Druk Air- Royal Bhutan Airlines is one of the only flights allowed to land in the extremely difficult Paro Airport. These flights currently in India leave from Delhi and Kolkata but they plan to extend to Mumbai in the near future. This is Bhutan’s national carrier.
There are 2 classes – Business and Economy. The Business class has a sufficient amount of leg room. The seats however do not recline. The seats are comfortable but basic and on a 4 am flight; I really needed to sleep. The welcome drink is a mocktail or cocktail ( a signature recipe).
The crew is polite and unobtrusive. The food service is quick and silent and the coffee is strong!
I really wanted to sleep but I’m glad I was kept awake because the landing in Paro is spectacular. In fact the visibility was so bad we had to take a second round just to land. When you land on the strip bordered with the most gorgeous mountain ranges; you forget about the seats and the mush that masqueraded as food and you marvel at the pilot brave enough to land.
All in all Druk Air is an airline that has a wonderful crew. The airline passes muster. As a national carrier, it rates as above average.
Sujan Sher Bagh
I’d followed the Sujan brand for a while and I liked the quiet luxury and the few rooms they had , hence for #ParentTrap we decided on Sujan Sher Bagh.
Sujan Sher Bagh is part of Relaix and Chateau. Sujan is about 2.5 -3 hrs from the nearest airport which is Jaipur. We drove there on 4 x 4’s and the car and the ride was comfortable. The team and the butler had been made aware of the madness of #ParentTrap and they were there to greet us as we entered.
The Jungle Suite was very comfortable and beautifully decorated. The jungle theme and tiger accents are all over the room. The luxury tent is comfortable, warm and cosy. Aditya and I chose the Royal Sher Suite which a similar room but had a beautiful , heated plunge pool which was perfect to jump in to in the cold weather of Ranthambore.
Your room costs include all your meals , so as we arrived and checked in, we went straight to lunch. There was a nice mix of continental and Indian foods on the menu, but they were happy to create off menu dishes as well just to make sure we were happy!
In the afternoon we were off for a game drive. The drive was comfortable in the Sujan jeep and we had each were given blankets, binoculars and water to make sure we were very comfortable. We were not very lucky with the tiger, but we saw several other animals and enjoyed the drive and the sunset. We returned for a nice cup of coffee and a wash to get ready for dinner.
The trip was all about the game drives and I interspersed it with spa treatments for all so that they could properly relax. The property is lovely and we enjoyed touring the property and seeing their organic garden and spotting animal tracks and checking camera views of the animals who traversed the property at night.
Post the walk, a beautiful bath had been arranged in the outdoor gold tub and I relaxed and enjoyed the bath getting ready for dinner.
A special dinner was arranged for the family and the table was gloriously decorated with candles. Though they were at full occupancy, our butler never made us feel there was anyone else except for us. The dinner was a perfect Indian meal, that I’d asked for and the cold of Ranthambore was warmed by the heat of the delicious Indian food we were served!
The next morning we were off on a drive again with a warm brandy in some coffee to warm us up and we searched the forest for the elusive tiger. We didn’t see the tiger at all on this trip. It did happen and we did get to see a tiger quite literally at arm’s length ;however, more on that later.
Watching the sun rise in the forest and the birds wake the world up is a glorious feeling. As we returned and post lunch, we enjoyed a visit to the local Dastkaar and a nice dip in the pool before cocktails and dinner in front of a glorious fire, where we caught up with other guests, shared forest stories, laughed and relaxed.
Sujan was a truly special experience. The hotel is designed with personality and thought. The only lapse is that their guide was not very good and we were not advised of game drives and sections of the park so unfortunately we missed the tiger. Had they told us and guided us on what drives to do and for how long, we’d have definitely spotted the tiger at least once. The service however was impeccable and our butler went through my idea of #Parent Trap and ensured he made every moment with our parents a special one.
I’m looking forward to visiting the Sujan in Jaisalmer too !
Cost-:Approximately $1200- $2000 approximately per night for a package which is inclusive of meals but not of game drives.
