anisha shah / Destination / globetrotter / journalist / North India / review / Travel / travel writer / Uncategorized / world



Fairytale view of Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel from the glorious gardens

All that’s really good in life, I’m told is bad for me or OK in controlled doses. ‘Everything in moderation.’ I can’t tell you how much I resent that phrase. It’s riddled with guilt, negative association and control. But I try to abide, in terms of chocolate, shoes and wine. There is one pleasure, however, for which I make no excuse. It requires no justification, no explanation and no reasoning. It’s the one guilt-free indulgence into which I delve with carefree abandon.

Uber-luxury travel is an addiction. As serious as any. It no longer suffices to stay in an average 5*. If it’s not at the very least 5* deluxe, rated by similarly like-minded discerning travellers and boasting the least number of villas/suites spread across the maximum number of acres, I’m in danger of entering frenzied tantrum mode. But if it satisfies that criteria, hook me up, feed my veins and leave me be while I get my fix. As for my India trip, so far so boutique. I’ve discovered some local gems, rare finds and even been the solo guest at a Royal palace. But this is where my over-excitable hyper nature gets to be unleashed. It’s been said that once you taste India’s uber-luxury, little else compares. I thought the Middle East had upstaged that title, or that my monumental splurge in Indonesia & Malaysia couldn’t be toppled. To date, it remains indestructible; at the height of glam. As a luxury travel writer, I’ve certainly savoured what I consider to be the epitome of fantasy and think of myself as something of a Connoisseur. But what’s to come forces me to re-evaluate everything I know about the very unique ‘super-deluxe’ category.

I’ve sampled the clever marketing of 7* hotel labelling, tried the PR hype of new luxury eco-friendly resorts and tested the Journalism spin of  ‘Best Spa / Beach / Suite in the world’. But I’ve realised that the essence of greatness requires few words. Gimmicks are current and comparatively short-lived. Legacy and grandeur are timeless and simply speak for themselves. Welcome to Jodhpur…

Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace hotel, home to Jodhpur Royal family

To give myself the best chance of experiencing all that’s both local and luxurious, I split my time in Jodhpur between two properties. Both 5* deluxe (though we’ve already established that’s far too broad a classification), both very intimate yet both completely contrasting. The first is a luxury boutique Haveli. The second needs little introduction other than the Royal Palace, home to Jodhpur’s Royal family and location of Liz Hurley‘s eponymous fairytale wedding.

Raas, Jodhpur’s first boutique hotel, basks in the essence of Mehrangarh Fort, surrounded by local life in Jodhpur Old Town


RAAS basks in the shade of  Mehrangarh Fort’s Eastern Victory Palace and Gate. It is quite literally a stone’s throw from the fort, directly below though still slightly elevated.

Room with a view as Raas luxury haveli backdrop is magnificent Mehrangarh Fort

Designed in delicate rose-red sandstone, it’s somewhere the style-savvy travellers will feel at home. Nikhilendra Singh’s creation comprises 7 buildings; 4 date back to the 18th century, 3 are recent.

Coined Jodhpur’s first boutique hotel, it already has that elusive ambiance – part refuge, part-rendezvous-vous, shared by the world’s leading intimate boutique hotels.

One of several intimate private enclosures at Raas luxury haveli in Jodhpur

Raas adds a cutting-edge, contemporary property in a classic setting to the mix, against the imposing backdrop of the fort that dominates the skyline and acts as the main draw to the city. Against an inky night sky studded with stars, the spotlit fort glows.

Raas Haveli suite, under shadows of magnificent spotlit Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

Every aspect of the Haveli, from dining to swimming, is styled to bathe in the magnificence of Mehrangarh. Whilst there, Conde Nast Japan are on location on a fashion shoot. A beautiful male model appears in cool lavish linens and sharp shirts. They’re photographing in the private outdoor Sala directly opposite my suite. It’s a stunning space, designed in earthen materials, secluded from prying eyes and set in stone. Think, the Flintstones meets Marrakechan Riad. Late afternoon, it basks in a hazy lazy close heat which adds to the sensuality and intimacy, ideal for a lover’s late lunch date.

