A couple years back when we visited India for three weeks, we traveled around Rajastan (among other places). We saw Agra (Taj Mahal) and Jaipur (Red Fort) and Fatehpur Sikri, but missed out on Udaipur, and afterwards I heard about how beautiful it was. So for this trip, it seemed an obvious selection.
At the airport in Kathmandu, one of the security personnel asked where I was going. “U-Die-Pur,” I said. “Where?” she asked. I tried again: “U-Die-Pur.” She grimaced and corrected me – “U-Day-Pur” she said. Ah….I’m used to being corrected occasionally in German, so I repeated after her (correctly) and was let through the gate. Note: Kathmandu Airport – I don’t think I have ever gone through security so many times. We must have had to clear at least 4 security gates and searches, the last one, to everyone’s great annoyance and irritation, took place DIRECTLY outside of the plane in the hot sun. We were all a bit incredulous – they had just searched us at the gate, and now they were doing it again. Apparently the airport does a number of inspections and then the carrier does its own. Anyway, better that than the opposite – which we experienced in Mumbai of all places, but more on that later.
Udaipur is famous for its lakes – there are 5 of them and are all man-made – they were created to provide irrigation and drinking water to the region several hundred years ago. There are a number of beautiful places to stay directly next to the palace lake (Pichola) and I sort of assumed we would end up in one of them. But our agency actually recommended someplace else, which none of my friends had heard about, so I wondered a bit. But in the end, Fateh Garh (meaning “Victory Fort”), where we stayed, is perhaps one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed…anywhere.
It was originally a fort located some 120 kilometers away, but the owners had moved and rebuilt the place in the hills overlooking the lakes of Udaipur.
We arrived after a half a day of travel from Nepal and were whisked into the marble and stone fortress, where there were simply breathtaking views in almost every direction. Because we were there in low season and there during the week rather than the weekend, the place was very quiet, and they upgraded us to the best room/suite in the place. Really ultimate luxury and a nice place to relax after the traffic craziness in Nepal.
It was cloudy, as you can see, but the clouds were rather a relief. The two days in Udaipur were probably the best weather we had on the trip – a bit cloudy, but a nice temperature so sightseeing wasn’t such a sweaty affair.
Here we also got to try some excellent Rajastani food. The cooks at Fateh Garh were very nice – we talked to the main chef the first night and told him that we would like to try some of his specialties the next night, and so on the second evening, the meal was prepared for us before we had even arrived – a regional chicken dish, a daal dish, and eggplant. (Sorry, no photos. 😦 )
Because of the rather busy schedule we’d had in Nepal, we decided to just take it easy in Udaipur – spend a half a day sightseeing each day and then a half a day just relaxing and reading and swimming and enjoying the beautiful place we were staying in. And that’s more or less what we did.
Our first full day there started off with a visit to a botanical garden – a “rain garden” which had been given to a local queen and her attendants (the name of the garden means “Courtyard of the Maidens or Maids”). A place she could visit when she wanted to hear the sound of rain even when there was none. The fountains all around the place had been constructed to sound like rain and are fed by the lake just next to it.
Next we moved on to my favorite part of the day – a boat ride around one of the main lakes. For about an hour or a bit more, we leaned back and listened to our guide as he explained what we were passing at any given moment. It was quiet and peaceful and I think I could have simply stayed there all day.
Finally, we toured the palace, a huge place with many different sections to visit. The guide told us stories throughout about the various traditions and also history of the families that had lived in it, fought for it.
The next day, our second full day in Udaipur, was spend travelling a bit further away to see a “living” temple as well as one that was not being used for worship. At the one that was now just a monument, I was reminded of Cambodia – intricate carvings not unlike the temples at Siem Reap. Our guide agreed with me – the architecture and carvings are very similar.
At the second (I didn’t take photos), we watched the rituals, always somewhat amazed by how much religion and regular worship is part of daily life of the people of India.
You have to keep a sense of humor about the cows….they are everywhere. In the next post…a story about a conversation with one of our drivers…about cows…
And they are quite used to being in the way…they like to lie down in the middle of roads because the roads are generally clear of mosquitoes…smart beasts.
After a massage and a steam, and a final dinner at Fateh Garh, we were off the next day to Jodhpur. I was sad to leave…but on to the next adventure.