Not just a spa treatment, The Leela Palace Udaipur makes you see life in a new way. Indeed, we discovered ourselves on their newly crafted Spa and Spiritual Journeys...
By: Karishma Suri & Akshay Suri
Posted on: December 11, 2013
“The life of inner peace, being harmonious and without stress is the easiest type of existence,” said Norman Vincent Peale, a well-known author and a progenitor of 'positive thinking'. Easier said than done, isn’t it? Picture today’s lifestyles - mere rat races waiting to see who makes it to the finish line first. Words like de-stress and harmony are audible only in a psychologist’s office. On our journey to find ‘inner peace’, we directed our feet towards The Leela Palace Udaipur’s ‘Spa and Spiritual Journeys’. Giving peace, fulfilment and purity, this journey is a must for those who fancy a chance at self indulgence.
Including sleep, food, culture and numerous massages, Leela customises a journey that blends ESPA spa therapies with enchanting local experiences at The Leela Palace Udaipur. It promises and most definitely delivers invigouration of the mind, body and soul while discovering Rajasthan’s exotic and picturesque land of Udaipur. Choosing between three, five or seven day journeys, they are a lot more than just a holiday. The unique fusion of the cultural city and the modern palace manages to give you a royal piece to take home, forever. Personally, we took home more than a piece….
End of November means chilly winds in Udaipur. An early morning flight into the city with a warm car to pick you up will kick start your spa and spiritual journey. A quick drive to Leela’s jetty, stationed next to the ‘milk lake’, woke us up. Our driver was the perfect tour guide as he introduced the beautiful lake city to us which was dazzling in the morning sun. Once in the jetty, I would advise keeping your camera ready as the mighty sun befriends the Aravali hills, lake Pichola and palatial heritage buildings like Jag Mandir and City Palace.
Inspired by the grandeur of Udaipur’s romantic past, The Leela Palace Udaipur is a modern palace hotel perched on the banks of the Lake Pichola, distinguished by its magnificent and exquisite beauty. The welcome we received exceeded our expectations, even though this wasn't our first visit to the property. A folk singer at the entrance matched with a rose petal shower made us feel like true royalty.
Home for a few days
Being tired, it was a boon to be escorted into our room by our butler, where our check-in formalities were swiftly completed in comfort. The regal interiors of the rooms and suites at The Leela Palace Udaipur are embellished with artisan crafts of Rajasthan. The exquisite fabrics are embroidered with ethnic designs and the dark wood furniture has tarkashi work – a popular art form - that involves an intricate process of setting brass wires, strips and motifs in dark wood to make beautiful handcrafted furniture.
The rooms are adorned with hand carved marble lotuses and elephants in silver, along with vibrant paintings of puppets in colourful traditional costumes depicting characters from traditional fables and historical tales, all created by local artisans. While the room is majestic and spacious, the bathroom lacks a toothbrush kit (a negative for light travellers). And there was no place to dry the neatly stacked napkins once used.
No words can justify the view from the room which gave me goosebumps for a second. Admiring the pristine lake along with heritage buildings took up a few moments before we decided to head down for breakfast to The Dining Room. Brownie points for the made-to-order selection of dosas, eggs and other breakfast specialities played up in a swift manner. The ‘multi-cereal dosa’, a healthier option available for breakfast, is another tasty option. Besides this, the usual fare is offered for a quick start to your day with a special selection of juices for guests on the Spa and Spiritual Journey. Juices are usually viewed as unhealthy as they are high in sugars and have no fibre. Thus the team offers juices like ‘green apple combined with ginger, mint and lime' served unstrained to get all the health benefits from this combination.
Talking of food, this journey pays attention to your food preferences. In a quick chat with Chef Kayzad Sadri, Executive Chef, The Leela Palace Udaipur, I learnt about the spa cuisine component of the journey. "The Leela Spa Cuisine introduces a different way of eating which is healthy and also inspiring. It is not meant to be necessarily low fat or low caloric, but has moderate portion sizes and a balance of vegetables and proteins," he said. He explained that this specific meal plan includes small desserts to further stimulate the senses and provide a sense of satisfaction which also make a nice accompaniment for afternoon tea or coffee during rainy season. Also included are yogurt based smoothies (such as Amla Walnut smoothie and Rose Petal Almond smoothie), fruit/vegetable juices and Leela Signature dishes. Health freaks will appreciate that the team uses organic ingredients while also offering Gluten Free (no wheat corn or yeast), dairy free and probiotic options where possible. To sum it up, the spa experience at The Leela Palace Udaipur is tailored to offer guests a holistic sense of well-being, without fringing towards dietary fads, while not compromising on the taste. Thank God for that!
The palace and its passages
According to our itinerary, we met Mr Graham Grant, General Manager of the property, whose passion and loyalty to this journey is shaping it up to what it is today. Around noon, we were introduced to the astrologer for a quick astrology session which was our first step in the journey. Whether belief or not, it was an interactive session as the astrologer opened up my charts and predicted what the stars held for me in the days to come. A quick lunch at The Dining Room followed by sweet sleep constituted the rest of the afternoon. The evening meant a quick orientation of the ESPA tents by the spa manager, Mr Abhishek Jain, followed by a 90 minutes Abhyanga treatment. In a quick conversation with the passionate manager, I was explained how the Spa and Spiritual Journeys at The Leela Palace Udaipur are a mélange of heritage tourism, spiritual tourism and adventure tourism combined with spa treatments and spa cuisine. Whew! Designed to cater to a wide range of audience - from a couple/individual looking for a break to even someone who is focused at frequent lifestyle balancing - the team attempts at making this package a 'journey' in more ways than one.
