Rajasthan. The name itself evokes royalty and grandeur. One of the states to draw a large crowd of tourists from India and abroad, Rajasthan definitely has a lot to offer; ranging from a mystical dessert experience to a roaring tiger safari and palaces galore. Last winter I had the opportunity to visit a few places in the state including Ranthambore, Jaipur and Udaipur. While I have written about Jaipur earlier and more recently on my Safari trip to Ranthambore, I had delayed writing about Udaipur simply because I didn’t know how to put down in writing what seemed like a hasty visit yet, if I had stayed for a few more days I wouldn’t have known how to while away the time. Don’t get me wrong, Udaipur is gorgeous and even more if you go there for a luxury experience and shack up at the Taj Lake Palace or the like, but If you ask me what is it that you can do or experience there, I honestly can’t tell.
I had a brief 3 day stay in Udaipur at the Lakend Hotel on the banks of the Fatehsagar Lake. I had deliberately chosen to stay a little away from the city center as I wanted some peace and quite and that meant avoiding the crowds around Lake Pichola. Lakend is a nice property with amazing service. The pool and the restaurant overlook the beautiful Fatehsagar lake. I would highly recommend a night at the hotel itself where you can just sit by the lake and sip on some delicious red wine and gorge on some delightful food that the restaurant has on offer. The hotel has an in-house spa too if you want to pamper yourself. I recommend the Hot Stone therapy, it was quite relaxing.
Now if you are the adventurous kind who loves to explore and immerse in a place, then Udaipur might disappoint you a bit. I felt the city was more for the ones who come with no agenda of exploration but just to experience the good life at one of the many extravagant hotels. Things to do here include a visit to the CIty Palace, a boat ride on Lake Pichola, a visit to the Royal Vintage Car Museum and a meal at Ambrai (if you are lucky to get a table that is). So in a sense 3 days are actually enough even though they may not feel like they were.
Coming back to the things to do, first up is a visit to the City Palace, a palace complex built over nearly 400 years by various rulers of the Mewar Dynasty. The construction started in the year 1553, after Maharana Udai Singh II decided to shift the capital to Udaipur from the erstwhile Chittor. Behind it’s exquisite facade lies a complex of very many structures and smaller palaces and temples. A part of the palace has been converted into a museum but unfortunately once you get in you will be crying to get out as its filled to the brim with people and trust me when I say this; even breathing can get difficult. We were stuck in this maze of humans for nearly 2 hours, it probably was a bad day to visit but I did have a terrible experience. I was so tired and stressed by the time I managed to get out of the museum that I just left the palace complex to avoid the treacherous crowds. Having said that, let me assure you that the architecture is incredibly beautiful and I even managed to take a few decent pictures despite the crowd.
Once you leave the palace grounds you can walk up to the park area from where you can take a boat ride on Lake Pichola. The best thing to do is buy both the boat ride ticket and the palace visit ticket from the Palace ticket counter itself. I did try to do that but was advised by the person at the counter to only buy the museum tickets because it was already 3.00 pm and if I didn’t make it to the lake on time for the boat ride, I’d again have to stand in a long lien to get a refund or lose money. Fair advise but what he failed to mention was that only tickets that you buy from the city palace allow you a drop of at the Jag Mandir Palace hotel in the lake where you can enjoy a drink, none of the other boats (unless you hire a private one) make this stop. What I thought would be atleast a one hour boat ride turned out to be a mere 15 minute paddle around the water. This was really disappointing. The ride would have been so good only if it had been longer especially because I wanted to do a proper sunset ride.I guess one would have to hire the ridiculously expensive private boats for this. The only good thing that came out of it was this picture of the City Palace.
After the short but picturesque boat ride we went to the over-priced car museum which houses 15 vintage cars or so including an opulent Rolls Royce which for a strange reason has a table for two set up in front of it. On my asking, the guard explained to me that a meal for two could be arranged there for a premium. I have no idea the pleasure one would get from dining in front of a Rolls Royce, but to each their own. The museum or the royal garage (most of these cars are still functional and in addition to being used by the royal family, are loaned for film shoots and weddings) does have a neat collection though.
That was pretty much my Day 1 in Udaiur, I followed it up with a bit of shopping and trying to get a table at Ambrai but in vain.
You can actually do all of this in one day itself. There are a few other places like a garden called Saheliyon Ki Baari, the ancient Jagdish temple and the monsoon fort (famous thanks to the Bond flick Octopussy) but I wasn’t really drawn towards these and I did catch a glimple of Saheliyon Ki Baari but it was pretty ordinary. Day 2 was spent at Chittorgarh, exploring the fort city and listening to its ancient lores. I am glad I visited Chittorgarh as it was not only a beautiful place but also filled with fascinating tales. Quite frankly I enjoyed this place over Udaipur. More on Chittorgarh soon on my next post. Day 3 was all about kicking back and relaxing at the hotel with some cocktails by the pool and a hot stone massage – pure bliss!
All in all I wouldn’t say avoid Udaipur, rather it should be a part of your visit to Rajasthan, no doubt it is a picturesque place that offers relaxation and a feeling of royal luxury. But it’s good to know that there isn’t much to do or see, so that you can plan your trip accordingly. Its definitely a good stop for pampering yourself to the finer things in life.