maharajah of the road

Day 5

Maharajah of the road

Muscle cars


Day 5

- Text +

From Dungarpur to Udaipur

Udaipur, also known as the City of Lakes is the historic capital of the former kingdom of Mewar, in Rajasthan state of India.

The founder of Udaipur was Rana Udai Singh. It is known for its Rajput-era palaces. Particularly famous is the Lake Palace, which covers an entire island in the Pichola Lake. Many of the palaces have been converted into luxury hotels.The climate of Udaipur is tropical with the mercury staying between a maximum of 42.3°C and a minimum of 28.8°C during summers. Winters are a little cold with the maximum temperature rising to 28.8°C and the minimum dipping to 2.5°C. As of 2001 India census, Udaipur had a population of 550,000. Males constitute 53 percent of the population and females 47 percent. Udaipur is well connected to the world through land, rail and air.

Tuesday 20th January 2009

All timings according to Indian Standard Time – IST


Following last night’s excitement, today dawned to a hectic morning. We all got up for breakfast to see the entire hotel bustling with activity! We plan to leave by 10:00am for Udaipur, and everywhere we look you can see bags being taken to the tempo traveler. Last minute shooting at the Udai Bilas Palace occupies the production team, while the hospitality is busy ensuring no bags get lost in the melee. We have run to the dining area for a hurried breakfast and are immediately ushered into the convoy of traveling vehicles. Last minute co-ordination leads to a slight delay. So right now, we are sitting in the cars waiting to leave.


Finally we leave! Our convoy of 20 vehicles begins exiting the palace grounds, and it’s a very impressive sight. 9 Ford Mustangs drive between the various production vehicles and everyone around is ducking for cover, to escape the mini sandstorm the Mustangs kick up! Small convoys are quite a handful for the people organizing them, and a convoy of 20 vehicles is utter madness! Philippe, our production coordinator is having a tough time guiding all the vehicles and their various drivers out of the city, and on to the highway, without losing anyone along the way. Small things like taking a different gate at the tollbooths causes no end of confusion. We are amazed at the amount of patience and coordination this journey involves.


We have entered the beautiful lake city of Udaipur, home of the Maharana (same as Maharaja) of Udaipur. Udaipur, unlike Dungarpur, is a thriving metropolis. It is a classic case of contrasting social values. Women riding mopeds mingle seamlessly with saree (traditional Indian wrapper of colorful cloth) clad women with their faces covered by the ghunghat (head covering). We are staying in the fascinating Shiv Nivas Palace hotel. A part of the hotel is the current residence of the Maharana, while the rest of it has been opened to the public, and modified to host guests who wish to experience a flavor of classic royalty. Udaipur is the home of the Maharana of Mewar (which is one of the 4 major communities in the state of Rajasthan) one of oldest surviving royal dynasties in the world. Tracing their history back to over 1500 years, the Maharanas of Mewar have a rich and formidable history to look back upon.


We seem to have lost some of the Mustangs on the way into the city! The Blue Eleanor with the charcoal stripes, Tom I, Tom II, and the 67’ GT500 Britney Blue (no no, not Britney Spears!) got lost in the maze of little roads and side passages that we have to take to get to the heart of the city, and finally to the Shiv Niwas Palace. The production vehicles have decided to move on to the Palace, and leave one if the vehicles behind to usher the lost vehicles back to the Palace.


All the cars have managed to make it back to the Palace. We all regroup near the entrance and walk into the reception area. Wow! The hotel has really gone all out to welcome the guests. There are traditionally dressed women with garlands, and lots and lots of Marigold petals all around. It’s a beautiful example of the intricate traditional Indian welcoming ritual and we are al very touched.


We have all received our keys and the welcome package from the hospitality staff, and we are heading to our rooms to drop off our bags and freshen up to go down to the swimming pool area for lunch. Our rooms are magnificent. We all feel a little royal in this setting! The rooms overlooking the Lake Palace are fantastic. The evening light reflected off the placid waters of Lake Pitchola leaves us speechless… The common feeling is to maybe miss lunch and just sit in our rooms… In a magnificent display of will power, we all manage to pull ourselves from our beautiful rooms, and congregate at the lawn for the lunch. And what a good decision that was! The hotel staff has whipped up a lovely lunch for us, keeping in mind the foreign palette. So we have a progressive mix of traditional Rajasthani cuisine and continental food (soups, salads, etc) for lunch today. Everyone seems quite impressed with the chef’s skill at crafting a lunch menu to sit both Indian and foreign tastes alike.


We are now leaving for the Maharana’s Automobile Museum. The Maharana has an enviable collection of vintage fords, Rolls Royce’s, and jeeps from as far back as 1935! Understandably we are all very excited to see all of this.


We have all reached the Museum. The camera team enters before us to film for the documentary, and the rest of us walk around the premises and marvel at the fantastic specimen around us. There are modified American jeeps from the World War era, push carts, and horse drawn carriages over hundreds of years old. As we are walking around the premises the filming crew return, and we are informed that we may all enter now.


WOW We are all in awe after seeing the Maharana’s superb collection. Satisfied with the display of vintage vehicles, we all decide to head back to hotel for a brief one hour rest, to meet at 07:00pm to head out to the Lake Palace Hotel for Dinner.


We have all congregated at the palace docks to head out to the Lake Palace hotel. The Lake Palace hotel is a magnificent example of the engineering skills and the aesthetic finesse of the Rajputs (the local ruling clan belong to the Rajput community; known for their strength and valor on the battlefield). Built in the late 18th century, at around the same time as the Lake Pitchola (an artificial lake), the palace is a building standing in the middle of the lake. Evening having set, both the Shiv Nivas Palace and the Lake Palace have been lit up, and resemble intricate light paintings. The sight is breathtaking! Words fail us as we marvel at the delicate beauty o f the sight that meets our eyes. Enchanting… like in a fairytale.


We split up into two groups at the docks, one group took the gondola like boats to film the beautiful sight of the two lit up palaces. Nicole (one of our anchorwomen) guides us through a famous local legend surrounding the Pitchola lake and the Royal family. 6-7 generations ago, a woman claimed to be able to walk the tight rope from one end of the Pitchola Lake to the other. Hearing this, the then Maharana was very impressed, and promised to give the woman half his kingdom if she was able to furnish her claim. So a rope was tied, end-to-end, and he woman began walking across it. As she reached the halfway mark, and fearing that the woman might live up to her claim, the rope was cut off, and the woman drowned in the all-absorbing waters of Lake Pitchola. With her dying breath she cursed the royal family; saying that they would never again have an heir to the throne. Quite a story huh? What’s even more amazing is that ever since, the royal family has never had another biological heir to the throne. All the heirs to the throne have been adopted. Bone chilling isn’t it?

09:45pm Finishing with the filming, we head to the terrace of the Lake Palace hotel, to join the guests for dinner. Keeping aside cars, mustangs, and other such topics, everyone decided to take a break and just absorb the fantastic ambience. A fairytale setting, the guests all discussed their experiences in India, some visiting for the first time, others stalwarts who were exploring India at this scale and detail for the first time. The magnitude of cultural diversity, and the beauty of the Indian subcontinent have had a very moving effect on everyone, and almost all the guests express a strong desire to return to this fascinating country again. All in all the stuff of good dreams, and in a fairy tale setting to boot. A charming end to another day on the road. So let us end today’s experiences on the picture postcard image of the two palaces, lit up, reflected over the placid waters of the Lake Pitchola, and rest for today. For tomorrow is another day, and another adventure…

Maharajah of the Road

equus world