Udaipur – Love it AND Hate it

Udaipur – Love it AND Hate it

Oh how I love India, with its melting pot of distinctly regional mouth-watering culinary specialties; with its embarrassment of natural beauty and manmade architectural wonders; with its warm and friendly people who haven’t even finished saying ‘Namaste’ before beckoning you in to their homes for a hospitable cup of tea.

And yet…oh how I hate India too, with its dust-blown streets overrun with stubborn cows and vehicles piloted by horn-tooting lunatics; with its needlessly complicated train ticket reservation system; with its wearisome rickshaw drivers who insist on taking you past several restaurants and shops owned by ‘my good friend’ enroute to your destination.

udaipur6Yes, India isn’t so much a love-it-or-hate-it place as a love-it-AND-hate-it place. I can’t think of anywhere that illustrates this better than the South Rajasthan city Udaipur, an optional, extra leg on the classic ‘Golden Triangle’ trail of Northern India.

Read a guidebook, the bumf from an Indian tourism website or, indeed, the information boards fronting the cluster of travel agents that line Udaipur’s crammed streets and you’ll doubtless be captivated by the ‘Venice of India’ hyperbole, complete with images of grand palaces sculpted in to lush green hillsides that frame a sun-dappled lake…

udaipur5On the other hand, hit the streets for the first time and you’re met with throngs of tourists muddling past garish storefronts. The signs scream at you in squiggly rainbow-coloured fonts to go on such and such an excursion, presumably in the company of the aforementioned wearisome rickshaw drivers looking to exploit you for as many rupees as possible. In fact, it was one such person who I had my first conversation with…

Rickshaw Driver: Hello my friend! Do you want me to take you to the Monsoon Palace?

Bewildered Welshman: No thank you.

Rickshaw Driver: (lowering voice) You want some Marijuana?

Bewildered Welshman: Wha…? Er no, no thank you…

Rickshaw Driver: OK, my friend, OK. So maybe you want to help my friend to carry some precious gems back to your home country. You only have to pay 20000 rupees and then you can sell them there for a profit and…my friend! Wait, why do you go?!

udaipur4But, as with the rest of India, Udaipur is not all about confidence tricksters, aggressive road bullies and seemingly every building being a travel agent, overpriced restaurant or some other such tourist trap. With its gorgeous lakeside setting – the tranquil, limpid waters are only broken by the graceful splash of locals swimming near the banks – magnificently imperious palace and lavishly carved Jagdish Temple, Udaipur is undeniably a romantic place, even with the attendant Octopussy connotations and dense throngs of tourists.

As with anywhere, escaping the crowds is all about venturing just a little away from the well-worn main streets. All it takes is venturing North of the Hatipol Gate – or indeed to willfully take one unorthodox turn down a crooked alleyway – and you’re in neighbourhoods that are more authentically ‘Indian’, with Hindi-only signs, bustling market stalls filled with people speaking in several different dialects and not a foreign face in sight. In addition the countryside surrounding the city is beautiful, and I do recommend an excursion there if you have the time.

udaipur2Udaipur is noticeably less stressful than the likes of nearby Delhi and Jaipur, yet it does unmistakably have an air of ‘exploit the moon-eyed tourists’ about it. But as annoying as this may be, it is still a place worth seeing. The sunset over the lake alone is worth the price of an overnight guest house stay, but you also get snapshots of authentic local life as well as the top draws – the history, the food, the genuinely friendly people – that lure you to India in the first place. You just have to accept the bad that goes with it; because, after all, this is a love-it-and-hate-it country!

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21 Comments

  • Anouk

    November 21, 2016 at 7:15 pm Reply

    Glad I read your post about India. Your spot on explanation about this love-hate thing with India is the reason why I have never ventured out there. The scams do not really encourage me to put India on my top travel bucket list and yet- maybe I should?!

