Mumbai to Delhi : Next stop Udaipur, the White City | Horn please, OK?

Mumbai to Delhi : Next stop Udaipur, the White City

Day 2 : Gandhinagar -> Udaipur
When : October 2014 | How far : 240 kms | How long : 4 hrs 

City Palace Udaipur, seen across Lake Pichola
City Palace Udaipur, seen across Lake Pichola
Ever been to a place that puts to shame any pictures you've seen of it? No? 
Then you haven't been to Udaipur. 

Udaipur, the White City

Udaipur became the the capital of the princely state of Mewar in the 16th century when Maharana Uday Singh met a visionary hermit who advised him to build a palace by the lake. The man clearly knew what he was talking about because Mewar's erstwhile capital Chittorgadh was attacked soon after.

Apart from its obvious natural beauty this is what makes Udaipur special
  • It was the birthplace of Bagheera (remember Jungle Book?) But it was called Oodeypore. A much cooler spelling don't you think?
  • Its known as the white city because of the white marble palaces that dot the city's skyline. The whiteness is further accentuated by the reflections of the palaces in the city's many lakes.
  • Maharana Pratap Singh (or Rana Pratap) and his famous horse Chetak hail from here. 
  • Udaipur has been ruled by the same dynasty for over 1200 years. Thats about 70 kings from the same family!
  • The Bond film Octopussy, Gandhi and Wes Anderson's Darjeeling Ltd were all filmed (partly) in Udaipur. 
Udaipur, the White City
Udaipur, the White City

Yellow (potholed) Brick Road

There were 2 routes to choose from to get to Udaipur from Gandhinagar. The longer one was through the Aravalis, via Mt Abu road. The one we took was via NH8 and approximately 250 kms long. With only a day and a half to explore the city, we wanted to take the shortest route possible. Be warned that stretch of NH8 is infested with potholes and suffers from unending truck traffic  The monotony of the drive was broken by sudden appearances of small forts partly hidden behind sloping hills.  

Forts of Rajasthan

Udaipur, the City of Lakes

We were breaking the bank for this holiday by staying at the Lake Palace. Run by the Taj group of hotels its built on an island in the middle of Lake Pichola. It has a private jetty and guests are subjected to a warm, touristy ritual that almost makes you feel like royalty.

Taj Lake Palace's private jetty, Udaipur
Taj Lake Palace's private jetty
A speedboat ferried us across the lake to the hotel while we took in views of the picturesque city palace and Udaipur's many hotels and B&Bs that crowd the edge of the lake.

City Palace, Udaipur
City Palace, Udaipur
The Lake Palace was built sometime in the 1740s by Maharana Jagat Singh II. The Jag Niwas as it was originally called was used as a summer palace by the royal family and was converted into a hotel in the 1970s. Contrary to what you see the palace doesn't float but is built on an island - one of 4 - in Lake Pichola.

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
We ran around the hotel grounds in wide eyed wonder while the staff benevolently smiled at us like encouraging, indulgent relatives.  Every corner we turned looked more exotic than the last, each taking us back in time offering us a glimpse of the grandeur of the past.

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur
Inside Taj Lake Palace
Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

At 5pm it was time for the sunset boat ride. We got over how cheesy it sounded as soon as we saw the  sun reflecting off the glittering inlay work inside the Jal Mahal - something you can see only from the water. 

Travel tip : Take that boat ride. Its the best way to explore Lake Pichola. You'll see the sun paint the city in colours that have no name.  

City Palace, Udaipur

City Palace, Udaipur

Gangaur ghat is all bustle and activity during the Gangaur festival in Feb-Mar and turns into a site of uncontrolled dancing and idol immersion. 

Gangaur Ghat, Udaipur
Gangaur Ghat
And that's the Gangaur boat which features in the film Octopussy. When its not being used by the king to watch the celebrations unfold on the ghats, it caters to private parties for guests staying at the Lake Palace. 

Gangaur boat, Lake Pichola
Gangaur Boat
Our ride was made more exciting when a fellow passenger (who happened to be a politician) spat into the lake right in the middle of a story about India's rich heritage and culture. He was a non-conformist, clearly.

The boat took us to Jag Mandir, the other palace in Lake Pichola. Its also a hotel owned by the royal family and open to non guest visitors (unlike the Lake Palace).  Jag Mandir was used as a pleasure palace by the king and his men folk. Yes, a pleasure palace is exactly what it sounds like. Those kings knew how to live. 

Jag Mandir, Udaipur
Jag Mandir
Jag Mandir's other claim to fame is that it was home to Shah Jehan and Mumtaz Mahal for 3 years and played a wee role in inspiring the design of the Taj Mahal. 

Jag Mandir, Udaipur
Jag Mandir
As night fell the lights of Udaipur came on and turned the city into a water painting.  

City Palace seen from across Lake Pichola
City Palace seen from across Lake Pichola
City Palace, Udaipur by night
City Palace, Udaipur by night

Udaipur, the City of Love

The other places that deserve a visit in Udaipur are the City Palace and Sahelion ki Baadi. 

