Location: Amet Haveli, outside Chandpole, Udaipur, Rajasthan 313001
There is nothing quite like sitting in Amet Haveli’s lakeside Ambrai bar-restaurant, sipping your cocktail, gazing out over Lake Pichola. In your view, the setting sun glows on the monumental fairytale façade of the City Palace (not quite as big as it seems, it’s built around a hill) and the town’s ghats – steps down to the lake. The ‘James Bond’ Lake Palace seems to float in the glistening waters. A puffy cloud turns peach-pink, fruit bats take their evening flight. A waiter refreshes your glass and delivers a plate of hot cashew nuts tossed in spices. Wellbeing without moving.
There are so many wellbeing moments at Amet Haveli! Best of all is its location. Its two lakeside facades stand at right angles. One is filled by Ambrai. The rooms behind the other are reached through pretty garden courtyards. It feels like a home because it still is one. Built in the mid 18th century by the feudal lord of Sadargarh, head engineer for Maharana Jagat Singh’s vast Mewar kingdom, today’s owners live in part of it.
If you are lucky to be in a lake-facing room you can watch the morning sun rise above the city as you enjoy your ‘bed tea’. Ambrai restaurant’s food is some of the best in town, and local patrons give it a bistro vibe (refreshingly unlike a hotel) – be sure to reserve your table for dinner. Amet has its own boat nearby, so you can cruise around the lake without having to cross the city to the public boats. If you yearn for private space, the lakeside garden pavilion of Badi Mahal can be yours – the portrait of Maharana Pratap is by Raja Ravi Varma, father of modern Indian art. There’s even a small dipping pool - who could possibly want to do speed-training lengths while at Amet?
There are plenty of fancier hotels in Udaipur, but they can’t give the true flavor of this most congenial city. And if you linger over morning chai and papaya as you gaze over the lake, read a bit, draw a bit, daydream a bit while deciding what to do with your day, no one minds. Will you poddle about the city seeking out markets, cafes and treasures to buy? Or perhaps drive in almost any direction to find something beautiful, quality and interesting?
You need a week or so to get under the skin of Udaipur.
Must-do wellness experience: long lazy dinners at Ambrai
Amet Haveli buzz phrases: I’m so glad we’re staying here and not at …….
Ideas for unpacking your kind of slow-down wellness at Amet Haveli
Pichola Lake is Udaipur's star. Be it sunrise from your room, or sunset from boat on the lake or nearby hilltop, the lake reflects the light adding a magic that suffuses everything. As you explore the city lanes you can enjoy a great lake view like this one from the city's many historic haveli hotels with rooftop restaurants open to all.
Udaipur's monumental City Palace is not to be dismissed as 'too touristy' - there is a valid reason for it being popular. And since its extensive renovation and reorganisation, both rooms and collections are shown at their best. Choose a quiet time of day to enjoy crazy royal interior decoration like this, and top quality Mewar paintings.
Experience something special, with a little pre-planning. Arrange a visit Aavaran to see quality indigo and other plant dyeing and block printing, like this fine piece (they have a tiny store in town). Ask your guide to help you coincide with women singing devotional morning songs in the central temple, or perhaps arrange for a Rajput cuisine cookery lesson in a beautiful home.
Exploring Udaipur is a joy, best done by taking a serendipity approach. Mix tuk-tuks and walking to explore some of the tiny lanes, get slightly lost, come across vegetable markets (with delicious food stalls, especially at late breakfast time), and stores stocked with local crafts - like this one where rooms are piled high with sumptuous textiles.
Drive through farms, villages and the rugged Aravalli Hills to find Dungapur's palace and fort, sublime Ranakpur temple, and the great Mewar fort at Chittorgarh. If you choose the trio of Eklingji, Nathdwara and Rajsamand (pictured here), consider pressing on to Sadargarh (now a hotel), the nine-courtyard fort-palace built by Maharana Jagat Singh's state engineer. It inspired His Highness to have Sadargarh build Jag Niwas in Lake Pichola, used by Mewar royals as a cool summer retreat until it became the Lake Palace Hotel in the 1960s.
Episode 15 - Grand Dragon Hotel, Leh
Is it now time to start planning your Unpacking Wellness experience?
We shall emerge into a more cautious world. In preparation, I have designed some slow-travel Unpacking Wellness experiences. They are suffused in wellness, interaction is controlled, crowds are avoided. You pick and mix your selection from four week-long, in-depth visits to South Indian spots I especially love - on plateau, coast, forest and delta. Do one, two, three or all four.
If you have not traveled with me before ....
Please know that we experience great sights in the best possible way, with lots of add-on encounters and visits to off-beat places. We meet conservationists, curators, craftsmen and musicians, we walk with naturalists, we cook with local chefs. In sum, we imbibe the essence of each area thanks to my four decades of studying and visiting India - and making great friends who I share with you.
For private travel ....
I work with you to create your tailor-made trip to any corner of India, to any budget, for all interests and special needs, for families and parties of friends, for business groups and for honeymoon couples - India is ideal for everyone!