Visiting the floating palaces of Udaipur.
Nov 12th. Phew - I know you have heard it again and again, but hey, it keeps happening! Another early start at 6am when we headed out to catch our bus to Udaipur. Bit of a long one as we arrived into town around 3pm that afternoon. Settled into our lovely rooms at the guest house (has a really long name hence I cant remember it! but it did have the sweetest owner; an ex Army Colonel..who we later found out wasn't quite so sweet..but more on that later!) A bunch of us then headed out to the Taj restaurant down the street for a wee snack. Met the nicest family who ran the place, and their children; Jumed and his sister Ariba (yup, that is her name folks, bit of a Spanish influence maybe?). Anyway we had such fun with them; Jumed drew out a fantastic overview of a football field, showing me how if India and Scotland played, India would beat us! And then the same with cricket! Ariba happily danced around us showing off her new coat and her mums high heels, which she wore with great class! (esp. being 6 years old!). We later saw them both all dressed up to go to their cousins birthday party. They looked so cute in their going out clothes (Jumed's was a little suit and tie..he loved wearing it he told us, and it looked so good on him; a wee man at age 11!). Definitely two of the cutest children I have met to date....and you know I've met alot of cute children along the way!
Pottered around town a bit and decided we would walk to Sunset Point next to Lake Picholo to see....yes, you guessed it, the famous sunset. Hmnmn....usually when asking directions, tuk tuk drivers will tell you where you want to go is far, far away to get a hire obviously! Unfortunately I probably should have listened to this guy who said "that's quite a walk madam; at least 2km or more!". Well, he was right, and as we sprinted (practically!) to the shore line, we just managed to squeeze in the stunning sunset - so all was worth it!! Thought about taking a camel ride back to the hotel.. nah just kidding!
Back to meet up with everyone, then the gang headed out for dinner to a beautiful lakeside restaurant, which of course was showing Octopussy, the famous James Bond movie, filmed here in Udaipur (that every single restaurant in town shows most evenings!). A gorgeous night, and as we chatted away, we realised there were tons of things planned for our time here - from cooking classes, to yoga, tons of shopping, dance recitals and of course the obligatory lake boat rides - it'll be all go here, definitely!
Nov 13th. Up today for our morning orientation of the city with Mahindra, our jolly rep! Udaipur is famous for many things, one of the most important being Lake Pichola, from which the city derives its centuries old reputation as Rajasthan's most romantic city.....(hence the boat ride later). But first, we visited the Rajput City Palace - wow wow wow! Just incredible and so beautiful, and definitely lives up to being one of the finest buildings of its kind in Asia. I know some things get a bit old after you have seen a ton of them, but in Rajasthan there are just so many amazing, beautiful, well preserved buildings from India's rich past, you really can't get tired of seeing them and learning how life used to be for the Maharajahs and their families.. not forgetting about the poor wee folks who had to look after them all! Anyway, after our toddle around here it was off for some serious mid morning pastry time at the Edelweiss Bakery - ahhhh heaven! Just what the doctor ordered! Before I forget, the Colonel. Ex- Indian Army with a plethora (and I mean LOADS) of photos of himself in his uniform all over the guest house. A young boy worked there for him - probably 15 or 16 yrs old I think. At first we thought he was part of the family, but then coming home to see him sleeping on a mat on the stairs that led down to the basement, and after him constantly whispering to us did we have any foreign coins cos he didnt get paid much, made us think "hmmnnn this Colonel isn't quite so nice after all". Oh yes that and coming home of an afternoon to see the Colonel, reading his newspaper, completely nonchalantly, smiling at us, with a huge red ribbon tied around his face! How strange we thought at first. Did he have a bleeding nose or toothache perhaps? But no, of course not! It was a giant moustache curling ribbon, pulled so tight it made the rest of his face look like a squished melon.. but hey, that was some moustache! So sorry I don't have a pic to share with you!!! I mean a big curly moustache doesn't make a bad man....but he was definitly a shady character that guy!!! And the moustache didnt help!
Then off to visit the Jagdish Temple, another bustling temple, always a hive of activity, this one being dedicated to Lord Jagannath, an aspect of Vishnu (so much to learn about the religions in India...). After this moment or two of serenity, we decided as it was such a gorgeous day, we should jump aboard ship and enjoy a stunning boat ride around Lake Pichola. Our little boat took us all around the famous Lake Pichola, with its two exclusive islands. Sitting on the boat, looking out at the gorgeous buildings around us, hotels topped with ivory domes on one island, arches of private palaces on another; we could see why this would be such a romantic place to be (and apparantly very expensive too if you stayed at one of these exclusive hotels!). So lovely.. and very relaxing! Check out my tour mates giving me all they've got in this silly pic on board!
