What to See in Udaipur

Somewhere in my subconscious mind, I had decided that I have to travel somewhere in India when I visit home. In November last year, I finally took the flight to home and met my family after one whole year.

Since I couldn’t plan a trip before visiting, I kept searching for places after I reached home. And just like that, I chose Udaipur one night, booked the tickets, and informed my parents that they are coming with me. Thankfully, they love traveling and agreed to embark on this journey with me.

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Out of the Blue – Endearing Bundi

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Bundi is one place that took me by surprise and an amazing one at that! Tourism has been the focus of Rajasthan since long, but I had no clue that such tiny towns are frequented by British and French travelers in huge numbers. I, personally, had never heard of Bundi, so was curious to know the place after I read many snippets about it over the web.
Little know-how: Bundi is a small city in Rajasthan, situated 210 kilometers from Jaipur. Its famous for mural art, ornate forts, lakes and Baoris (step-wells). The famous writer, Rudyard Kipling, once stayed at Sukh Niwas Palace by the Jait Sagar Lake and his book Kim is inspired from Bundi.
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First Glance of the City

 

I saw tiny blue-colored houses surrounded by the mountains with Bundi Palace prominently standing on one side. Atop the hill, you can see the walls of Taragarh Fort which runs through the city. 
After checking in Hotel Bundi Haveli, I set out to explore the Bundi Palace and Taragarh Fort on foot. Location-wise and otherwise too, the hotel was a good pick and I was quite glad to book the same.
I would recommend everyone to explore (some part, at least) the city on foot as its charming and you might stumble upon something unique! Though, next day I set out on car to wander as I had to leave early.
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The city from Bundi palace

Why I totally adored Bundi and regretted staying there for just one day?!

  • First impressions always last, and the way we were welcomed at Hotel Bundi Haveli made us happy about our choice! Nothing grand happened, just the genuine smiles and caring attitude impressed us. The receptionist even handed us a map of Bundi and informed us about all the places we can visit along with directions. It was fun to use a physical map in this day & age.
    Apart from the service, we loved how beautifully the hotel was maintained. Its basically an old haveli, converted into a hotel.

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  • While coming back from the Bundi Palace, I noticed a shop where an old man was busy with colors & brush outside and a lot of finished paintings in the tiny room inside. The man patiently showed me around his shop and talked about the painting techniques, colors and stories drawn.
His work was detailed, intricate and elaborate. I just loved how poised and calm this artist was and that he never pestered me to buy his paintings, just silently went back to his work when I left!
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Murals at Chitrashala, Bundi Palace

 

  • The Food! I was surprised to find so many options for continental cuisine in Bundi when I did a Google search. I tried Out of the Blue for dinner and Lake View Restaurant for breakfast.
The pizza and pasta at Out of the Blue was one of the best I have ever had. What really makes this place truly incredible is the panoramic views it offers, of the city and lake. You just have to walk up a never ending flight of stairs to reach here. But, at the end of it you wouldn’t regret it.

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Breakfast at the lake-view restaurant was another beautiful experience. We had banana pancake and cheese-tomato sandwich while sitting in front of the Naval Sagar Lake.DSC01596
This little boy was helping his parents serve as he had an off from school. We enjoyed our breakfast thoroughly which was fabulous.
  • There’s so much to see in Bundi from Bundi Palace, Chitrashala, Taragarh Fort, to the numerous Baoris & Lakes. I sat by the Jait Sagar Lake to understand how Kipling must have felt, spent hours to see the murals at Chitrashala, and walked down the stairs at Raniji ki baori to admire the architecture, yet wanted to see more!
Bundi was Lethal! I would visit again, and this time for a longer period. 

The Art Gallery of Rajasthan

As a traveler, I am always curious to visit unexplored regions to discover something unique. This time my research led me to Mahansar in the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan. The whole region is brimming with old colorful havelis (mansions) decorated with eye-catching murals, built by rich traders during the 18th to 20th century. These murals depict mythological and historical events with images of Hindu Gods, Animals, Battlefields, Kings etc.

We drove (approx. 270 kms) from Noida, UP and reached our destination in about 6 hours. It took us longer than usual as we were lost in between and took a route with road work in progress. Otherwise, road conditions are very good and its advisable to know the exact route through web search before traveling. Those traveling from other cities can come to Jaipur by air or train and hire a taxi to reach Mahansar. The landscapes and highways leading to the region are totally worth a drive. At times, you witness massive green fields and then you suddenly come across barren & unwelcoming pieces of land, accompanied by the magnificent Aravali hills.

Enthralling view of the Aravali Range

Enthralling view of the Aravali Range

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On the way
The Mahansar Fort
The Mahansar Fort

Some of the destinations (if you have interest in wall paintings & old havelis) one can explore in the Shekhawati region are Mandawa, Nawalgarh, Mahansar and Churu. I chose Mahansar because I could manage to book a stay at the fort itself. Although, the whole region has quite a few decent accommodation options.

