Trip Start Jan 26, 2007
92Trip End Feb 06, 2008
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It's called one of the most romantic cities in Rajasthan. There is a lake, I think man-made, with two separate palaces floating majestically. There is a huge fort on the shore of the lake, a compilation of many different constructions that amalgamate together to form a somewhat unified golden block of spires and such. The fort was built over the course of a number of years - maybe centuries, even, I think.
In the distance, dramatically perched on top of a spire of a hill, is a golden fortress called the Monsoon Palace
Does any of this sound familiar? Are you a James Bond fan?
Octopussy, the film, basically used Udaipur as its' "India" inspiration. And a whole lot of it really is right here. The Lake Palace serves as Bond's hotel and casino, the Monsoon Palace really is just that, and the Jagmandir Island palace serves as Octopussy's own lavish hideout.
Of course, being a Hollywood production (or at least a movie), most of the scenes from inside these places aren't anywhere near what they look like in reality. But their exteriors are all true to form.
So I hung out here for two days, one night, ate Indian food, saw the sights and stuff.
The best thing I did, the best few hours here that I spent, was going up to the Monsoon Palace for sunset last night. You can hire a rickshaw to take you there and back for around $4
I was wrong. As soon as I had gave him the go-ahead, I was blasted with the first beats of 50 Cent's "In The Club." Boom. We were straight bangin' down streets past cows, motorbikes, and other rickshaws. After that came some Shakira and it didn't stop. I was really trying not to laugh and also I was having an amazing time.
As a sidenote, the "cows in the street" thing, by the way, is totally true. There are cows standing or sitting in the street, and rickshaws/motorbikes whizz right up to them and basically nearly hit them. The cows are barely cognizant enough to move their moon-eyed heads out of the way before getting thwacked.
So 50 Cent and I blasted our way through the mean streets of Udaipur up to the Monsoon Palace. A dramatic windy-roaded ascent through lush greenery. Lush because the monsoon season ended about 2 weeks ago so everything is healthy
The palace has gorgeous views in every direction of rugged hills stretching flatly into the distance. The entire thing seemed to be built especially to honor the sunset in the west. The main facade of the palace directly faces the west, a patio lying flat below the palace before a near-cliff drops down to the valley below and mountains behind. I might go for sunset tonight as well.
Oh, and if you were wondering how it was that I could drop all this knowledge on you about 007 and Octopussy, it's because almost every cheap restaurant in the town has a nightly 7pm viewing of the film so you can see that, yes, indeed, Udaipur is basically India in that film. Roger Moore sucks, by the way. The film is bad except for the gorgeous all-female Octopussy cult.
Took a lake cruise today, and got to visit the Jagmandir Island. Sadly, no sexy fightin' cult members guarding their matriarch. Just an overpriced restaurant and a bunch of restoration workers. But it was a pretty palace nonetheless. Would have been stunning back in the day. Basically these "pleasure palaces" were used by the kings or warlords as getaways, replete with dormitories for their harem
I go to Jodhpur tonight, another Rajasthan town. Pretty excited about this next one.
As a forewarning for my India travels, and as evidenced in this post, I simply won't have the time or the energy to dive deeply into the history and intricate cultures of this massive country. I'm hoping that blazing lightspeed through a ton of places will slowly reveal parts of it to me. But, as I'm taking the 6-weeks-to-see-tons approach, rather than the sit-and-absorb approach, much of what I see and talk about will be cursory. Sorry. But not really.