Best times to Travel-:April to June just before the rains…but then it is very, very warm so be prepared. Personally I enjoyed the winter but animals were few and far between and with our guide often nowhere to be found 🙂 .
A Suite Anniversary!
And so before you know it…we’d hit number 7! The seventh anniversary dawned upon us and with my focus being the many shows we’re doing and traveling with this year, and with a show on the night before my anniversary ; we couldn’t really get away (MUCH AS I’D LOVED TO HAVE!)….But if you can’t get away from the city well then you should make a small get away IN your city and so that’s what we did!
On the Anniversary we checked in to the Spanish Suite at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. Straight from our wedding, Aditya and I had checked in to the Taj, and readied ourselves for the grand reception the next day! The Taj Mumbai also played host to my sister’s engagement, my parent’s marriage my in-laws marriage as well! So naturally, but naturally we’d want to check in to what can only be described, as almost a second home to us! My brilliant sister, Nikhila had pulled out all the stops to make this the best most memorable anniversary ever and she never fails to amaze us! The Spanish Suite is known for a beautiful , old chandelier and the beautiful romantic hues of the room. With a glorious view of the Gateway of India…. it was the perfect backdrop to my small afternoon plan of reaffirming our vows! Since we were home, this one time , on our anniversary I thought of doing a small reaffirmation of vows with just family. For me that would make my day just perfect!
We checked in and were thoroughly surprised(I spent a good 15 minutes running from room to room) to see all the many, many photographs that had been strategically placed of us. It was like the room had been specially kept just for us! We quickly changed and headed to the pool for some sun and i was delighted when almost every staff member greeted me by name and wished me Happy Anniversary. It’s true what they say about the legendary service at the Taj.
Lunch was at my favourite restaurant in the world 🙂 Souk and then after more sunbathing; we rushed back to the room for me to soak in warm romantic bath that had been prepared. And then before we knew it family had arrived and Nikhila , my sister who had been ordained online performed a quick ceremony and our anniversary was celebrated with champagne toasts and tons of laughter!
And then it was off to Sea Lounge for the fabulous High Tea! The Sea Lounge has the best high tea in Mumbai . with sandwiches, and chats, pastries and savory items; this is a fabulously filling meal and it was a wonderful evening spent chatting, laughing, reminiscing and relaxing!
The family then left and much as I couldn’t eat another morsel, Aditya insisted that we at least go to the lounge and have a drink! Now it was just the 2 of us and we headed to the lounge where they had prepared a special cake just to celebrate our anniversary!
I was too exhausted at the end of the day to eat another morsel; so after sitting in the lounge for a bit , it was room service and an extremely comfortable bed for me!!!
Surprise! Surprise! Chef Hemanth Oberoi, the Grand Executive Chef at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, as well as corporate chef for the entire Taj chain of hotels; and most importantly the man who designed the menu for my wedding -had sent to our room ; not one, not two- BUT THREE GIGANTIC CHOCOLATE CAKES! Now we had THREE PLUS ONE FROM EARLIER!!!! 🙂
I awoke on Sunday to a fabulous breakfast in bed. Capuccino’s , croissants and juices… I felt thoroughly pampered. Off for a nice , long relaxing swim and then we ended up at lunch at Masala Kraft , the Indian restaurant!They knew all my favourites and had brought them even before I placed my order!
And then post a cup of coffee; it was time to go home… Though this was a very, very short break- I came home feeling refreshed, energized and still in vacation mode…!
Anniversary or no anniversary – I think I’d like to do this every 3 months or so! Wot say Aditya? 🙂
‘Play’ing around at Taj Deccan
The Taj Deccan is primarily a business hotel with several long stay business guests and even more guests who keep coming back because of the personal attention they get from the staff who quite literally treat them like family!
We were off to yet another sojourn to Hyderabad for the final leg of our show FourSome which was being hosted by the Taj Deccan. We arrived to be personally greeted and given a warm, welcoming hug by the General Manager, Mrs Gahlot who I am lucky to know personally as a friend. Her eye for detail and care in terms of guest relations, quality of service is outstanding and she takes a personal interest in the well-being of every guest whether you are staying a single night or for several. You can often see her on her many, many rounds of the hotel- always smiling, never hesitating to stop and enquire whether you need anything at all!
