Beautiful Udaipur. Rajput palaces, beautiful temples, and pure Rajasthani style. Set in the middle of the Aravalli mountain range, this lake district and former capital of the Mewar Kingdom contains the opulence of the Rajput Maharajas, ancient temples, and the perfect backdrop for a romantic interlude. It has seen the almost conquest of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, was established by Udai Singh of which his familial generations still sit on the pseudo thrown, was a Brittish state in the 1800’s and is now a top tourist destination within the state of Rajasthan. With a population of about 550,000 people it surprisingly doesn’t feel as chaotic and over run with people as Mumbai felt, which made and added to a very relaxing time.
We arrived by night from Mumbai, and if you may have recalled from my previous post on Mumbai, our experience at the airport was little less desirable. Our flight was on JetKonnect, a subsidiary domestic airline of Jet Airways. Our flight was packed and very colorful. I really enjoy seeing all the beautiful Sari the women of India wear. Our flight started off very rough. So rough, that at one point, when I was busy writing in my diary I received as a gift from my dear friend Joanne, who insisted I dialogue and record my adventures, the plane hit some turbulence. The turbulence, which I’m used to was so bad, however, that at one point I felt I was riding in one of those East LA low rider hydraulic cars that jump up and down. The plane kept smashing in the air up and down , and to add to the chaos, everyone on board was screaming bloody murder . Think the scene from the movie Airplane! I actually had to laugh, even though deep down inside I was a bit worried. Once we survived the hour plus flight and landed, everyone was clapping.
We were met by our driver who took us to our hotel. We were staying at the Trident Hotel Udaipur which was just off the road past secured gates, and shared the same square lot property as the drop dead gorgeous Oberoi Udaipur Hotel. Being that it was night, we really couldn’t see much of our hotel, so we checked in, received a lovely light drink to was our stomachs, and made our way to the room. The room was quaint and just enough to keep us comfortable. You can read my full report on the Hotel here: Trident Udaipur : Trip Advisor Review
Morning came, and I was so excited. We had a lovely buffet breakfast and the weather was just gorgeous. Mumbai is very humid, but Udaipur felt a bit more drier. On the agenda today was the City Palace, Jagadish Temple , and some shopping.
Our driver met us with a young guide to whom I’ve totally forgotten his name. We also had a new driver, Minouj and he would be our driver for the next week and a half.
City Palace of Udaipur:
Our young guide took us first to the city palace. Beautiful structure over looking lake Pichola, with opulent settings, decor, jewels, you name it. It has been constructed and used for over 500 years, with the current Maharaja of the area currently residing in a more modern looking building linked to the palace. We spend a good 2.5 hours exploring this beautiful palace and taking every opportunity for photos 🙂 Well worth visiting. One thing I did note however, is their chariot room, where large silver chariot seats used on elephants and horses are stored. I just can’t believe for the life of me how they could torture these animals with tons of weight on their shoulders. It really bothered me a lot.
Within the palace complex lies the beautiful 17th Century Jagdish Temple. It was built by one of the maharajas and with a temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. When you first arrive there are 2 giant elephants at its base. After climbing about 32 marble steps to the top, you are met by a most beautiful statue of Garuda , half man half bird, and Lord Vishnus Vahana ( mount) . In the middle of the main temple is Lord Vishnu seated. We were so fortunate to arrive just in time to hear the lovely ladies sing their adorations to Him and we sat, listened, and became immersed in the splendor and beauty of their spirituality. Our guide was amazing has he knew all the songs and sang with the ladies. I could tell that Kelly really loved this place. So far its been just so wonderful to travel with her, as our likes and respect for each others likes and dislikes were in sync. No better way to travel with partner than that. The temple complex is intricately designed and I found it so fascinating.
HERE’S A LITTLE VIDEO OF THE LADIES SINGING:
We were interested in looking at local art in the area, and our local guide did not disappoint. Rajasthan is famous for their miniature paintings on camel bone. Their intricately designed painting on such a small and tiny piece of bone is extremely beautiful . We were taken to this wonderful painting school and shop where we found a plethora of art everywhere. I bought 2 small paintings which unfortunately broke later on during my travels, what a bummer. Kelly found a lovely large painting of two lovers and had it bound and shipped ( a few months later it arrived) to her home.
We needed to return back to our hotel for some rest as it was getting to be the hottest time of the day, and we needed to rest for our invitational dinner at the Lake Palace. We were very excited about that.
When I returned to the hotel, I decided to walk around the property and jot down in my journal the days excursion and experiences. The property at our hotel is breathtaking and tranquil. India has been pretty mystifying for me, with regards to animals. Here in Hawaii, for some strange reason, animals don’t necessarily care for me as much as I love them. But in India, I am like catnip to them. While resting on a bench on the property, I decided to listen to the soundtrack to Jodha Akbar, a theme I’ve been humming since the beginning of our stay and would continue to do so throughout. My heart at this point has been so full that it was ready to burst at anytime. I was so full of happiness and emotion that I just couldn’t help but release some tears of joy as I sat, wrote, listened to my music, and entertained the animals . Besides the beautiful peacocks who didn’t seem to care how close they were to me parading around, tiny beautiful chipmunks would come and tug at my shawl and vie for my attention. I was in awe and so grateful to be given so much attention . After about an hour I decided that it was time to take a small nap before getting ready for our most anticipated evening dinner.
