March 2004. It damn near broke my heart when I went back to my photos from the Indian city of Udaipur. It’s an incredibly romantic place and I have magical memories from my time here wandering its bustling, crooked market streets. I can’t believe just how few photos I actually took, never mind the quality, among the poorest of my seventeen-year back catalogue. In any case I just about managed to scrape five together in order to add this travel report to the LL library. This shot takes in the crumbly entrance gate to Lal Ghat, the lively ghetto-esque backpacker area of budget hotels, rooftop restaurants and handicraft shops. I’d been fumbling with my camera like the amateur I was when, seemingly out of nowhere, an elephant came plodding around the corner and through the archway.
March 2004. This cool, three-storied city temple dates back to 1651 when it was erected by Udaipur ruler Maharana Jagat Singh. Dedicated to Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, the main shrine sits atop a 32-step marble staircase. Look out for the brass sculpture of Garuda, a half man half eagle creature seemingly guarding the four-armed black idol of Vishnu.
March 2004. Much of Udaipur’s romanticism comes from the city’s shimmering Lake Pichola, an artificial freshwater constructed back in 1362. Framed by the handsome Aravalli Hills and home to some of the city’s most impressive monuments and royal palace buildings, much of my time was spent wandering around the lake.
March 2004. I also took a boat tour out to see Lake Pichola’s four islands where you can visit a number of gorgeous royal mansions, gardens and sanctuaries. This grainy photo shows me at Jagmandir Island, home to the seventeenth century Lake Garden Palace with its cosy museum and an ornate bluestone tower known as Gol Mahal. Today the island actually has seven luxury hotel rooms (!) and a glitzy spa. A quick look on Booking.com reveals a nightly rate of about $300 a night, including breakfast.
March 2004. Udaipur’s number one draw back during my visit was the crumbling grandeur of The Monsoon Palace (Sajjan Garh), a dilapidated but highly charming old residence that has the best views over the entire city and lake. Perched atop a piercing section of the Aravalli Hills, half the fun is getting up here in a rickshaw. The hill and palace feature in the James Bond movie Octopussy and indeed much of the city’s café, bar and restaurant scene make as much as they can of Udaipur’s special 007 connection. Looking at this photo makes me happy and sad at the same time. It was such a wonderful trip, but I’ve got to go back one day, do the place justice and share the results.
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