which makes Versailles seem like a country cottage). Then it’s on to lunch on the marble terrace at the Rambagh Palace Hotel, and finding armfuls of books on Indian jewels and costumes. A driver confidently enters the fray in the hunt to find sandals and silks in the cacophony of Johari Bazaar. Late afternoon hours are whiled away at the Gem Palace with perhaps a cup of spiced tea for energy.




WHERE TO SHOP
Jaipur is a world-class destination for precious gems, antique silver, cashmere wraps, handblocked textiles, and modern takes on traditional finery


Gem Palace
This historic jewelry establishment was founded in the eighteenth century to custom design for the rarified whims and ceremonial demands of maharajas and their maharanis. The brothers and cousins of the Kasliwal family now continue this illustrious tradition of connoisseurship. The Gem Palace’s ravishing emerald and ruby necklaces and diamond rings have been avidly collected by crowned heads of Europe, Middle-Eastern Sheiks, the Kennedys and the Agnellis, as well as devoted fans like Pierce Brosnan, Goldie Hawn, and Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

In discreet, antiques-filled rooms are pretty tourmaline rings for $300 and Burmese ruby or sapphire necklaces for stratospheric prices. There are also rose-cut diamond rings, strings of tourmalines, chic aqua rings. You won’t leave empty-handed.
Mirza Ismail Road, 011-91-141-237-4175. www.gempalacejaipur.com


Hot Pink
The brilliant Jaipur jeweler Munnu Kasliwal and French jewelry designer Marie-Helene de Taillac opened Hot Pink boutique recently to sell an exclusive array of modern India-produced fashions and interior accessories. It’s set in an airy garden pavilion. Their approach: chic dresses with Indian flair. Fans include Ashley and Allegra Hicks. Hot Pink has been such in instant success that Kasliwal and de Taillac recently opened a second boutique at Amber Palace. Photo above, Marie-Helene de Taillac photographed at Amber Fort for her current exhibit in Paris, at Le Bon Marche. If you're in Paris, you'll see this poster (below) at the store and on bus shelters. Amazing.
In the garden, Narain Niwas Palace Hotel, Kanota Bagh, Narain Singh Road, 011-91-141-5108-932



Johari Bazaar
Traditional indigo, tangerine, chrome yellow, and vivid acid green saris, so modern, and $10 embroidered sandals, strings of turquoise and aquamarines, and gold-embroidered skirts are on display, in a glorious jumble of sari shops, jewelers, candies, and sugarcoated pastries.. Afterwards, take an auto-rickshaw to the Palace of the Winds, one of the most romantic buildings in the world.


The Book Shop
After lunch or dinner at the Rambagh Palace Hotel, it is a favorite treat to wander into the Gem Palace boutique to buy aquamarine or emerald necklaces. Next door is N.K. Jain’s impressive bookshop with an in-depth library of reference books on Indian culture. The key: for approximately $15, any book can be handbound in brown, green or red leather and its title hand stamped in gold on the spine and cover. Mr. Jain ships.
Rambagh Palace Hotel, 011-91-141-238- 5030. Call ahead for hours which may be somewhat eccentric.



WHERE TO STAY
Royal palaces, over-the-top antiques, a Maharajah Suite, and a chic new hotel in a verdant valley are among top choices.

Amanbagh
One of the most alluring new hotels and gardens anywhere, the new Amanbagh resort by Amanresorts was created in collaboration with the brilliant designer, Ed Tuttle, a former San Franciscan. Set in a remote, verdant valley in the Aravalli Hills, Amanbagh is a tour de force of romantic Mughal-style architecture crafted in Indian limestone. Superbly run by an international staff, the hotel offers secluded suites with private pools, a spa, and a world-class restaurant, presenting dishes crafted from vegetables and fruit grown in the hotel’s own organic garden. Excursions to nearby Mughal forts, historic villages, and remote archaeological sites are highlights of a visit to this magical place. From $550.
Ajabgarh, Alwar, Rajasthan, 011-91-1465-223-333. www.amanresorts.com




