All the Raj in Jaipur
The Hedonist: what to see and where to be seen
Saturday 18 January 2014
It's a bewildering, truck-dodging drive from Agra to Jaipur, so arriving at Lebua Resort (pictured right; 00 91 141 305 0211; lebua.com) bolsters my spirits. An architectural wonder in red sandstone, it's like an enormous, abstract sculpture set at the foot of the Aravalli Hills, gifted with exuberant interiors. Its purpose – besides ceaseless pampering – is evidently to showcase the best Rajasthani craftsmanship. The lobby is a vast jewellery box with floors sparkling like red glitter; only the check-in counter, manned by perfectly groomed models, hints at a hotel created by India's foremost art-collectors.
My suite is rich with distractions, its vivid colours playing up the hotel's tribute to Jaipur's association with precious gemstones. After I've scrutinised the view from my terrace and blissed out in what's more like a hammam than a bathroom, it's time to join my fellow hedonists for a tour of our favourite after-dark haunts. We start old school, at Steam, an expensive bar in a restored steam train on the grounds of Rambagh Palace (00 91 141 221 1919; tajhotels.com). We lubricate ourselves just enough, then head into the palace for stiff drinks amid the maharajah's trophies in the wood-panelled Polo Bar.
At Grunge, a "fashion lounge" at The Fern (00 91 141 412 1212; fernhoteljaipur.com), a business hotel on Tonk Road, there's a likeable DJ and a smouldering crowd. We collapse into comfy sofas and watch as the suits make moves to impress the local party crowd. Then, fancying some fresh air, we head to TaBlu, a schmoozy rooftop lounge at Hotel Clarks Amer (00 91 141 255 0616; amer.hotel clarks.com), where tourists and glamourpusses mingle with hipsters, all swilling cocktails and tucking into shared plates of spicy morsels. Then it's on to The Forresta (00 91 141 220 0550; theforresta.com), an inner-city bar doing a decent imitation of being in forest.
Come morning, I haven't the stomach for a crowd, but I have enlisted for a hot-air balloon ride (00 91 97 1729 5801; skywaltz.com), the most civilised way to survey Jaipur's famous Amer Fort. The pilot cranks the gas-burner and we sail above the ramparts of this sprawling medieval fortress. Effortlessly, we float above the Pink City, making out the distinctive grid-pattern around the main palace.
Sightseeing sorted, I plot a tour of such legendary stores as Rasa (00 91 141 403 8584; www.rasajaipur.com), with its handblock-printed fabrics, and Anantaya AKFD (00 91 141 406 8400; akfdstudio.com) for interior design. Instead of buying the usual souvenirs, I pop into Rohit Kamra (00 91 141 402 2888), the city's best menswear designer, for a spiffy suit.
Back at Lebua, descending the vast steps to the 20,000sq ft spa is like entering another dimension – a vast underground temple to physical and mental gratification. It looks and feels like heaven should, with obliging hands to induce toe-curling levels of wellbeing.
I'm soon in exactly the right frame of mind for a night at Chakra. Lebua's audacious, circular bar is unlike anything else in Rajasthan. Spinning lighting effects and luxurious finishes make it feel like an Austin Powers disco on rich-man's steroids. Jaipur has never felt so ... groovy, baby.
A Hedonist's Guide to... (Hg2) is a luxury city guide series for the more decadent traveller. For more information, see hg2.com
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