We took off our shoes and the girls had to put on these colourful smock things (even though we were already completely covered up?). Inside the mosque was beautiful – no one praying then, instead lots of people (mostly Indians) just walking around and taking it in. There was a fantastic view of Old Delhi and I felt an immense sense of calm and happiness as soon as I walked in. After 20 minutes or so, we went back to meet Shiatan, on the way spotting some squirrels, dogs and most notably, a few enormous monkeys casually hanging off the electrical outside. We caught bicycle rickshaws back to the Metro and went back to Connaught Place (where we had tried to go the day before) – had about an hour to walk around, we checked out the underground Palika Bazaar. I bought a Rajasthan guide (I decided my India Rough Guide was too big, left in at home and have been regretting it the whole time we’ve been here) and Sam got a PUMA watch which actually says PAMA. Gotta love knock offs. We also went squirrel hunting again at the nearby park.
The afternoon was free, so six of us decided to go have a look at the Lotus Temple. We successfully navigated three train lines and walked for about fifteen minutes, only to discover literally hundreds of people lined up to get inside! We didn’t have a great deal of time so we just walked around the outside and took some photos. It’s pretty neat – I was surprised at the number of people there as it’s sort of a ‘free temple’ – anyone of any faith can worship there. It’s nice to see that people want to go there, as opposed to just places exclusive to their own religion.
We met back at the hotel, and after a brief adventure to load up on snacks, headed for the train station to catch our overnight train to Udaipur. The train station was pretty tricky to negotiate, but only because of the enormous pack on my back. We were in a 3AC sleeper carriage, with three beds on top of each other on each side – six in total.
We shared the carriage with Genevieve, John, Lauren and for a bit of the night, Shiatan, who told us a bit about his family, his job and most fascinatingly, his wedding, which was only last month. He had only met his wife once before the wedding, which went for 12 days and included 2000 guests! His family is very wealthy, so he was set up with the daughter of a very well off politician from Mumbai. It’s great having an Indian guide who can teach us so much just by talking about himself! We talked and played cards and drank chai (bliss) until about 11.30 before attempting to sleep. No one slept very well at all, not least because the sixth passenger in our carriage was an Indian man who snored like a fog horn.
We arrived in Udaipur this morning at about 8.30 (only an hour late) and caught rickshaws (with five passengers, bags included, in each one!) to our hotel, which is incredibly extravagant and has plenty of hot water!
Had a quick shower to recover from the train and got stuck into the toast again before meeting our local guide for the day and getting in some more rickshaws. Our first stop was Jagdish Temple, a Hindu temple in the middle of Udaipur. This had been my favourite place so far. Our guide told us that in Hindu temples, music is played to enhance and strengthen the prayers. We were lucky enough that men and women in the temple were playing music while we were there. It was magical – I could have stayed there all day. I got such a strong feeling of wanting to be there and be involved.
After the temple, we walked to the City Palace. Shiatan told us there are lots of kings or maharanahs (five I think) in Rajasthan – one in every big city. They don’t have political power, but are still respected by the people. Basically, he told us, this palace is open to the public so the royal family can make heaps of money from it and stay around. We’re seeing a lot of forts and palaces in the next couple of weeks, so I think I’ll let the photos provide a description rather than telling you how beautiful and awesome they are every time. One notable thing about this one though is the miniature art, which Udaipur is famous for.
There were these enormous paintings all around the palace of hundreds of tiny people, animals and buildings in the most amazing detail – kind of like a giant, intricate Where’s Wally. Our guide told us each tiny figure takes seven or eight hours to paint, and in one of the paintings there was 139 people. I bought one of the paintings this afternoon actually, getting the very hesitant lady to drop the price by about 500 rupees and frame it for free – it was still probably more than I should have/could afford to have paid, but trips to a few other shops to see far inferior paintings or equivalent ones for double the price eased my concerns. Going to pick it up this evening after she frames it.
We had lunch at a rooftop café (lots of these here – Udaipur is the best!) overlooking Lake Pichola and the Lake Palace. I had paneer butter masala (cottage cheese in a spiced butter sauce) and garlic naan – delicious! I could definitely be a vegetarian in India. We walked back to the hotel dodging lots of kids finishing school and, finally, what we’ve all been waiting for, cows! Everywhere! I even got head-butted by one – now we’re in India! We also saw, I kid you not, the biggest elephant in the entire world, just casually walking along the street. The photos really do not do this justice at all – it was huge. The elephant we rode in Thailand COULD HAVE RODE THIS ELEPHANT.
We’re having a bit of a rest this afternoon before heading to a rooftop bar with the others (who are proving great company) for dinner, drinks and a screening of Octopussy – a James Bond film which features Udaipur, and has thus been played in restaurants, bars and cafes all over the city every night for the last 20 years! Tomorrow we have a free day, so Sam and I are thinking about going on a bit of a temple tour. The next day we travel to Chandelao, a rural town with, I’m guessing, somewhat limited internet facilities – so Mum’s and Dad’s, don’t panic if you don’t hear from us for a couple of days!
I am writing today's entry from Udaipur or the Lake City, our first stop in the state of Rajasthan. Yesterday we explored a bit more of Delhi with our guide, Shiatan (spelling is almost certainly wrong). After paying 150 rupees for tea and toast at the hotel (an insane rip off by India standards at around $4), we headed back to the magnificent Metro, this time stopping at Chandi Chowk in Old Delhi. Here felt a lot more 'India-y’ than anywhere we’d been the previous day – we walked through lots of little alleyways passing amazing smelling food vendors, women dressed in sparkly colourful saris and little beggar children, who danced around us asking for money, but seemingly having a jolly old time. Our destination was Jama Masjib, or the Friday Mosque, the biggest mosque in India.