Udaipur - The Venice of the East

22nd Dec 2018
Photo of Udaipur - The Venice of the East by Vinay

Udaipur also known as 'city of lakes' or 'Venice of the east' is set around beautiful artificial lakes, royal city palace and lavish hotels and buildings. It is considered as one of the most romantic places in India. With the culture, history and grandeur, Udaipur makes it an ideal place for travelling either solo, with friends, family or with your loved ones.

Places to visit in Udaipur:

City palace | Old Udaipur walk tour

Ghats - Ambrai, Gangaur, Lal

Lake pichola | Fatehsagar lake | Badi lake

Sajjangarh fort - The monsoon fort

Jagdish temple | Temple near lake pichola

Shilpgram | Saheliyon ki Bagh | Bagore-ki-Haveli

Far away rides :

Kumbalgarh fort | Chittorgarh fort

With an ideal mixture of laid back relaxation and adventure experiences, Udaipur has it all for different kinds of travellers and tourists. After living all my life towards the south India and thinking about northern India was a routine for me. Having shifted to Gandhinagar Gujarat, Udaipur was one of the places I wanted to visit and seeing it at less than a night's bus ride was making me pack my bags and leave for the trip. And so followed the long weekend holiday. So I decided to go to Ahmedabad on Saturday afternoon and spend some time exploring the city and then take a bus to Udaipur that night.

With this plan in mind I slept well on Friday night and woke up around 11 am on Saturday and quickly got ready then left to bus stop from where I took a bus to Ahmedabad. After around an hour long journey I reached Ahmedabad passing through riverfront and bustling traffic. After spending some time near the ticket counter enquiring about the night bus to Udaipur, I set on my way to walk through the old city of Ahmedabad filled with old vintage homes and narrow streets. I walked all the way from bus stand to Jami masjid where the road side market was looking lively with people all around and for the first time I was feeling as if I'm back in Hyderabad. The scene was like how it will be near Charminar and masjid in Hyderabad. I went into Jami masjid and spent some peaceful time looking at the beauty of the masjid and praying people. After few photographs and then sitting in that atmosphere for sometime I left on my way to the outside world of busy roads and buzzing people.

Then I decided to go to kankaria lake and booked an Ola auto. After few rejections and traffic jam calls I got an Ola and went on my way towards an artificial lake in the heart of the city. Once inside you won't feel as if you are in a city centre. It's a big lake with neat surroundings and boating activities where people in the morning and evening come out for a walk or run and tourists come out to enjoy the evening filled with chirping birds and people. It has got chat eateries inside and has a Laser show at around 7 pm everyday. The day I went there were birds flying in the sky making waves and cruising all across the lake making people awe at the scene. It was time for laser show and I was a bit skeptical about it and was proved right. It was nothing different from usual and to add to it they were playing Gujarati songs as well. After the show I went on my way out looking out for a non vegetarian restaurant to have biryani.

I found one when I searched online and went on my way to the place. The aura of the restaurant seemed good but then I was left disappointed looking at a bowl of green coloured rice with two chicken pieces in it which is called as Hyderabadi chicken biryani. It tasted well but I was looking for some authentic Hyderabadi type of biryani. I decided to walk my way to the bus stop to try out if there was a bus at night. But when I reached bus stand I found a guy asking out people that there is a private bus ready to leave from outside the bus stand. I decided to take it and left along with the guy who took me all the way out of the bus stand and then to a place where few travel offices were there I booked a sleeper seat and had a tea at the nearby place.

Then I was asked to get into a auto which took us all the way to a place where various private buses were halted. I got into the bus and settled in. An average comfort bed seat with no pillow or bed sheet. But what I liked was a door for each bed which could be closed. Then came the charging point which wasn't working. I had a little hope that it would work once the journey begins and waited for the moment. The hopes were left hanging in the air when the moment arrived and charging point didn't work. When asked about it to the staff guy he didn't respond. I didn't care much because I had enough charge in the power bank for the next day. I dozed off looking at the empty roads and surroundings. It started to get cold as the night progressed and I was trying my best to fit my everything into a small blanket I had with me.

After a good amount of sleep I woke up around 4 in the morning and a quick look at maps showed we would reach Udaipur in about half an hour. This was quicker than I expected it to be. At around 4:30 in the winter morning I got down the bus shivering with cold weather. It was too cold and windy that I couldn't stop shivering after drinking 2-3 cups of tea. On top of that I didn't have any booking made in a hotel to go and Knock the door and everything on the streets was shut down at that time. I hopped onto every other app on phone to lookout for any early morning check ins but couldn't find anything. Then when I logged on to booking.com I found a bed available at backpacking hostel which seemed reasonable and also exciting to meet all those travel freaks and spend time with them. I quickly booked the stay for a day and thought of going there once I visit a place nearby which could offer an opportunity to watch sunrise.

