Tuesday, 2 September 2008

1 - 3 September 2008: Udaipur

The city of lakes is famous for the picturesque Lake Pichola, with its two floating palaces and the impressive City Palace Complex on its eastern shore. The town got world-wide fame when it featured in the James Bond film 'Octopussy' in 1983.

We went on a boat ride to view the Lake Palace on Jagniwas Island and another palace on Jagmandir Island. The fairytale like Lake Palace was formerly a royal summer residence, but nowadays it is an exclusive five-star hotel resort. Non guests can only go for lunch or dinner. We didn't want to fork out 2,000 Rupees for a buffet lunch, so we admired the clean white palace from the boat. We landed on Jagniwas Island to visit the palace there, but that too has recently been converted into a luxury hotel and was mostly off limits to visitors. However, we got a good view of the rows of beautiful stone elephants that line the entrance to the island – they also feature in Octopussy.

The City Palace Complex looks very imposing from the outside, and there was certainly lots to see inside. Glass, mirrorwork and mosaics adorn the walls of the most ornately decorated rooms. At times there was so much rich colour and detail that we both felt overwhelmed.

Needing to take a break from it all, we headed to the relaxed – and rather empty – Fateh Prakash Hotel inside the complex for a delicious English afternoon tea. Andy was loving the cream cakes and the tea served in silver pots. Next door was the durbar hall, decorated with three huge chandeliers that the caretaker lit up just for us. The chandeliers were impressive, but not quite as colossal as the ones we saw in the Maharaja of Gwalior's Palace.

We finished off the day by watching Octopussy in the rooftop restaurant of our hotel. The views were fabulous, with endless rooftops and the distant hills surrounding Udaipur. The old town is full of narrow, winding streets lined with colourful clothes, arts and souvenir shops. The sunset was gorgeous, with the magnificent Monsoon Palace perched on a hilltop in the distance.

Read about our close shave with a cow in Jaipur.