Rajasthan’s Samodes: A Unique Experience & Oh So Royal

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I had long wanted to visit the Samode properties in Rajasthan India and then someone distinguished raved about their newish safari lodge at Bandhavgarh.  That was the stimulus I needed and we arrived in mid February to stay at Samode Haveli in Jaipur.  We travelled by Shatabdhi train from Delhi where we had stayed with pleasure yet again at The Imperial.  The train journey is fast and efficient and one arrived in good time for lunch.

   

Samode is a beautifully presented town hotel that was/is in fact the town residence of the princes of Samode.  Samode itself is a little town about 50 minutes travelling north of Jaipur…but more of that later.  The haveli is a large regal residence in the Indo-Saracenic construct which is the signature look and décor for all the Samode hotels.  This charming place has ancient rooms carefully furnished with every comfort and lovely courtyards, lawns and flowers in full bloom giving their fragrance to al fresco meals; the swimming pool is large and so beautiful and there is a spa to one side.  A stylish shop and a business centre complete the facilities.

We loved it and were soon at home with attentive staff, good food, either Indian or a fusion of European and Indian.  The swimming pool gives a centre for leisure and there is a Jacuzzi.  Located at the end of a narrow lane in Jaipur one is immediately aware of the antiquity of this city and the haveli becomes a haven when one has gone out to sight see or experience something or indeed shop!  We spent three nights there and then had the delightful prospect of transferring to the Samode Palace.

   

The rulers of Samode trace their descent from Prithiviraj Singh ji, the 17th prince of the Kacchawaha Rajputs who ruled the kingdom of Amber (later known as Jaipur) 450 years ago.  Traditionally the rulers of Samode were the principal thakurs (nobles) of the royal state of Amber now Jaipur.  These fine nobles served the Maharajas of Jaipur and their successors the Rawals of Samode continued to wield power and influence through the 20th century.

Samode Palace is a total delight…and indeed it has been the setting for a number of well known films on India which necessitated heritage settings.  The palace is 500 years old and it remains a haven of tranquility under the impressive Sheogarh Fort on the hill tops.  I recommend that you stay three nights at Samode to fully appreciate this lovely serene and interesting place.

  

There are suites, royal suites and beautiful public rooms with their stunning ancient murals and décor; there are two swimming pools each charming; one on the ground floor and large but the other higher up and an infinity pool with its own Jacuzzi as well with shady areas in which to rest and relax and also eat a light meal.  We were given a most charming and spacious royal suite which is at the top of the building so necessitated quite a climb, but there are bedrooms on lower floors.

The peace, the change in the light, the birdsong are all part and parcel of this rural place.  The Staff are well trained and attentive and knowledgeable and eager to please.  The dining room is stylish with a buffet and also a la carte.  Then there is a second restaurant for evenings should you fancy a change.  The spa is good and there is also a business centre. There is a good hotel shop.

   

The florist carefully laying out flower petals for an evening function delighted me; the Classic India Car Rally 2013 used this palace hotel very sensibly as a stop along their route and delighted us with all their great cars that had been shipped into India for the rally.  We were invited to go on a camel cart ride to see the sunset.  This was amusing and enjoyable and when we reached our destination and said farewell to the camel owner a butler and two assistants served us a splendid tea on a sand dune and we waited companionably for the sunset which did not disappoint.

Then we amiably all climbed into the jeep and returned home in the twilight waving at the camel owner as he made his own way home.  That ride to the sunset showed the small town, its surrounding countryside, the buffaloes returning home, the peacocks scurrying by, the bird life preparing to roost and the people all waving and calling out.  Life in rural Rajasthan today, the dichotomy of the medieval but the camel owner chatting on his cell phone….that is what pleases me.

   

We had lunch at Samode Bagh. Bagh means garden in Hindi and the Bagh is modeled on the geometric style of a Mughal garden and was built 250 years ago and has been historically used by the Samode family for private retreats.  It is charming with the most beautiful comfortable tented accommodation (in fact the roof is tented whereas the walls are brick) with every comfort and full ensuite shower room and verandah.

Naturally the Bagh also has a swimming pool and Jacuzzi and beautiful open area for sitting and relaxing and dining.  I really liked this place and could see it as a venue for a family reunion with plenty to do and space to run around for children or indeed a wedding or a conference.

   

On our return to the Palace we walked through the town and looked at all the shops and bought some items….I needed some jutis (handmade local shoes) and loved some bangles, and then a shawl.  As for the gems….well the gemstone dealer was astounding with his variety of gorgeous precious and semi precious stones that almost fell out of his paper packets….Oh for a lottery win and then one could seriously buy and have something designed and made in Jaipur which is a centre for jewellery.

   

These Samode Hotels are located 240 kms from Delhi International airport, but Jaipur has its own modern airport and as I said efficient train connections.  Equally the car drive to other destinations in Rajasthan or to Delhi is very easily achieved on modern roads.

There is a fourth Samode Hote: the Samode Safari Lodge at Bandhavgarh in Madhya Pradesh….what can I say…stylish, comfortable, welcoming, luxurious yet in keeping with its environs, with attentive Staff and Naturalist…and the stars of the show are the tigers and other wildlife of Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve.

   

For more photos, check out my gallery of Samodes in Rajasthan: https://plus.google.com/photos/105833357733916819450/albums/5859339444989131969  .

Aline Dobbie
Aline Dobbie is an author of four books on India and a travel writer. She lives in Scotland but travels widely throughout the year with an annual visit to India where she was born & grew up. Aline’s earlier life was in the corporate world but now lives a rural life with emphasis on travel, gardening, cooking, and family. India, South Africa, England, Scotland, Greece and other lovely places are a constant delight to her.
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