Monday, February 22, 2016

Royal Rajasthan - Udaipur

Continuing on our Rajasthan tour, we next cover Udaipur - the 'City of Lakes'.

Moonlit lake pichola



Udaipur is a picturesque city with many lakes nestled among the Aravalli hills, the prominent ones among which are Lake Pichola and Fateh Sagar Lake. Of the two, you are more likely to encounter Lake Pichola. Most of the famous attractions such as City Palace, the luxurious hotels such as Taj Lake Palace, Oberoi Udaivilas, etc. are all located on or around Lake Pichola. 

Taj Lake Palace 

Let me start this blog with a description of our stay at the Taj Lake Palace. Taj Lake Palace is one of the most luxurious hotels in India, which often features among the 'Top 10' hotels of the world (e.g. link). 

If you are a James Bond fan, you would remember this magnificent hotel from the movie 'Octopussy'. The hotel was in fact Octopussy's lair in the movie. And ever since we saw it on silver screen, it was a dream to stay at this hotel.

The hotel is 'very' expensive, even more so if you visit it during the holiday season. However, even before entering the hotel; as soon as you are on the boat taking you towards the hotel - you get the impression that it will be worth every penny you paid.

Taj Lake Palace panorama

It is located right in the middle of Lake Pichola. So the hotel reception is actually on the shore, within the premises of the City Palace - so it can be a bit difficult to find the reception. But I am assuming that if you are capable of staying in the hotel, you are sufficiently well-off to hire a local driver / tourist guide - who would know where to go :)

Once inside the hotel, the hotel is very well maintained, and indeed looks and feels like a Palace. There are of course some limitations because of its location, e.g. there is no elevator inside the hotel. But then the hotel is only 2 floors, and the porters carry all your luggage; so you really don't need an elevator. The hotel only has a limited number of rooms, 50 or so, so it feels real "nice and cosy".

Majestic Taj Lake Palace
Octopussy's lair at Taj Lake Palace

One thing to try at the hotel is to have a 'Private dinner' (link) on one of their terraces. Again, it is not cheap - would set you back by approx. 20000 INR - but the food and view are totally worth it. You get to discuss the menu with a "personal chef" who prepares it especially for you. As a result, the food is guaranteed to be outstanding!! 

And, the view (below) just adds to the splendor. There are 3-4 terraces among which you can choose, so the view might be different depending on the terrace - be sure to check it out before you book as it really makes a difference. The view below is from their 'Sarvashresth' terrace.

The table is laid out  - at Taj Lake Palace

City Palace, Saheliyon-ki-Bari

As with most cities in Rajasthan, Udaipur also has a Palace - the City Palace. While it is impressive, the "level of impressiveness" might depend on whether Udaipur is the first or last stop in your itinerary :) Basically, it is quite grand and opulent, but nothing very different from the palaces in other cities in Rajasthan. It is nevertheless almost always crowded, and the narrow passageways inside the palace only make the movement of large groups of people more claustrophobic.

Another interesting place (architecturally) is the 'Saheliyon-ki-Bari' (Courtyard of the Maidens). As the name suggests, it used to be the place where the Queen used to entertain her guests. So it quite colorful, with lush gardens and fountains - overall, worth a visit.

Saheliyon-ki-Bari (Courtyard of the Maidens)

Monsoon Palace

The Monsoon Palace (which also featured in the movie 'Octopussy' by the way) is perched atop a cliff. So it is the perfect place to take those panoramic shots of Udaipur city.

Udaipur panorama from Monsoon Palace

The best time to visit the Monsoon palace is during sunset. We were lucky enough to witness an absolutely gorgeous sunset - check out some of the shots below:

Sunset over Monsoon Palace Sunset over Aravalli hills

Finally, let me close this blog by some night shots of this amazing city! You can capture these from anywhere along the lake - try some of the points from where the ferries leave for the lake cruises.

Scenic Lake Pichola at night
Taj Lake Palace at night
The Oberoi Udaivilas hotel - night reflections