The Rajasthani city of Udaipur is called the Venice of the East, supposedly due to its lakes. While I’ve never been to Venice, I am pretty sure Udaipur is nothing like it.
Udaipur is beautiful in an Indian way; meaning it has lots of old buildings with elaborate arches, but the streets are still dirty, there are still many poor people around, and those lakes? Their shores are full of women doing laundry, which is of course typical in India and beautiful in its own way.
But Udaipur does have some beautiful structures, notably Palace Hotel, which floats in the middle of the lake and is where the James Bond movie Octopussy was filmed, as anyone or any sign will tell you.
And of course, there is the City Palace, where members of the royal family still reside. While non-guests of the Palace Hotel aren’t allowed on the island, the City Palace is open to visitors. It’s worth getting a tour guide as the building is quite large and full of exquisite details, including finery imported from all over the world.
You can also take a lovely boat ride (more like a ferry than a gondola) around the lake and to Jagmandir, or the pleasure palace as it’s known. It’s actually not a palace, but more like a fancy island playground, complete with expensive drinks and spa (which a worker insisted on giving us a tour of). When we visited they were setting up for an event that looked fabulous and we had fun imagining what Judy’s upcoming wedding would be like if it was held there.
Udaipur hosts some gorgeous sunsets and most of the hotels advertise their rooftop restaurants with beautiful views of the lake. Of course we had to go the one called “The Highest Rooftop in Udaipur” and resisted the one across the street that claimed, “Better than the Highest Rooftop.” It was nice to have almost every meal with a view, though!
The food in Udaipur is very good, thanks to a healthy inflow of tourists. We loved our dinner at The Whistling Teal, which is actually the only non-rooftop place we ate at! But it does have a lovely garden setting and excellent food and service.
We wanted to love our meal at Millets of Mewar, a health and eco-concious cafe, but while the food was mostly tasty, the service was abysmal. Aside from interminable waits for the food, when it finally came most of it was wrong. We did go to one local place, a bit outside the main part of the city, called Natraj Lodge. The name of the game here is thalis, namely Gujerati ones. Thalis are platters with multiple bowls that keep getting refilled with curries, vegetables, dal, yogurt, rice, plus pakoras (fried bread balls), rotis, and a sweet, cardamom mini flatbread. You soon realize that you probably don’t even need the refills! Oh, and did I mention this all costs a little more than $1?
But the food highlight was taking a cooking class on our last morning. There are dozens of options to choose from, but we ended up with Sushma’s. It was just the three of us and Sushma, the instructor. She had a great menu planned and took the time to go over the classic Indian spice box and even taught us how to make chai! We made a sweet and sour pumpkin similar to what we had at Gunpowder in Delhi, a yummy curry with fresh paneer (fresh paneer is amazing, a super easy to make! I can’t wait to try to make it at home), fantastic yellow dal (lentils), and of course rotis. I was curious about how to make parathas, both stuffed and plain, so Sushma showed us that as well. I never would have guessed how you fold and roll the plain paratha dough to make it flaky. And, all the recipes were printed out and ready for us to take home.