Mahansar

Our stay at Mahansar Fort was wonderful, solely due to the impeccable service provided by our hosts, Bhagwati and Seema Singh (owners of the fort). They took care of everything themselves and made sure that we felt comfortable. Food was also prepared by the hostess, all by herself, and I must mention that she specially included a non-veg delicacy in our dinner menu since we proclaimed our love for chicken while talking! Coming to the taste of it, I found the food simple and very homely.

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Our Room
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Wall Art

 

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Indoor – The Dining Area where we had all our meals

Post lunch, we went out to explore the village which was a typical Indian village with various old temples and havelis. The nearby Mandawa region is also well-known for its havelis, so I would recommend others to explore the same. We stayed at the Fort for one night and completely enjoyed the hospitality of our royal hosts (Bhagwati Singh is a direct descendant of the Thakurs of Mahansar).

We were also offered some local wine by our host which I felt was infused with cardamom and had a strong flavor. Though we wanted to stay longer to see the famous havelis, we couldn’t do so this time. In fact, Bhagwati helps his guests in exploring the village and enlightens them with historical trivia about the place. I believe, had we stayed back we could have cherished the artwork. That gives me a reason to go back…♥

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Closed out section of the Fort. In its days of glory, this Fort would have been mesmerizing. Though crumbling now, we could see how beautifully the interiors had been done.
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That’s our car!The right portion belongs to another descendant who runs Narayan Niwas Castle Hotel

Earlier, I had no fascination for Rajasthan and now I keep scouting for more and more remote villages and forts. That’s the aura of Rajasthan, it just sweeps you off your feet. This time we ended our trip too soon, but in my next visit I would capture the artwork of old havelis for sure.

Visited – 6th Feb, 2015

To Savor Something Royal and Exquisite

Intrigued by the rich culture & history of India, I decided to scout for a non-commercial & secluded Fort near Delhi for a short trip. After multiple searches over the web, I was glad that I found Dadhikar Fort in Alwar (Rajasthan). This Fort was built in the 11th century by King Chand and is situated right in the middle of a village atop a small hill!
There are two routes to reach this Fort (I traveled from Noida, UP) once you reach Alwar, one through a village and another through the city. Luckily, Google Navigator took me through the village route and I could witness the rustic beauty of our country which we miss while rushing to work everyday. There were farms all across, kids eyeing us curiously, truckload of sheep baffled by the sudden invasion of a car in their territory, buffaloes enjoying sauna in man-made pools etc.
We saw a huge pool on our way and right across that we spotted Vijay Mandir, the private property of Alwar’s prince. The journey is always the best part about traveling, and is sweetened exponentially if the destination turns out to be equally mesmerizing.
The Village Pool
The Village Pool! Vijay Mandir was right across this water body
Drive to the Fort’s parking from its main gate was a little scary as its not concrete but nonetheless, the Fort’s owner has done a phenomenal job in taking you completely through the lifestyle of Emperors.  After we parked, we had to walk uphill inside the Fort to reach our room which was a Duplex suite (Mahavan) and their best, as per traveler reviews. The view from our room’s terrace was spectacular as we could see the whole village around us and felt protected by a hill behind the Fort.
We headed for lunch after check-in, a buffet served on table, since we were the only guests at that time. The spread was vegetarian, i.e paneer ki sabzi, dal, papad ki sabzi, baingan, pasta in white sauce and a dish made with corn. Apart from the corn dish, everything else was delicious. Similar was the dinner experience as far as taste is concerned, however the candle-lit terrace environment made the experience delightful.
That's where we had dinner
That’s where we had dinner
The Fort’s current owner has put considerable amount of effort in restoration, considering it was completely ruined when he bought it from the last descendant (Quick fact – He paid INR 50 lakh to acquire it). The walls are adorned with old pictures of the ruined Fort and how the work has been done.
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Plantation and beautification has been done meticulously throughout the Fort. Explore it one weekend to live the lifestyle of Kings & Monarchs in the 11th century!
Moments to cherish –
  • They decide and choose different venues for lunch, dinner and breakfast everyday, so we could explore different parts of the Fort. And, the dinner was candle-lit on one of their terraces!
  • Service was in line with Rajasthan’s famous hospitality.
Areas of Improvement –
  • Very sadly, they don’t serve non-veg.
  • Should arrange folk performances (On weekends, they do arrange) on weekdays as well, considering they were quite occupied on a Tuesday.
Some tips that may come handy!
  • Take the village route to reach the fort. Its simply fun!
  • Go out and explore the nearby village.
That's where we were served High Tea
That’s where we were served High Tea
Visited – 21st Oct, 2014