On Wheels - The Dream Journey
Pros: magical land with marvellous
Havelis, delicious food, entertaining
Want to feel like royalty for a week? Then step into the regal splendour
of the palace on wheels and cruise along in majestic style like
the maharajas of yesterday You are a king or a queen in your own
right for seven days while exploring the wonders of colourful Rajasthan
– a magical land set amidst miles of golden sand, ornamented
with a kaleidoscope of magnificent forts, opulent palaces and marvellous
Havelis brimming with legends of romance and chivalry. And it is
a unique experience indeed.
The elegant interior of the train with its delectable cuisine (traditional
Indian, Continental and Chinese) and personalised service transports
you to a totally enchanting world. Each saloon has its own personal
attendants to ensure that the journey is comfortable. Fully air-conditioned,
the 14 saloons are named after the princely states of Rajasthan
and have excellent amenities.
Each saloon is a combination of twin-bedded and double-bedded chambers
with attached toilets, running hot and cold water garlanded us in
traditional welcome before we entered an air-conditioned coach.
The city built in 1727 AD by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh was colour
washed in pink- the colour associated with hospitality in Rajput
Hawa Mahal (Palace of Winds) is a five storey building in pink splendour
with carved trelliswork and lies on the main street of the city.
It was originally conceived to enable ladies of the royal household
to watch everyday life on the streets and royal processions. Amer
Fort, 8-kms away, is a beautiful complex of palaces, halls, pavilions,
gardens and temples built over a period of two centuries. From the
base one can either walk up or ride a caparisoned elephant. We were
completely overawed by the magnificence of the grand fort.
Shopping In The Bazaars Of Jaipur
A shopping trip in the colourful bazaars of Jaipur, famous for its
jewellery, handicrafts, carpets, handlooms and blue pottery was
an exhilarating experience. After a delicious lunch at Hotel Ram
Bagh Palace, we set off for the city palace, home of the erstwhile
royal family. It is a fabulous structure built in a blend of Rajasthani
and Mughal styles.
The Jantar Mantar, the largest of Maharaja Jai Singh’s five
remarkable observatories, is right across the road from the palace.
Back on board the train, we had tea and got ready for dinner, which
was a colourful affair at the palace hotel. There was a feast laid
out and folk dancers of Rajasthan provided the entertainment and
created a romantic ambience. After this eventful and interesting
day, we retired to our chambers on board.
& Padmini’s Palace
The Palace on Wheels chugged along lulling us to sleep. The morning
brought us to Chittorgarh, which echoes with tales of romance and
valour. We explored the ruins of the citadel with awe and reverence.
Chittor was ravaged thrice. It was here that the women of the royal
house jumped into the sacred fire to protect their Honour. The victory
tower is an exquisite structure.
The legendary queen Padmini’s Palace beside a pool is magnificent.
It was here that Alauddin Khilji had a glimpse of the beautiful
Padmini’s reflection. Padmini stood in a pavilion in the centre
and her reflection was visible to Alauddin khilji in a mirror placed
in the main hall. The queen’s beauty fanned Khilji’s
desire resulting in the ravage of Chittor. But the queen preferred
death to dishonour and committed Jauhar (jumping into the fire).
From here, the air-conditioned coach took us to Udaipur founded
by Maharana Udai Singh of Mewar in 1550. Known as the city of dawn,
it lies around five lakes hemmed in by lush hills of the Aravalis.
The Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir, two fascinating island palaces in
the middle of Lake Pichola, enchant you with their breathtaking
The boat ride to the Lake Palace Hotel was delightful, invigorating
our appetite so we could do full justice to the lavish lunch at
the hotel. Later in the day, after sightseeing at the city palace
and crystal gallery, we had tea at the durbar hall. With the sightseeing
over, we returned to Chittorgarh. After dinner on board, we hit
Spotting The Wilds Of
Ranthambore National Park
As the train rolled to a stop at Sawai Madhopur, the entry point
to Ranthambore, we were excited. At 7.00 a.m. we set out in an open
vehicle to Ranthambore National Park, located amidst the imposing
ruins of 10th century fort. It is an ideal place to see the Indian
Tiger in its natural habitat, provided luck favours your. Spread
over an area of 392-sq-kms of thick dry deciduous forest over an
undulating terrain of the Aravalli and Vindhya ranges, the reserve
is the haunt of more than 300 species of birds.
Artificial lakes enhance scenic beauty while providing water. We
saw Hyena, Wild Boar, a number of peacocks and other birds and crocodiles
basking in the winter sun. Unfortunately, the majestic Tiger eluded
us. Though it dimmed our excitement a little, the drive through
the forest was a thrilling experience. The Ranthambore Fort, once
a place of heroism, lies mostly in ruins.
By afternoon, we were back on the palace on wheels, ready to set
off to the desert city, Jaisalmer. After an afternoon siesta, we
relaxed in the lounge watching TV, reading or chatting with the
other guests. A few of them made use of the gym while some sought
the help of the beautician to bring back the glow that a whole day’s
sightseeing might have dulled.
The bright sun woke us up at Jaisalmer. The sheer magic and brilliance
of this desert city held us spellbound. The golden hued fort that
seems to rise out of the desert haze etched in yellow sandstone
stands with all its awesome splendour dominating the amber-hued
city. It has enchanting cobbled narrow lanes dotted with intricately
latticed Havelis (mansions), beautifully sculptured Jain temples
dating back to the 12th- 15th century.
We were back for lunch on board the train. After some rest in the
afternoon, we departed by coach for Sam Sand Dunes where we had
exhilarating camel rides. The evening- relaxing with a cup of tea,
enjoying the beautiful sunset, surrounded by camels- was indeed
memorable. Dinner that night was in the desert under the stars with
rajasthani folk singers and dancers.
Next morning the train arrived at jodhpur set at the edge of the
thar desert. Thecity, one of the largest in rajasthan, still maintains
it medieval character. Founded in 1459 AD by Rao Jodha, the city
is famous for the impregnable mehrangarh fort with magnificent palaces
within. Shopping in jodhpur bazaars is a heady experience with its
colourful display of handicrafts, tie and dye fabrics, embroidered
slippers, silks, marble souvenirs and much more. After lunch at
umaid bhavan palace, an opulent edifice in stone, we were taken
on a tour of the palace and the museum.
The palace on wheel’s next destination is bharatpur, popular
for its bird sanctuary. The keoladeo ghana national park is a bird’s
paradise and nesting ground of exotic migratory birds from afghanistan,
central asia and tibet. Siberian cranes and bareheaded geese from
china come here to escape the severe winter and breed till October
– November. We had breakfast at the forest lodge and then
proceeded to fatehpur sikri, the sandstone fort built by emperor
akbar. Within the area is a beautiful mosque built by akbar as a
tribute to the memory of sheikh salim chishti, the muslim saint
who blessed him with a son. From fatehpur sikri, the coach left
for Agra. After lunch at the mughal sheraton hotel, we toured the
fort and then moved on to visit the marvellous taj mahal, a monument
of eternal love built by shah jahan in memory of his wife, mumtaz
Back on the palace on wheels, we had dinner on board. It was time
for the last leg of the journey back to Delhi. We thanked the manager
and staff. Always enthusiastic and hospitable, the trip would not
have been so enjoyable but for their cordial service.
As we got down at Delhi cantonment, the next morning, I wondered
whether it was all a dream.