The City of Lakes – Udaipur

Udaipur, also known as the “city of lakes” was our next stop on our journey through Rajasthan. We had heard good things about the place and were looking forward to seeing what this city had to offer as the focus here would be more on palaces and lakes over forts and deserts. Udaipur is surrounded by the Aravali Mountain Range which is what separates it from the Thar Desert meaning it has very different scenery to places like Jaipur and Jaisalmer. Udaipur has a number of lakes, mainly artificially constructed, that are interconnected with one another by small rivers. It was definitely a welcome site for us to see so many bodies of calm water when we had seen mainly arid desert for a couple of weeks!

We left Jodhpur on 4th April 2018 at 4pm on an air conditioned bus to Udaipur that got us in at around 9:30pm. The bus journey was smooth and uneventful and it was around 10pm when we reached our hostel, Moustache. The hostel was fine but on our first night there they did building work until after midnight and someone in our room was horribly drunk, sick and fell out of bed in the middle of the night so we didn’t get a great first night’s sleep – the joys of hostel living. All our other nights there were much better so overall our stay here wasn’t bad and the room had hot showers, good wifi and good air conditioning which is the main thing. Our hostel in Jodhpur had also been so nice that that probably didn’t help in our adjusting back into normal hostel standards but we managed!

After a slow morning we headed out to see some of Udaipur. We first went down to Lake Pichola. This lake is an artificial, fresh water lake that was created in 1362 and is the main lake that’s in the middle of the city. There are four islands on the lake with two of these, Jag Niwas and Jag Mandir, having palaces built on them (one of these palaces is also a very expensive hotel). The lake is pretty and it’s meant to be especially nice when the sun is rising or setting. Lake Pichola also connects three other lakes to it and when we first saw the lake we thought it looked more like a river but I think that’s because the main point of the lake we see from our part of town is a connecting channel – it’s just so big so it’s hard to tell!

To get a good look at the lake we headed to Gangaur Ghat. This is the main ghat which is a series of steps leading down to the water on Lake Pichola. We came here twice that day as there is a nice gate to get to the ghat and the second time we visited there was a lot of people sitting around by the waters edge and we wanted to see if something was happening. We don’t know what was going on but I loved the amount of colour from the ladies saris as they sat by the water.

Our next stop for the day was to the City Palace. The palace took over 400 years to be built and so had architectural contributions from a number of different rulers. For this reason the palace feels a little bit like a maze and actually has a number of smaller palaces within the main palace walls. This palace is considered to be the largest of its type within the state of Rajasthan and is regarded as extravagant in its design for the time it was built. The palace sits over the city on the east side of the lake which gave you some great views and the building itself was very pretty. Like many of the forts and palaces we have visited, there are a number of different rooms connected by narrow corridors, all having something different about them. There were lots of detailing on the walls, stained glass windows and intricate carvings. We liked it here.Jagdish Temple is located just near to the palace and was completed in 1651, this was our next stop for the day. As you go to climb the steps that lead to the temple you’ll be greeted by many women in colourful saris trying to sell you strings of fresh flowers. You see people all through India threading flowers onto string ready to be laid out during religious ceremonies or prayers at a temple. Jagdish Temple is really lovely with the entire building being covered in small carvings and statues from fighting elephants, Buddha and soldiers. The level of detail was very impressive and I always think when I’m at any structure that has this level of detail on, how long it must have taken to complete!

We had a walk around town and then headed back to our hostel. We had planned to go watch the sunset but seemed quite cloudy so we chose to just see what the sunset was like from the roof of our hostel instead. It turned out to be quite nice particularly over the lake so we decided to try get to a viewpoint for the sunset the following day. Our first day had been good and we enjoyed Udaipur with its pretty lakes and lots of life that all the winding streets had. This was a good sign as we had a few days left here before we headed to Mumbai.

On our second day here we headed out for breakfast by the lakefront which was a really nice way to start our day as the lake was lovely. Afterwards, we had a walk around more of the town to explore some of the streets as well as heading over the water to another section of town to where we were staying in. This section gave us better views of the palace on the lake which made us glad to have explored further afield.

