“So many sites, so little time”.
This has been the motto of “Rajans” for ever. Even the “chhota Rajan” has inherited the itchy feet and if mom-dad appear lackadaisical .. he starts chanting…” I miss holidays- I want to go on a holiday” (BTW, by holidays he means a big aeroplane, specifically with in-flight entertainment 🙄)
Since we could afford only a few days leave, we started exploring short trip destinations in North India.. and zeroed down on Udaipur, this trip being long overdue! We planned this 4N trip in Jan, flying back on the republic day. This was good and bad.. good that there wasn’t much commute on the way back home from the airport…but flight did get delayed thanks to congestion at the airport, due to republic day security hold-ups!
We chose to stay in Trident, couple of quick reasons why:
* It was tried and tested and loved; having stayed in Trident Jaipur, many years back.
* Beautiful hotel, kinder on the pocket than other 5 star hotels,
* Relatively close to the old city (10 min cab ride away).
* Sort of situated on the lake Pichola, in a fabulously lush garden
* Far from the maddening crowd ( as well as the grime) of the city.
* Another plus being part of the Oberoi chain and sharing its grounds with its younger and high-end cousin, the ‘Oberoi Udayvilas’. We spent some part of every day, strolling the lush gardens of Trident, gently merging with those of Udayvilas, hearing the thousand different bird calls, spotting a myriad of fauna including the majestic peacocks and soaking in the spectacular views of the lake as well as the interiors of the hotel!
Many travellers opt to stay within the old city in many of the ancient, renovated Havelis, within walking distance to many restaurants, lake, boat ride etc. Flip side being not much greenery to soothe the eyes.
We boarded our flight from Delhi around 13:00, landing at Udaipur airport in an hours time. The airport is located on the outskirts of the sprawling city and is about 40 min cab ride from the city centre.
This day was all about exploring the gardens, the palatial hotel(s) and the lake view!
After an elaborate breakfast buffet, typical hotel style.. we set course to explore the city. The first choice was naturally one of the iconic landmarks of Udaipur, the City Palace. The short upward sloping walkway leading to the palace reminded me a bit of Neuschwanstein, though more sunny and stark.
The palace must have been a ‘looker’ in its time.. but at present, except for some bits, is not very well maintained. This is a bit sad despite it being under private control. There are remnants of the glorious past but having seen many more majestic marvels of architecture, in India and abroad, we were a bit underwhelmed and after a few mandatory pictures we set course for lunch.
For Lunch we wanted to sample a quintessential Rajasthani meal including the “Dal- bati-Churma”. Our cabbie suggested ‘Krishna’ restaurant, well rated on Trip-advisor and for a paltry amount of 250rs/ thali, does a decent job of ticking all major items. A thali comprises of a pre-fixed menu, on a non-sharing basis.
Post lunch we roamed about the old city… with small shops selling curios..typically touristy, but something that every tourist expects (and likes). Bought some curios/ Rajasthani Show-pieces to adorn our walls from Kajri Arts, recommended again by the cab driver.
About 16:30 hrs, we reached the boat docking site to visit “jag- mandir” temple, situated in the middle of the lake Pichola, one of the many lakes making up this “city of lakes”. Jag Mandir is situated close to the pompous Lake Palace Hotel, under the Taj banner, latter, exclusive to its guests and elusive to others! The timing of the boat ride was good, this being considered the Sunset boat ride with extra-fares.
The short 15 minute Boat ride, toured around the lake with awesome views of the city palace (which looked better in a panoramic view), The Lake palace hotel, other havelis, smaller palaces bordering the lake as well as the beautiful facades of the high- end, lake facing hotels.
The Jag-mandir ( translated as the Universal-temple) still hosts some wedding ceremonies of VIP’s and can be visited at certain hours with a certain fee. At 5’o’ clock, by the time we reached, it was closed.
The facade of the temple is beautiful, though. There is a fancy dine-in, with a beautiful terrace top giving spectacular panoramic views. Special ferries are available for restaurant guests for dinner.
After soaking in the sunset views on the lake, we trudged back..in a cab, to the hotel. Here we enjoyed the Folkdance and music show while enjoying the dinner spread in the roof-top restaurant at Trident.
This happened to be Mademoiselle’s birthday and we set out to make it ‘memorable’. Over the years and over many vacations, we’ve realised that our most cherished memories are those which we’ve experienced at a very slow pace and amidst nature; be it gardens, hills or rivers, while hiking, trekking or cycling. That, in our humble ways, is the best way to experience a place, inhaling the fresh air, making lasting memories!
