travel ideas


Holiday Dubai!

So you have heard of all the incredible buildings and the property development that has been happening in Dubai over the last five years. Yet nothing prepares you for the reality. The real estate projects are on a different scale altogether. Burj Dubai – the world’s tallest building, the Palm Islands – the largest manmade islands in the sea, The World – islands shaped like the different continents, Burj Al Arab – the largest all-suite hotel, to name a few, are all here. The city is glitzy, ostentatious and ever changing. Dubai has some of the biggest shopping malls you have ever seen are here and new ones that are even bigger, brighter, bolder are being built.

The biggest surprise however, is that Dubai is nothing like your idea of an Islamic country. Expatriates from the subcontinent, Philippines, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Korea and the neighbouring Arab states outnumber the local Emiratis by far. Thus the city has a cosmopolitan culture and you will hear many languages being spoken, the most common of which is English. There are no restrictions on dress, unless someone is dressed truly indecently.

One of the highlights of your Dubai holiday will be the sheer variety of cuisine that’s available thanks to its ethnic mix. You should definitely try the Arabic delicacies on your visit to Dubai. The nightlife is amazing with an interesting mix of nightclubs, lounge bars, pubs and restaurants. All the restaurants and bars that serve alcohol are located in sports clubs or hotels with at least 3 stars. Hotels in Dubai like the Burj Al Arab, Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Emirates Towers, Atlantis, Dusit and the Madinat Jumeirah complex, are as much architecture statements for the city as they are hotels.

Private Beach

The other surprise in Dubai is its excellent beaches. The sand is powdery white and the water turquoise blue. Some of the posh hotels on the Jumeirah beach stretch have their own private beaches. Hotels with a private beach include Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Dubai Marine Beach Resort and Spa, Hilton Jumeira, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, Ritz Carlton, Madinat Jumeirah, Atlantis on the Palm Islands and of course the iconic and super luxurious Burj Al Arab. Parks such as Al Mamzar Beach Park and Jumeirah Beach Park also have nice beaches.

Thankfully there are also a few places that haven’t been obliterated by the building boom. The old markets in Deira and Bur Dubai still retain some of their ancient flavour with narrow, bustling alleys packed with small traders.

Things to do in Dubai:

This over-the-top city is a place to live it up. Here are a few things for you to do on your holiday travel in Dubai:

• Desert Safari: Get into a 4×4 and then hang on for dear life as expert drivers take you over mammoth sand dunes. It’s an incredible experience so don’t miss it. Your desert adventure will be followed by a barbecue and belly dancing at a desert camp.
• Strolling through Bastakiya: This is a small area where old houses with wind towers have been restored and converted into museums, art galleries and cafes.
• Visiting the Spice Souq: Walk down the creek in Bur Dubai and watch Dhows (traditional wooden ships) sailing by. Then take an Abra (a small boat) across the creek and go to the Spice Souq
• Wining & Dining: Thai Kitchen at Park Hyatt for contemporary Thai food, Asado at The Palace for Argentinean steaks, Zheng He at Mina A’Salam for Chinese, Bice at Hilton Jumeirah for Italian… There are hundreds of great places to dine well.
• Mall Trawl: Apart from shopping, check out the ski slope at the mall of the Emirates and the aquarium and dancing fountains on the lake at Dubai Mall. For an upscale venue go to Souq Madinat which has been built like a traditional Arabic souq or market.

Best time to visit Dubai:

November to March. Summers are scorching but come winter, the city comes alive and the weather is perfect for a day on the beach.

Read about the best Romantic Spas, Beaches, Cruises, Ski Resorts and more holiday travel ideas on this site.

Posted by on November 17th, 2009

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The Best Udaipur Hotels

Udaipur is one of Rajasthan’s most charming cities which has many lakes and palaces and part of the charm of staying in Udaipur is to experience a bit of royal living. Many grand palaces and havelis (traditional residences) have been turned into heritage hotels. Their wonderful architecture, antique furniture and turbaned stewards give you a peek into how Rajasthan’s royals lived their lives in opulent splendour. If you are lucky, a member of the royal family may be in residence and a chat may reveal some great tales of their ancestors’ and the city’s colourful history.

Below are our pick of hotels in Udaipur to help you make the most of your Rajasthan holiday travel.

