At the end of March, we flew to Hyderabad on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to stay at a beautiful hotel over Easter break: the Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel.
Then we flew onwards to the exotic state of Gujarat for an entirely different kind of enjoyable adventure, before finally landing in exciting Mumbai.
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HYDERABAD: A WHOLE NEW PLACE
It was a very enjoyable trip, full of adventure and new discoveries -- and we used our cameras to record everything wonderful for the current issue of Travelife Magazine.
Travelife Magazine's June - July 2013 issue
is on sale everywhere until August 15
|This is the same chair where the Nizam and a Prime Minister once sat together in the Taj Falaknuma Palace|
Neither of us had ever been to Hyderabad, and we knew so little about it -- but this made the trip more fun, I think.
INSTANT IMMERSION INTO A FANTASY WORLD
|This was taken about five hours after we arrived in Hyderabad |
on an overnight flight from Hong Kong
And almost immediately upon landing, we found ourselves immersed in a fascinating culture and society so unlike the rest of India, and certainly different from anything I'd seen on previous trips.
Hyderabad is a very rich but low-key society. You need to peel through it slowly to discover its essence.
|The foyer of the Taj Falaknuma Palace|
It was once ruled by one of the richest men in the world, and his beautiful Falaknuma Palace has been lovingly and painstakingly restored by the Taj Hotels into a fabulous hotel that isn't over the top.
But it still leaves you breathless.
FIRST ONES OFF THE PLANE
|Cathay Pacific is using the nice new planes to Hyderabad from Hong Kong.|
Spacious and comfortable business class.
In many ways, we were lucky because Cathay Pacific just started its Hong Kong-Hyderabad route when we flew it, and so as late as April, Hyderabad was simply still so under the radar for many international travelers who usually head either North or South.
In fact, when I'd first broached the idea of going to India to Mr. Jaded, who accompanied me on this trip, he'd said: "Where??"
Nevertheless, he gamely came along even without any inkling of where we were going or what we were going to see.
We had lots of fun.
A CITY ALL TO OURSELVES
We spent our days exploring the city and meeting the locals before retreating back to our fabulous palace. More often than not, we had many of Hyderabad's attractions to ourselves. No tourists at all. It was just the locals and us.
One morning, we walked through the grounds of the royal tombs with only children as company.
|At the Qutub Shah tombs|
A HOTEL AFTER MY OWN HEART
And the best part, perhaps, was having the gorgeous Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel all to ourselves.
In the evenings, we walked around the hotel as if we were guests of the Nizam himself -- and what a feeling that was.
One night, the palace historian -- who has been working at the Taj Falaknuma for over 35 years -- took us on a private tour of the palace.
Everything was lit up as if the Nizam was in the residence.
The entire breathtakingly beautiful second floor of the palace came alive before us, and it was just the three of us walking around the whole night.
This is one of the most immaculately preserved and restored palaces in the world -- and this is why I'm waxing rhapsodic about it.
Almost everything has been left as is, and whatever needed to be restored has been done so almost as a labor of love.
EXACTLY HOW THE NIZAM LIVED
When there's no one else around, it's so easy to imagine what it must have been like, playing billiards in the game room with royalty.
Or having dinner in the world's longest dining room, that can seat 101 people for a formal dinner with the prime minister.
And speaking of dinners, the Gol Bungalow of the Taj Falaknuma Palace was the venue for one of my most memorable meals so far this year -- a year only half over and already so full of fantastic voyages and amazing meals.
A MILLION FLICKERING CANDLES IN THE DARKNESS
We booked the entire terrace of the Taj Falaknuma Palace for a private dinner, and the hotel staff literally littered the place with candles.
Then the hotel's executive chef made an eight-course dinner fit for a king, which we ate with the entire city spread out before us like a million flickering candles in the darkness.
No one travels like us. Or writes like us.
Read more about the amazing Taj Falaknuma Palace Hotel and intriguing, under-the-radar city of Hyderabad in the current issue of Travelife Magazine.
Still on sale everywhere now, and until August 15.
And after reading Travelife Magazine, go see Hyderabad before the rest of the world discovers it....
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