I swiftly arrived at the Udaipur train station in the wee hours of the morning where I was quickly approached by a sociable auto-rickshaw driver, Bunty, who would later become a friend. Kankarwa Haveli, my slightly pricier hotel on the lake… was just what I needed. Silent, tranquil, and gorgeous, I was upgraded to a deluxe room with its own meditation center, comfortable queen bed, strong A/C unit, window views overlooking Lake Pichola, and a very clean bathroom. I promptly showered and headed up 4 flights of stairs to the highly anticipated rooftop views!
The view from atop the hotel did not disappoint. I had traveled from scorching weather and jam-packed cities to an oasis on a picturesque lake.
The sun rose over the calm blue waters dotted with palaces of creamy custards and milky whites, flowers of vivid magenta and gold lined the view – this was a
heavenly place! I enjoyed a long breakfast overlooking the views where I feasted on deliciously fresh fruit, eggs, toast, jam, and tea… all included in the price of my room.
After making friends with my waiter Shika, I stepped down from the terrace to sightsee. I found Udaipur to be a charming small town which is walkable and quaint. The many hills winding up and down marked by tight alleyways offering stalls of handcrafted goods add further character to this city on the lake. I was not near as bothered by touts or locals trying to sell things to me – and barely anyone asked to take my picture. Though mopeds and rickshaws still fly through town at unnecessary speeds, I found the people of Udaipur to be a calmer, more content kind.
I began my sightseeing with Jagdish Temple, the largest mosque in Udaipur, just steps from my haveli. Traditional prayers and song were in full gear, and I felt like an idiot standing there watching. I continued to explore some shops, buying souvenirs for friends back home, and made my way to City Palace - the large and impressive museum where I spent 2 hours exploring the many corridors and rooms lined with Rajasthani artwork, stained glass walls, and stories to tell.
I continued on down the steep hills to the bottom of Lake Pichola’s edge, where the boat tour I was looking to do had just pulled away from the harbor. I had one hour to kill and did so at a nearby internet café where I had just enough time to update family and friends on my travel experiences thus far. Of course when I got back to the boat, a gathering of backpackers was just departing – so I was once again solo. I enjoyed the tour
nonetheless – basking in the cool breeze off the water’s edge and taking in the magical views. The boat stopped at a fancy island called Jagmandir – where I snapped photos of the perfectly groomed landscape and its high end hotel. Back on shore, I nearly had a heat stroke climbing back up the hilly landscape amidst the beating afternoon sun. I found relief in an air-conditioned hotel
bathroom for twenty minutes where I cooled down and swore off India’s dress code – how do people wear long dresses and covered shoulders in 100 degrees Fahrenheit!?
One much-needed nap in my hotel later, I woke up to my alarm so I could catch the sunset… I definitely didn’t want to miss that! They call Udaipur “the Venice of India” – a spot where many honeymooners venture to relax, and I know why. As the fiery sun dropped over the huge Monsoon Palace perched high atop a mountain in the distance, beams of lights lit up the colorful sky and
endlessly rolling Aveli mountains. The domed palaces surrounding Lake Pichola glowed in the distance. This was a moment to remember. I treated myself to a lovely dinner at the famed Sunset Terrace restaurant and dined on a delicious
chicken dish in red sauce with rice and naan, washed down with some cold, half-priced Kingfisher beers. I was in heaven!
The evening only improved as I met Jo from London and her fiancé Matt from Australia, fellow backpackers – finally. The flowing conversation and laughs turned into a somewhat tipsy and fun walk back to our hotels where we
exchanged numbers and planned to meet up for the following evening’s sunset.
Day two in Udaipur was a busy one. I had another great breakfast on my hotel rooftop and ventured into town looking for Akosha Arts. Here I partook in a divine three hour painting class where my instructor basically just
told me which colors to paint when, and to copy the painting at hand. Good thing I can draw!
Creating my little traditional Rajasthani painting of an elephant on a silk canvas – full of minute patterns and details – was so unique. I must say I was quite pleased with my design in the end.
Next I decided to call Bunty and arrange a day tour of New Udaipur via his rickshaw, ending at Monsoon Palace amid the mountains for sunset. Bunty was great! I took a cable car up the mountain to Sunset Point and saw stunning views of all of Udaipur. I toured the spice market where I blended in with local shoppers and was overcome by the titillating and competing smells. We stopped at Royal Memorial where I photographed the countless rows of beautiful domed tombs housing the spirits of deceased royals. We stopped at a garden where I was unpleasantly hassled by intrigued tourists, and saw a second lake, the sun glistening over its waves. I even saw some traditionally garbed camels and got a picture – and later saw my first elephant in India! We were driving down a busy street when the colorfully-painted and costumed gigantic creature caught my eye. The tourist in me screamed for Bunty to pull over so I could feed, touch, and photograph the majestic beast.
Finally, we had circled the lake and arrived at the foot of the mountain range where I would need to wait for a proper car to carry me to the top, the home of Monsoon Palace. I flagged down a taxi I saw carrying two backpackers and they let me ride along for free. The ride up the mountain was insane to me, and our driver’s speed was even more so… 360 degree turns every 10 meters, beeping, rode bumps, tunnels – the pace had me laughing the whole way up. Once we got to the top I explored the “palace” which looks more impressive from the bottom of the lake, but the views were well worth the visit. Udaipur city and its two lakes on one side, pure Aveli mountain ranges on the other. I sat on a bench watching the sun drop over the gorgeous landscape – then Jo and Matt finally made it in a pinch just in time to see the sun disappear.
The three of us got back into town and set out for a good restaurant. The one recommended in my guidebook was closed, but we found an adorable rooftop place lined with red and green lights calling our names. Seating in a private tiki hut atop the restaurant fitting just us three, we feasted on a gluttonous amount of chicken tandoori, veggie thali, paneer, and Kingfishers, all the while exchanging stories and some good laughs. When Jo looked at her watch and informed me it was 9:20pm, I had no time to waste to get back, change, and catch my train! Bunty charged me just 400 Rupees for the entire day so I gave him 500 (just ten bucks!). I was happy to make the train in time which would move overnight to my next city, Jaipur. Though I was excited for what was ahead, I was sad to leave the city on the lake… it had made quite an impression.
For Photos of this trip - click here!