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krisek Udaipur - A travel report by Krys
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Udaipur,  India - flag India
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krisek's travel reports

Rajasthan Trilogy. 1. Udaipur. Splendid.

  13 votes
Page: 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14
The city of Udaipur had a particular chemistry, which is heavily dependent on whether the lakes in the city are full of water or not, I was told. The several palaces and mansions were spectacular, but otherwise there was little to keep me lingering.


Lake Palace
Lake Palace
Udaipur is known to the world also as Venice of the East or the Indian City of Lakes. Frankly, I would strongly disagree with the Venice comparison. Just because a palace had been built on the water of one of the lakes, it does not make it even close to the splendour of Venice, which is unique. And I heard about St Petersburg in Russia that it was the Venice of the East (or was it Venice of the North), which is obviously more adequate, St Petersburg being built on the swamps and having countless number of bridges.

Anyway, weather miraculously cleared as soon as the aircraft entered Rajasthan's airspace. From the airport I took a pre-paid taxi which happened to be a typical vintage Indian car, Ambassador Classic, which resembled Soviet's Pobieda or Poland's Warszawa. It had two couches inside. One at the back and exactly the same at the front. I took the taxi directly to my hotel, and the ride took me through a good part of the old town giving me an overview what there was to see.

After settling down, I arranged for a quick boat ride on the lake. It took one hour and I was under the impression that the skipper was looking for something in the lake rather than allowing me to take pictures of the city's architecture in the setting sun. I heard that there were crocodiles living in the lake which sounded more like a fantasy since the lake had been dry for the last nine years. When I visited, the lake was full for the first time since then. Many locals made it clear to me that I should feel really, really lucky! Otherwise the boat rides would have not been possible, the views of the ‘lake’ and its palace would have been awful and smell would have been even worse. So, I did feel lucky.

I went on wandering a little and went up to the palace of the maharaja passing trough a few temples scattered around the old town. That made my day.

Favourite spots:
City Palace
City Palace
The city palace made a great impression. A real residence worthy a maharaja. Many courtyards on various levels, secret corridors, balconies and verandas with lake and city views, ivory doors, marble walls and floors made it a fairy-tale residence. The palace looked spectacular from the outside and truly magnificent in the inside. I am not a museum browser type traveller but this one was worth it. It definitely stirred imagination. And then I was rewarded with a strange ceremony. A long, long procession of people dressed flamboyantly and in perhaps historical costumes, horse carts carrying some (probably) dignitaries and official-looking cars passed by and trough various sections of the palace and its courtyards. I just stood there shooting pictures, although not sure what it was my camera was capturing. It was truly splendid.

What's really great:
Udaipur travelogue picture
As I was wandering around the town with no destination in mind, I ended up at one of the ghats, a stepped platform leading to the water. The gates at the steps to the lake were imposing and a young lad was encouraging me to ride his elephant. When I found that the animal was 45 years old, I decided that creatures older than me should never carry me. I would have wanted the same principle be applied to vehicles, boats and aircraft, but that is just asking too much. Particularly in certain parts of this planet. So I agreed that I would just take a few photographs of the elephant and reward him somehow for this favour. The elephant was very curious and wanted to get very close to me. Almost as if it was grateful that I did not want to ride it, so it could stay in the shade of the gates. It was reaching its trunk towards me and looked me remarkably straight in the eye. I have never experienced anything like that. It was overwhelming.

Sights:
Udaipur travelogue picture
Although it was rather hot, I continued my stroll about the city. Apart from the palaces on the water and the main city palace of the maharaja there was little to see in Udaipur. Beside a few interesting temples scattered around it, sometimes hidden in narrow alleys, the city did not impress me as much as I was expecting. Perhaps I was expecting a fairytale destination and I found really down to earth town, rather untidy, interestingly odoriferous, crowded and full of people struggling with their living next to the superrich and their mansions and fortresses. On the hindsight, it actually sounds like good representation of India...

The surrounding hills and lakes would make great escapades, I’m sure, but I didn’t have that much time. I was actually contented that the city was small and I could fit everything into my short itinerary. I heard that some tourists would go to see a few hotels in the area, one of which is considered the best hotel on Earth, but that was not my cup of tea.

