I have just gotten back from a fantastic trip to Rajasthan in India! It was a very relaxed 6 days trip and although we only visited 5 cities, I definitely have seen more this time in Rajasthan than I ever have the other few times I have been here. It also helps that I’m older than 7 years and can actually appreciate the beauty and architecture of the region. Before I begin, I must say, I am horrible at taking photos. All the photos that I will publish here are courtesy of Anuj P Shah and Tania Sethi. I can’t thank them enough for bearing with me and taking photos of the silliest things if I needed!
We decided to go on this family vacation since my brother is visiting us for a few weeks and we’re all so busy when we’re back home, we have no time to spend with each other! It definitely worked so well and we all managed to spend quality time with each other and managed to catch up very well. We started our trip from Mumbai to Udaipur on the 2nd of January, 2012. Surprisingly our flight was on time and we reached a very cool and pleasant Udaipur by 11:45 am. We had managed to arrange for a cab to take us around for all 6 days of our trip and we were happy to find him waiting for us promptly at the airport. First stop – Sheraton Udaipur Palace Resort & Spa.
Now I truly believe that to really know any Indian city you should go visit the smaller areas in the city or the ‘centers’ of the city. Unfortunately what does happen when you decide to go to another city is that you go to the regular tourist spots and forget about the smaller parts of the city from where you can actually get a true flavor of how the local residents live and how their trade and commerce goes about. I have to say, I was super excited when the driver took a wrong turn and we ended up bang in the middle of the city in a small market with lanes so small that only ‘two wheelers’ or bikes and scooters could pass two at a time. We of course had to watch the locals glaring at us, those people blocking their way! Nonetheless, I loved it the most! We ended up experiencing first hand the traditional way of selling spices, loose on the street. The colors were so vivid and beautiful – reds of the chilli powder, yellow from the turmeric powder, a light greenish-brown from coriander seeds, brown lumps of jaggery and so many more! It was so gorgeous! The same spice traders also sold soaps, toothpaste, detergents and any other daily required items. Along with these spice traders/grocers, there were cloth stores, hanging their wares on the display windows – these bright, beautiful saris with mirror work and thick embroidery! It was just an amazing sight!
Well, once we managed to squeeze out of the tiny lanes of this very traditional market, we headed straight to the hotel. The hotel was the palaces of the maharajas of Udaipur and has now been converted into the hotel. The chandelier in the lobby was so gorgeous – orange blown glass, each piece made to look like a flower! Once the check in formalities were done with, we decided to go ahead and indulge in some of the very delicious street food of Rajasthan! We found a sweet shop in the ‘Chetak Circle’ of Udaipur which is almost like a central area. We stuffed ourselves with tangy, spicy and fried food! We had the very popular samosas, bread pakodas, dal kachoris and onion kachoris. We ended on a sweet note with some local Rajasthani ‘Ghewar’ and carrot halwa.
Our first and only stop for the day was going to be the City Palace of Udaipur. This palace was the Mewar dynasty’s main palace where the king would stay anytime he was in Udaipur. Most of the palace has been converted to areas that the public can view. The palace also has a vintage car museum and a crystal museum which are relatively newly developed and are quite interesting. There is also an art gallery within the City Palace that one can view while taking the tour of the palace. While we were too late to be able to complete all three, I have been told that both the car museum and the crystal museum are worth looking into. Some of the cars used in the James Bond movie, Octopussy were from the Maharaj’s collection!
The entire tour took us 2 hours and it was wonderful to see some of the old art and the small passages that were built. This is something I observed only during this trip that the palaces and forts in Rajasthan all have many narrow passages and entrances. I assume this is to confuse the enemy if they do infiltrate the fort. All in all, it was interesting to look around the fort and some parts of the fort were just gorgeous! I find it hard to believe that even in those days, architects thought about how best they can cool areas in the fort and how they can keep certain rooms warm in the winter! It’s so fascinating that they did not have any of our modern tools and they still managed to create such amazing structures! The view from the city palace is just amazing. So after a complete tour, we decided to wait for the light and sound show that began an hour later.
The light and sound show was primarily about the history of the Mewar dynasty and talked about some of the more influential kings and their stories. Very interesting and informative but we were freezing! We were glad to have seen the show but we just wanted to run back to the hotel and crawl under our nice, big warm blankets!
Day 1 ended with us tucking into a fantastic dinner at the hotel and falling asleep dreaming about living in the palaces like the Maharajas and Maharanis! Perfect start to a great vacation!