Udaipur – February, 2012.

Ever since I heard “this ridiculously awesome video” I dreamed of the day I would wear poofy skirts, flit in and out of dilapidated haveli’s and stare sultrily into the camera with a pair of hypnotic bedroom eyes. Suffice to say that nothing of that sort has materialized in my life yet; but I did find the perfect place to do it in – Udaipur.

I must mention that I was not yet an adult, definitely dopey on hormones and it was Valentine’s. Infatuation was inevitable. I wouldn’t be surprised if I went back to Udaipur today and had a completely different experience; but in that haze of adultescent euphoria, Udaipur took me to dizzying heights.

The European influence on the erstwhile royalty of Udaipur is visible to the day. Alfresco dining is a way of life; beer and wine is served at almost all palaces and institutions. And in February it was a biting 3’C and unbearably dreamy. Udaipur is best experienced by foot, for mostly practical reasons. Traveler’s congregate around the Gangaur Ghat and lanes run sometimes perpendicular but mostly haphazardly along it. The gullies are narrow, barely allowing for a few people and a screeching moped at a time. It’s the perfect place to practice your “so hippie I could be homeless” vibe. The atmosphere is heavily perfumed by dhoop accompanied by continuous chants of Om Namah Shivaya. And Shiva always comes with the good stuff. Enjoy your reverie until you are jarred back into earthly orbit by a cow obstructing your path. Remember to pay respect to Gau Mata, like a true earth child would.

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Roam through the sprawling City Palace and Museum; climb right to the top. Spend your days reading a book by Lake Pichola. Order un café con leche and treat yourself to some quiet reflective time at the Jagmandir Island. Sajjan Garh which is located on a distant hilltop and has breathtaking views of Udaipur. Or like me you could order Dal Kichdi and a bottle of bubbly, snuggle under the covers and watch Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. Didn’t I say dreamy ?

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If you’d rather head out, Savage Garden Restaurant is on top of my list of recommendations. Accessed by a rickety flight of stairs, this 250 year old haveli is a perfect contrast to the Italian cuisine its famous for. Recent reports all seem to suggest that the place is on a decline though, so try your luck. The Jagat Niwas Palace Hotel requires advance bookings. The food and the service are both impeccable, as are the views. You might have to sell a kidney to afford it though.

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Like moi, you have a deathly crush on classic cars you should not miss visiting The Vintage and Classic Car Collection run by the royalty. Its jaw dropping and I was very tempted to try a Titanic; but they guard them beauties like hawks so I settled for crappy picture taking instead.

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Café Edelweiss, the eponymous German Bakery, is another great spot to hobnob with fellow travelers. I tried my first qahwa here. Wrong call on that one, will stick to uninspiring but comforting cappuccino for the next round. The area surrounding Café Edelweiss is filled with budget stays, Tiger Spa [& hostel] came highly recommended. The Ghat is where you can participate in the aarti’s, mini Varanasi like, and the adjacent Bagore Ki Haveli hosts a daily evening show of the local puppetry and dance forms.

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Just thinking about this place gives me goosebumps. So its best experienced in person, not on paper.
Book your tickets and go. It’s easy to navigate, it’s not expensive, it’s relatively safe and it’s an experience par excellence.

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