Disclaimer: If you are reading this post for the lakes of Udaipur, then don’t, because Udaipur has more land than lakes in terms of area. And this post talks about that land as much as it does about the lakes.
Our journey began one night when brother proposed the idea of booking air tickets to Udaipur one day prior to New Year’s Eve. That we bought the tickets at an insanely high price is bad enough. That I was unemployed (and broke) at that time is outrageously tragic. All those who say the best trips are the unplanned ones are either smack-you-in-the-face rich or are pure bluffing.
So, people, before I even begin to recollect the tragic tale of a series of unfortunate events on my trip to Udaipur, I’d like to share the one lesson I learned. Plan all your trips and book low-cost flights low-cost flights to India well in advance. This is not some rebellious I-am-a-free-bird statement you should make by not planning your trip. Reserve your wild side for what you do after reaching your destination. Or you may just fall short of money to book your return tickets. Of course, it will be another interesting adventure if you have to con gullible tourists or wash some dinner plates in order to collect money to return to your home city.
Anyway so, we had to book an expensive hotel. Correction: an average hotel at the price of an expensive one. The view outside was that of a traffic crossing and showed the real Udaipur: dusty, crowded, vehicles emitting black clouds of soot. But the Udaipur meant for tourists is pretty – sparkling lakes, along winding, bricked lane lined by quaint places with rooftop restaurants and painted jharokhas as windows.
So, here’s what you should and what you shouldn’t do in Udaipur:
- City Palace Road – where all the action is
Choose a hotel on the City Palace Road by the lakeside (book it well in advance coz the lake-facing rooms get filled the first). Most of them are beautiful haveli-turned-hotels and have sit-outs overlooking Lake Pichola. You could seriously just spend all your evenings sitting here. The shops on City Palace road—that’s practically the entire touristy Udaipur for you—cater to the wide-eyed firang, the nostalgic NRI, and sometimes to the bored Indian metro-dweller.
But obviously, we had to spend our New Year’s Eve in our sad hotel room in the center of the city, though we finally changed our hotel and moved to City Palace Road after many of the rooms had been vacated post-New Year. Not exactly lake-facing, but if you strained your neck from out the large fancy windows you could catch a glimpse of the water.
- Cultural Side
You must explore City Palace in the day and in the evening. Once you are done with the interiors, stroll to the boating area behind the palace. In true-blue aristocratic style, the palace still sees fine-bred polo horses being trained in the grounds. Moving ahead you’d reach the lovely promenade dotted with people in their suave jackets and ponchos sitting on the benches waiting for their turn for boating. Linger longer and watch the light and sound show in the evening.
Catch the Dharohar dance shows at Bagore ki Haveli. Held every evening in the haveli’s compound, it is a spectacular blend of folk dance, music, and puppetry. And it helps that the audience sits on mattresses on the floor with yellow light from the bulbs streaming in from the neem trees under a night sky.
- Skip Mount Abu
Don’t go to Mount Abu. Okay, there is no dearth of hill stations in India and unless you are utterly bored, or it is extremely hot or you are a religious Jain and have vowed to see the Dilwara temples, then maybe you can think of going. Not that Mt. Abu isn’t beautiful, but there are other day trip sites near Udaipur well worth your time. There is one lake, Nakki jheel, one sunset point, and a mall road. Nothing more nothing less. For us, it was ignorance that led us to Mt. Abu. The Dilwara Temple is lovely, great, but what else?
- Day Trips
Sajjangarh Fort, also known as Monsoon Palace, is breathtaking. Situated on a hilltop overlooking the Fateh Sagar Lake, the fort offers a good view of the entire valley below and is a popular sunset point. The sunset here, one of the best in the country, feels like animation. For day trips, you must visit Kumbhalgarh Fort which we hear is an interesting place. Of course, we missed it.
- Shopping and Eating Out
One of the best and the cheapest breakfast options is the batata poha served in newspaper hand-outs across the streets of Rajasthan. Comes at a mere Rs 10 per serving, is lip-smacking delicious and quite filling. And it is supposed to be eaten with hands, much to the astonishment of Oprah.
And dinner is a truly royal treat at any of the rooftop restaurants on the City Palace Road. All the restaurants here overlook the lake and are furnished in royal style. However, if you have an elderly person with you, your options might become limited as not all restaurants have elevators.
For shopping, the Hathi Pol market is fab. It’s cheap, it has all the typically Rajasthani stuff (the kind you’d like to display in your drawing room to show off your ethnicity).