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Friday, November 20, 2015

Exploring the City of Lakes - Udaipur


I like solitude, to be left alone for a date with my thoughts. It’s beautiful the way you do not feel lonely even though you know not a single person in the place you are in, in the city you are in.
Although I have travelled alone before, gone to places all by myself, I’d never be entirely alone- I’d meet friends in the city or along the journey. This time I decided to make my comfort zone a little wider, to add one more escapade to it- a solo trip of four days and three nights to Udaipur, a must-visit city for tourists in the state of Rajasthan, India.

Beginning with the transportation from Gurgaon/Delhi to Udaipur- I luckily got flight tickets cheaper than that of train. I booked the tickets only a week before my departure date; train fare was somewhere around 1700 INR while airfare was around 1500 INR. (However, the return tickets cost me a fortune so I still suggest taking a bus or a train for those who have the time and patience/)

I expected Day #1 to be an uneventful one for the fact that I landed at the Maharana Pratap Airport at around 3:00pm and had promised my parents that I’d not be roaming around after sunset, being ensnared by the I-am-a-girl-and-hence-vulnerable mentality. The airport is around 20kms away from the city, and pre-paid taxis are available at the airport to be taken to the city with a fixed fare of 670 INR for Non-AC and 750 INR for AC. The taxi journey to the city comprised of gaping at the beauty of the majestic hills around. As informed by the driver, the city was once surrounded by walls, the remnants of which I saw while entering the city from the airport.  It took me around 40 minutes to reach the hotel I booked for myself – The Archi at Sukhadia Circle.

 


The hotel was quite good with service being the best part of it. The location was quite safe for solo female tourists like me and is a good locality to choose for one’s stay in Udaipur.



Sukhadia circle had some sort of a mini fair going on with children playing in those tiny merry-go-rounds and a chain of mobile stores selling all sorts of street foods – from pani puri to barf ki chuski.
The evening of Day #1 was spent searching for the famous boiled egg ki bhurji which I had read about, from many tour-advising sites. I chose to walk to Chetak Circle, the happening centre of the city with people everywhere, buying items ranging from sweets to home decorative – a distance of around 2kms from Sukhadia Circle.

There were mobile stores standing just opposite to Chetak Cinema Hall that no longer operates, selling boiled egg ki bhurji that looked more like a thick curry garnished with egg that was first boiled and then crushed, served with eight slices of bread on tiny plates made of steel.



Looking at the meal, I knew dinner was so not on the cards for day # 1; and somehow, that was going to be the case for the next two days.

While returning from Chetak Circle to Sukhadia Circle I boarded one of those autos that carried around 10-11 passengers, taking only INR 10 from each. (Don’t forget to ask the driver where the auto is going because there are around three- four different destinations and routes for such autos from the same place of origination.)

Day #2 began with an ambitious checklist of places to visit but ended with the understanding of the age-old debate between quantity and quality; I chose the latter.

A taxi took me to Sajjangarh Biological Park, a drive of around 5-7kms from my place of stay. The entry tickets to the park cost around 30-40 INR per adult, and for the tour three options were available – walking, taking a golf cart that charged 50 INR per head per ride and cycling that charged a fare of 20 INR per cycle per hour. I chose convenience and hence, the golf cart ride of 90 minutes or so. Since, I was alone I had to wait a little till the golf cart driver got a sufficient number of people (6-8) to take on a tour.

The tour reminded me of Vivek sir who had taken me on a trip to Rajaji National Park, earlier this year when he explained the features of various exotic birds and introduced me to new plants as well. Needless to say, at Sajjangarh Biological Park, I had to metaphorically poke the driver to get information out of him about the animals there. This place is for those who are enthralled by looking at animals. The only delightful scene for me was a Cheetah which came out of its cave to greet us by ceaselessly walking to and fro. When asked if it was a sign of irritation, the driver claimed that the big cat has been a dweller of that place since birth and it enjoys attention. “When the viewers will leave, it will again go back to its cave and sit there idly,” the driver added.

The entry gate to reach the Sajjangarh Palace is just adjacent to that of the Biological Park. The entry fee was of INR 50; private cars were charged somewhere around 200 INR whereas taking their jeep cost 90 INR per head, to and fro.

