My first hour spent in Udaipur fell an inch short of underwhelming. I peered out from the green-tinted car window, and hoped to get a glimpse of at least one of the trinity of lakes—Pichola, Fateh Sagar and Badi Sagar—but to no avail. My car dropped me off at Chand Pole right outside the entrance of Old City (cars are not encouraged inside), and I stashed my suitcase at the back of a three-wheeler, which rumbled and trundled along the narrow lanes. As my auto paused to make way for its companions, I paused too. I found myself taking in the hand-painted artwork on the walls, the laidback atmosphere and finally, the beautiful Lake Pichola. I was ready to begin my trip, which brings us to…
I went to the highly recommended Amet Haveli for lunch at its popular restaurant, Ambrai. The restaurant-café sits pretty at one corner of the lake, lending the illusion of floating on water. After having lunch, I turned tracks and walked through a back alley behind the hotel towards the lesser-known Ambrai Ghat. I’d suggest going there, especially if you find sitting in a restaurant restrictive, as this gives you an all-access view to the waters. One can sit down on a bench, visit the temple, or watch locals taking a dip in the water here.
A relaxing afternoon later, I trundled up to the City Palace of Udaipur. On my way, a row of higgledy piggledy shops lined the streets, where I’d stop to shop for vintage postcards, miniature paintings, and gorgeous marble frames. At the palace, I spent time looking at the architecture and interiors of the place. A guide helped me get a lay of the land and history. Afterwards, one can grab a bite at the restaurant right outside, shop a little at Anokhi or head straight on to the Vintage Car Museum, like I did. Here, the royal family's personal fleet of vintage cars is displayed. These include the geaming Fords, Rolls Royces, Buicks and Cadillacs owned and used by the family and often lent to others, such as in the Bond movie Octopussy. Each car is taken out for a round at least once a month to keep it maintained and running.
I heard as much about engine throttles, horse power and makes as I could possbly could and then waited for warm afternoon rays to settle down. The next destination was Dudh Talai, a point near Lake Pichola where one can take boating rides. Although it was a rather commercial activity to do, I couldn’t deny myself the experience, and it was well worth the wait. You could have an alternate view of the city by going on a rope way to Karni Mata Jadish Temple instead, if you wish—from wherever you look, the city is beautiful.
Lastly, I ended the day with a relaxed dinner at Upre, the rooftop restaurant inside Hotel Lake Pichola that has a waiting list as long as its menu. Reservations need to be made in advance, lest you wish to be served disappointment on a plate.
The first thing I ticked off my list on Day two was Saheliyon ki Baari. Walking into this lush green tourist spot near the city centre is like stepping into paradise. The garden, they say, was built for the queen to spend time with her maids and friends. Don’t miss visiting the small art galleries where artworks themed around the garden and the fountains are displayed by artists such as Gokul Sharma, Om Chandaram, Vishnu Kumawat, among others.
I segued off the tourist path for a while after that, and on a whim called up the travel company Walk & Pedal for a block-printing tour. We visited workshop of Aavaran, a brand that makes indigo-dip clothing. We explored the process from dabbu printing, dyeing and production through the two-hour tour.
Lunch was a big thali for one at Traditional Khana, a restaurant near Panchwati Circle, which I was tempted to visit solely to contest its 4.9 rating online. I was served four types of chutneys, moong dal pakore, the best jhakolma puri and daal baati, giving me a foray into Rajasthani food. I did not doubt the credibiity of the rating after.
In the evening, satisfied by both my cultural and gastronomical experiments, I hired a cab to take me up to Sajjangarh Palace (also known as Monsoon Palace). The winding journey upwards was at first unpleasant (especially since I get motion sickness), but the view from the top made up for the unease. I watched the sun set, casting lilac colours all over Udaipur’s blue skies, low-lying houses and undisturbed lakes, feeling anything but underwhelmed.