Top End

Taj Lake Palace

The picture of this 250-year old white marble palace floating on the tranquil Pichola lake epitomizes the romance and beauty of Udaipur. The palace was built by a playboy prince in the 18th century and is probably one of the best locations for any hotel anywhere in the world. Octopussy, the James Bond film, was shot here.
The Lake Palace has a total of 83 rooms and suites and the hotel occupies an entire island, covering an area of 4 acres. Lily ponds, terraces and gardens create a romantic and serene setting. The views of the lake and the Aravali hills from the suites and terraces are breathtaking and the service is impeccable. The décor is opulent but in an understated way. Silk furnishings, antique furniture and paintings, wonderful frescoes, window and door arches inlaid with glass create a fantasy setting. You can even enjoy a candlelight dinner on an antique barge as it sails across the lake.

The Taj Lake Palace is one of the most beautiful hotels in Udaipur and you should stay here if possible.
Note: The lake is frequently dry in summer and the hotel loses some of the charm of its location. It is best to go just after the monsoon.

Oberoi Udaivilas

This luxurious hotel spans an area of 30 acres and is located on the banks of Lake Pichola. It was built to resemble a traditional Rajasthani palace and succeeds in capturing the opulence and majesty of a bygone era. Lawns, fountains, courtyards, pools and gardens surround the palace.
The luxury suites have private pools and terraces, personal butlers and glorious views of the lake. The architectural details have been faithfully reproduced and you will see beautiful domes and walls with inlaid mirrors throughout the property. The décor is stylish and some of the rooms have frescoes. The Udaivilas has a two-storeyed spa which offers a variety of massages and treatments. A visit to the spa is recommended.

Devi Garh

Here’s a hotel with a difference. It’s an 18-century fortress palace that has been turned into a 39-suite heritage hotel. The difference is that instead of the traditional carved wooden furniture and ornate artifacts, this hotel sports a minimalist look for its interior although the flooring is expensive white marble and semi-precious stones have been incorporated in the design. The juxtaposition of 18th century architecture and the best of contemporary Indian design creates a stunning effect.
The suites are large and spacious with great views and some of them have private pools. The hotel’s spa offers great Ayurvedic treatments and its restaurants serve delectable food amidst great settings.
Devi Garh is located 28kms northeast of Udaipur and is surrounded by the Aravali hills on three sides and overlooks the Delwara village. The temples of Eklingi and Nagda are nearby and are worth a visit.

Fateh Prakash Palace

This was built by Maharana Fateh Singh as an exclusive venue for royal functions and you can see this in its grand Durbar Hall. Fateh Prakash is one of three palaces that are still in use in Udaipur’s City Palace complex. The other two are Shiv Niwas – another heritage hotel, and Shimbhu Niwas Palace, where the Mewar royal family lives.
Fateh Prakash is located directly opposite the Lake Palace on Lake Pichola so the views of the lake and the city are absolutely stunning. Make your way to the Sunset Terrace restaurant at sundown to appreciate Udaipur’s beauty and have a drink.
For the best views and décor, stay in the Dovecoat wing which actually is a more recent addition to the palace. The old palace wing has bigger suites but the décor sometimes feels a bit stuffy. There are loads of period artifacts and furniture and the hotel oozes with old world charm.
Fateh Prakash has no pool but you can use the pool at the bigger Shiv Niwas Palace for free.

Also check out the Leela Palace Kempinski – an opulent hotel built like a sprawling Mewar palace.

Mid Range

Jagat Niwas Hotel

Two 17th century havelis have been joined to create this warm and charming hotel on the banks of Lake Pichola. The hotel is in the heart of the old town and next to the City Palace, making it easy to explore the city. The lake facing rooms have excellent views and it’s worth paying a little extra for them. Its 29 rooms are situated around a central courtyard and each has a unique décor with carved wooden furniture. The lake facing rooms have wonderful window seats to enjoy the view.
Jagat Niwas has a rooftop restaurant set on two levels with incredible views and delicious food. The service is good, the location excellent and the tariff reasonable for a heritage hotel.

Amet Haveli

This 350-year old haveli has been lovingly restored and turned into a 20-room hotel. It is located on the western banks of Lake Pichola and has fantastic views of the City Palace and Lake Palace. The suites are incredibly spacious. All the rooms are clean and the décor is traditional but not exceptional.
Its restaurant, Ambrai, is right on the banks of the lake and offers the best views. The setting is romantic and the food is tasty. A meal at the restaurant will definitely be one of the highlights of your stay. The garden located behind the hotel is a nice place to sit, read a book or simply observe Udaipur.

Read more about the places to visit in Udaipur and Rajasthan for more travel ideas.

Posted by on November 15th, 2009

Filed under Udaipur Hotels | No Comments »