Thursday, November 29, 2007

Udaipur, Rajasthan : City of Lakes, Venice of the East - Day 2

Rajasthan Road Trip - Day 1

Rule No 1: When traveling in India, listen to your intuition or your wife!

Well, someone did neither, but did listen to the “hukum Swift bilkul nikal jayegi” of our hotel concierge. Happy that his “Made in India” car will take him through anywhere.. and confident that once you’ve driven through Bombay, you can drive everywhere, he started driving towards the City Palace through the Old City.

Streets of Old City, Udaipur
Being part of a video game is also an experience I guess. Maneuvering through, cows, thelas, bikes, other cars, add an SUV too, cows, school kids! Hey, this is too easy, why not add open drains on both the sides and make it more fun! Feeling like fools, with both our heads popping out the windows to check on where we are heading, we crawled ahead. Bombay, there would have been 10 self appointed traffic cops, guiding you through, here.. none of that. I guess they were so fed up of tourists trying to brave through, they thought let them have a taste.
We’ve reached! Would have been 5 mins walking, was 20 mins driving, felt like an hour.

I will not go through the history of the places we visited, since I don't remember it all :). But just a few things that made an impression.

First stop, Jagdish Temple. The rajasthani style aarti singing made me want to sit down and clap to the beat.

Rule No 2. Hire a tour guide.
(Caveat: Do not necessarily expect a lot of rajput history from him.. Bollywood history, oh sure!)

Next stop City Palace, hired a guide.

City Palace is the biggest palace in India, if not elsewhere. But for the biggest palace, it has the smallest rooms I’ve ever seen.. Hey, maybe I can think of my house as a palace now. You don't see a lot of the royal opulence that you associate with palaces here. The closest is the Sheesh Mahal. Rather there seems to be this fascination for porcelain tiles from phoren (Netherlands), which was quite amusing.

Now move on to the real meat. Down the drain went my thoughts of a history lesson a la William Dalrymple. Our guide was quite insistent we take a picture where Juhi Chawla did a few thumkas for a song. No comments whether we fell in for it or not.

From the balconies of the palace you can look onto Lake Pichola with Jag Mandir, Lake Palace and Udai Vilas.

Raveena Tandon got married in Jag Mandir. That it was the inspiration for THE Taj Mahal is just a fluke (Shah Jahan stayed here after revolting against his father Jehangir and was inspired by the intricate chatris in the courtyard).

Hollywood left a huge mark too. Lake Palace the most expensive hotel till Udai Vilas came around. James bond, Octopussy was filmed here! You'll find a lot of hotels which show Octopussy non-stop!

Weddings and parties in the beautiful courtyards of the Palace will cost you Rs. 15 lakh per night.

Saheliyon Ki Bari. You really need to think hard to see how beautiful the place must have been in its true avataar. I think there is nothing existing now that parallels the ingenuity and beauty of these fountains in that period.

Rule No 3. Just walk or take a rickshaw through the old city.

Having learned our lesson, we walked through the old city for our next destinations. Narrow lanes give you the opportunity to peek through the lives of the people living there. Stairs leading up to old style gates... Paintings on walls.. It's difficult to avoid the shops with their pretty embroidered skirts and peasant tops, souvenir's and miniature paintings.

Sajjan Gadh. You can see the hunting grounds of the kings from here. The same hunting grounds that you see in the murals in City Palace. Birds eye view of the city.

Bagore-Ki-Haveli: They showcase different dances of Rajasthan in a beautiful and intimate courtyard setting, under a tree.
Bagore Ki Haveli, Udaipur, Rajasthan

It is next to a less frequented, yet pretty location to watch the city by the Lake Pichola, ChandPol.
ChandPol, Udaipur, Rajasthan

Dinner at Ambrai (the king's brother's palace) is highly recommended. Great location to see both City Palace and Lake Palace all lit up at night.

Udaipur. Check.

Jodhpur, Rajasthan : Blue City - Day 3

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