Mr Grant explained the journeys in his words well: “The Spa and Spiritual Journeys are open to a wide audience, as everyone lives a hectic pace of life. The journeys are an ideal opportunity to step aside and have some personal relaxation time. The components of the journey are personal in nature, to create a sense of well-being, reflection and harmony. The destination has significant majestic beauty that will engage a sense of regality as The Leela Palace embraces you in luxury. The journey is not action packed, but keeps you at a leisurely schedule to ensure that the final outcome is a memorable experience. Bespoke and customizable, there is no monotony of a ‘regimented’ routine attached to these journeys. Guests don’t have to ’confine’ themselves from usual tourism experiences such as city tours, shopping, etc. This makes the entire process more enjoyable and effortless resulting in greater acceptance to necessary lifestyle changes initiated.
The journey begins
Coming back, I was led to the treatment tent for my Abhyanga massage, but not before several rituals were performed. It started with a foot massage, also a ‘welcome ritual’, which relaxes the body and mind, and helps one to receive a better treatment. This was followed by a sensory test where the therapist asks to smell a selection of ESPA oils (selected on basis of columns ticked in your consultation card or guest preferences). Whatever scent I was drawn to with my eyes shut, that oil was used for my treatment. My selected oil was also put into an inhalation bowl, placed below my bed, so I could inhale it for more relaxation.
Along with the Abhyanga massage, Mr Jain had coupled a 30 minute Regenerating & Firming Eye Treatment with it. I was explained that the Abhyanga massage offers a grounding experience after travelling, restores natural balance and suppleness to the body, and enhances general well-being. Dosha specific Ayurvedic oils, rich in powerful and medicinal herbs, unite with long, soothing symmetrical strokes. The Eye Treatment reduces any puffiness and dryness also accumulated from travel and leaves eyes fresh and bright. The products used (based on sensory test and personalisation) were Restorative Body Oil, Brahmi Ayurvedic Oil and Replenishing Face Oil. Treatment was followed by a brilliant cultural performance and a quick dinner at The Dining room.
The next day
Not an early riser, I had a sequence of alarms to awaken me for my yoga lessons. The instructor commences from a beginner level and you will find yourself starting to relax. Breakfast was followed by a 120 minute ESPA hot stones treatment. This deeply relaxing treatment focuses on rebalancing and harmonising the mind and body, physically and emotionally. Hot Stones are volcanic in origin and are used along with it Basalt lava stones rich in minerals, which are heated for a deep massage. This full body treatment focuses on easing pressure around the neck and shoulders, with a calming acupressure head massage and gentle stretching to leave your body feeling soothed, and your spirit calm. The Hot Stone treatment helps to relax the body and dissolve stress, drawing excess energy away from stimulated area and bringing new energy to depleted zones. The products that I selected with the sensory test, keeping in mind that I had a blocked nose, were the Resistance Body Oil and Balancing Face Oil.
Lunch on this day is a memory I’ll cherish for a long time. The spa alcove, a small private corner surrounded by the lake on three sides and lush greenery on the other, is one of the cosiest and most charming locations in the palace. Add to that personalisation and pampering, you know you have got a perfect meal. The Haveli spa, where heritage mixed with relaxation, was the location of our very own tea party. With varied options to choose from, we overlooked the lake while sipping on fresh masala tea and strawberry tea accompanied with sandwiches, cookies and light conversation! A soul-soothing sunset cruise on the lake, along with the polite and educated Roshan, ended our musings for the day. Roshan gave us the historical background in such an interesting manner that my we didn’t feel the urge to touch the canapés and juices served in the boat for us.
Dinner that night was at Sheesh Mahal. ‘Sheesh’ literally translates into mirror, which is actually the pristine lake that borders the restaurant, and reflects heritage architecture as truly as a mirror would. Feel like royalty while basking in the goodness of Indian traditions in food and beverage at the open-air Sheesh Mahal. Using recipes mastered by the palaces of royal kings with contemporary nuances, the two-level restaurant takes diners through a journey of exquisite Indian flavours under the stars. Though I was chilled in the cold wind, the delicious hot meal, coupled with the beautifully-lit buildings around us, made the experience not-to-miss. The evening glow of glittering candles in multi-coloured hues added a resplendent touch to the regality as the hospitality at Sheesh Mahal truly mirrored the kitchens of India.
The last day is never a happy one as you simply dread having to return to the mundane schedules. Instead of a spa treatment and a yoga session, I decided to explore the mystic city of Udaipur, and appreciate the backdrop it lent to this self-indulging journey. A tuk tuk ride to the famous Jagdish Temple that houses the idol of Krishna (unfortunately closed as we seemed to visit during rest hours) gave us a chance to appreciate the architecture of the temple and at least complete a 'parikrama'. While waiting for our ferry to Jag Mandir, our tuk tuk driver, Stanley, took us to a store housing fabrics and antiques, where I put the one hour wait and my credit card to good use. The ferry to Jag Mandir is a 30 minute one where you are given an up-close tour of the entire city. My camera clicked away as the City Palace, Taj Lake Palace and Jag Mandir posed giving one majestic shot after another.
A spa and spiritual journey, no matter how you choose to define it or what you choose to take from it, will cause you to stop in your tracks for a few days and take a shot at exploring and restoring yourself. What's more, the journey adds a chapter to your life and gives you a story to tell when you are back. So, what's your story?