Udaipur.....its a grower
Udaipur Travel Blog› entry 28 of 33 › view all entries
January 12th, 2010 – by: andycox_is_now_in
Udaipur is hyped as the most romantic city in India. Sadly I am travelling alone which doesn't lend itself to the place and I was underwhelmed against my expectations.
Built over 300 years (15th-18th century) by 13 consecutive ruling maharajas, the Udaipur palace is the largest royal complex in Rajasthan, with 11 of the maharajas building his own palace within the complex. The royal family also claim to have the longest royal lineage in the world listing 76 consecutive rulers dating back to 660 AD. A 1 way system in operation needed to negotiate a maze of rooms and passages as the tour displayed a few art galleries with very vivid pictures depicting the history and the maharajas and famous battles won.
I left the palace and went down to the waterfront to catch a lake cruise. It offers very nice views of the palace and then cruises towards the ghats before getting very close to the Jag Mandir and its millionaire yachts moored just off the red carpet steps leading up the the palace. Instead, we landed at the less salubrious 2nd island (Gol Mahal).
Back at the hostal, the rooftop terrace provided a lovely sunset over the lake and city (as long as you can find a spot to avoid the swarms of gnats that descend) before I succumbed to the cheesiness of Udaipur and watched James Bond's Octopussy that was partly filmed in Udaipur and is now shown in dozens of hotels across the city every night !! The film managed quite well in getting so many stereotypical Indian aspects in to the film - tuk tuks, elephant ride, tigers and ghats, but also suggested the Taj Mahal was in Udaipur. It was still quite surreal seeing Roger Moore walking around Jag Mandir and Gol Mahal that I could see lit up on the lake just by turning around.
With surprisingly little to do in Udaipur other than admire the lake, I flagged a tuk tuk for a little trip out of the city. Driving around a couple of other pretty lakes, I arrived at Shilpgram as a tailor made village built to reflect village life in Rajasthan. It is clearly off season and I was the only tourist around. Quite embarassing to be greeted by a group of 20 dancers who then were reluctantly obliged to give me a personal tribal dance show. I made a quick escape in to the huts that featured a number of museums around music instruments and village life of different tribes. Nothing of particular interest but still enjoyed a leisurely uninterrupted stroll around the deserted village in the semi desert terrain and enjoyed a bit of warm sun. The much warned hassle of stall sellers non apparent as the exit road revealed every stall as empty except one stalwart trying to sell some art.
On to Sajjangarth (the Monsoon palace). Built in 19th century at the top of the highest hill in the area, Maharana Sajjan Singh planned a 19 storey castle including a 10 storey observatory to overlook his domain. Sadly he died during its construction and his son unable to find a reliable water supply soon abandoned the plan. It now remains a visitor attraction (helped by its feature in Octopussy) that provides unparalleled views over Udaipur. Nice little spot having got an unusually clear day. It also has an overpriced but pleasant cafe to enhance the experience whilst watching monkeys play fight on the lawns.
I left Udaipur able to appreciate why so many people sing its praises, but just not enough to keep a single traveller occupied. Next place.......
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