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Andrew Buncombe's Asia Diary

The Independent's Asia Correspondent Andrew Buncombe is based in Delhi. His dominion ranges over India, Pakistan, Burma, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, occasionally parts of South East Asia and - or at least he is hoping - The Maldives.

Follow Andrew on Twitter: @AndrewBuncombe

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This weekend, I was in the splendid "pink city" of Jaipur to work on a forthcoming story. It so happened that I needed to try and interview someone who - on the day in question - was due to be at the Rambagh Palace hotel, a remarkable property still owned by the royal family of Jaipur but operated by the prestigious Taj Group. The morning had turned into early afternoon and the local journalist who was working with me suggested that we have lunch in the hotel's cafe. I did have second thoughts, wondering about the cost of such an enterprise, but I realised that it made little sense to leave the hotel, eat somewhere else and then return. As it was, the cheapest thing on the menu - other than a bowl of soup - was the vegetarian club sandwich featuring "cheddar and green peppers", so our group ordered three of these, a couple of bottles of water and one coffee. Ten minutes later the sandwiches arrived, accompanied by a dainty bowl of fries and it was all very nice indeed until I took a bite of the sandwich to realise that this snack - which cost 600 rupees plus 12.5 per cent tax (around nine and half pounds) - was actually made using a slice of rubbery processed cheese that is usually sold in packs of ten, each individually wrapped in plastic. Now, I have nothing against processed cheese slices. Indeed plenty of times they've been a life-saver here in India when there's little else to buy at the local store. What am against is eating processed slices when I've paid the best part of ten quid to eat a cheddar sandwich at a hotel which claims to offer "luxury and extravagance that was once the sole preserve of kings". I wondered about complaining to the waiter but decided I was going to struggle to make my point so I just paid the bill, which ended up costing the same as a double room in the very pleasant heritage hotel down the road in which I was staying [ I have, however, emailed the hotel's press department for an explanation and will update this story when they get back to me]. What made the experience more depressing is that when I returned to Delhi and clicked on the internet, I discovered that the hotel, where the cheapest room costs 18,000 rupees, or around 250 pounds, had just been voted the best in Asia by the readers of Conde Nast Traveller. I can only assume they had something else for lunch.


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