(Photo: Instagram @nickisalwaysonholidays)
This is not a travel guide, nor an itinerary for the tourist to follow so they can tick off boxes from a predetermined list. This is a picture of Udaipur, the beautiful city and it’s friendly inhabitants. Hopefully this will encourage the traveller to visit the state of Rajasthan in northern India and explore all that Udaipur has to offer.
Why people would settle in Udaipur is instantly apparent as you cross the open arid plains of Rajasthan, up and over the Aravali mountains and down into the city, where the picturesque Lake Pichola sits, full of clear blue water pumping life into an otherwise inhospitable landscape. The lake can be crossed by footbridge onto a small finger of land, Hanuman Ghat, where hotels, restaurants and tourist shops have sprung up in response to the demand this city attracts. The beauty of this oasis is accentuated by the huge City Palace that hangs over the lake, a sprawling complex that commenced construction in 1553 and took nearly 400 years to complete. Lake Pichola also hosts the uber cool floating Lake Taj Hotel, a retreat where Bollywood stars and famous cricket players can escape the spotlight and paparazzi.
A small hill centres the city on which two main roads intersect at Jagdish Temple, from where tourists flock onward to the gates of the City Palace. More interesting are the narrow side alleys where the locals live shoulder to shoulder, so tight even the rickshaws can’t squeeze through. On the alleys you can see old carts being pushed by vendors selling vegetables or sugar and spices or small knick knacks, shouting prices at the prospective buyers overhead who hang their heads out of the thin tall terrace houses. True window shopping. One alley winds its way up to the local school, perched on the hill with a breathtaking view. Exploring on a Saturday, the schools courtyard had been transformed into a cricket oval, the young students eagerly encouraging my GF and I to join in. I was quickly dismissed by a 10 year old fast bowler, Adarsh, who after taking my wicket whisked my GF and I off on a personal tour of his school. The pride he showed for his hometown and its sights was consistent with that of all the locals we met.
Mornings have been spent in Prakash’s yoga shala followed by breakfast on the lake, listening to the local ladies, drenched in their bright multicoloured saris whack whack whacking away at the washing. Then a wander/wonder around the Bada Bazaar, past the fabric sellers, fruit stalls, snack shops selling irresistible sweets, the silver shops the region is famous for and a traditional shop with matted flooring where you can pick up an authentic Rajasthanian turban. The afternoons require a visit our favourite chai wallah whose store is impeccably clean with bright green wooden tables and an ancient radio blasting Bollywood ballads. The early evenings are majestic on top of a roof at one of the Hanuman Ghat havelis, looking east as the last rays of sun light up the City Palace. Above the lake there are flocks of birds; black ducks, kingfishers, green King parrots, stalks, pigeons, doves, wrens and finches, all being looked down on by a handful of kites circling high above. The numbers are incredible, and you can’t help wandering if the Chinese had similar vegetarian diets, would there be this array of wildlife around the ancient lake of Hangzhou?
At 7pm chants and chimes are heard from the local temple, whilst the mosque starts its sermon. Rather than being conflicting noises, these rituals sound harmonious as the sounds drift over the still lake. A harmony that will be remembered on the travels, ever alwaysonholidays.