Accommodations:
One of hotel's windows
One of hotel's windows
I checked into the Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel with a great view at the lake and the so called floating palace there. The main sight of Udaipur. I took breakfast at the hotel restaurant sitting at a window bay, on a cushion, looking at the palace (the Lake Palace). The window bay had no pane so it felt great and Indian to the max. I had my fourth coffee then as I embarked on my 25th hour with no sleep and still had some eleven hours to go on that day. My adrenaline levels were high and I loved what I was seeing.

The hotel was supposed to be fabulous. It was not. For a heritage hotel it should be much cleaner. My room (€25) had no view and was quite dirty: the floor was sticky, bathroom not mopped, towels unwashed, very dubious bed lining, curtains had not seen water for months, maybe even years. I quickly escaped it to see the city.

Nightlife:
Udaipur travelogue picture
I did not go out in Udaipur. I was thoroughly exhausted after having just arrived from London on the very day. But I sat down at the table of the Jagat Niwas Restaurant on the hotel’s roof and had a couple of beers admiring the spectacular view. The Lake Palace was skilfully lit at night, making it look like it was indeed floating on the lake. The panorama of the lake was undeniably splendid, and is among the most photographed views of this planet, I’m sure. The spot was very popular amongst the tourists and reservations were essential. Of course it helped if one was a resident at the hotel, but this definitely did not guarantee a table.

Hangouts:
'Octopussy' Palace
'Octopussy' Palace
A few small cafes were dotted around the old part of the city. My favourite was Edelweiss Cafe near the ghats.

One of the rickshaw boys asked if I was happy with my boat ride. When I confirmed he asked me if I could make him happy by agreeing to a tour to the monsoon palace where Octopussy was filmed with James Bond, an perfect place to hang out, have picnic and enjoy magnificent views. I did and he was happy. His name was Albert. He was 29 and had two kids. His mother arranged the wedding for him. Marriage in India wasn’t about love but about respect, he said. And it did make sense since Bollywood film factory produced so many films about love for which many Indians long so much.

Apparently he was making about 150 rupees a day on the rickshaw and then about 40 rupees by painting miniatures, so typical for Udaipur. He insisted I went to visit his school, which was obviously a shop as well. I did like some of the stuff so I bought a small souvenir. He was very happy by then.

Restaurants:
On the lake, the City Palace just about visible behind.
On the lake, the City Palace just about visible behind.
When I first saw the restaurant at Jagat Niwas Hotel, I knew that I ought to have dinner there as well. It was highly recommended by various guidebooks and the view from the terraces was unrivalled. I ordered a set menu with spicy vegetable curry for €16, including large drinks. This was rather expensive for India, but I thought it was worth it. The dishes were hot and tasty, big and filling. Service was also professional and attentive. It was a great conclusion of my day. Since I set my mind on this spot from the morning, I didn’t look around for alternative restaurants, but the smell of food was felt almost on every corner of Udaipur, some stinging the nostrils heavily, some more pleasant, and there were many, many eateries around. It would be impossible to walk hungry in the city.

Other recommendations:
Udaipur travelogue picture
Despite the fact that Rajasthan was relatively inexpensive country for independent travellers, to ensure one did not pay inflated prices, bargaining had to part of the deal. I always found it quite intimidating that I was haggling with very poor people, who only struggled to feed their families, but I was reminded by other travellers that it was necessary. Perhaps it was part of the culture. I learned therefore to bargain a little to get the ‘right’ price, or the one that I ‘should’ be paying, and then put a generous tip on top upon the completion of the service. The size of the tip was depended on the quality of the service, of course, but also on the company and the quality of conversations I had with the service provider. Always making it clear that it was not part of the deal. This also created a good chemistry just before saying good bye and making the locals happy.

Next part: 2. Jaipur. Overwhelming.

Published on Sunday May 18th, 2008


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Mon, Aug 18 2008 - 05:24 AM rating by adisidh

Interesting and informative report

Sun, Jun 08 2008 - 03:59 PM rating by eirekay

Krys, this is a terrific report with lots of great tips. We had a very different experience in Udaipur but we were exploring some ruins and palaces outside the city limits and that may be why.

Sun, Jun 01 2008 - 08:39 AM rating by marianne

Very enjoyable read and good information

Mon, May 26 2008 - 05:00 PM rating by terje

Good and personal report!

Thu, May 22 2008 - 01:05 PM rating by rangutan

I love your 'triologies' and they are justed. A good trick to show us it all :-)

Tue, May 20 2008 - 09:03 AM rating by davidx

Very interesting. I wait with enthusiasm to read the others.

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