The Relaxing Tentacles of Udaipur

Trip Start Jan 08, 2005
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Thursday, January 26, 2006

We were here for 7 days. When we first arrived and relaxed all day I thought, 'It's true what they've been saying. Udaipur really is relaxing and quiet.' But look at the note I made after about the fourth night (I'd forgotten I'd written it!)............

........It's quarter past 11 at night and they're still bloody singing (shouting) with microphones. Will it ever bloody stop. How many nights is it now?........

Anyway - that aside, Udaipur really is relaxing but not as quiet as I had initially thought. We were fooled into thinking it was a quiet place because on our first day there was a public holiday. The streets were deserted. Hardly any shops open. Even the howling stray hounds had taken time out.

We found a right bargain place to stay on the lake front that had a courtyard in the sun, a great restaurant with a fantastic view of the lake and surrounding hills, and a smaller private terrace where I could hang my freshly hand-scrubbed clothes.

We did nothing the first few days, just lounged around at the place next door (their breakfast menu was better) chatting to these really sweet English girls on their gap year. David nick-named them the Gap Year Girls. They did say it was easy to get stuck there, and they were right. We lolled around drinking chai, talking to various travellers, taking in the views and listening the women and girls thumping their washing at the ghats. Completely marvellous.

The 007 film Octopussy was partly filmed here so we watched that after dinner one night. It's a terrible film, so bad it's funny! They flew over the Taj, got off a boat in Varanasi and into a rickshaw in Udaipur! All in the space of about 3 minutes! Much, much faster than we'd done it!

We went to City Palace one day and didn't pay the rip-off camera fee but took photos anyway. Living life on the edge there, hey? There are some beautiful jali screens and mosaic peacocks. The mirror work is always lovely too see. The palace also houses the world's largest collection of Ganesh models. There is even an entire cricket team!

Next day we decided to be more energetic and ventured out to see the Jain temples at Ranakpur where some of the temples date back to the 16th century. The bus ride took a couple of hours but is well worth it as the scenery is stunning. Windy but wonderful. The temples are free although if you want to take photos you need to get a camera ticket. We had a Jain thali for lunch which was sooooo cheap. Only 17 rupees for a refillable. We were stuffed! The dishes were also slightly different than the normal thali fare too. Very tasty! The white marble complex is one of the largest in India and the most important to Jains. The cool marble interiors were a welcome relief after the incredible heat of outside, but no plastic bottles of water are allowed within so we had to leave ours sitting outside in the sun with our shoes. No leather goods either. It's a lovely remote day trip to make.

It was so beautiful sitting at our hotel restaurant on the lake front watching the sun go down. It could even be described as romantic, the changing colours of the water, fairy lights appearing all along the shoreline, the exotic, very out of our budget Lake Palace Hotel seemingly floating in the middle of the water. Then when the sun had finally disappeared below the horizon, candles were lit and the city seemed to let out a relieved sigh. Another day was over.

The Maharaja still lives in part of the City Palace Complex. Parts of it have also been converted into hotels, one of which James Bond stayed in for the film Octopussy, Shiv Newas. This too was far beyond our budget but we did wander round Fateh Prakash Palace Hotel where you can have an over-priced Afternoon Tea in the elegantly decorated dining room which, of course, I wanted to do, so we booked a place for the next afternoon.

Another popular touristy thing to do in Udaipur is to take a short cruise round Lake Pichola, so we did. I love boats. We had a completely different view of the city and City Palace Complex. I had brought my binoculars and tried to guest spot in the Lake Palace Hotel but we could only make out a few bodies and thought they must have been staff. We made the mistake of paying extra to get off on Jagmandir Island Palace. There is an expensive restaurant there and a pretty sculpted garden but it really wasn't worth it. It's just as easily seen from the boat because it's basically an open columned marbled area with a small building on it, of which you can only go into one room.

Next afternoon we donned our cleanest rags and made our way to the Fateh Prakesh Palace Hotel for Afternoon Tea but much to my disgust they wanted to charge us an extra 25 rupees each just to walk 2 minutes up the driveway to the hotel. I know it's a pitiful amount but it's the principle of the matter. I was going to spend money in the hotel so I'd be damned if I was going to handover anymore cash to the Maharaja! I made the hugest fuss at the entry gate and told them I wouldn't pay and to cancel my booking. The gatekeeper handed me the phone. Three men later, David and I were making our way up the driveway and into the dining room ticket free. Pathetic I know but sometimes you have to fight for what you believe in whatever the cost. I knew the tea would be an absolute rip anyway so I thought I'd try to recoup even a tiny percentage of the cost.

I did feel special and indulgent sitting there in the plush surrounds being waited on and listening to the gentle plucking of the traditional string instruments of the two man band. I even put mascara on for the event!! I'm so glad we went but for $10USD you don't get much. We stayed and stared out over the lake for ages.

There was an English drama company performing a slightly altered version of Shakespeare's 'A Mid Summer's Night Dream' which I thought would be great. It was being performed outside in the courtyard of the Zenana Mahal part of the City Palace Complex. The costumes and a little of the dialogue had been adjusted slightly to suit the surroundings. Such a lovely way to spend our last evening in Udaipur.

Our days had glided by in Udaipur. We'd done some huge walks, taken in some incredible temples, met interesting fellow travellers and enjoyed relaxing by the lake - a lot. But it was time for Udaipur to release us from her gentle embrace. The rest of India was calling.

The only stain on my Udaipur memory is the ass touching man that David punched in the arm. Lots of men came running out of their shops to see what the commotion was and told David to punch this guy in the head, but he didn't. The offender wasn't even phased and kept right on eating his pakoras. Dirty little git. But you get that.
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