Narlai to Udaipur
On our drive from Narlai to Udaipur, we stopped off at Ranakpur, said to be the most spectacular of the Jain temples. We nearly decided to skip this temple as we were feeling a little ‘templed out’, but our driver, Anand, convinced us that we would like it much more than the Kumbhalgarh Fort. He said, “a fort is a fort” – and we have seen so many of them! So glad we listened to him. He hasn’t steered us wrong in his advice about anything.
The entire building is intricately carved white marble, the seven metre high ceilings supported with soaring columns that look like calcite pillars formed when stalactites and stalagmites join in caves. This is one of the most impressive temples we have ever seen, and there were many neck ache moments when our focus was too long directed upwards. This exquisite creation took 50 years and 25,000 men to build it.
Our cute little Kankarwa Haveli in Udaipur was more B&B than hotel, but it had character. We had tried to get into the Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel, which was next door, but they were fully booked when we were making our reservations. Ironically, we ended up spending more meal time next door than at our own haveli because we had met a trio of Australian women when we were in Jaisalmer, and they were at Jagat Niwas over Christmas, and so, much socialising was done with the fellow Aussies.
Very glad to have this connection at the neighbouring digs – they had a lovely rooftop terrace and bar, which became our meeting place for sunset drinks that turned into dinner. The restaurant the floor below had delightful bay window cushioned nooks with low tables where we sat cross legged for Christmas dinner and watched the lights come on at the Taj Lake Palace Hotel in the middle of Lake Pichola.
As with most hotels in India, even the most expensive ones, the wifi was hit and miss, which is surprising and disappointing for all of the places we have stayed. Maybe it’s Rajasthan, more so than India, who knows. Our room in Kankarwa Haveli was a deluxe water view suite with three rooms the same size – bathroom, bedroom and sitting room, all connected in a long single stretch. The sitting room had the windows that opened onto the lake and provided a sense of airiness and source of natural light that the low ceilings prevented in the parts of the room further back. The bed was firm, but comfortable, the toilet flushed well, the shower was hot with good water pressure, and the room was nice and cool. They did forget to replace the water and towels when they cleaned the next day, but apart from that it was fine.
Udaipur City Palace Museum
Today was another lesson in the balance of driver/no-driver. We could’ve walked to the city palace in less than the time it took to drive there due to traffic. It was a crazy traffic day due to the holidays. This became the theme for the entire day, so we just went with it and caught some ‘zzzz’ in the back of the car when the roads became carparks.
The City Palace Museum was a spectacular collection of interesting and important exhibits housed in a magnificent old palace complex that looked like one gigantic building (added to by many different maharajas over the centuries). And what a building! – Canopies, towers, domes, cupolas, bastions, beautifully carved balconies and ornamental turrets.
We took much longer in the museum than we expected, but our plans for the day still worked out. Our extended visit cut into the intended lake boat tour time, but when we saw the line of people queuing in the hot sun to do the boat ride, we quickly abandoned that plan. Enjoyed a bit of a stroll along the foreshore instead, until Anand arrived to collect us.
We met the Brit friends we had made while staying in Rawla Narlai for a private boat tour on Lake Pichola. It was a much preferred experience doing the early morning ride before it got too hot, and it was a lovely way of seeing the coastline and getting more up close and personal with the Taj Lake Palace. Have to admit, though, as beautiful as it is, I am not sure I would like to be ‘stuck’ on the island without the capacity to just walk or drive into the town.
Our companions were staying at the Oberoi Udaivilas, which was the complete opposite end of the luxury scale to our charming little haveli. It is a gobsmackingly gorgeous hotel! We were introduced to the manager, Mr Amit Kaul, who took my card and happily answered my travel writer questions about the hotel. As we were friends of guests of the hotel (and because of the blog, I am sure), we were invited to spend our time before our afternoon flight at the spa pool area while our friends had massages. Usually, non-guests are welcome in the bar or lounge area, not in other sections of the resort. We were supplied with wifi so I could continue to work, and made ourselves comfortable on a poolside lounge under a strategically placed umbrella.
While typing away, a waiter named Ganav approached to check our ‘legitimacy’ (excellent security in this place). When we explained our special invitation by the General Manager, he immediately offered us sodas and was a charming ‘host’. He was also happy to answer my questions about the country and culture, clearly proud of both, but also candid about things not so perfect. He even came to find us at the other end of the hotel to say goodbye before we left. A lovely man. All staff that we spoke to at the Oberoi were so very well trained and knew so much about the brand – very impressive.
We chose the outdoor garden section of Chandni restaurant for lunch, which was such a delightful setting. We nabbed a table under a muslin-draped canopy and had a wonderful time – beautiful view, excellent service and great conversation. I was adventurous with my choice of meal and went with a slightly underwhelming Thai green curry. Should’ve had Indian, or a club sandwich, or pizza like the rest of the party – that seemed to work for them.
To the airport
After saying our goodbyes to the Oberoi and Udaipur, Anand drove us to the airport and we parted company. He still insisted that he would wait until I sent him a text that we had checked in ok before leaving the airport, and also wanted notification that our driver found us in Mumbai. Such wonderful service and kindness all around. It was a pleasure to get to know him and have him take care of us in our tour of Rajasthan.
Our Indian journey continues in Mumbai…
Accommodation: Kankarwa Haveli
Tour Company: Intense India Tours