EXPLORING INDIA: UDAIPUR
After being so non-stop since arriving in India, we decided that Udaipur was going to be discovered at a slightly slower pace.
Jaipur was noisy, bustling and chaotic (I liked it but can understand if others find it too much) - the toot of horns beeping constantly became part of the sound you heard the moment you left the hotel, to the moment you returned. Road rules aren't such a thing in India.
To get from Jaipur to Udaipur, we took a flight with SpiceJet, basically India's equivalent to EasyJet. Flights are short and inexpensive so were the no-brainer option. We arrived at night and, having already pre-arranged a taxi with our hotel, were leaving the bustle of Udaipur behind before we knew it. We chose - as you'll find out below - to stay just a bit out of the centre and just driving for that bit longer, we could really feel the difference. For a starters, there were real road structures in place! Cars beeped much less and everything just seemed quieter. But I'll get to our hotel later, as it's really something rather special. Instead, have your to-do lists ready, there's a city to explore!
Udaipur is known as the City of Lakes, for a good reason: its five major lakes! It's also referred to as the White City of India with a plethora of white palaces dotted around Lake Pichola as well as one right in the middle, Taj Lake Palace (the most swanky of hotels). It's a beautiful sight to see in glorious sunshine, you almost forget you're in India and instead have been transported to the likes of Lake Como with its lush greenery and expansive water.
C I T Y
P A L A C E
U D A I P U R
Arriving in the city, we made a beeline for City Palace to avoid the queues later on in the day.
Entry into the palace costs around 450 INR and once in, I recommend you look for a guide to show you round the best bits. Again, we got lucky with our guide who was lovely, spoke great English and told us all there was to know about City Palace and more.
Walking through the gates to the palace, it was hard to miss the swastika symbol emblazoned above our heads. What neither of us realised was that in Sanskrit the word swastika means "well-being" and the symbol has long been used by Hindus and Buddhists - long before Hitler came on the scene. So if you see it, don't be alarmed!
As with all Indian palaces, they are full of history, bursting with colour and all equally intricate with detail. But if you ask me my favourite part to City Palace? It's the blue room. A slightly worn, sky-blue covered room with a solitary chair and a guard in. Nothing over the top, but just such a beautiful room that you can't help but fall in love with.
O T H E R
U D A I P U R
T O - D O ' S
We probably didn't do that much exploring Udaipur in truth, but we did enough to get a feel for the place. In-between us finishing up at City Palace and before we hopped on a boat for a trip around the lake, we left the palace grounds and went exploring.
Wandering the streets, having a nosey at some of the shops, exploring temples and picking up an ice cream are all strongly recommended. See where your feet take you - Udaipur's safe, just don't get hit by a bike or tuk tuk!
Lastly, take a boat ride out onto the water for sunset. The pace is much slower in Udaipur so go with it - you'll probably end up leaving feeling all serene.
R A A S
D E V I G A R H
As I mentioned earlier, the hotel in Udaipur was rather special. Well, here it is!
RAAS Devigarh was unlike any hotel I've ever experienced and in all honesty, I would go back to Udaipur for a week just to stay here. We liked it so much that on one of the days we had in Udaipur (bearing in mind, we only had three) we didn't leave the hotel at all. Something so unlike me to do, but when you stay somewhere as wonderful as RAAS Devigarh, it really is difficult to leave.
It's not the cheapest hotel in Udaipur we could have picked, but this was our treat to ourselves and worth every single penny.
RAAS Devigarh is housed within an 18th century palace, overlooking the village of Delwara. Every room is a suite and every spot around the hotel is as tranquil as the next. From the moment you wake up, you're in luxury. A man playing pan pipes plays whilst you walk to breakfast, you're asked things like: "what time would you like your jacuzzi turned on today ma'am?" and if that wasn't enough, the mountainous views at sunset whilst you're sipping your cocktail will sure make you never, ever, ever want to leave. Whilst I didn't try it on this occasion, I heard great things about the spa too. A must for next time, obviously.
Of course, if you need some sort of activity during your stay then Devigarh has that covered. Complimentary camel ride? Sure. A tour around the palace at sunrise? Why not. An organised tour going into the village below? Absolutely. And one I actually would really recommend you doing - it was warming and fascinating in equal measures. Locals run to greet you, desperate for you to take their photo and to ask you where you're from. You see inside local businesses (from an art gallery which I could have spent a fortune had I had it in my bank account to a women's handicraft enterprise) and see how the village people live. Simply yes, but perfectly happy and welcoming to strangers. It was one of the most special parts to the trip and I really would go back in a heartbeat.