I visited Udaipur for the first time in my life in the middle of April. It was a day long trip in connection with my work. I boarded the early morning flight from the swanky T3 , Indira Gandhi Airport in Delhi and was soon flying west in a Jet Airways turbo prop. In about an hour our plane landed on rain washed tarmac. The moment I stepped out of the aircraft, the first thing I noticed was that the air smelt so fresh and cool. Coming from grossly polluted Delhi, the air in Udaipur almost smelt fragrant.
Soon I was being driven towards the town, and the first thing that struck me was that Udaipur still retains its small town charm and is not yet completely lost to the mall and cineplex culture that is devouring the rest of the country. My first stop was the gorgeous Trident Hotel, where I was to have breakfast. As I entered the hotel and walked towards the restaurant, I happened to glance across to the swimming pool visible through a glass partition and the view simply took my breath away. The pool which was in the middle of a lovely garden was offset by a stunning vista of gentle green hills rolling far back into the background.
This is what I found so special about Udaipur. You would come across the most stunning view in the least expected of places. I walked down to the banks of the Lake Pichola which is just beside the hotel, and a large expanse of deep blue water greeted my eyes. On the far side of the lake I could see the famous City Palace and right in the centre of the Lake was the famous Lake Palace Hotel, venue for the shooting of the James bond film, Octopussy.
As soon as I was free from work, I asked the driver assigned to me to take me around the town and show what Udaipur was all about. He did, and what stands out in my memory is the natural beauty in the shape of the various lakes and the gently undulating Arravali hills, and the sheer wealth of heritage that Udaipur can justly be proud of. As regards the lakes, Lake Pichola was easily the jewel in the crown with its fairy tale setting and the abundance of historical structures on its banks and indeed inside its waters.
The Fatehsagar lake, the largest in the region has a lovely road running alongside it reminiscent of the Marine Drive in Mumbai and similar roads adjacent to the Dal Lake and the Naini Lake in Srinagar and Nainital respectively. But my personal favorite was the Udaisagar Lake, nestled among some lovely hills in a quiet and secluded part of Udaipur. I found the serenity and peace of this place awe inspiring.
I also took out time to visit the museum in City Palace, which is quite spectacular. While over there you are handed a device consisting of a hand held console and earphones. As you walk in front of the exhibits, you can press a particular number on the console and get to hear a description about the significance of the object in question! What I quite liked in the palace was the huge chandeliers and old portraits of royalty and visiting British dignitaries(quite a few of those). Of interest also was some amazing furniture made out of crystal.
Since I had an evening flight to catch and didn’t have too much time on my hands, I wrapped up the visit by a spot of shopping at the gorgeous Hathi Pole(Elephant Gate in Rajasthani)Market, where you can buy some traditional Rajasthani hand crafted ware like embroidered jooties(shoes), bandini(tie and die) clothes and fabric and much more. This area is truly an institution in itself what with a whole lot of traditional and modern shops vying with each other to sell a bewildering array of clothes, gifts, souvenirs, shoes and bags of all shapes and sizes.
Sadly the visit ended way too soon, and as my small plane took off for Delhi in the evening rain, I resolved to come again. Soon