Travel tip : If you don't have your own car, ask your hotel to book you one for 4 hours. And the little extra that you pay for a guide is well worth it. 

Two large sections of the City Palace, the Mardana Mahal & Zenana Mahal are what make up the City Palace Museum. It is the embodiment of the opulence that was once the princely state of Mewar. 

City Palace Museum, Udaipur
City Palace Museum, Udaipur
City Palace, Udaipur
City Palace
Glittering murals on walls and ceilings, glass inlay work, paintings, artefacts, weaponry, silver, crystals - you name it and there was a room for it. 

City Palace Museum, Udaipur

City Palace Museum, Udaipur

City Palace Museum, Udaipur

City Palace Museum, Udaipur

It was difficult to wrap our heads around the amount of wealth that was held in that one palace alone.   

City Palace Museum, Udaipur

City Palace Museum, Udaipur

City Palace Museum, Udaipur
Ivory inlay door
City Palace Museum, Udaipur

City Palace Museum, Udaipur

Our guide regaled us with stories of valour and betrayals, of insubordination to the British and opposition to the Mughals. The significance of the battle of Haldighati and how the Rajputanas played a pivotal role in shaping the course of Indian history.

Crystal Museum, City Palace

Crystals are a King's best friend. The Crystal Museum in the Fateh Prakash Palace, part of the City Palace is the largest personal collection of crystal is the world. The King of Mewar, Sajjan Singh had a fascination for crystals and ordered over 100,000 pieces back in 1884. He died before the order was delivered and this treasure trove was uncovered a hundred years later. There's even a bed made entirely of crystals! Sweet dreams?

Crystal Museum< Fateh Prakash Palace

Every King worth his salt has a vintage car collection.  Housed in a section of the palace, this collection is nothing to scoff at. But be prepared to shell out Rs 450 for a ticket.

Vintage Car Museum, Udaipur

Sahelion ki baadi, as the name suggests is where the royal ladies used to hang out. It has fountains and gardens and more fountains and gardens. None of the fountains originally used pumps. Gravity and the natural difference in the levels of the lakes and the garden created enough water pressure to keep the fountains flowing. 

Sahelion ki Baadi

We did a quick drive by of Fateh Sagar, the other famous lake in Udaipur. It has a futuristic looking climate control centre built in the middle of the lake. The October heat discouraged us from hanging around for much longer and we headed back to the hotel.

Travel tip :  Sink your teeth into some spicy Laal Maas. If red meat isn't your thing, ask for the chicken based version.

Nobody comes to Rajasthan and leaves without seeing a folk dance. The hotels make sure of it. Our evening's entertainment consisted of 3 men with pitch perfect voices belting out old folk songs while bedecked, lithe dancers danced on overturned glasses. That folks, is the definition of exotic.

Things to do in Udaipur

If you don't have the patience to read long, rambly, overpunctuated sentences, here's a summary of what you should see in Udaipur

  • Visit the City Palace museum and be prepared to spend up to 4 hours exploring its many fascinating rooms
  • Check out the Crystal museum. Its mind boggling. Its also expensive and will cost you Rs550 per ticket
  • If you're into cars, go see the 22 prize winning vintage car collection 
  • Sahelion ki Baadi for folks who like gardens. Get there early to avoid the crowds
  • Shop for jewellery and clothes in the old market near the clock tower
  • Drive around Fateh Sagar lake
  • Take a sunset boat ride in Lake Pichola
  • Visit the Monsoon Palace which itself is bare and in ruins but offers lovely views of the city 
  • If you're a meat eater order the Laal Maas at a local restaurant. If not, get yourself some daal baati churma. 

Dilli Chalo

Day 4 : Udaipur -> Delhi
When : October 2014 | How far : 700 kms | How long : 11 hrs 

The first 450 kms from Udaipur to Jaipur via Bhilwara was a smooth ride. For a short while we considered making an 8 km detour to Chittorgarh to see the fort. We dropped the idea when we realised it would mean entering Delhi after sunset. 

The highway joins NH8 at Kishangarh and continues towards Jaipur. We skirted Jaipur without going in to the city and continued towards Delhi. The road and traffic got progressively worse with no food courts or rest stops in sight. At long last, somewhere near the Delhi border we found a cafe coffee day that was serving left overs and hot coffee. 

It was a harrowing 4 hour drive with long stretches of smooth road interrupted by unannounced suspension-breaking craters . Our sympathies to those of you who drive through this stretch more than once in your lives. 

There was no grand arch announcing our entry into Delhi. Instead, this is how we knew we were in the City of Djinns.

Stories from the entire trip

Day 1 -> Mumbai -> Gandhinagar
Days 2 to 4 -> You just read it
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Maria George said...

Such a lovely entry. You literally weaved a story around all the fantastic pics and made me think I was seeing it all with my own eyes.

Trip-a-doodle said...

Thanks, Thats such a nice compliment!

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