The Sajjangarh Palace is also called the Monsoon Palace, the reason for the same being the fact that it gets hidden by clouds during monsoon, as told by the guards, and the fact that it was built by Maharana Sajjan Singh in 1884 to watch the monsoon clouds. The journey from the main entry gate to the top of the Bansdara Peak of Aravalli Hill Range, where the palace is located, consists of a narrow serpentine road where drivers need the skill to maintain a range of speed that isn’t too low to move uphill or too high to crash with the vehicles coming downhill. The view of the palace is a treat to the eyes once the 5km long journey to the top of the hill is covered. The hilltop allows you to get a proper view of the city at the front, the mountains surrounding its back, along with the two famous lakes – Fateh Sagar Lake to the left and Pichola Lake to the right.



A small pond with blooming blue water lilies greeted the visitors about to enter the palace while I could spot a gray Langur sitting on a tree, watching the strangers patiently.

I am not a fan of Rajput Architecture so the hilltop view is what captivated me the most along with the feeling of freedom you get when you stand alone in one of those Jharokas, letting the soft breeze play with your hair and dupatta. It was, I considered, one of the best places to be, lost in one’s own train of thoughts while admiring the creation of the nature, questioning one’s own purpose of existence.

 


After the wonderful time spent at the Palace, the driver dropped me back to the main gate from where I got an auto which dropped me to the main road, a ride of INR 30. Another auto, shared with around 10 other people, took me to Fateh Sagar Lake, charging INR 10.

Two Red Wattled Lapwings spotted near Fateh Sagar Lake, Udaipur

Tourists visit Fateh Sagar Lake to take boat or jetty rides and visit the islands of this artificial lake. The museum in front of the lake was what held my interest as I proceeded to pay it a visit. They say you need a vehicle to take inside Maharana Pratap Memorial and so I took an auto with me. An auto driver charges from 50 – 100 INR depending on your negotiation skills. The entry tickets cost 50 INR for the visitor and 25 INR for the auto. Larger vehicles would be charged more.  
My suggestion would be to either take a personal vehicle or choose to walk since there is a lot to learn from in this place. My auto driver eventually got tired of waiting and complained about the time I was taking, making me feel guilty. There are seven spots and they begin with the statue of Maharana Pratap on his horse, Chetak, built at the top of Moti Magri.


A stall near it makes you wear traditional Rajasthani attire to be clicked which made me all excited and eager to try the attire. I could hardly move my arms properly once I was dressed by the men there.


The hilltop gives a good view of the lake; the Monsoon Palace too can be spotted sitting proudly on the Aravalli hill range.


The next spots, in order, are Hakim Khan Statue, Bhamashah Statue, Veer Bhawan, Bhiluraja Park, Sunet Park and Jhalaman Park. I chose to skip the parks as I had no intention of getting photographs and it was getting late already. The best place was to visit Veer Bhawan that gave you a glimpse of history including the battle of Haldighati.

My takeaway – one of the biggest sacrifice, in history, of a mother, Panna Dhai, the maid of the then prince Udai Singh, when she, in order to protect her master when he was about to be attacked by his Uncle Banbeer, placed her own son Chandan, who was Udai Singh’s playmate, on the prince’s bed. The uncle mistakenly killed Panna Dhai’s son while another maid carried Udai Singh in a basket of vegetables to a safe place.

The next place I visited worth mentioning is a store named Crystal Forest. It stands right in front of the staircase leading to O’zen café at Jagdish Chowk, near the City Palace Campus. From outside it was just like any other store, which I entered to buy a souvenir for my parents. I bought a small wooden owl, the chest of which doubled up as a cage holding another small wooden owl inside.


As I struck up a conversation with the store owner, Ajay Mehta, I realized the immense potential the person has. He is passionate about studying as much as he can about precious gems and minerals, has a good collection of stones from different places and makes well-crafted designs himself creating beautiful earrings, bracelets, pendants, necklaces and anklets using shells and gems. He showed me an oyster shell that had pearls of various sizes and shapes on it and explained how different kinds of pearls are used for different functions. He even makes jewellery out of the customer’s self-made designs.



If you are one of those interested in ordering a design or making a purchase, please drop a mail to sanhitabaruah@gmail.com.

Day #2 ended with a sumptuous meal at the famous-among-tourists O’zen café that provides a pleasant ambience and western cuisine. The popular café also shows the James Bond movie Octopussy in the evening, and I was the only Indian sitting there sipping mohito and relishing burger and salad.

On Day #3 I shifted to another hotel for some “royal treatment” as mentioned on the website explaining the heavy moment charged. The hotel is named Raj Kesar Regency, at Shikarbadi Road, and has a beautiful interior. However, the location isn’t good enough for tourists to stay as it is situated in the outskirts of the city. No availability of private autos and unavailability of cabs there just support my previous claim. I took a shared auto, charging 10 INR per head, which took me some 4-5kms to a bus stand where I left it to take a private auto to Bagore ki Haveli.

