Udaipur, famously known as the City of Lakes always stood out for me as an oasis, in the majorly dry & desert state of Rajasthan. The innumerable photographs I had come across, painted a city of sophisticated royal lineage with refined sensibilities. Therefore, my expectations from Udaipur, on our winter family road trip to Mewar region of Rajasthan, was pretty high. We stayed in Udaipur for 2 days and it turned out to be mixed bag of experiences.
We reached Udaipur driving in from Ajmer, which was around 4 hours of total drive time for us. We stayed at the Government Rest House (courtesy the husband who is a Government ‘Officer’). We were very lucky to avail of the Rest House services, as its open only to Government employees and offer neat & clean rooms for very nominal charges (and are usually located in good neighborhoods).
Since it was already late afternoon by the time we checked-in to our room, we decided to rest a bit and then head out to Lake Pichola & City Palace.
My first impression of Lake Pichola was of disappointment; it seemed to be less impressive viewed from ground level and I found the crowds there doing too much touristy things (like getting clicked in costume dresses). Anyways, we spent 15 minutes admiring the sunset at Lake Pichola and after a late lunch (or early dinner) of tasty & hot Maggi at a nearby stall (prepared by a lovely lady who especially took great care to make a less spicy version of Maggi for our toddler), headed to City Palace.
The City Palace was lit up and had a grand façade. Since it was evening, there were very less crowds and the views of Lake Pichola from the Palace were much beautiful. The City Palace is closed for sightseeing for visitors in evening, but open for Light & Sound show. The City Palace is a private property (of erstwhile Royal House of Mewar) and the tickets here are not cheap (its 150 INR for parking and 250 INR for light and sound show); however, the quality of the programme (and for that matter the property itself) is worth the price charged. The light and sound show is interesting in parts and on a chilly winter evening, makes for a great time pass. However, the history narrated at the show is highly twisted to suit the ‘opinion’ of erstwhile Royal House of Mewar and my recommendation is not to believe everything narrated at the show.
The next morning, we again visited City Palace first thing and this time took a full tour with a guide. The guide showed us many interesting aspects of the palace, the interesting lineage of royal family & their tales (of 16 wives and what not!!). The City Palace is the second largest palace in India and it’s certainly very impressive. It’s also the main attraction of Udaipur and if a traveler truly wants to experience royal Rajasthan, then staying at one of the luxury hotels of the City Palace (like hotel Udai Vilas) is THE way to experience this city. Otherwise, the city is actually very congested and crowded; driving through the city takes time and is not a pleasant experience. Coupled with crowds at the major attractions, we were not entirely enamored by the city overall (in comparison, Jaipur is more vibrant and well planned).
We visited Fateh Sagar lake and also did speed boating there; it was a nice experience but not a very enjoyable one (I would have certainly given it a miss and it was at my husband’s insistence I took the speed boat cruise of 15 minutes). The statue of Maha Rana Pratap is adjacent to Fateh Sagar lake and is located at the vantage point. The statue is not impressive and I found the ruins of the original palace of Mewars (Moti Mahal) more interesting. The views of Udaipur are nice from here though, but if views of the city is what you are looking for, then this can be skipped and I would recommend Sajjangarh Fort for the same.
Sajjangarh Fort was the place I wanted to go and despite our guide’s very good marketing skills of selling Museums to us, I stuck to my decision of visiting this fort which is located inside Sajjangarh Forest area on edge of the city. The drive to Sajjangarh fort is as interesting as the fort itself. The Fort Palace is the monsoon palace of erstwhile Royal House of Mewar, but now is under Government of India jurisdiction. Our guide told us that the wildlife here is pretty rich and we spotted ‘Langurs’ aplenty. The Palace is much smaller than the City Palace but the views are fantastic. The day we visited, it was cloudy and I could just imagine being here during rains – the soft pitter patter of raindrops, the gentle breeze and the beautiful aravali hills with its exotic green foliage in full glory. Sajjangarh Fort turned out to be the best experience for me, though our cranky toddler had had enough by then of forts & palaces and had to be carried on shoulder most of the time.
The image I carry back with me of Udaipur would be of the fantastic views from Sajjangarh Fort and City Palace; if I ever come back here, it would be to stay at the luxury hotels overlooking Lake Pichola. Anything other than that would be utterly disappointing.