After this exhausting trip (haha!) it was off to potter around the tightly wound streets of the old city, from the clock tower to the fab shops; it is just such a chilled out town and lots of fun. Then it was back to the hotel to meet up for our Indian cookery course - quite funny as literally all of us had decided to undertake this fun activity! 4 hours and 6 courses later, we all agreed what a great evening it had been - even if our cooking expert was a tad on the ascerbic side "Puhleease, just for once can someone not ask the difference between paneer and saag" he screamed at me!!! Apparantly, these are two very common, and interchangeable names for plain ole' cottage cheese! He just says paneer is the correct one but us silly tourists continue to call it saag, which is beyond him! Hmmm... me thinks Mr.Smarty Pants needs to calm his pants about his bloomin' cottage cheese! So yes, he was a bit over the top, but hey, it didnt detract from the fabby food or the great night, i have to say! See me looking so serious while cooking -that's cos i had just gotten into trouble yet again from Mr. Smarty Pants!
Decided after all this, we would head off to one of the town's slightly more salubrious joints for a end of evening drinkie poo! Sat and looked out over the water, agreeing with most of the travel books which say Udaipur is one of the most romantic cities in India. It really is very beautiful, especially at night with the water and floating palaces lit up; everything looks so magical!
Nov 14th. The girls decided we would all stretch our weary limbs this morning with a yoga class, so that's what we did. Thoroughly enjoyed ourselves then spent most of the day pottering around the shops again (way too many fab things to buy here i have to say - a shoppers paradise!). More chilling out at our favourite bakery, Edelweiss then more pottering around. Had our nails painted by a local miniature silk painter (its one of the many things Udaipur is famous for - the miniature silk painting not the nail art!). But don't they look amazing.. and they were totally done free hand by a guy with the worlds tiniest wee paint brush. Incredible! We also met a really interesting man called Lola, who designs and produces his own jewellery (he too used to be a miniature silk painter but decided to branch out and make his own fabby stuff). We bought gorgeous hand made silver pendants with tiny blue peacocks painted on them! Really intricate work and so beautiful! A lovely man, and like everywhere in India, you end up sitting down, chatting away to folks, having about 6 cups of masala chai.. where does the day go?
Anyway, we had to rush off as we were meeting some of the gang at the beautiful Sunset Terrace Bar inside the City Palace (pretty posh I'll have you know!) for some early evening aperitifs before heading out to a dance recital in another of the museums in town. Sitting on the terrace, which overlooked the lake and watching the sun setting, with luscious pinks and reds falling, well, it was just spellbinding. Everything looks fab in sunset, and I've seen a lot of great sunsets in India, but this was gorgeous! And so civilised as we sat chatting away, living the high life for a change (isn't our waiter lovely!).
Time didnt stand still however, so off we went again.. yup, its all go! The dance recital was down at the other side of the lake, so off we set, a little tipsy but still somewhat solid footed, thank goodness (as there are lots of cobbled roads in Udaipur centre!). The dancing was a representation of many of the local dances and music of Udaipur and of Rajasthan - and it was incredible. The venue was fantastic - an outdoor stage with us sitting on comfy big cushions all around the performers; the sun had set and it was dark apart from the lights on the dancers - and wow, what dancers. The first dance had three women dancing with over 30 different metal cymbals attached to their arms, legs, shoulders and heads! Amazing! The second dance routine included two women dancing - pretty energetically - with fire buckets (for want of a more lyrical description of the pots with flames coming out of them!) on their heads! Then we had the traditional dance of purity that was originally undertaken at family parties - the dresses were gorgeous; don't know how these women weren't roasting in all those layers! Lastly - and I have to admit - most impressive - was the lady who danced with pots on her head lots of pots! In fact, she ended up with 10 - and some of them were huge - AND she danced through broken glass and on a sliding board - all with those pots still on! She was an older lady too, which was all the more fab that she had been picked for her ability and skill, and not kicked out to pasture as we know older women, here in the great ole' western world often are, for the skinnier, younger, hipper version!!! Really a fantastic evening full of colour, and beauty and I loved it!
Off home to pack as we leave early tomorrow morning for our next stop - Jojowar; a desert destination in a wee village in the middle of nowhere. Hmmn...looking forward to that but can definitely saw that my time spent here in the beautiful city of Udaipur, with its romantic, floating palaces, has been just brilliant! Love this place and think it might be one of my fave places in India - up till now at least! Lets see what's next tho'!!!!