Rambagh Palace Hotel
Sleeping in a maharani’s bedroom? Reclining in a maharaja’s sitting room? It’s possible at this historic luxury hotel, which was the former residence of the fabled Maharajah and Maharani of Jaipur. Jackie Kennedy, Queen Elizabeth, lords and ladies of the British Raj all visited in the days when the Maharani was one of the world’s great beauties, and the Maharaja was a champion polo player. Following a recent renovation, the palace shines elegantly. And should the maharani’s suite not be available, a suite overlooking the garden, where peacocks preen and strut in the early morning, revived royal glamour in style. From $350.
Bhawani Singh Road, 011-91-141-221-1919, rambagh.jaipur@tajhotels.com, www.tajhotels.com


WHERE TO DINE
I love dining on the terrace at the Rambagh Palace and watching a performance of Indian folkloric dances. Beautifully presented. And it’s a healthy treat, in the late afternoon, to line up at one of the Lassiwallah stands on M.I. Road to get a lassi, fragrant with roses and honey. I choose to eat only vegetarian cuisine. It feels right in India, spiritually and for peace of mind. Indian vegetarian cuisine is surprisingly varied, beautifully prepared, and light.

Indian cuisine in Jaipur can be exceptional, with complex spices and subtle flavors. Rather than succumb to mediocre European dishes, it’s best to request vegetarian specialties. I love the Rajasthani specialty sugary candies spiked with pistachios, and dozens of festive deserts, many of them topped with a flourish of gold or silver leaf.


Rambagh Palace Hotel
There could be fewer places more serene or beautiful for lunch or dinner than this hotel’s terrace, with its expansive view over the hotel’s lawns, fountains, and colorful floral borders. In the evening, the Jaipur chic set stops for drinks at the hotel’s famous Polo Bar, and to watch Rajasthani dancers and musicians performing. On the menu: Indian vegetarian dishes. If you’re lucky, you can have your fortune told by a gentleman who sets up his table at the entrance to the fabled terrace.


Laxmi Mishtan Bhandar
(LMB) restaurant is in the throng of Johari Bazaar. A uniformed and turbaned doorman will greet. It’s an essential stop for its vegetarian-only dishes, and for the witty retro Indo-modern seventies-style décor. To order: samosas, Biryani rice, and a Rajasthani Thali, a selection of spicy vegetables, roti, and fragrant rice. capers, chutneys and pickles. Assam tea or a fresh lime and soda are the perfect accompaniment. Afterwards, stop at the company’s rainbow-array pasty counters for to-go Paneer Ghewar, a fresh honeycomb pastry treat soaked in unctuous treacle.
Johari Bazaar, 011-91-141-2565-844.


Lassiwallah (there are several claiming to be the original) are the only-in-Jaipur take-out counters for fresh lassi, that traditional cooling yoghurt drink that becomes rather addictive for a pick-me-up on a warm afternoon. The favorite: smooth and creamy lassi flavored with honey and rosewater and served in a terra cotta goblet. (Alto salt-flavored.)
Mirza Ismail Road (no street number or phone).


Samode Palace Hotel
In remote Samode, north of Jaipur. This privately-owned hotel has poetic, exquisite early 19th-century painted interiors and a fortress-like exterior. It’s romantic but far from town (and shopping) so we suggest a Sunday jaunt for lunch. To view the mirrored Sheesh Mahal and romantic frescos of the Durbar Hall, reserve a tablel, enjoy a light lunch, then request a hotel guide to offer a tour of the historic rooms. Of special note: the turquoise and white fresco rooms, intact since 1818.
Samode, 011-91-1423-240-014.

Amer 1135 AD
I attended the opening of this stunningly dramatic and opulent restaurant, which perches in the top roofline and ramparts of the historic Amber Palace. The name of the restaurant commemorates the date when the palace first opened. The decor was inspired by the glittering mirrored romance of the Sheesh Mahal, in the palace. On the first level, guests may enjoy lunch or dinner. On the ornate upper level, open terraces offer glorious evening views. Late into the night, tabla and sitar players create a musical panorama reminiscent of the best of Ravi Shankar. Traditional Indian cuisine.
Jaleb Chowk, Amber Palace,141-2530-148/49.




