Leela Udaipur

Exploring the Venice of the East

Earlier this year I travelled across the north of India including Delhi, Rajasthan & Lucknow. With a view to explore regions that I know offer some of the finest cuisine. I found the hospitality of the community in the north west of India in the region of Rajasthan is second to none. Having been to Jaipur, Jaisalmer and Jodhpur previously I was keen to explore the city of Udaipur.

Udaipur known as the Mewar kingdom, surrounded by lakes with views of the stunning City Palace is a city that immersed me in its culture, cuisine and the locals. From the havelis, palaces, temples and the little narrow by lanes that lead up to local bazaars add to the cities old world charm. This beautiful city has received a rich cultural heritage from the bygone age. Untouched by the pace of modern times, Udaipur natives are very friendly and happy people. Folk dance and music have an important place in adding to the city’s cultural richness. The dynamic and vibrant dances add sparkle to this romantic city. The various dances complement the fairs and festivals held in the city. Natives of Udaipur find solace in the melodious music of Morchang, Naad, Tanpura, Sarangi and many other instruments that used to echo the courts of Mewar rulers. Mewari is the main language used in Udaipur, yet Rajasthani, Hindi and English are also common in the city.

With stunning views of Lake Pichola, the Leela Udaipur was my home away from home while I took the opportunity to explore this wondrous place. Getting to the Leela Udaipur via boat across the shores of City Palace and over looking Jag Mandir most felt like I’d started out on the right note. As much as I wouldn’t want to romanticize about each aspect during my stay; from start to finish it broke even the slightest hint of cynicism in me to appreciate every moment and savour it all. Soaking up the warm rays of sun and beginning each morning with chai. Views of the sprawling city, riding in the local rickshaws through the bazaar and sampling the street food that Udaipur is synonymous for.

Some of my favourites include The Royal Repast run by the Bedla family. The history, culinary heritage and a stunning location of the Bedla House; this place is definitely one to book when you get to Udaipur. Murg Dahi Booth and spiced mutton cooked in earthen pots are a few of the gems that give a glimpse into the stellar menu.

Sheesh Mahal at the Leela sampling a traditional thali with freshly made breads topped with ghee. The setting of Lake pichola adds to what is an evening to remember with good food, beautiful location and stellar service. Being the street food addict, no trip would be complete without checking out the local delights including Aloo Bada near Fateh School a stall that’s been running for 22 years and well known across the city. Pratapgarh ki Kachori sell the most delicious hing ki kachori topped with sweetened yoghurt and tamarind chutney. A family business run by the Aggarwal family. The menu also includes pani puri, dahi bade and chaat. You definitely can’t leave the city without trying Mirchi Badas at Manak Balaji. Filled with a potato crispy filling coated in a gram flour batter. Prepare to queue for these beauties served with fresh chutney.

After all the bustle of the city coming back to my room, sipping chai while watching the world go by. Make time to experience the puja ritual the hotel organises in Shiva Temple, which is within the hotel periphery and is more than 150 years old.

Along with all the mouth-watering street food markets, the ‘City of Lakes’ is also a delight for shopping enthusiasts. Udaipur is full of boutiques and shopping malls as well as many alluring local markets selling unique handicraft items, beautiful jewellery and authentic leather products. From jewellery and clothes shopping at Bada Bazar to browsing a huge variety of handicrafts Chetak Circle or folk arts of Rajasthan at Hathi Pol, you are spoilt for choice! Bapu Bazar also sells clothing and shoes along with delicious street food and is a vibrant market buzzing with activities at every hour of the day. You will also find many shopping options when visiting the famous Clock Tower along the typical winding alleys where all kinds of exotic things can be bought, including gold and silver items. Just remember when shopping anywhere in India’s markets to have a range of small notes to buy items as it can be tricky to get change.

One of my favourite spaces within the Leela is the Inner Courtyard housing a magnificent water fountain by the day, which turns into a splendid stage for Rajasthani folk performances by sunset amidst 120 lamps adorning the walls. Also not missing the opportunity to savour a spa treatment and soaking in the calm is what I call balance on a good holiday! When it comes to luxury the Leela is undoubtedly setting standards of luxury and is a perfect balance of modern, effortlessly chic and yet with glimpses of traditional Rajasthani heritage.

There are many options to consider when planning how to get to Udaipur.  Maharana Pratap or Dabok Airport is 22 km from the city of Udaipur. There are many domestic airlines which connect the city to all the major cities of India including Jaipur, Mumbai and Delhi. A direct flight from London to Mumbai will take just over 9 hours and then it is just a short 1 hour and 20 minute flight to Udaipur. There are also frequent trains from the major cities in India to Udaipur.

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