The Taj Deccan rooms are old style- large ,spacious and comfortable and in preparation for a long few days, I plonked my suitcases down and got straight to work!
The lawns had been done up in the last year and were now divided in to the main lawns and the pool lawns and 2 functions could quite easily exist simultaneously .The beautifully manicured lawns were being done for a wedding the following day and our area was perfectly covered insulating the sound with a beautiful stage. All this was already set.
After a long drawn out tech meeting with our vendors it was time to visit Syn the Asian bar which serves the most interesting and delectable array of sushi. The chef is a master challenging your taste buds with sushi styles you’ve never heard of but which are so tasty you wish you could keep eating them!
The Taj Deccan also has an incredible Indian speciality restaurant called Spice Junxion. Drawing on it’s Hyderabadi and South Indian routes the Chef creates festivals, menus and dishes that are seasonal and incredibly mouthwatering!
If you stay at Deccan- EAT THE FOOD!
The hotel is perched in the prestigious Banjara Hills. With shopping, business and nightclubs all just minutes away…enjoy a young and vibrant Hyderabadi night life!
I’m a sucker for staying at the Taj Deccan for 2 nights and then traveling to the Old city to the Taj Faluknama Palace for another 2!
How did the show go? …
Cost-:$150-$250 a night… a wonderfully placed hotel with INCREDIBLE FOOD!
Best Times To Travel-:October thru to February!
Living like a Maharaja in Udaipur!
So anyone who knows me at all…and all those who don’t know me but have read stuff that I’ve written- you’d probably know that it doesn’t take much for me to want to travel…I can make occasions out of almost anything and in my mind celebrations are occasions and are the perfect time to do something different, to travel, to explore, to dream and to make dreams come true!
It was the husband’s birthday last year and in true Divya-mystery style , I told him to take leave from work- ” I was going to kidnap him!” is what I said! And that’s totally what I planned! The Ultimate Kidnap! Nothing was bought via his Credit card. Bookings were done on email and via the phone and Aditya who was delighted about the kidnapping stayed happily oblivious to all my intricate plans!
Now Aditya had only been very briefly to Rajasthan once when in school. It had been quick , short and unmemorable and he’d always talked of wanting to go back- to see the palaces. I have spent more than a few vacations in the Palaces of Rajasthan but this was a trip and a surprise I wanted to give him…so it was up to me to try and ensure that the trip catered to HIS very specific tastes and so I went ahead and did my research! The Palace I chose was the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur.
The Taj Lake Palace has always been one of my favourite palaces. A white , carved beauty almost arising like a lotus from the lake- the Lake Palace was a palace used by the Royals for dancing, music and merriment. The Lake Palace stands proudly amidst Lake Pichola with the beautiful Aravalli range helping create the most picture-perfect backdrop!
The flights from Mumbai are limited and the one we took was rather early in the morning (3:30 or 4 am ish) so despite it being a short flight; both of us were quite exhausted! Udaipur airport is almost a shell structure with only basic facilities and I was happy to quickly get out!
All our exhaustion vanished the minute we stepped outside! A beautiful, heritage car had come to pick us up and Aditya was almost jumping in glee as he carefully examined the beautiful car! The car ride was full of ‘I don’t believe it’s’….and ‘What’s next?’s’ and before we knew it we were at the pier ready to take a boat to the fabulous Palace that stood gleaming majestically in the early rays of the morn!
The trip I had planned would be a trip fit for a King! After all my wonderful husband is my King and he deserves nothing less…so as we arrived we were ushered into one of the Palace suites! The suite was beautiful- a two level suite with all our bedroom windows overlooking the beautiful lake. The room was perfect- opulent , rich and comfortable and the minute our heads hit the bed we were off to sleep!
But there had been much planning that had gone into this Celebration and so in a few hours I woke my husband to take him off for a special Spa session. Aditya loves spas, food, water and a relaxed break and I’m usually the total opposite- loving cities, noise, adventure and fun BUT this was Aditya’s celebrations and the plans were geared to him the time of his life! And the spa treatment did just that. With an outdoor spa bed overlooking the lake as the sun started setting, even I had to admit that there was no way that city noise could compete with the beautiful serenity of that moment! We relaxed. We talked. We de-stressed.