I absolutely loved Bagore ki Haveli; its museum had a very good display of items used in the ancient times along with a lot of information about the living style of the Kings and Queens of the eighteenth century. From the world’s largest pagdi to the ancient “pub” where all the gambling, drinking and Hookah smoking happened, the palace is worth a couple of hours of your time. It also has a room for puppets depicting the various position-holders of a kingdom and a museum depicting the royal wedding.

I was lucky to have visited the palace when an exhibition was going on by a married couple from Ahmedabad.




The wife, Dhruti displayed beautiful paintings made on a handmade paper derived from the bark of the Argali (in Nepalese) or Theyshing (in Sikkimese) tree, brought from Sikkim.



Her husband, Mayank Ghedia, an architect by profession but a nature photographer and artist by heart displayed pictures taken using various glass objects and a torch light that created beautiful illusions reflecting spiritual experience. Mere words can’t explain the extent to which I was mesmerized by his creations. The photographs I liked the most are named ‘Bride’ and ‘Wings of Joy’and, respecting my budget and his art as well, I bought a stack of his photographs that came in smaller sizes than the ones on display. I consider myself a fan already, and I am eager to attend his exhibition in Delhi when he conducts one. Drop me a mail for more details, pictures and explanations.

Half a day was spent admiring the various facets of  Bagore ki Haveli and the view of the Lake Palace, which is a palace built on a small island in Lake Pichola, that could be enjoyed from the Haveli. I headed through the narrow byelanes, looking at stores selling beautiful kurtas and bags, to the City Palace, expecting the best experience of my visit to Udaipur. To my utter dismay it was a holiday and hence, the palace was crowded as much as a metro station is during rush hours. I could not muster the courage to get in the queue and have a look at its museum amidst perspiring people, so I decided to have my lunch in the complex, instead. The only restaurant in the complex was the famous and highly-priced Palki Khana. As shocking and disappointing as it seems, even the restaurant was crowded with people paying around 800 INR for a coffee or so.



I decided to go see the other places and then move to the exit. One of the guards frowned at me for paying 100 INR (entry fee is 250 INR for adults and 100 INR for students) to enter the complex but not visit the museum. I meekly explained that I was saving the museum for another less-crowded day. Before exiting I had a good look at the part of the palace where the present king lives and of the hotel-turned-palaces nearby; none had a vacant table at the restaurants.


One of the gates led me to Dudh Talai where I had a ride on a camel’s back. The scariest part for me was climbing the iron ladder to reach the tall camel’s back and then position myself, while still holding on to the ladder, in a way, to be seated comfortably, as if it was a motorbike. The 10 minutes ride was literally bumpy but fun to experience.

The next thing to do was to reach the top of the Deen Dayal Upadhyay Park to buy tickets for a ropeway ride to the temple of Karani Mata. People had to wait for around an hour owing to the rush of tourists eager for the ride. A restaurant there caters to the people waiting for their turn, serving delicious chhole bhature and pouring extra milk in the tea when “special tea” was ordered, as told by one of the tourists there. I didn’t have to wait for long as I was a solo traveler and, hence, was accommodated with a family of five. The sight of the city around from the temple was amazing; sunset from the top of a hill is a sight to savour.



Day #4 began with the announcement that my flight was “preponed”, leaving me no time to make any more plans for the day. A quick look-around of the sweet shops in one of the markets accompanied by purchasing of the delicious rabri ke laddu, made of fried thickened and sweetened milk, was my last activity before leaving for the airport.


 As I returned to my hostel at Gurgaon that evening, the taste of the laddu was what brought a smile to my face as I reminisced the wonderful time spent in the City of Lakes, Udaipur.

9 comments:

  1. This is lovely! I have been meaning to visit Udaipur since quite a while. Maybe I should. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sakshi. Do visit the city. Drop me a mail if you need any help from my side.

      Delete
  2. Hi,
    It looks really cool place to visit. I have visited Rajasthan a couple of times but haven't had a chance yet to explore Udaipur but this summer I will be there therefore I'm compiling a list of places to visit in udaipur. Thanks for all this information.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. thanks for reading. All the best with your trip :-)

      Delete
  3. Very nice !
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  4. I read your full blog and it was very informative, and helped me a lot. I always look for blog like this on the internet with which I can enhance my skills,rajasthan tour packages

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  5. Very nice post dear, you have done a great job. We are waiting for you post about luxury hotel in udaipur Rajasthan. You write very well.

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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