This is what I was constantly listening to throughout my trip and while resting in the property:
The Taj Lake Palace Hotel:
Well, we got all dressed up. Kelly in her stunning gown, me in that beautiful Salwar Kamisse she bought me, and we headed to the lobby to meet our host from the Taj Lake Palace Hotel. She was dressed in a stunning sari, greeted us and ushered us into a gorgeous Jaguar for the 2 minute drive down to the jetty docks. From there we boarded a lovely jetty and were swiftly taken for a gorgeous ride on the lake to the Palace. We were adorned with a less flattering life jacket, which we had to wear, but it just made for the fun of it. Not everyone can go to the Taj Lake Palace. You have to either be a guest staying there, or be invited. Luckily we were invited 🙂
We arrived shortly at the Taj Lake Palace Hotel and were greeted by a smartly dressed Rasathani gentleman who offered us some Champagne as we waited for yet another hots and representative of the hotel to meet us. Kelly doesn’t really drink alcohol which is fine because I’ll drink for us both . hahaha…We walked around the outer edges of the hotel and just taking in the scenic beauty of the lake and the property . I can’t remember at all what he was telling us about the hotel as being that we were starving and me drinking on an empty stomach, I was in a very beautiful rose colored haze .
We were met by our most gracious host, who took us for a lovely tour of the hotel. The hotel is opulence defined! Every thought and detail was not missed, and you can feel the oozing grander and comfort of this beautiful Palace which is now a hotel. We were treated to a lovely rajasthani dance troupe where the dancer in a back bend picked up coins from the ground with her eye lids. Yep eyelids. We were starving and was wondering when we were going to have the privilege of dining at their restaurant. ” no madams, your dinner will not be here” What? Awe bummer we hadn’t eaten anything and was looking forward to it. Oh well it was a nice thought. ” No, no madams, your dinner will be there…. On the Royal Barge” Oh? The Royal barge, that’s interesting. The royal barge is well, royal, and belongs to the current maharaja who uses it to cruise around the lake and enjoy the hot summer nights on the cool lake waters. We were thinking of how most boat dinner cruises are a bit cheesy and full of tourist and were hoping to make the best of it. We boarded another jetty to be taken out to the lake where the barge was waiting for us.
When we laded on the dock, and boarded the boat, there stood the entire staff waiting to greet us. There was a lovely Satyr player creating the mood for the night. But where were the rest of the guests? We were ushered to the top deck for some light snacks and cocktails. We then met the head Maitre De, who asked us what we like and don’t like and were or weren’t allergic to and the itinerary for the evening. We asked, where are the other guests? His reply? You are our special guests, this is just for you. OH MY GOD!!! This entire boat and staff was just for us. This can’t be correct, and how much is this going to cost us? Long story short, remember our friend Raymond Bickson from my previous post : Mumbai: My first introduction to Mother India ? Well he arranged it all for us and it was completely complimentary. I was so overwhelmed and so full of gratitude. I have to admit, I am not accustomed to this type of generosity , and at first I did feel a bit undeserving.
We met the head chef who again asked us what we are ok to eat and explained the menu and courses for the evening. We stayed up sitting on top just in awe of the whole situation. We started the lovely cruise along side with beautiful music and some narration. We were then brought down to dinner Al fresco, and began what could simply be described as food for the Gods. It was spectacular. After about an hour into our dinner we pulled up next to the City Palace that we visited earlier in the day, dimly lit to create an aura of intrigue and beauty . All of a sudden we heard some drums drumming and next thing we new, the Palace lit up and we were now watching 3 beautiful rajasthani dancers dance their ancient dance. It was unbelievable and it was all for us. Kelly and I were in such awe that our emotions took the best of us and we enjoyed the kindest hospitality we or at least I have ever experienced. Our trip has just taken a turn for the utmost best..
HERE’S A VIDEO OF THE LADIES DANCING:
Last night was just way to spectacular and it was pretty much all we could talk about today. We were met again by our lovely driver and young local guide. Today he was going to go out of our itinerary and take us to some of his favorite places. We first went to visit a temple about a few minutes outside of town. On our way there we were greeted at a round about by an orgy of cows actually having an orgy right there . It was well, very natural lol What a trip….
The first temple he took us to was enormous and beautiful. We spent some time mediating and feeling the beautiful energy of the place. He then took us to an ancient temple miles away.
Sas Bahu Temple: ( click for my full report) is a 10th Century temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is very beautiful and ancient looking and really clicked to me what ancient India must’ve looked like. Most still preserved but yet some crumbling structures, adds to the ancient relief qualities of this astounding and profoundly beautiful place. Within the complex stands two temples one for each wife of the maharaja of the time and both competing for beauty.On its walls depicts the ancient art of Kama Sutra. It is very well versed and intricately complete. It was really a lovely visit .
Later that evening we were off to watch the ancient Rajasthani Dance at
Dahrohar at Bangore Ki Haveli folk dance. It was a beautiful walk to the Haveli on the lip of the lake where people bathed and went about their normal daily routines. The show was packed and as we sat on somewhat comfortable pillows waiting in anticipation, so full of happiness for the days before , that anything at this point would’ve just been icing on the cake. I didn’t expect much from this performance, but boy was I surprised at how beautiful and dazzling the performances were. Spinning skirts, fire dancers, puppeteers, and a most renowned and perfectly poised woman performed the grand finale with about 8 jars on her head all while keeping the perfect posture. It was such a wonderful performance and perfect way to end our 3 night journey to Udaipur.
Udaipur has thus far been the best part of our trip, and like Mumbai earlier, it was really only the beginning . What would lie before us was unknown, and how could anything else top what we’ve been experiencing thus far? Stay tuned …. Tomorrow The Blue City of Jodhpur.