After some fabulous green tea, we grudgingly left the spa but started exploring the hotel. As soon as we found the beautiful pool we couldn’t hold ourselves back! We jumped in! A refreshing swim later- it was back to the room to dress for dinner!
Now with the help of the hotel I had chosen some Unique Royal Dining Experiences for Aditya and me and our first was at the beautiful Lily Pond. A table had been set and our personal butler escorted us to our table where a musician regaled us with live music as we had traditional Rajasthani food sipping champagne under a beautiful moonlit sky! When we returned back to our room, our Butler had thoughtfully put out a cake, some more champagne and lit up the room so wonderfully – it must have taken him our entire dinner to have been able to make the room look so spectacular ! We cut Aditya’s birthday cake and finally called it a night!
Breakfast on the birthday morning was very special as well. I had pre-ordered breakfast and this was brought to a small garden outside our room and set up just for us! After a late night and with plenty of exciting plans today- this was a wonderful start for us!
Breakfast over we headed back to the Pier where we had a Vintage car waiting to take us on a tour of the city. Stopping at a few select stores , we took a long break at a collection of the Maharaja’s cars. All restored. All spectacular. All drool worthy ! Now it was back to the hotel and a short heritage walk around the Palace. As that ended we were escorted back to the Upstairs spa ( my request after seeing how calm Aditya had been the previous day) and a new spa treatment. Equally relaxing and fabulous…this time we chose to just let the moment take control and slowly drifted off only to be awakened at the end of the treatment with warm tea.
Now it was time for my HUGE SURPRISE and the reason why i had chosen we come to Udaipur! The Lake Palace owns and looks after the boat that was seen in the Bond movie Octopussy- the Gangaur! Aditya is a film buff and I knew it would be worth the extra expense to give him a birthday surprise he’d never have dreamed possible- dinner on the boat!The boat is kept in the middle of the lake and holds 10-20 guests but I booked it for just the 2 of us! A magnificent multi course meal on the lake had been booked while my Bond enjoyed the sunset, starters drinks and meal that I had pre-planned for him! The boat was decked exquisitely. With red carpets and 10 butlers , we were looked after like royalty. Both of us headed to the upper deck where a gadda (comfortable , padded mat) had been placed with cushions and we surveyed the whole city as it lay before us.
As drinks finished and the sun set, the boat had maneuvered around some ruins on the main land under the City Palace. Suddenly they came to life and were lit up with beautiful girls doing incredible dances among the ruins. Fabulous music, dances with fire and we felt like Maharjas (I too felt rather King-like!) watching courtesans dance as they might have done decades ago. This had been done especially for us and I was delighted when I saw Aditya’s happy surprise! The meal was served upstairs as we were so comfortable relaxing despite having seen a beautiful , intimate table set up downstairs on the boat. The food was a collection of kebabs, dals , biryanis and curries -each more delicious than the next, each more decadent than the next!
And then as the boat turned once again we saw the beautifully lit Mohan Mandir ( the temple island) and as it turned again Birthday fireworks erupted in the air once again especially for us! The excitement in the air was electric and we were really privileged to have been part of such a wonderful, well thought out experience. As dessert was served (once again a medley of all Aditya’s favourites) we wound down to live Indian music being played by our very own musicians on the boat (once again a special experience just for us!).
And then like a dream the evening ended and we floated back to our suite dreaming of the Rajasthani Royal past and grateful that we were able to have some of the experiences!
My husband felt like a King and I was proud to have been able to make him feel like that! Udaipur is the crown among Royal Rajasthani palaces and the Taj Lake Palace- the Kohinoor!
Price Factor-: Udaipur as a city is inexpensive for traditional Rajasthani handicrafts and materials. The hotels however are expensive and are traditionally between $320- $ 420 per night.
Best times to travel-: Dessert climes…so October thru to March is great to travel in though we had a wonderful time last July as well!