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In the evening we got a taxi to a cable car that would take us up to a viewpoint over all of the lakes and the city. Unfortunately the taxi driver took us an incredibly long route compared to what it should have been and so we ended up being too late to get the cable car so just watched the end of the sunset from a nearby lake instead which was still pretty despite not being what we had planned.

For most of our third day in Udaipur we were confined to our hostel due to a torrential downpour which was actually our first rain of India which we felt very lucky about! It was incredible how much it rained but, like in a lot of Asia, because of how hot it was you could hardly tell after half an hour of it stopping. It was cool going to have a look out of the windows during the rain as kids would run out of their houses to play in the rain, screaming and laughing before running back inside to shelter. It was a nice change to view rain in such a positive and fun way and reminded me of when I visited Sri Lanka with my family and we got caught in a downpour and so all went out to dance and play in the rain getting completely soaked through and it not mattering at all!

Once the rain had stopped we chose to walk to the lookout point, Karni Mata, that the cable car would have taken us to the day before had we made it in time. The walk wasn’t that bad and we wished we had just done that the day before had we known how straight forward it was. Despite it having rained, the air was still hot and humid and we were very hot by the time we reached the top of the hill. It was worth it though as the views over the city and of the lakes were really nice and made for a pretty sunset. What was also funny when we were up there was an old Chinese man who had a small speaker playing hardcore dance anthems out of it and he danced the entire time the sun was setting. I still can’t believe the level of energy he had and I loved how he just didn’t care that he was getting some very bewildered looks which I think is definitely something to aim for when you’re older – you should definitely be beyond caring!

On our last day in Udaipur (Monday 9th April) we went to Fateh Sagar which is another lake in Udaipur. This is also an artificial lake and was built in the 1680s. We walked around the lake and then got a drink from a street stand that had some tables under some shade on the side of the road. It was nice chilling and taking our time walking around. There were quite a few stray dogs around the lake and they would often follow you for a bit as you walked past (in a harmless way don’t worry). One of the strangest things we saw was a dog waiting under an electric cable and as we stood there a bird flew past, hit the cable and just dropped down dead! I have never seen that happen and it looked like something you’d see in a cartoon. Without hesitation, the dog picked up the dead bird and ran off to enjoy its new meal – maybe it was a regular thing to happen? We both stood there a bit stunned and couldn’t believe that we had just seen a bird drop out of the sky like that!

We had a night train which left at 9pm to Mumbai so we took the rest of the day relaxing in the hostel before getting unlimited thali that night to get in a good feed as we wouldn’t have the opportunity to eat again until the afternoon the next day.

We had some really good food in Udaipur which was really helped by finding places recommended on Trip Advisor. We had used Trip Advisor a lot in India when it came to food as it was a good indication of where wouldn’t make you ill which is always the biggest concern you have when you’re travelling India. We went for unlimited thali twice during our stay in Udaipur at a little restaurant that would be easy to miss if you weren’t looking for it called Neelam Restaurant. The thali consisted of rice, dhal, curried vegetables (like peas and potatoes, chapatis), some other type of vegetable that we have no clue what it is but was nice, raita which is a yoghurt dip and a spicy chutney. We were able to get each thing as many times as we wanted and both times ate until we were stuffed!

The other two restaurants we ate at were Chirag Rooftop Restaurant which was near our hostel and did nice food although I found it a little too spicy which I was surprised at as my spice tolerance has been a lot better since visiting India (don’t believe what people might tell you – they love their hot food in India!). Another great dish we had was malai kofta at the Lotus Cafe and Restaurant which is also somewhere you might miss if you didn’t know it was there! This was a creamy dish with paneer and potato in it and we had it with naan bread and rice. We both loved this and I wish I could eat it again now just thinking about it. Udaipur was probably up there with one of the best places we went to for food although nothing beats the food we ate in Amritsar with the best paneer butter masala we tasted on the entire trip!

Udaipur was a really pretty city and a great place to spend some chilled days before we got our night train to Mumbai. Like with most places in India there isn’t tonnes to do but there was enough to keep us busy and, really, walking around the streets and sitting by the lake is a good thing to do that can be done again and again so it wasn’t a big deal. If I had to only pick a couple of places in Rajasthan then this would definitely be on my list mainly to see the contrast of places Rajasthan has to offer and we did really like the lakes.

Next stop: Mumbai

Sending Love x

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