Travel: 24-Hour Room Service: Hotel Caravanserai, Udaipur, India

AMONG THE legions of hotels along the edges of Udaipur's beautiful Lake Pichola, the Caravanserai is a gem. The most famous hotel in the city is the Lake Palace Hotel, an island in the centre of the water, but unless you want to spend pounds 200 a night to be surrounded by braying tourists, Caravanserai is a more authentic alternative. Plus you get a view of the Lake Palace that no one staying there does.

Caravanserai is a tall, slim building at the end of one of the city's twisting, turning streets. Behind the wrought-iron gates and past the handkerchief-sized garden, the hotel has a cool, marble interior and a rooftop restaurant that serves mouth-watering local dishes. Great for watching the comings and goings down on the lake, from the early morning washerwomen on the ghats to the always-perfect sunset on the mountains across the water.

The roof is also ideal for watching the parrots, eagles, ravens, mynah birds and myriad others that pass by during the day. An enormous swarm of fruit bats flew over the roof one night - slightly alarming, but no less beautiful.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Hotel Caravanserai is at 14 Lalghat, Udaipur 313 001, India (00 91 294 411103/fax 00 91 294 521252).

Transport: There are auto-rickshaws available outside the gates to tour the city and beyond, although all the shops and most of the sights are within walking or roof-viewing distance (if you can stand the heat).

Time to airport: The little airport that connects Udaipur to Delhi and Mumbai (Bombay) is 20km away. The quickest way in is by taxi.

Time to railway station: The station is 5km away, about 10 minutes by auto-rickshaw, or much longer by the more eco-friendly horse-and-cart taxi.

ARE YOU LYING COMFORTABLY?

The hotel staff are young and enthusiastic. Can't be bothered to go upstairs for supper? They'll bring it to you. Want a driver to take you to the Jain temples? No sooner said than done. The rooms also have marble floors, so a cool, soothing underfoot sensation is guaranteed. Slightly disconcerting are the blue tints on the windows, but they do prevent neighbours peeking in. Ask for a corner room (11, 21 or 31) for a view of the lake.

Beds: Minimal mattresses that are surprisingly comfortable, with crisp, white sheets and a suitably ethnic bedspread.

Freebies: This is India... nothing to speak of, except a lurid pink soap in the bathroom and mini-rolls of loo paper that are very handy for taking out in your bag.

Temperature: All rooms have air-conditioning (Rajasthan can be 40C plus at this time of year) and a ceiling fan, and early mornings on the roof are very pleasant.

Bathroom: Bathrooms in India tend to be pretty basic. These are decent - and the showers have hot water - but they won't win any prizes for interior decor.

KEEPING IN TOUCH

TV and radio: None in rooms.

Phone/fax/Internet: There are phones in the rooms, but international connections and faxes must go through the reception. Internet cafes are springing up all over the city with online rates down to two rupees a minute.

Newspapers: The Times of India is available, but the "One Stop Shop" across the road has a wide selection of papers, magazines and second-hand books (VS Naipaul, Salman Rushdie... you get the idea).

THE BOTTOM LINE

All rooms cost 1,195 rupees (around pounds 19) per night but longer-stay visitors are sure to be able to negotiate a deal. Breakfast is extra.

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