Join me in Part 2 of my series, Passage to India. Next week we go all the way with Aman, visiting the ultra-luxe new Aman New Delhi and venturing out to Ajabgarh to stay at the alluring Amanbagh.

See you there!

38 comments:

Fiona Cartolina said...

Wow - I absolutely loved every word of this post. My grandparents were textile traders from the 1930s to the 1950s in India(they exported textiles to the mills in Scotland) All our old family photographs are from Calcutta and Darjeeling. This account of your trip really moved me - loved it - thank you!

JEANNE-AELIA DESPARMET-HART said...

You have made my day! I went to all those places so often in my fashion design days and fell in love with Radjastan and its breathtaking architecture and colors. What an amazing country. How I wish I could go ...soon! thank you for the fabulous post full of stunning photos! just like being in a dream.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Fiona and Jeanne-Aelia-

Loved your comments...from across the planet.
India is so wonderful--and it always takes me by surprise. I know it's going to be intense and emotionally a shock, and it is always more beautiful and haunting and more vivid than I imagine.
I left the Aman New Delhi hotel at 7am to go to the airport--and the light was so soft and gray and subdued and everything seemed out-of-focus. The images of women in saris like ghosts and men wrapped in taupe shawls, and gray trees, and misty gardens (an equestrian school, exercising horses in the mist) will stay with me.
I can't wait to return...I always feel that there were so many things I did not get to.
There is always the silk merchant or a new jewel bazaar or a garden to revisit, a new experience, new friends.

Erik Perez said...

Wow - the images and your descriptions are just fabulous!! India hasn't been on my list of places to visit, but you've made me include it!! Thanks for this great post!!

La Petite Gallery said...

I am still reminiscing over Villa Kerylos.
I was told to go to Calcutta, I was alone and
afraid to go. Wish I had. I'd be sporting a few rubys.
What can I say except Applause!!

The-Countrypolitan said...

I almost feel like I am right there... breathing in the rich culture...

my gosh... what an amazing place to get inspired!

Karena said...

I will keep this forever! Such an astounding journey, enriching and thank you so much!!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hello, Erik
Bonjour La Petite
Welcome The Countrypolitan-

Lovely to hear from you.
I am always delighted to hear comments and insights--and personal reminiscences.
I wanted to go to India when my aunt and uncle and grandparents went there and returned with vivid pictures and exotic stories. Rickshaws, palaces, diamonds, tea in Darjeeling, the Raj, maharajas and maharanis! I was desperate to see them all.
India was always at the top of my list--France, England, America (especially New York and California) and Sweden, Spain, Brazil, well the list is far longer, but you get the idea. And INDIA.
I've seen all the major cities, but there is so much more to leap into and experience. Watch for next week's episode, a visit to Amanbagh.
cheers and happy days DIANE

vicki archer said...

I don't like to admit this Diane, but I think I am officially jealous! Thank you for writing such a wonderful and detailed account of your 'Passage to India' and sharing your resources with us. I have been once to Rajasthan and it was one of the most memorable journeys of my life. I await part 2....xv

home before dark said...

An amazing journey, told with charm and grace, not heat and dust. India always intrigues.

Anonymous said...

I love to read your blogs. I realize how accomplished and talented you are but am wondering how this all began for you. How did you started 20 some odd books, etc. ago? Did you start out having to struggle or were you fortunate enough not to ever have had that experience? Traveling has been my life long dream but after getting me education I ended up raising two of my grandaughters and am now battling cancer. So I am sure it will always remain a dream for me. But it always makes me wonder how others got their start. I am so happy that you have been able to realize your dreams and wish you all the best. Keep up the great blogging.
Sincerely,
nancy www.rivieraboardwalk.blogspot.com

The Peak of Chic said...

