The first thing we noticed about the RAAS Hotel in Jodhpur was its discretion. On approach, there was no flamboyant heralding of the grandeur behind the very high walls. In fact, even driving into the compact courtyard, it was all still stylishly understated, classy. The ‘reveals’ happened in a well-modulated and intricately planned manner. But the immediate and, as we were to find, lasting vibe of the place was one of ‘serenity.’
There is no doubt that India knows how to do luxury, especially in its hotels, but even in that vastly competitive field, RAAS Hotel is unique. For those not wanting to be on display themselves, this is a perfect choice of accommodation. Every public area has been designed around the concept of ‘pockets of intimacy’, which do not at all impede the views of the Mehrangarh Fort or sense of space in the outdoor public area. While the finely maintained haveli gardens stretch from one end of the courtyard to the other, strategically placed open rooms in the side pavilion, furnished with lounges and tables for refreshments, provide discreet relaxation areas that still offer tranquil views of the greenery.
The architecture of RAAS is a flawless marriage of old and new – everything that is old has been meticulously and lovingly restored to its former glory, and every element of the new juxtaposes and compliments all at once. The old red and pink sandstone buildings are honoured in the uber modern ones: smooth external surfaces, united with internal ones that are pitted in circles – the recurring motif throughout the hotel on textured furnishings and walls. The large contemporary walls echo the lattice works of traditional purdah screens, from behind which the women would peer into the men-only courtyards and rooms, adhering to the social practice of female seclusion. Even the modern photographs of Jodhpur adorning the rooms and suites capture the essence of ‘old Jodhpur’ in subject matter and truth.
Our accommodation for our three nights in Jodhpur was in a Deluxe room, of which there are 28, all with private balconies and views of Mehrangarh Fort. These rooms are impeccably designed, with plenty of space. I love a hotel that has the forethought to provide an area for two suitcases on luggage racks. And also loved that these were in an alcove with a sliding door that not only acted as the wardrobe and luggage storage area, but was where the fridge and safe were hidden as well. Nothing messed with the zen of staying in this room – you could slide the heavy wooden door shut and give the illusion of tidiness!
The sofa was comfortable and perfectly placed for watching the TV. The bathroom was delicious, it was also spacious enough to have a bath as well as a wet area shower. The surfaces in the bathroom were an off white smooth pebbled expanse, which felt lovely underfoot in the shower, and was also safe when wet. The balcony ran along past the bathroom where there was a large window with extensive views, but furnished with venetian blinds for privacy, as well as a screen between the bath section of balcony and its sitting area. The purdah inspired design aspect of the latticed, red sandstone screen on the balcony protected guests from the sun as well as provided privacy from the external restaurant opposite. If privacy was not a priority, then the top half of this screen could be opened, concertina-like, to provide uninterrupted views of the fort when desired.
With such a fleeting visit to Jodhpur, sightseeing was our priority, and thus we did not have the opportunity to sample the delights of the Ila spa. It is located in one of the original red sand stone buildings, which has been so carefully restored that it looks new! Its many facilities and extensive spa menu offer all the pampering you could wish for. Maybe on our next visit.
The courtyard and garden area are immaculate, and there is always someone tending to maintain that perfection, subtle and unobtrusive. The pool is heated all year round, but we didn’t try it, although others did – winter in India is still not warm enough for me to take a dip. But it was certainly salubrious enough to make use of the sensibly covered area for the pool lounges – you have to have shade in India!
The rooftop bar, Baradari, provided a highly coveted spot to watch the sun’s setting rays throw playful colours on the fort. A bottle of sparkling wine was an appropriate accompaniment, as we reclined on the white, textured bench cushions and drank in the view. Romantic, decadent and memorable.
Dinner at RAAS’ highly acclaimed in house restaurant Darikhana was a regal affair (currently ranked #1 of Jodhpur’s fine dining restaurants on TripAdvisor). The rituals and gracefulness of service in a good fine dining establishment can be quite mesmeric for the diner. Add to this the backdrop of the illuminated fort, the candlelit garden and the abundance of delicious Indian food, and one is quite mellow by the end. Dining in a hotel restaurant certainly has its advantages when it’s time to navigate the way back to the room – short and uneventful, no motorbikes to avoid on narrow streets.
After a blissful night’s sleep, we breakfasted in the garden terrace area of Baradari. The crisp winter morning required my choice of table be closer to the outdoor heaters, which, with my ginger tea, was enough to make me linger over the meal rather than escape indoors. The range of Indian options were mouth watering, but I began with a favourite of vegetable parathas accompanied with an array of chutneys, daal and raita.
Just as the serenity was truly seeping into our bones, it was time to leave. I am sure staying for much longer would have produced an exceedingly zen version of myself, but it was not to be. All I could do was take the residue of calm and the memory of the smiling, helpful staff, and keep driving.
Accommodation: RAAS Hotel
Tour Company: Intense India Tours