Romantic Udaipur: the city of lake and love
We wondered for a month on how to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Many go for five star dinners, some invite friends and some buy precious metals. We considered all the above options but they were not of ‘our type’. So finally we did what we are best at- traveling! Usually we take road trips, to remote off beat villages. Travel coincides with some adventures. But this time, me and Sanchari wanted to travel in a relaxed manner, so we could spend more time with each other and enjoy the beauty of the place. In other words, we wanted to become ‘tourists’ from ‘travelers’ and was looking for a suitable location, not so far from Delhi so that we can complete the trip in a weekend or so.
Udaipur was in our radar for long, for several reasons. One being the lakes it has, as water calms you down. Apart from Hauj Khas lake, there is not really any large water body in Delhi to look at (I am not considering Yamuna for obvious reasons). So we thought of Udaipur as a welcome change. Plus, it is a place well developed for the tourists, has the facilities and well connected. It ticked all the right boxes. Although it is exactly the opposite we look for in all our trips (more remote places, less modern amenities and so on). But this time it was not the travel, but the occasion, which was more important.
Stay somewhere Romantic
We arrived a day before our wedding anniversary. Unlike other trips, where we do not look for booking and stay with local families, this time we booked a good heritage hotel. Also, we knew that getting a good hotel in the touristy month of December would be difficult, considering the rush of foreign tourists there. The hotel Mahendra Prakash, where we stayed is a heritage property. An old haveli beautifully transformed into a modern hotel which maintains its royal nature to some extent. We liked the ambience a lot and Kailash, the guy in the reception won our hearts instantly, with his polite yet witty nature.
The sound of live ‘santoor’ by the pool side was something I have only seen on the TVs in my childhood. Experiencing that with a breakfast on the garden was something already romantic. We knew, we have come to the right place. Later, we got to meet the owner of this hotel, a lady from the royal family. She was simple yet one can sense that she is not the regular rich person we see. We had some nice conversation about modernization and the challenges of keeping the traditions alive in a progressive society. We could not agree more as we see that Udaipur is still trying to keep its traditions alive through its architectures, food, local art and handicrafts. Nearly all hotels are following the traditions, or at least they try to mimic it. On the other hand, in spite of rich Mughal heritages, Delhi tourism, especially its hotels follow a more American way of modernization. However, it was not surprising to see that tradition sells well, and as tourists, people want to get a local feel. Udaipur has that in abundance.
You can also stay in the lakeside hotels, which are available in all budgets and are great in their own ways. Some offer you with a view of the lake whereas some will provide you a feel of the narrow lanes and colorful wall paintings. Both are amazing and more importantly, you’ll feel the heartbeat of the city.
Hotel Mahendra Prakash
One of the superior rooms at the property
Morning Tea with the sound of Santoor!
See something Romantic
Now, there are plenty of places to see in Udaipur and I am not going into the details of places you could visit there. Like others, we also did a google search and made a list of what once can see in a two night, three day trip. But we decided not to rush and take a selective approach. No need to click pictures of every touristy points, we decided first. And that made our lives much easier there. We saw the City Palace from outside (there is a museum inside and some say it’s worth visiting. But may be next time) and spent more time by the lake, waking by it. The narrow streets, the old steps by the lakes and the wise havelies attracted us more than the organized display of royal weapons and cloths at the museums. In those two evenings, we mostly spent our time at the Ambrai and Gangur ghats.
Watching the sunset from the Gangur ghat with the magical tune of the Ravanhatta (a traditional Rajasthani musical instrument) by a local was pure bliss. Once dark, we moved to the other side, crossing small foot bridge, to the Ambrai ghat. The reflection of the City Palace in golden hues and the lake palace in white lights on the pitch dark water was something I’ll remember for long. It was the best moments to enjoy each other’s company. But I have to admit, I lost it…well almost.
Being a photographer by passion, my shutter-happy instincts ‘aroused’ and I started clicking pictures. The long exposures, the reflections of the city lights, the changing colors of the dusky skies and the floating boats on the lakes, all were too tempting for me. I almost forgot that I am on a ‘romantic date with my wife’ (and “not with my camera” -says wify). However, what I didn’t realize then was that each sound of shutter would backfire me and I have to blame my ‘poor camera’ for not taking ‘good pictures’ in just ‘one’ click. So guys, the lesion is – always buy a good full frame camera and if you cannot afford (like me), then make sure to blame your camera and move on And the good part it, your camera won’t even mind when you want to touch it to check the pictures back at the hotel l!
City palace from Ambrai ghat
Sunset hues from Gangur ghat
Lake Palace from Ambrai Ghat
Eat something Romantic
Udaipur is full of cafes, restaurants, small and big eateries. However, most of them serve continental food. The menu is dominated by the common dishes in a western restaurant. You can of course find traditional dal-bati-churma, but the quality varies. Also, we realized that eating the dal-bati-churma with a lot of ghee probably did not go well among the majority of foreign tourists there and it’s the demand which changed the menu from Rajasthani to western over time. We didn’t mind any, whether western or Rajasthani. For us, the important part was to relax and to have a good feel of the surrounding.
