14th Oct 2014 - 15th Oct 2014 - India
Udaipur was founded in 1568 by Maharana Udai Singh II and was the capital of the Rajput kingdom, Mewar now within south central Rajasthan. The former royal family still have a lot of influence within the city and have pushed the tourist drive in recent years. The city is frequently referred to as the most romantic city in India, first called this by Colonel James Tod of the East India Company in 1829, due to its location alongside Lake Pichola surrounded by Aravelli Hills. The lake itself is 4km long by 3km wide, but is shallow and has Palaces both around and on the lake. One takes up an entire island in the lake and only allows visitors who are paying guests. For most people these days, Udaipur is best known for its mentions in Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book (albeit under the name Oodeypore) and for its use in the James Bond film Octopussy.
I had arrived on the overnight train and was at my guesthouse by 7am so I grabbed a couple of hours more sleep then headed up to the restaurant, on the roof, with stunning views overlooking the lake. Here I met Fran, Hannah and Lara who had all arrived late the night before. We headed out to explore, crossing the narrow Daiji footbridge, to the busier side of the lake. First stop was the City Palace, a museum with a collection of unrelated rooms and where the cost to bring your camera in was double the initial entry fee. Lara and Fran got caught taking a sneaky photo on their mobiles and were promptly escorted out of the Palace and made to pay the additional fee. The various rooms included exhibitions on the war, a room full of maps and our favourite room – full of random souvenirs including a certificate from Trip Advisor rating the city and the glasses worn by Sir Ben Kingsley whilst filming Ghandi!
Leaving the museum, we took a boat trip out on the lake Pichola. The trip took us past the ghats (steps or landing on a river used for a variety of things including bathing and laundry), past the Lake Palace – the hotel which occupies an island all to itself – then on to Jag Mandir. Here there is another hotel, but one that is not so strict about visitors. However, given the prices at the bar, we decided to just sit and look at the view rather than indulge. We did bump into Faye and Tom, who Hannah and Fran had met in Jodhpur and who we agreed to meet for dinner. We took a boat back to land and went for an ice cream, meeting some of the boys from the guesthouse. That evening, the group of now 9 of us went for cocktails and dinner at a lovely restaurant on the lakeside. Here we got to watch the sunset over the water, with the lights twinkling behind us. It may have been one of my pricier dinners but the setting made it worth it.
The next morning, the 4 of us girls headed out for breakfast and then for a spot of shopping. Somewhere along the way, we managed to lose Lara, so Fran, Hannah and I had a Mars bar milkshake whilst playing cards on the water’s edge. The afternoon we went for massages – a nice deep tissue for me to get rid of some of those aches and pains from Indian buses and trains. That evening, we had lost two of the boys from last night, but kept Guido and we’d also gained Jil and we went to a cultural music and dance show. It started off with some dancing and a bit of singing and was then followed by a woman dancing with pots on her head. She started with 3, but kept on adding until she had 11 on there. It was all rather impressive, even if they did come off very easily giving the impression that they weren’t that heavy. That evening, we had a farewell dinner as we were all headed in different directions the next day, at the restaurant on the roof of Jai Wana Haveli. Again, it was a slightly pricier restaurant but we had views overlooking the whole lake and the town.