    • Joe

      November 21, 2016 at 11:18 pm Reply

      Ultimately, for me, the stuff I love makes it worth putting up with the stuff I hate. I personally would recommend going out there and immersing yourself in the whole warts and all experience – the scams are undeniably annoying, but when you meet the genuinely friendly people, or sample the impossibly delicious food, or see a magnificent palace for the first time…yeah that makes it all worth it 🙂

  • Hendrik

    November 21, 2016 at 7:28 pm Reply

    Hehe the dialogue with the Rickshaw driver is really funny 🙂
    Even though we haven’t been to India yet, I can imagine that your emotional range goes from one extreme to the other, I guess the country full of contrats…
    Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences & always happy travelling Hendrik & Birdie

    • Joe

      November 21, 2016 at 11:15 pm Reply

      Yeah, India does make you feel quite wildly contrasting emotions! Thanks for stopping by guys 🙂

  • Cat | For Two, Please

    November 21, 2016 at 7:33 pm Reply

    Such an interesting post. I think in most cities or countries that I visited, there are certainly things I love and hate. There’s no perfect paradise in this world 😛

    • Joe

      November 21, 2016 at 11:15 pm Reply

      Indeed…if you do find such a place, do let me know 😉

  • Julian

    November 22, 2016 at 9:31 am Reply

    haha, seems like a classic Indian scene 🙂 I am so looking forward to traveling around India, simply a crazy country of contrasts. Thanks for the post!
    Julian recently posted…Been There, Don Det : 4000 Islands in LaosMy Profile

    • Joe

      November 24, 2016 at 6:10 pm Reply

      Crazy and contrasts…two words that very aptly sum up India! Thanks for stopping by and I hope you have a blast exploring this amazing country 🙂

  • Cruise Writer

    November 22, 2016 at 10:01 pm Reply

    Thanks for your honest opinion about Udaipur. It’s refreshing to read both the pros and cons interjected with some anecdotes about your trip. It helps us understand that every place has both positives and negatives.

    • Joe

      November 22, 2016 at 10:45 pm Reply

      Thanks. There isn’t a place on earth that doesn’t have its negatives in my experience, so it’s always worth discussing these 🙂

  • Beth

    November 23, 2016 at 1:48 am Reply

    Very cool place to visit! The pictures you took deffinately say so. I am thinking about heading that way, thanks for the information.

    • Joe

      November 23, 2016 at 6:56 am Reply

      Thank you, and I hope you have a good time out there 🙂

  • Abhinav Singh

    November 23, 2016 at 8:59 am Reply

    Udaipur is one of the finest cities of Rajasthan. One can still feel the royal aura of the place. I spent hours just lazing on the grass and staring at the lake. The sunset I saw here was one of the most memorable.

    • Joe

      November 24, 2016 at 6:06 pm Reply

      No doubting it is a beautiful place, and yes the sunsets you get here are remarkable 🙂

  • Kelsi AW

    November 25, 2016 at 7:05 pm Reply

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I have never been to India, but also never wanted to go there. This sums up feelings I have from a distance, and i’m still pretty sure it’s not for me. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  • Tatum Skipper

    November 27, 2016 at 2:11 am Reply

    Wow I bet it gets a little uncomfortable when people ask you to do such crazy things like take gems back home haha. I think a lot of places are a love AND hate thing so I can see why Udaipur would be up there on the list! Overall though, I’m glad you can enjoy this place for what it’s worth because it seems awesome!

    • Joe

      November 27, 2016 at 9:37 am Reply

      Hahaha, yeah it was bonkers! But as you say, doesn’t detract from what is overall a great place to visit and, hopefully, one that I haven’t put people off from visiting! 😉

  • Ami

    November 28, 2016 at 3:08 am Reply

    Glad you could give both sides of the story. There are plenty of touts everywhere …best to be on a guard from them. But as you say, there are plenty of friendly and genuine ones too. Udaipur is my favorite Indian city. I love the culture and vibes it has…especially around Lake Pichola. And yes, the sunsets are worth that price 🙂
    Ami recently posted…The Mystical Hamlet in the Hills: Landour, MussoorieMy Profile

    • Joe

      November 28, 2016 at 8:55 am Reply

      The touts are exhausting, but as you say all the positive things in Udaipur make them worth putting up with. Can totally see why it is your favourite city in India 🙂

  • Hallie

    November 29, 2016 at 10:04 am Reply

    I loved Udaipur.. though my friend and I both got sick while we were there. Luckily, we were comfortable.. more comfortable than some other places we stayed in India. The love/hate feeling was very strong there though. Seems like most people get that way.

    • Joe

      November 29, 2016 at 12:26 pm Reply

      Yep, India is one of those places that one can be more susceptible to illnesses, but there are certainly some places that you certainly don’t want to fall ill in! Love/hate seems like the standard response to India really – it’s a case of which feeling outweighs the other! 😉

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