Banjara is one such hostel which also has a fantastic roof-top café restaurant and bar. It is on your right from the famous Jagdish temple to the Gangur ghat. Little difficult to find in the beginning, but once you do and take the lift to the top floor, it’ll greet you with one of the best views of the city, the lake and the narrow streets below. Moreover, they have one of the exclusive place (level three of their restaurant), which you can book for your romantic dinner at an additional payment. But even the other floors of their eatery were equally great and I highly recommend you to visit there in your upcoming trip.
We went there twice. One, on the afternoon of the first day we arrived and on the evening of our wedding anniversary. The food is just like any other restaurant, but the slow background music, the candle lights and the twinkling city lights will add their own flavor to your food. Spending time with your friends or with your loved one is an easy affair and time will fly.
We also went to several cafes along the lake and I’ll recommend two of them. One is the café Jheel. Once you reach the Gangur Ghat, take the narrow lane on your right and continue for 60 meters (that’s what the sign board says). You’ll find it on the left and please go out to the lakeside tables if you really want to enjoy the mood. Take a simple Jasmine tea or café late and look at the other side of the lake. Read a book, or take a sip in a leisurely manner. Interestingly, the view from the cafe will give a mix feeling of a lake and a river as the lake has narrowed a bit there. We went there before sunset and spent some quality time enjoying the moments.
From the café, you’ll see a small bridge crossing the narrow part of the lake (Hati Pole, if I am not mistaking). Cross that and on the other side, you’ll see two lake side cafes. One of them is ‘café little prince’ and it is little pocket friendly. Their pizzas are not that great but the pasta comes in good quantity. But we enjoyed because it is out of the hustle bustle of the city and situated in a nice quiet corner. Take a sip or a bite and enjoy people corssing the bridge, taking pictures with the city palace in a far off backdrop. If you happen to enjoy such little moments in life, café little prince or the one next to it (sorry, forgot the name) is for you. But remember, it’s vegetarian.
From the roof top cafe
From the Jheel cafe by the lake
And take that road trip dear… you’ll enjoy
Once in Udaipur, you cannot miss the number of shops offering scooters, motorbikes on rent with wide range of choices. Select the one suits you and go out of the city. Udaipur has plenty to offer in the city itself, but the they have some spectacular places located in about 100km radius. We booked a Royal Enfield Bullet from the ‘Udaipur Bike Rentals’ and took that roadtrip, which we often see on the movies or commercials. You, me and the thump of the bike, open roads, winds on your ears and endless time – all you could imagine - isn’t it?
We booked it for two days. The first day, we went to the monsoon palace situated about 15km from the city. I bet you cannot miss it. It is visible from all the corners of the city and at night, its looks like a jewel on the city sky. The palace is nothing great and we did not like how its maintained. But then, the view of the city from the palace during the sunset will make you speechless. After dark, city lights will sparkle one by one and the dark lake Pichola or Fateh will be surrounded by the street lights.Take some time there, have the coffee from the only café along the fort. Ask them to make it strong and please don’t forget to thank the people working there as the coffee in a khullar (earthen cup) is just superb. Moreover, you’ll be happy to see the smile on their faces at no additional cost!
The next day, we woke up early, had our breakfast and kicked the engine to life. Followed the google map, and we were out on the open highway in half an hour. We were heading towards the Kumbhalgarh fort and famous Jain temple. Both situated at 100km distance from Udaipur on the same direction. The weather was clear with patches of white clouds and blue sky. Tank was full, highway was open and there were no deadlines to achieve. After riding about 40kms on the highway, the road took a right turn. The last 35kms of the journey went through the narrow village and forest roads. No doubt it will reduce the speed, but you get a chance to see the local village lives from a close proximity.
We continued, reached the Jain Temple and had lunch there. It was simple, cheap (just Rs. 50) yet tasty. From there, we headed towards the Kumbhalgarh fort. Some say, the walls of the fort are second to the great wall of China and you could get a glimpse of that form the top of the fort. Moreover, because of its interior location, the fort was never fully concurred by the Mughals.
After spending couple of hours, it was time to head back. The setting sun gave us company for some time and then it was all dark. The headlight illuminated our path and the thump of the bike added the classic road-trip feel on a bullet. Tired but content, we returned with a day full of memory of celebrating our anniversary with a pinch of adventure.
The Jain Temple
Enjoying the setting sun... from the roadtrip
Will visit again
First visit and first anniversary, both were special to us and we decide to come back to this beautiful city of lakes, soon. Udaipur has its own charm and you should not confine yourself from getting the aromas of Royalty either. Go with your family, with friends, even with parents and grandparents (why not!). The city has some love for everyone.
- a blog by
c/o Dr. Sayantan Mandal
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