Inviting India: Entrance to Udaipur, the City of Lakes in the heart of lovely Rajasthan
Every time I visit India it reminds me of the scene from The Wizard of Oz where the movie goes from black and white to glorious Technicolor and Dorothy solemnly turns to Toto and says, “I have a feeling that we are not. more in Kansas. ‘
As I leave, I always feel like I’m at the start of a really great adventure – because traveling through India is just as magical, and a bit scary, as walking the Yellow Brick Road and head towards the Emerald City.
Waterworld: Udaipur’s beauty is linked to its location on the shores of Lake Pichola
The first time my husband took me there I was dubious, finding a myriad of good reasons why this definitely wouldn’t be my type of trip. I had spent my vacation visiting relatively safe destinations. India seemed far from my comfort zone.
At first, I behaved as if I was forced into an arranged marriage. Every step of our planned trip through Rajasthan seemed potentially perilous; there were domestic plane trips, long distance trains, and long road trips in an Ambassador car driven by a gentleman who acted like he was auditioning for Top Gear.
But my arranged marriage worked and I fell head over heels in love with the country and its people. Fifteen years later, although I have experienced many other vacation destinations, nowhere else on earth has managed to capture my heart with such fierce intensity. I always come home with a feeling of spiritual enrichment, determined to try to enjoy the simpler things in life and to let go of the âinternal clutterâ.
First impressions are always so important when you arrive in a foreign city. Udaipur does not disappoint.
It smells good to begin with – a tangy cocktail of heat, spices, incense, gasoline and animals.
The short drive to Leela Palace in Udaipur is punctuated with paintings of daily village life.
The decrepit motorbike carrying an entire family (plus a goat), a ruined temple, rickshaws, a procession of schoolchildren in crisp uniforms, young women wearing neon saris, makeshift market stalls, reddish dust and the ubiquitous rot, the sudden jam traffic caused by a stray sacred cow, all a good warm-up for the real treat to come – Lake Pichola.
It is simply impressive. Five kilometers long by three kilometers wide, it is an artificial freshwater lake created at the end of the 14th century by a member of a Gypsy tribe who needed to transport grain and find a solution. to its irrigation problems.
It’s utterly beautiful – and never more than this year. Rajasthan enjoyed an exceptionally lush monsoon season, so not only was the lake filled to the brim, but the surrounding trees and plants were also green and abundant.
My arrival at the new Leela Palace Kempinski Udaipur was idyllic. Our luggage was loaded into a canopy and pink cushioned boat, we were asked to put on brand new (and totally useless) oversized life jackets, and the adventure began.
Lake Pichola is surrounded by temples, family mansions, bath ghats, and palaces – a sight that led Kipling to observe: “If a Venetian possessed the Pichola, he could just say righteously, see it and die.”
The approach to the hotel is memorable for its tranquil beauty, and as a visitor one trembles with impatience.
Vibrant: Udaipur is a slice of India in its most colorful and exciting
I am always seduced by the warmth of the welcome you receive in India. It is a nation brimming with contagious and chauvinistic pride.
You instantly feel special. Nothing is ever a “problem”. Indians always respond to challenges and requests with a little nod (which means yes!), A blissful smile, a flash of white teeth, and the assurance that everything will work out.
Every member of staff, from the smart doorman in the turban to the personal butler assigned to every guest staying in a Heritage room, is unparalleled in help and enthusiasm.
The Leela’s rooms are opulent, the bathrooms large and majestic. And through the window is the panoramic, magical, mystical view, David Lean Passage To India.
One tip I share with anyone planning a trip is to never, ever, accept or drink a glass of the tempting watermelon juice that always seems to be offered on arrival.
This drink acts as a kind of gastric aid for foreign travelers and, after taking all precautions to preserve probiotic harmony (no ice in drinks, compliance with a vegetarian diet, consumption of yogurts), the slightest sip can assure you the only sight. see are in your bathroom.
Udaipur is a great place to hire a guide for day trips to visit places of interest nearby. The City Palace, Nagda, with its extraordinary temples dating back to the 6th century, is decorated with erotic scenes from the Ramayana, and has a vast labyrinth of 108 temples dedicated to Lord Krishna, known to the locals as Shrinathji.
Further afield is the magnificent Kumbhalgarh Fort and in Ranakpur, the Jain Temples – one of India’s five holiest Jain shrines. Make sure you are well covered for temple visits – modesty is imperative and non-negotiable.
The region is steeped in a fascinating history. The guides are Brahmins and overflowing with information – more than willing to step out of the storyline and feast on not only facts and figures, but also fabulous stories about village life.
Udaipur is also a magnet for shopping – I challenge even the most Scrooge tourist to resist the colorful temptations that spill into the narrow streets surrounding the hotel.
Bargaining is a national pastime, and I found myself spending over an hour sitting cross-legged on the floor, drinking mint tea in a cavernous department store selling fabrics. The owner and his assistants dragged hundreds of rugs, bedspreads, kurtas, and caftans from their shelves with comedic eagerness as I deliberated. The transaction went from a simple shopping experience to a live theater.
I remember a year buying a rug in Udaipur and the trader pulled out hundreds of rugs, eventually choosing one that housed a rat.
He flew out of his nest and scampered down the street, much to our amusement. This too was “not a problem, Madam.”
India is a land of spirituality and peace, and a cosmetic equivalent is available in the form of Espa spa and beauty treatments, available at the hotel.
In addition to the daily yoga classes, you can pamper yourself, massage with hot oils, and steam in tents overlooking the lake.
I woke up on the last morning with a terrible headache – my senses were undoubtedly put on visionary overload. My butler looked after me with such gentleness, treating me with hot tea, aspirin, and ice cold towels.
My husband will have an almost impossible task at the height of this.
Kuoni (01306 747008, www.kuoni.co.uk) offers seven night trips to Udaipur staying two nights at Leela Gurgaon in a standard room and five at Leela Palace Udaipur in a lake view room, including B&B, flights and transfers, from 1665 Â£ per person.