Diane, India has long been on my list of places to visit, but after reading your absolutely captivating post on your recent journey, I believe India has moved to the TOP of my list. Hands down, I think this might be one of your best posts ever! Dazzling!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Nancy-

Thank you for your message. You sound like a generous, warm, compassionate, diligent and thoughtful person--and I am very sorry to hear that you are combatting cancer. I am confident that you will succeed--as many of my dear friends have. My blessings and thoughts are with you. Please keep me posted.
Regarding my writing and books:
I was very fortunate to have warm and consistent encouragement from my dear parents and grandparents and teachers from very early in my life.
Writing (and its accompaniment, reading) have always been my focus and passion, along with travel and design.
I have been incredibly fortunate. I am most grateful to editors and publishers and all the talented people I've worked with.
It's you who must be the focus of your actions now, and your thoughts.
First: I have a great idea for you: There is a book I think you would find inspiring, 'If You Want to Write' by Brenda Ueland. Your local library most likely has it-or could certainly get it. It's a classic. Get started reading books about writing.Read one after another. Stay focused on this goal. Do it every day.
Second: Enrol in a local creative writing workshop or class. Dive into this world. It will take away the mystery of it--and get you immediately involved. You will meet inspiring people, other writers. And you will be so captivated and rewarded and fulfilled by writing, that will in turn inspire you. You will be impressed my your own accomplishments.
I think the key here is to be actively involved in your dream to write. This will take away some of the feelings that are present when we are faced with an illness.
Signing up for--even looking into--writing courses or a writing group--will make you feel you are taking charge, and taking a step toward fulfilling your dreams. This will free you and let loose your creative spirit. I am confident.
Great good luck with everything. Follow my steps diligently.
Write them down--and stick to this list.
I know you will do it.
kindest thoughts and my blessings to you, DIANE

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Karena, Jennifer, Vicki and Home Before Dark-

Thank you so much for your kind messages.
i call it 'Planet India' as you are in another world.
It's a shock to the nervous system--and all senses are on alert.
I focus on architecture, design, (gems, I must admit) and textiles, the culture and history. And I have friends who's been to India simply to study textiles--or historic gardens. Others go into the desert to visit tribal people. What's thrilling: especially in remote areas there is total authenticity. You will never see a woman in a sari with a T-shirt. One afternoon, I had seen village women ploughing fields, following an ox, and dressed in the most splendid yellow and orange and pink sequined saris. Later, i saw women out herding goats in the scrubby desert wearig mirrored skits and embroidered saris. Glorious but seemingly impractical. I comment to a highly educated Indian friend 'Hm, the saris look so delicate and fragile. Would it be easier to wear jeans or pants." and my friend was shocked. 'No, it would bring shame on the family and the village," she said. I got it. Tradition and family honor and social and religious ties are important--and so women wear the most beautiful saris when they are out cutting firewood or carrying piles of hay on their head. It's thrilling. I hope it never changes. Women in villages usually cover their faces with their saris when out in public.
While kids in Delhi or Bombay can be quite universally modern, those in Jaipur or Jodhpur, for example, are very proper in shirt and pants, no t-shirts.
It's this 'non western' approach (the Indian govt limits imports as well) that keeps India very authentic. It's an astonishing country. Go there as soon as you can. cheers, DIANE

Gaj said...

Exquisite and captivating, sensual and invigorating. An exceptional account. Will there be a book?
Many thanks.

A Super Dilettante said...

Reading this post is like going on tour with Rudyard Kipling. I love it. I want to stay in one of these palaces!!

JMW said...

What an incredible place - thank you so much for sharing! The colors are what amaze me. Everything seem so much more vivid there.

katiedid said...

I am so glad you are back so we can read about your amazing adventures! India has been one place I long to go, along with Morroco. It is wonderful to have a sense of where to go and what to see from someone who has your broad experience. Thanks Diane!!

Laura [What I Like] said...

This is all just so wonderfully, perfectly evocative! I always had a bit of a lukewarm response to the idea of going to India...other places were certainly higher on my list...but now it is positioned square in the number one slot. I am dreaming of that jewelry mecca you speak of...

My Notting Hill said...

So complex and captivating, I thoroughly enjoyed drinking in all your descriptions. Your comment about the gypsy girl resonated with me - it may be why I've been timid about entertaining the idea of visiting India someday. Although, reading your account makes me consider all that a journey there would have to offer. Looking forward to the second post!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Gaj, Super Dilettante, JMW, Katie, Laura and Notting!

