After being absolutely fascinated by the city of Udaipur, I was able to find the reasons for fascination in several facts; it was the first trip I didn’t take by myself during life in India, which made me feel more secure, friends I was traveling with were the best possible traveling partners and I tried a magical drink…
Even so , the truth is that after coming back from India and traveling to many other Indian places with that same group of friends, Udaipur still remained for me, but also for many other people who have explored India, one of the places that shouldn’t be missed while in India. Friends I was with in Udaipur made the experience complete, since they were ready to become a part of all kinds of adventures with me during several days we had spent there, but the city itself really offers a lot on the other hand.
India is most often described as colorful, explosion of colors and scents, full of contrasts… it’s all truth, but unfortunately the contrast often comes down to a collision of great wealth and terrible poverty. Udaipur confirms all of this, but in a milder form than other cities I have been to in India. Another great thing about the city is the fact that majority of things worth of checking out is within the walking distance, so you won’t get that often into a fight with rickshaw drivers, who always want to take more money from you then they should. The most popular place in the city is the Lake Palace, on an island in the middle of Pichola lake. Today transformed into very expensive hotel and a home to one of the James Bond movies. It’s a typical Indian scene when you see people washing clothes in the lake on one side and that same expensive palace on the other one.
Only by looking at these photos you can already realize why is Udaipur known as Venice of the East, while the number of the tourist walking around the city is almost something like the number of them walking around in Venice. You might often get a feeling of not being in India at all. Even I usually really don’t find hordes of tourists as something appealing, after living for some time in India it was amazing to meet people from all around the World. Next best thing about walking around the city in the evening is the fact that you can actually do it carefree, which really isn’t often the case with many Indian cities.
Udaipur is in Rajasthan, where alcohol isn’t forbidden as in Gujurat where we lived. After “relaxing” with beers, adventures were about to start… As soon as we left the restaurant and stared walking towards hostel in which we had arrived earlier that morning, problem number one; nobody remembers the name of it, so we couldn’t find the address or the phone number or even take rickshaw to get there. Ok, we were about to rely on our blurry memory. We have walked the distance from the hostel to the restaurant anyway. During night all that narrow streets looked just the same, so it was more like mission impossible. We were relaxed, night was warm and the only thing we did about our situation was laughing- the beauty of safe Udaipur, if we were in some other Indian city it might have not been that funny.
Then we’ve met them; sacred cows, in India all the cows are sacred any way and there isn’t a street were you won’t be able to meet them. We had all the time in the world and the male part of our team came to a “brilliant” idea, discovering if the cows would attack back them if they “attacked” them? Indian cows always attack you if they feel annoyed!
Few moments after that we were something like spider-man, again laughing enough to get the attention of the policeman walking around who didn’t find it amusing as much as we did. After few threats he became soft on the part that we were lost, so he took us to a place where his colleges were, something like main square. With their bad English and our bad memory we were trying to get us back to hostel . Next scene several policemen and us walking around trying to find our hostel, until: TA DA! There we were! After paying them some rupees, since it was expected form us anyway, we were about to start with our new adventure.
There was Indian/ Muslim wedding in the street right next to the hostel, at least we thought it was wedding. Of course we crashed the party and everybody were amazed to have us there except the bride, since we became the stars of the evening, instead of her.
This kind of experience is something you can’t plan, you can’t pay for it, there isn’t a guide which will suggest it and the most important you won’t experience it unless you’re open minded enough and your heart is filled with love for all the cultures and people in the World. But if you are, that kind of experiences are the best you can get while traveling. While talking to the other guests we had found out that it was their version of bachelorette party. More kind of a traditional rituals grooms family does with a bride a week before the actual weeding. Grooms family comes to visit the bride and her family. Even though it was a party there was only Masala chai (Indian tea) and water offered, but still we were having more than amazing time, with a lot of singing and dancing while enjoying the privilege of being able to be a part of it. I’m really not able to tell you when to be in Udaipur to experience the same, but I can tell you what not to miss in the city…
Since it’s the city of the lakes, taking a bout trip around the Pichola Lake, is a kind of an obligatory and it provides you with the best view of the city and all of the palaces. Besides, the trip also includes visiting the most beautiful palace on the island in the Pichola Lake. Jag Mandir is the name of the place and when it was built in the 17th century it was a place where royal family would organize parties. It doesn’t come as a surprise that it was turned into a luxurious hotel, just like the Lake Palace, but even so I don’t know when I liked it more; when approaching it or when were exploring every single part of it including some forbidden passages. The boat that takes you there and picks you up comes every half an hour, yet even few hours wasn’t enough for us.
In the city itself you shouldn’t miss the City Palace which was being built for 400 hundred years, while getting more and more colorful and luxurious. It used be a home for Kings and their families and today is a place where you can learn about their history and Indian culture. On the other hand I found it more amazing from the outside than inside and it has an amazing view on the city and lakes on the other side.
In the city center something you just can’t miss is big Hindu temple (Jagdish Temple), it might not be the best temple you’ll see in India, but if you’re already there it’s worth of checking out. While the space in front of it is something like the main square in some other cities around the world. This is also one of the interesting facts about India, their cities are not similarly conceived as ours, you often cannot identify the main square, it’s all really different on that part of the World.
During the evening you really don’t want to miss traditional dance show and since it’s is held in the museum ( Bagore Ki Haveli), the place itself is interesting already.
Magical drink, the Bhang, can be bought on the streets of Rajasthan just as it was some usual drink. This is strange just because of the fact that it is being made out of marihuana balls mixed with lemon juice, sugar and water, at least these are the ingredients I’m familiar with. It tastes like lemonade, but the effect of it; well I might be still living in India if it was to be found that easily on the streets of Gujurat.
After trying it I have realized why some young people from western world find it hard to leave India. I actually don’t smoke marihuana cause it just makes me feel sick, but this was something absolutely different, literally some other dimension. After drinking, it works in the way that as more sugar you take ( like sweets or sweet juice) more high you get and if you wish to get back from the state in which you almost die laughing, you drink yogurt or water with lemon. But the thing we weren’t aware of; it has a bit postponed reaction and when it started it was already a bit too late to realize that we have overreacted with the sugar and some of us with the amount of the Bhang itself. Consequently the Indian cooking course we took right after drinking it on the street became another adventure, besides the fact that we weren’t even paying any attention on a woman teaching us to prepare the Indian meals, we were talking in a language only we understood. It’s really hard for me to find the words to describe you the amount of the laughter we had during that cooking lesson, so the best you can do is to try the drink yourself while in India.
Another thing more than worth visiting is the Monsoon palace, for what you will need to take rickshaw, since it’s few kilometers away from the city, but it’s not the palace itself that will leave you speechless. Actually on the entrance where you are picked up by a car taking you there it doesn’t look promising, but closer you get to it, you come to conclusion that it’s about the hill where it is, more than about the palace. The only problem you’ll have is to decide where is better view? On the side towards city and the lakes or on the other side on endless Aravalli Hills. Of course the best time to be there is during the sunset.
At the end I can add only one more thing, the city has absolutely won me over and I even haven’t visited the number one spot, according to many visitors; Jain Temple Ranakpu. So, if ever in India, Udaipur is something you don’t want to skip.
For the ones traveling there :
The best time to visit the city of Udaipur is from September till May and it’s also easy to find the way to get there from other cities by train or by bus. You also won’t regret if you visit Jagat Niwas Palace restaurant. I don’t think I have ever suggested some restaurant like this before, but this place is far more than just a restaurant. The place looks amazing and it gives you the best view on the lake while also being one of the best sunset spots in the city. Furthermore the food they have was one of the two best meals I had during life in India.