The Jewel of Mewar, The Kashmir of Rajasthan, The Venice of the East, Oasis in the Desert… All these sobriquet aptly refers to Udaipur, one of the most romantic cities in India. With a plethora of palaces, temples and other royal buildings that narrate the story of gallantry, valor and sacrifice, this Rajput city of three lakes located amidst the picturesque lush green hills of the Aravalli range, would provide a mesmerizing and memorable experience to any tourist. A trip to Rajasthan would be incomplete without a visit to this beautiful city.
Udaipur was the last destination in my Rajasthan trip. So, it started of at 9:30 am on the 11th of October from the bus stand at Mt.Abu. The down hill route provide some interesting views of the Aravalli range and the valleys. The bus halted at Abu road for over 45 minutes and it was really boring, as far as I can say. The highway to Udaipur is very good and has a number of tunnels and small green hills by the side, to keep you company. I don’t know, what got into the bus driver; may be he wanted to show me the countryside when he took us for a little off-roading. Even though it added an extra 40 minutes into the trip, it gave me a glimpse of the villages and life of the people around these places. Finally after over 5 hours, I arrived at Udaipur at 3 pm. My dad’s colleague Mr. Noble was there to pick me up and he took me to a good Mallu restaurant – The Kerala Hotel by Ashokan chettan.
After a good meal, I started my Udaipur exploration taking the advise from Nishith from South Indian Bank. The first destination was the Gulab Bagh. Even though its named as Rose Garden, I didn’t see many roses. But it was a good place to spend an evening as its covered with big trees and even has a zoo inside it. Well, I didn’t come to Udaipur to see a zoo. Sorry!! After spending about an hour at the garden, I walked to Pichola lake. As I said in the ridiculously gasconade introduction, this city has 3 lakes which are interconnected and I’m hoping it justifies my title for this blog. Anyway, it is indeed a beautiful lake. I took a Rs.75 ropeway to Karnimatha Temple. It offered a pulchritudinous and astonishing view of Udaipur. Shear awesomeness!! There I met Vincent Kreose from Holland. We had a little chat and walked around enjoying the stupefying view. I’d recommend you to go there in the evening as you could revel one of the most beautiful sunsets you could see in India. I really enjoyed watching the sun go down shining over the glossy waters of the Pichola and Fateh Sagar lake. Stay there for another 30 minutes if you want to get an aerial view of the illuminated city of Udaipur. Absolutely gorgeous! Also, it’s quite windy up there. Taking about the wind, when I got to the cable car point, I saw a long queue of disgruntled tourist waiting for their ride back down. The strong winds had put the service on hold for obvious safety concerns. I waited for over 30 minutes and then walked down. It took me about 15 minutes to walk down through the moderately illuminated, yet deserted pathway. As you could guess, I called it a day and spent the night at Noble uncle’s apartment.
In the morning I set out to Fateh Sagar lake, the 2nd one and took a boat to Nehru Park. It’s a small island in the middle of the lake and has a small yet beautiful garden. My next destination was the famous City Palace of Udaipur. The first observation – even the ticket has a royal touch. It’s just ordinary paper, but it is very expensive. Rs.115 entry, Rs.225 for camera and still you can’t enter more than half the places. There is a crystal museum with an entry fee of Rs.525 and the best part – No Camera. You’ve gotta be kidding me. This is the problem if you visit a highly popular tourist destination for the rich and the famous. Note that ASI charges a mere Rs.10 for entry into majority of the monuments in India (for Indian’s of course). Coming back to the palace, the museum there was pretty good, but crowded. There are some good mirror works in there along with interesting paintings. It took me about 2 hours to cover the palace and personal opinion – Not worth the entry fee and hype as I’ve seen much better palaces and forts. As I mentioned earlier, since you need extra tickets to visit half the places, you find ticket counters at every nook and corner. Convenient if you change your mind about not visiting those places. Isn’t it quite obvious, that it didn’t change my mind? Luckily my entry ticket allowed me to visit the lake, The Pichola lake. From the lake shore, I stared at the famous Lake Palace. You must’ve seen it in the James Bond film Octopussy. Since I’m not a millionaire, I decided against having a tea there. On my way back, I saw the Royal procession and caught a glimpse of the Royal family. Even thought I thought the palace was not worth the hype, the procession changed my mind. Unfortunately, you won’t be lucky enough to see it unless you visit the place on some special days (It was Dussera that day)
My next destination was the Bagore ki Haveli which was a lot less crowded and had a pretty good museum and a much cheaper entry fee. If you are wondering why I keep whining about the entry fees, let me remind you that I’m a budget traveler funded by my research stipend. The interesting thing about this museum is the amazing collection of puppets. I became friends with Ravi – the master puppeteer. As a result he gave a personal puppet show with 2 of his best puppets. It was awesome! He also taught me how to control the strings, but I must confess, I sucked at it.
After a lunch at my earlier Mallu hotel, I convinced Noble uncle to come with me Sajjan Ghar. It’s on the hill opposite to the Karnimatha Temple and it offers a view the city of Udaipur from a different perspective. It was very hard for us to find the road to the Sajjan Ghar or the monsoon palace. Reason – its under the control of government and hence poorly maintained. It is located atop a hill inside the Sajjan wildlife sanctuary. The road up there has 10 hair pin bend in 1 kilometer. We reached on top of the hill by about 4 pm. Forget what I said about the view from Karnimatha earlier. That is nothing compared to the view here. This place offers a 360 degree view. I could see the entire city and the lush green Aravalli mountain ranges. The palace is in a pathetic condition and it would’ve Maharana Sajjan Singh had he been alive today. You must’ve seen it again in Octopussy as the palace of villain. The view is totally worth the effort going up there. I didn’t find any Auto’s taking people there. The only way to get up there is private vehicle or a taxi.
Finally, I bade farewell to Udaipur with pleasant memories at 6:15 pm when my train left the Udaipur railway station towards New Delhi. This concluded my 6 day trip to Rajasthan.
It was not just about seeing places, the experiences from this journey are bound to stay with me throughout my life. With every trip I make, I learn a lot about the people and the world around me. It also gives us a glimpse of the past, guiding us towards a better future. The beauty and diversity of nature reminded me how little we appreciate and know of the natural world. And that’s it. Oh yeah, the map. And the total expense was about Rs.8800 (~$145).
The End of Rajasthan Series.