Thank you so much.
Readers and friends are divided as you are between those who have always wanted to go to India--and those who say it was not on their list and now they're heard what I have to say, my view, they want to go. India is now the top of the list. I am happy.
India is superbly stimulating. There's excitement in the air.There's glamor. It's growing and energetic and thrilling.
Yes, there is the little girl performing cartwheels in the middle of a busy road. But mostly there is great beauty, women with baskets of marigolds and roses outside a temple, a sunny terrace with peacocks strutting nearby, a woman in a saffron sari, happy children at a village school, and a centuries-old culture that is older than Europe. I am endlessly fascinated.
Cheers and happy travels to you, DIANE

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Diane, Diane, Diane...
What an magical odyssey you have taken us on! Your finely honed powers of description bring back the glorious tumult and kaleidoscopic color of India in a rush of blood to my head....

I have stayed at the Amanbagh as well. Memories linger...the nightly aarti ceremony at the little village a short golf cart away from the hotel...the peacocks roaming freely...the silence and the splendor...thank you for so evocatively making it alive again.

And Gem Palace...as I type this, I wear my snake ring that I purchased there and never take off. When I stayed at the Rambagh Palace last year, there was an international polo tournament and the hotel was filled with the most glamorous Indian luminaries I've ever set eyes on. How lucky you are to have spent so much time there with your dear friend the Maharani of Jaipur!

Your post has awakened familiar seeds of passion in me to return there at once. With acknowledgements (and apologies) to Samuel Johnson, "When a woman is tired of India, she is tired of life!"

Most eagerly awaiting Part Two,

xxx

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Dear Lisa, Lisa, Lisa!

We have walked in the same footsteps and trod a similar path.
Who knew, when I went to the aarti ceremony at the temple, you had stood there watching the priests and venerating the gods just months before.
Gem Palace is my favorite (I never shop at other jewelry stores) and the best part if seeing the traditional styles, the rose cuts, the incredible Mughal-style pieces. Lucky you to have the snake ring. Powerful.
What no-one knows in US--is that many Indians now are seriously or mildy or incredibly wealthy, a result of everything such as high-tech and banking, to manufacturing for top luxury French and Italian fashion firms, to textiles, construction (exploding), and making top quality as well as everyday things to ship to America.So there are many chic women carrying Birkins and wearing Louboutins, in Delhi and Bombay. They buy couture. Every time I visit, a few months later I see more motorcycles, newer cars, more shops. But, family and spiritual life remain important to Indians. Daily visits to temples, daily puja, and spending time with the family tribe are all essential to happiness.
India is wonderfully contrary. The caste system is a relic that guided social movement, jobs, and living. Poverty continues in remote villages.
But...India and Indians have a great sense of humor and ease, and they are fun, vivid, and stylish. I am looking forward to a speedy return. I wish this for you, as well. Can't wait to hear about your trip to Morocco. You must con-Fez all.
happy days, DIANE

Michael Bello said...

Good Morning Diane,
Reading your blog, especially about "My Passage To India: Part One" is like next to being there...!
Wonderful words and beautiful pictures!
Best,
Michael Bello

cathy scholl said...

Diane,

Glad to know you also love India.
I am preparing for my 13th visit in January. Reading your post is getting me even more excited than I was...if such a thing is possible!
My husband is in the jewelry business so we know Jaipur well.
Waiting for your next installment...

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Michael and Cathy-

You are very dear for sending such kind comments.
My Indian Odyssey was truly a voyage of discovery--even though I have traveled to India many times, and have enjoyed Jaipur over many years.
India takes you by surprise. Shock, too.
You don't know what will happen next. what you'll see, what fragrance will waft into your nostrils, whom you'll meet, who will suddenly appear, how wonderful Indian vegetarian food can be when it is prepared with devotion.
Cathy-Jaipur is exciting, and everyone you meet, as you know, is fascinating and kind. I wish you a wonderful trip. Please send a trip report.
Michael-I hope you will go there soon--perhaps this coming spring, which is such a lovely season in Jaipur.
all very best for the holidays, DIANE

Bleudelavande said...