So we set out cycling around the lakes. We booked a tour with “Art of bicycle trips” based in the old city where we checked in at 7:45 am. They provided us with a child seat which was a blessing and made this cycling trip possible. After the mandatory delays with cycle adjustments and trials, we set course starting with meandering narrow lanes of the old city, wobbling (in my case) our way amongst other cyclists, motor cyclists, cars and cattle, avoiding the open drains. Thankfully this was a short stretch beyond which it was mostly vacant roads with few motor vehicles passing us by.
We cycled through mostly flat terrain with gentle up and down slopes with few ascents which were tiring for ‘my’ quadriceps. Passed by small villages, with school-going children happily waving and greeting us (they’re usually enthralled with foreigners), along wheat fields, some mustard fields just getting speckled with yellow, across small hills, passing — fort and finally the serene placid lakes.
The more popular Udaipur lakes, namely Pichola and Fatehsagar are within the city amidst its hustle and bustle. But the smaller lakes that we passed by on this cycling trip were spectacular and serene, unspoilt by urbanisation and tourism. We sat by them and just gawked!
The tour guide Ali, was a sport. An enthusiastic youngster keeping up with the varied pace of all members. Did a pit stop at a dhaba for tea and another impromptu stop at a road-side stall for ‘Rajasthani style sweet-sour poha’- which was delicious! Our little one greatly enjoyed the trip with daddy, calling it a wonderful day!
We wound up this 30km trip by 12 noon, took a cab back to the hotel, ordered room service and crashed! The feeling was of pleasure and pain.. but overall great! The hotel staff surprised us by decorating the room and sending some flowers for the occasion.
Evening was spent relaxing in the grounds and some splashing in the pool. The little one persisted in his efforts to take a dip in the pool and finally persuaded daddy darling to take the plunge. This was possible since the weather was mostly warm, even in January. But that is desert climate for you.
For dinner we had made reservations, along with our new cycling buddies, in a highly recommended restaurant by the lake Pichola, called “Ambrai”. The place did not disappoint in the views; with spectacularly lit City palace as well as Lake palace lighting up the placid lake.
Would not comment too much about the food here as we did not do justice to it. After couple of ‘heavy meals’ over past few days, our tummies were not in a very accommodating mood and we ate light. But immensely enjoyed the views!
Set out for some pending sightseeing. I had visited Udaipur last, when I was 1 yr old and have seen pictures from that visit all my life. So this day, my agenda was to recreate that picture.. before after kind. After enquiring from my parents as to the spot where the pic was taken and correlating with our helpful cab driver, we reached Fatehsagar lake. Nehru garden is located in the centre of the lake, a 10 min boat ride to the gardens. It’s a rectangular garden with domed gazebos at it’s corners.. and after speculating as to which looked nearly the same spot.. we started clicking pictures. This was a fun activity!
Post this activity, we had to tick another major kid attraction which is a camel ride. Since we had done the same with the little one in Jaipur, he was looking forward to this.
In the evening we bought tickets for a puppet and folk dance show in “Bhartiya kala Kendra” at 18:00 hrs. This was entertaining for the kids and adults alike, the auditorium being packed to the hilt. Gave us a glimpse of the entertainment forms of yesteryears,at the Maharaja’s Darbar, aka, King’s courts. Skilled dancers balancing their feet on pots and pans, and balancing pots on their heads.
Dinner was to be another light affair; by this time we understood that we could not digest the greasy meals. Had read about ‘Grasswood cafe’ in the old city so we thought we’ll try it out. This was a hole in the wall but such a friendly relaxed vibe to the place that we loved it. Dotted with quirky curios, fairy lights and foot tapping music.. we felt transported to another place. The food (tuna sandwich, salad, maggie 😊) was delicious including the smoothies😋. Happy tummies means happy souls who went to bed and dreamed happy thoughts.
Last morning in The city of Lakes, needless to mention, we sat on the breakfast table for nearly two hours. Then lounged on the garden bench spotting many bird species, few being the elusive cuckoo, both male and female of the species, the coucal, sunbirds, bee-eaters, green avadavat, drongo and ofcouse the Peacocks!
Bid Adieu to Udaipur and flew back to New Delhi at noon.
PS: Don’t have his picture, but this is the number of our very sensible, responsible cab driver called Mohd Rafiq (mobile: +91 98291 91649), who was more like a personnel guide and chauffeur throughout our stay!