We are up bright and early getting ready to check out and re-packing our cases. Unlike me Dipali only used half an hour of her spa treatment so she is using the remaining half this morning. I am ready so while I wait for Dipali I decide to take some last minute pictures of my view. Once she returns we head down to check out and have breakfast before meeting with our driver and heading to the airport.
I am really excited to see Udaipur as I have read about the history and seen loads of pictures. The distance from the hotel to Mumbai’s domestic airport is approximately 30 minutes. The flight anxiety hits me again as we arrive at the airport. I really wish we didn’t have to fly to Udaipur but a 12-hour drive seems a real waste of a day. The flight is only an hour so I will suck it up for 60 minutes. In reaching the airport we discover that our flight is delayed by one hour! Slightly irritated about the delay because I am scared as it is and don’t want to prolong this feeling and secondly we are only in Udaipur for two days so just want to get there. On a positive note I have been told that the north of India is dry so we may be saying goodbye to the rain.
We find a bar in the airport, there is no point stressing about the delay as it is out of our control. This is a domestic airport so whilst its smaller than the international there is still a decent amount of food venues. It is pretty ironic as I hate flying but today I am eager to be on the plane and off to Udaipur. The bonus of being at the airport is free Wi-Fi! It feels like we have been cut off from the world, we now have access. We are no longer talking to each other, we are doing the family and friend’s rounds, using the Wi-Fi to internet call our family and getting all the texts in that we can. It puts into perspective how reliant people are on their phones and free Wi-Fi. If we had Wi-Fi at our hotel, would we have played in the rain and have real life fun not cyber fun?
Finally, our gate is called and we make our way towards the plane, my nerves are awful now and I feel slightly sick. I made the big mistake while I had my free internet access to check the weather in Udaipur and I see there has been some thunder and lightning. This has me almost in tears and telling Dipali “This flight is going to be turbulent, we are going to be in a storm”. Dipali scolds me for looking at my phone and tells me that it looks so clear out and that we will be fine. I want to turn back but I am already half way up the steps to the plane, no turning back now. I silently walk towards my seat and say as many silent prayers as I can. I look out of the window and surprisingly this is the brightest and clearest day in Mumbai since we have been here. That means the rain has stopped in Mumbai and the dark cloud has attached itself to us and will follow us to Udaipur.
We push back really quickly, obviously making up for the delay. The safety demo is over with and before I know it we are whizzing across the runaway and we’re up! During the take-off we do have a slight bumpy start as the captain manoeuvres through some thick dark clouds, once he is above the beastly looking clouds we have a smooth (thank God) flight. The flight is really quick; the crew just about make it to the other end of the plane before the Captain announces that we are making our descent. Thankfully, we have a smooth landing and it turns out that my phone is a mean and cruel liar as there was no thunder or lightning during my flight. That doesn’t even matter anymore, we made it! One flight down and three more left during this trip. I am really proud of myself for being so calm on the flight, I start to imagine myself running through the plane towards the exit and high fiving the other passengers who are cheering and congratulating me on my bravery. I’m jolted back to reality by the confused, and slightly moody looking lady who is pushing me towards the exit so she can get off.
The airport is small and my luggage is already making its way around the belt. As this is a domestic airport there is no passport security to go through, once you have your bag you can make your way straight out. If you have a car arranged or need a taxi they are all lined up just outside the exit waiting to take you onwards. As we step out we see a man holding our names on a board, there is a young girl approaching us as well which I recognise straight away, its Ishveen. I’m happy to see a familiar face again. Ishveen was on a flight from Delhi that landed a bit earlier than ours so she has been waiting patiently for us. We all greet each other and make our way to our car.
The journey to the hotel takes approximately an hour, not much is said as we are taking in our new surroundings. Actually the truth is, we find out the car has Wi-Fi! I’m really surprised to see a lot of greenery, Ishveen explains it has a lot to do with the season we are in. Udaipur is a beautiful city; we pass a lake that Ishveen points out to us as Lake Pichola. Our driver bursts into a hearty laugh and tells Ishveen that it is Lake Fateh Sagar and that we haven’t reached Lake Pichola yet. We all laugh and I’m so glad to know that Ishveen is bad at remembering information like me! This trip is going to be interesting.