I had hot poha at a nearby stall and another tea before I decided to make my way towards pichola lake and to the nearby temple on the hill if possible. I walked on the empty streets with restaurants and lodging covering the whole path which usually are busy and energetic but at this time it was totally quiet and sleepy. After passing the street full of stays and eateries I came across a road which took me towards lake pichola. After about 15 minutes of walking I reached at pichola lake and the first sight at those hills all around and the blissful feel of still lake I was stumped with the beauty of it. The colours in the sky, the still water in the lake, the quietness of the whole surrounding, the chirping of the birds. It was a pleasure being at that place at that time which could never offer that peace at any other time.

After walking around the calm and peaceful surroundings with peacocks strolling around as there was no body to disturb them, I thought of going uphill towards the temple but I had to take the opposite road from where I was and it was already time for sunrise. So I decided to skip it and sat near the lake enjoying the time waiting for sunrise. I then made my move to go to the backpacker hostel in an Ola auto as it was lot of walking and I was already a bit exhausted waking up early morning and walking a bit. After a quick auto ride around empty roads of Udaipur I reached zostel and the maps showed that the other hostel was just behind it. After a bit of confusion and closed entry doors I made my way towards the right entry.

An old bungalow with an old fashioned two sided brown door without any knob to lock it and a small parking area congested with bikes and scooters. But then follows a lobby with space to breathe wholeheartedly and then a small door which opens up to big rooms and a corridor to sit and chill in the mornings and nights. Making our way into the room it was a big one with double beds stacked to all the corners of the rooms with small boxes in the middle of the floor to store our bags and clothes. There were around 8-10 beds and people were lost in their dream lands under the thick cosy blankets. It was cool outside and I needed some rest after that walk and chill weather. I dropped my bags and hit the bed covering up in blanket and off I went to sleep in an instant warmth of that bed and room. By the time I woke up it was around 8:30 am and I could hear people sitting outside chit chatting. I got up, took bath, spent some time talking to people around and left for the exploration of the city.

I visited ghats like ambrai, lal and gangaur enjoying the view and the architecture. At one of the ghats there was an old man playing a traditional rajasthani instrument and it was magnificent. There were pigeons all around feeding on seeds and grains. I then walked around the narrow roads and crowded streets and went to Bagore-ki-Haveli. It is a gracious, slightly eccentric 18th-century haveli, set right on the waterfront near Gangaur Ghat. It was built by Amir Chand Badwa, the Prime Minister of Mewar as a miniature of the City Palace, and has been carefully restored and converted since then into a museum with artefacts collected over the years. In the evening cultural shows are performed by beautiful and talented ladies of Rajasthan lok kala parishad. This includes various folk dance forms of Rajasthan. So be there if you want to know rajasthan's history and tradition.

After a tour around the haveli, I made my way through the market to jagdish temple dedicated to lord vishnu. The carvings on the walls and the pillars are keeping the history alive till date. The bhajans (devotional songs) devoted by the local devotees, all soaked in love for the lord makes the environment pious and holds one there. From there, I walked all the way to city palace which had to be the most awaited visit of the tour. The palaces of 11 separate rulers sit together in this sprawling complex that was started in 1559. By the time I reached the entrance, the place was crowded and there was a queue for tickets. I joined the queue and after 15-20 minutes of waiting I got my ticket to enter the palace. Entry fee is 25 Rs/person for entry into the premises. To enter into the palace, one has to spare 350 Rs/person. Students should carry their respective identity proofs to get some more discounts. This has to be one of the best Palace I have seen. So huge and so much culture preserved there. The views(Lake Palace & City) from Palace are really good. It took around 3-4 hours for the whole tour as I was taking time to read the descriptions and enjoy the visit. Even though the price may seem to be a bit on the higher side it will be worth if you are interested in history and architecture. I came out of the palace with great satisfaction and enjoying every bit of the visit.

I had my lunch at one of the hotels near the palace and lake pichola and went to Tibetan market which had some cool hoodies and jackets. It is a market for Tibetan refugee from different settlement who gather here to do winter business for 3-4 months. This market is one of the best Tibetan market in India. I bought a jacket as I was looking to buy one for quite some time and what better way than when it's chilling and cold winter. It was around 4 in the evening and I went towards lake pichola to visit a park and enjoy the sunset view. After a walk through the park escaping from monkeys and trying for best site to view sunset and not finding a perfect spot I went back to sit by the lake and enjoy the sunset by the stream. It was a beautiful sight with orange sky and transparent water waving with bliss and boats making their way in the lake. I met a stranger who was there to visit udaipur on his way to his place which was kota. He was alone and had his bike along with him. We spoke for sometime about ourselves, travelling solo, road trips waiting for sun to go down and sky changing it's theme from colourful sunset to dark night. He gave me some recommendations for the next day travel and after exchanging our numbers and inviting to make a call when either of us were in their places to meet. Then as it was getting darker, we went on our own ways.