The private riad influenced sala outside the Raas haveli suite, intimate & sensual surroundings

Situated within the pulse of Jodhpur‘s old market town, the surroundings are a photographer’s delight ensconced within an olde world of baby blue roofs, cows, street-sellers and a very local mosque.


As a culture-vulture, I lose myself in a kaleidoscopic assault of the senses. Early morning I take a stroll.

Jodhpur blues and quirky Indian architecture in the Old Town

Cows and bulls liberally roam the crowded streets navigating rickshaws, workers, cars and bicycles. Myriad market-sellers  set up stall in Sardar market with a spectrum of decorative Sarees and bangles.

Rajasthan’s renowned for colourful sarees; sellers line Sardar market in a vibrant row, Jodhpur

Sardar market seller awaits customers in street, Jodhpur Old Town

An abundance of sarees in every shade; sellers flock to Jodhpur’s very local Sardar market

Echoes of morning prayer loom above the city from the neighbourhood mosque, weary men sweat in the heat peddling rickshaws overloaded with inflated papayas, the overpowering stench of cow muck wafts down alleyways to attack the back of my nostrils, yet my stomach rumbles as I pass freshly-cooking rotis and fried Jalebi sweets.

A boy watches the bustle of Jodhpur’s Sardar market from his window, lined by overhanging live power cables

Sardar market & clock tower are dominated by Mehrangarh Fort skyline, Jodhpur

Sardar market is heaving at any time but in this heat and humidity it’s almost overwhelming. Sheer determination and pure ‘nomadness’ keep me at my mission to explore and discover.

A smart young Indian boy fetches the groceries from Sardar market in Jodhpur old town

During my rambles, I spot a young girl dressed in a striking Saree, dripping in jewellery and painted lips. Curious, I ask her father if I can take a photograph. He happily agrees, beaming with pride as he tells me she’s dressed for a religious Hindu festival known as ‘Gangaur.’ It’s for all unmarried girls and prays to Lord Shiva for a good husband and married life. This girl is 9 years old.

9 year old dressed up for Rajasthani Hindu Gangaur Festival for unmarried girls, en route to temple with proud father

Shortly after, I spot women from the main procession heading the same way.

Rajasthan celebrations of Gangaur festival for unmarried women to find good husbands; procession towards temple

The central focus of the market is the Girdikot clock tower, around which rows of spirited sellers take to the streets in columns of multicolour.

Muslims and Hindus live& work side by side around Jodhpur’s clock tower

I watch in awe as the chaos somehow flows and everyone lives a full life in and around Sardar market.

Rajasthani woman tends to her baby outside her modest hut, alongside mother-in-law, in Sardar market, Jodhpur

Typical Rajasthani family mode of transport. Sometimes bikes carry 5 members, kids fast asleep& without helmets, Jodhpur

A meander back to Raas for an understated lavish breakfast rounds off an idyllic morning. The beauty of Raas lies within it’s ‘localness.’ Comically, however, suites are equipped with ear plugs for those who may be sensitive to the 5am call to prayer billowing from next door’s mosque.


Suite with private sala and carved postcard views over grounds at Raas boutique haveli in Jodhpur old town

Raas boutique haveli has an intimate feel set in cutting-edge design, Jodhpur

Raas is the complete riad experience. It’s considered menu leans towards ‘European’ flavours, mainly of Morocco, Spain and Italy, whilst dinners delight international fine wine and dining lovers.

Middle Eastern lunch at Raas boutique haveli, within touching distance of Mehrangarh Fort, Jodhpur

It’s private, luxuriant and it’s surroundings are bursting with atmosphere. It’s ground-breaking cutting-edge design is carved into the heart of the old town, which enables Raas to capture the vitality of the people of Jodhpur in all their unedited charm.

Striking modern design of Raas boutique haveli plays on Jodhpur blue colours

The haveli is a luxurious one-off but life surrounding the haveli is the story.


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