We arrive at the hotel and drive up to the entrance, our home for the next two nights is at the Oberoi Udaivilas. As you reach the main entrance you cannot help but be completely amazed by the surroundings. It feels like we have pulled up to a Royal Rajasthani Palace, the building is stunning! I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be staying in a place like this. We are met by the staff who are ready to assist with our luggage and take us through the beautiful grounds. We have arrived by car however if you wanted to, then they can arrange to transfer you to the hotel by boat along the lake, this would be perfect for a honeymoon couple, what a romantic way to arrive. Udaipur is known as the ‘Venice of the East’, so this is a perfect experience. The Udaivilas is surrounded by Lake Pichola, we finally get to see the Lake. It has been designed preserving the heritage of the city and the grounds on which it was built, this used to be a hunting ground used by the Maharaja of Mewar 200 years ago. You will see all the history as you walk around the grounds. We pass a beautiful fountain in the centre before we enter the lobby, we are greeted by the staff who garland us with Rajasthani scarves and apply a Teeka (a red dot on the forehead) which is a custom practice in many Indian homes to welcome a guest. In addition to this greeting the Udaivilas will shower you with rose petals as you enter, we didn’t get this today as it is low season, it isn’t a big deal but I think I need the petals. We are presented with cold towels and a welcome drink which is some sort of fruit juice. The drink is delicious, as a suggestion to the Udaivilas, this drink would be really nice with a shot of Vodka.
We are shown straight to our room where check in is completed, they then show us all the facilities in the room so that we have a comfortable stay. We are staying in a premier room which has a garden view, it has a private courtyard and terrace with table and chairs. We won’t be making much use of that today, as our friend from Mumbai (Mr. Rain) has joined us in Udaipur. In better weather if you sit out on your terrace you will spot the Udaivilas permanent guests, Peacocks and Peahens, they run freely around the grounds.
After we settle into our room, taking many pictures (both sensible and a few silly ones) we meet up again with Ishveen in the lobby. The Trident Udaipur is very close to the Udaivilas, you can either walk which takes approximately ten minutes at a slow pace or you can pick up a chauffeured golf cart outside the main entrance to transfer you between hotels. We opted for the golf cart which is a short ride. There is a good restaurant in the Trident as well as a good bar, the prices are really reasonable too so this is why we are venturing to the Trident. We decide that we are not that hungry yet so we head to the bar. I’m glad we are going for a few drinks first as this will be a perfect opportunity to get to know Ishveen properly, like Manan, I have only ever known Ishveen in a business capacity. The bar is called Amit Mahal which also offers snacks, it’s not formal so we can have a casual and relaxed evening. I am weirdly quite nervous to get to know Ishveen and hoping that she will feel comfortable with us outside of work. On the phone and via email we have always been formal and professional, little does she know that the professional and sensible person she believes me to be, was dancing in my room 20 minutes ago with my newly gifted scarf draped over my head. Yes, I know it is odd, but considering my surroundings a little Bollywood in me was bound to come out. I decide not to reveal this side to her just yet, I don’t want her to feel alarmed that she is spending the next few days with a crazy person.
Amit Mahal has a real nice charm to it and as it is low season there isn’t many people in the bar. We are all starting to loosen up and order our drinks, Dipali screams in excitement because they have a bottle of her favourite drink, Midori, she makes a vow that she will finish that bottle before she leaves. I opt for a glass of Sula (Manan has got me into this), I make a silent and different vow not to get too drunk or ridiculously stupid, Ishveen orders a beer. Once we have our drinks I feel like the atmosphere has changed and we are chatting away so easily. The formal and slight awkwardness has disappeared and we are all talking as if we have known each other for years. Ishveen is so easy to talk to and we instantly feel really comfortable, we start opening up about ourselves as does Ishveen. I even confessed my scarf dance to her and show her my crazy pictures which she approves of. It turns out Ishveen also has a slightly crazy side. To briefly describe Ishveen, she is in her twenties, born and raised in Delhi. Whilst she is young, she is really intelligent and very hard working, she wants to build her career, I find her look on life and her focus admirable. I just wish that I had that drive when I was her age, this determination came to me quite a bit later in life. My motto back then was play harder and then work hard…eventually! The best part of Ishveen is her sense of humour which is very similar to ours, after a few more drinks the witty side to her comes out. In this one evening the three of us already know a great friendship is building. How could it not, Ishveen is very cool. As the evening goes on, Dipali is still working on her goal of finishing the Midori challenge, it also hit us that we are the only ones left in the bar! Well, us three and Bhramjot. Who is Bhramjot? I hear you ask. He is the unfortunate soul working at the bar we are in. I am assuming he cannot clock off for the evening until the last guest leaves, we haven’t realised the time, sorry Bhramjot. What’s more, in all this bonding and catching up we have forgotten to eat! Poor Bhramjot now has to arrange our food order. He is extremely polite and helpful however, I do feel sorry that we’ve kept him back so late. We decide to order a few light Indian savoury snacks; at this time of night we are not really in the mood to have a three course meal. We discuss our plan for the following day which will start with a show around of the Udaivilas followed by a tour of the city from 11am.
After our food and many drinks, we make our way back to the Udaivilas, this time we have decided to take the walk back as it’s a pleasant evening. In reaching the hotel we decide to call it a night and agree to meet for breakfast.