I started walking back to castle namahstay hostel enjoying the silent night life of this crowded city by morning and laid back emptiness of streets by night as I made my way through empty roads and closed shops. The walk back was along the same street I had walked in the morning but the feel and ambience of it was completely different both the times. The light, crowd and the scorching sun in the mornings didn't have even a bit of resemblance with dark, empty roads and chilling moon in the nights. The walk back was filled with many more views of ghats, empty streets and roof top restaurants. I had my dinner at one of the cafes near market and went back to hostel. After refreshing and changing my clothes, I met one of the traveller who was sharing the dormitory with me. He was elder to me and the opinions he had made it seem quite obvious that he had much but bitter experience in corporate world. We spoke for a quite a bit about our backgrounds, travel plans, corporate life, his business ideas and my career prospects and about udaipur and how it had treated us. His travel plan was a bit slow and chilling with meeting friends and taking time to explore the city while I had another day to get to know about udaipur and it's beauty. After a short walk on the terrace looking at the city sparkling with golden lights in darkness and talking to people for a bit I decided to call it a day and went to bed as I was tired with all the walking and also because i had early morning plans and only a day to enjoy this trip.

I woke up around 6:30 in the morning and got ready to start the day filled with riding through udaipur and then enjoy the solo ride to kumbalgarh fort which was nearly 100 kilometres away from udaipur. I rented a scooty for the day and started my day trip after filling the petrol from a nearby station and went to bhartiya lok kala mandir which was a cultural heritage museum featuring life, tradition, art, folk dance and literature of rajasthan. I had tasty sandwich outside the place and bought an entry to the museum. This was rather a short walk but enriching experience throughout. The standout part was the puppet show which was elegantly performed.

I decided to go long all the way to kumbalgarh and cover other places while coming back. What followed was an interesting ride through highway followed by empty roads and bridges. What started as a ride through neat highway road but after a while roads were narrow and muddy. Crossed village after village. Went past the mountains and rode to heights and climbed elevations. After a break and a last stretch of unexpected traffic reached kumbalgarh after around two and a half hours of riding. First sight of the fort from far away was about the big walls surrounding and big doors guarding and protecting the fort. I got my entry tickets and made my way through the giant entrance. As soon as I entered the premises I could spot forts and temples scattered all over the hills. People all around made me feel active and pumped up to walk to the top of the hill where the main fort stood tall with its rich history and architecture. It took around 2-3 hours to cover every corner of the place and feeling the richness of the history. After a couple of wrong turns and exploring the wilderness of the place I was at the top where stood an elegant and beautiful fort. This was the longest walk of all the forts I have visited and also one which stood at the highest point as well. The ride and the time to visit were all worth it and the only thing which kind of was not much supportive was the afternoon sun which was very cruel and enjoyed bothering people with its craziness.

After the long walk and a short snacks break with chips and cool drink I bid adieu to the fort on my way back to Udaipur with a goal of reaching sajjangarh fort for sunset. I was so into the plan that I was cruising at the highest speed without any breaks even at the corners. It was so intense that I escaped couple of close accidents, crashing on muddy roads and skidding off the road and almost dashed into a tree. I was lucky to get away with just a bruise on my left hand fingers with snapping on to the leaves of the trees. It turned out to be touch and go. It felt as if the road had increased and the sun was going down quickly. I could see the sky turning from whitish to yellowish and then to orangish while I was on the same stretch of road going as fast as I can. It was around 5 pm and I crossed village after village and was on the last stretch for Udaipur. By the time I was near to Udaipur it was around 6 pm and it was getting late for sunset. I was near to sajjangarh fort but there was a hill to cross and I couldn't make it on time. So I skipped it and went on my way to fateh sagar lake followed by badi lake. I enjoyed some time near the lake looking at the colours in the sky when the sun was scattering orange colour from behind the mountains.

After this I went across the city and to shilpgram which was a whole village setup about Rajasthan culture and traditions. It had food shops which served Rajasthani food, shops with dresses, toys and other crafts. There were programs going on with folk dances and songs. It was a great way to see the culture of Rajasthan and enjoy the evening in that setup. It took me around an hour or two to walk around the place. After this I went around the city on the scooty enjoying the evening. After my dinner at one of the chat centres I came back to my hostel. I packed my bags and made way through the empty streets to where I got down two days before. I booked my bus back to Gandhinagar and bid adieu to this two days journey of Udaipur and it's beautiful culture, architecture and traditions.

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