Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Udaipur- Fit for a King or 007

Our Rough Guide told us Udaipur was India at its most "quintessentially romantic" and for once on this trip the guidebook was spot on. The 'white city' was not only beautiful and atmospheric but also managed to retain a distinct air of its majesty and history unlike anywhere else in the subcontinent.

On the banks of the endlessly photogenic Lake Pichola the city was drenched in a royal charm that extended beyond the walls of the beautiful palace on the hill. From the incredibly fancy white walled floating hotel in the middle of the bright blue lake to the rolling green hills that frame the city, everything about Udaipur was in some ways very un-Indian. It was as if it had all been built purposefully, responsibly and tastefully added to over the years.

In terms of attractions the palace itself contained a relatively interesting museum full of dusty exhibits about the history of different Rajput clans and Maharjas of Rajasthan. We also learned of the history of the city itself.

Old wall murals depicting the Holi festival of colour.
Nice name for a kingdom!

As we explored the grounds of the museum and the incredible Lake Palace Hotel we saw that clearly this is the most sought after wedding spot in India, I'd contend to say this could be the most beautiful surroundings in the world to get married. It felt like an Indian Great Gatsby! Extravagant and different.

Yep that is a hotel.
A floating hotel.

Wedding preparation, we had a little nose around the grounds of the hotel...

It really was a magical place to just spend an hour strolling around let alone staying in the hotel, let alone getting married there.
The view of the palace from the hotel on the lake.

The city also happened to be the location of one of the dreadfully chauvinistic and cringeworthy Roger Moore era James Bond's- Octopussy! Almost every bar in the city therefore shows it every single night. The tuk tuk chase through Udaipur's tiny city lanes was fantastic and there is a certain inexplicable pleasure that comes with seeing the city you're in immortalised in cinema.

We also managed to stay in one of the best value rooms we've stayed in throughout our trip. En suite, hot water, windows, plenty of space, wifi in our room all for just 300R or £3. It's cheap and simple but the Golden City Palace hotel is well worth a look.

It had another nice little rooftop restaurant, which on the first night we were there hosted a mime comedy show, performed by two French guys, Unfortunately it wasn't particularly funny and just a bit awkward... after that they had fire works! Which as we have experienced in India before were planted a bit too close to the guests watching, slightly concerned we may get burnt or some ash in our drinks. Turned out it was Indian Independence Day hence all the in store entertainment, An Australian tourist thought it was for Australia Day sorry mate, you're not in Aus anymore. There was also a lovely sunset one evening with pink strewn across the sky. Another benefit of rooftop caf├ęs, beautiful views!

Although the tiny streets can be a little choked with traffic through the centre of town the city offers itself for on foot exploration. This group of kids jumped on us as we were doing just that and were eager to pose for endless photos.

To get away from the hustle and bustle a bit we got a tuk tuk to the nearby hill (check name) and got a a little bubble lift up to the top, which we realised you really didn't need to do as it's not a far walk.

It has the best views of the city, looking over the lake and palace, and then on the other side the working sprawling newer part of the city.

As we walked down the hill there was a little park and playground and couldn't resist a little play.

It was also a great spot to have a cup of chai and watch the sun set over the lake

We walked back into town and came across a huge elephant on our way back, which looked extremely out of place in a city, hopefully it has somewhere nice to sleep at night and not just in the road like all the stray dogs. And an elephant might actually stop traffic...still doubtful.

Udaipur is undoubtedly a very touristy destination, throughout the day buses come and go ferrying eager tourists around the atmospheric palace and city yet akin to other 'magic city' destinations like Hoi An and Luang Prabang in S.E Asia this pleasingly doesn't detract from its great charm.


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