Wooowww, simply amazing!!! Tank so much for sharing this wonderful pictures and informations. I enjoyed to visit India with you!!!
Have a great time!!!

Boxwood Terrace said...

Such a wonderful and vivid descriptions you've provided. I would love to visit India one day!

Brillante Home Decor said...

What a fascinating detailed article, transporting me to magic places. A journey to India is on my mind for a long time, but holding me back is the "money" issue, since I would prefer to stay in nice Hotels and move around in comfort. It looks like you travel in style (of course...) would you think it is possible to be comfortable with a smaller budget?
Any suggestions?

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

BLEULAVANDE--MERCI!
Thank you for your kind comments.
BOXWOOD TERRACE: wonderful to hear from you, from such a distance.

ALBAROSA; I must say that Indian hotel prices at the truly comfortable level are Western prices but you get wonderful rooms and lots of service and assistance for that fee. Off-season can be quite gentle prices. Check on the internet.
You will note that the Narain Niwas hotel in Jaipur is somewhere in the range of $200, and it is an utterly authentic and charming hotel.
I suggest cruising around the internet--and looking at the Samode Haveli in Jaipur, and the Samode Palace in Samode..I mentioned them.
Delhi --there is the Manor, and other small hotels.
The internet can be useful--but it's important to balance price and location and comfort. Note that for the fee, the Aman hotels and the Rambagh Palace also offer transfers from airports (around $100 otherwise, or more) and you are surrounded by beautiful gardens, great service, concierges, and lots of comfort. Breakfast is included.
I have friends who stay in small hotels in Jaipur, and who like them very much, and like the authenticity and charm. They pay perhaps $150 or less, with breakfast. But fewer services--though a lovely experience. What you save could be used to buy jewelry. But you won't get room service or lunch, though you may meet an international group of great travelers.
I will do more research and report back. It's a very good question.
all very best, DIANE

HOUND HILL DESIGN said...

Thank you Diane for this exotic journey! I wish this was the India I saw twenty years ago while I was working in the gritty diamond bourse in Bombay as a gemologist! However, as an interior designer India never ceases to inspire - rich in history and so exotic - and those colors!
Nancy

ruchi said...

I live in jaipur.. You have described the city so beautifully... I am so proud.

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

ruchi-


You made my day.

Thank you so much for your kind message. I love it.

I will be writing more about Jaipur. Watch or a new story about GEM PALACE next week...March 2010...and more later.

I do love INDIA, and I adore jaipur. very best, DIANE

Kaveri Singh said...

Dear Diane,
I am an Indian artist who lives and works in Los Angeles, I grew up in India and came here twenty years ago whith my husband. I miss home and Rajasthan was were I went for holidays. A lot of my friends were from families in Rajasthan and I have such amazing memories of the time I spent there. My best friend in school was from the royal family of Bikaner and maharani Gaytri Devi of Jaipur visited us in school often. I have these great memories and you took me right back.You have a gift with words and write about my country with such love . The beauty that exists in daily life back home you captured that and with such reverance thankyou, you make me proud.

vijay gunda said...

Got the wonderful infomation from you, I came to know about you page through my friend swaminath, Delhi. your website has given me the good knowledge on hotels. This is the information which I need it. I really very much thankful to you. Regards Country Club India

Vijay Saxena said...

Got the wonderful infomation from you, I came to know about you page through my friend swaminath, Delhi. your website has given me the good knowledge on hotels. This is the information which I need it. I really very much thankful to you. Regards Country Club India

Priyanka said...

Such a wonderful and deep descriptions and images you've provided. With pleasant interiors and elegant decor, Sarovar Portico, one of the best hotels in Jaipur promises utmost luxury and comfort.

Sudesh said...

Whenever you or guest come again in India, Delhi don't forget to visit The Leela Palace. It is 5 star hotel in Delhi, Its architecture is inspired by Lutyens, art and its levels of refinement and generosity of space mirror the great palaces of the world.