Capturing moments that will stay with us forever: Udaipur

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August 17th 2015
Published: November 7th 2015
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Udaipur, its former nickname - the white city (although now more of a mix of yellow and blue homes), is only a couple hours away from Chittaugarh. A more laid back and maybe more touristy city than other places we've visited, but somehow still retaining its charm. Udaipur is probably one of the most beautiful places we've visited so far in India, with the huge lake Pichola complete with former palace (now a hotel) sat right in the middle of it. In the distance are copious amounts of rolling hills, it really makes for some stunning views from any of the many restaurant/hostel roof terraces.

After confirming in the morning that we could catch a local bus from Chittorgarh to Udaipur, it was a no brainer. We were packed and out the door into the heavy rain and on the bus in no time. Other than the fort there wasn't much we wanted to see in Chittorgarh and plus with our not so nice room we wanted out of there! 2.5 hours later on our rickety bus we were in Udaipur. The roads were cleaner and there were a lot of eateries and bakeries dotted around. The relaxed vibe immediately hit us. We actually seen more westerners here in the first 30mins than we had done in our last 2 towns put together! Even if it still is low season. What we noticed as well was that Udaipur was densely populated. People and animals everywhere. Do we say this about every place? I think we do. Given that the alleyways here were among some of the narrowest alleyways we had walked, you had to be careful as people rushed passed you, drove too close or we had to find another way as the cows just would not move and there was not enough room to pass them by. All a part of the adventure I guess. The cows here were really well fed you would always see the locals feeding them chapatti. Some of them looked so well fed they even looked worked out. Don’t think we have seen cows with so much muscle before.

P always felt for the Donkeys however who were always being marched around with far too much weight balanced over their backs. You would always hear them squeal as they walked trying to keep up the pace as they all were attached to each other.

We decided to have lunch at a restaurant we passed with amazing roof top views of the town and lake. Chris wanted to see how the Indian version of korma tasted against the UK version we have, and so ordered the Navaratan korma whilst P tried the vegetable kolapuri (a spicy curry based dish with potato cabbage, tomato, dahl, green peas, green bell peppers). Both were amazing! Chris's came with a stuffed dosa (pancake) cone filled with dry fruits, covered in a sweet coconut sauce. Nom

As we were finishing our meal, we were invited over by an indian man who was having lunch with a fellow mancunian (a person from Manchester). Intending only to sit with them for 5mins or as we were both tired, we ended up being there for most of the afternoon. Manu (the indian guy) insisted on Chris having a beer with them free of charge. Unable to turn down free beer, Chris accepted. Eventually we were able to pull ourselves free, leave and rest. Tipsy Manu would have kept us there all night if he could. We only wanted to come out for a quick lunch and return to shower.

After some much needed rest we walked around the town in the early evening, visiting a couple of the ghats (steps leading into a body of water) and watching the sun go down casting beautiful oranges across the sky. The town seems to come alive at night too, with many people relaxing and socialising at the ghats under the street lights. No matter where you go in India however, you will always be approached by a curious Indian wanting to know - "Your good name?", "What country?", "Occupation?" amongst many other questions. If anybody asks us from now on, we're students (it narrows the field of questioning and any indicator of how rich we may or may not be). From our experiences in Delhi we are always suspicious of their motives wondering whether it was some type of scam. There's always a shop, a tour or even the offer of something special (marijuana) involved at some point in the conversation. At times we found ourselves being a bit short with some of them. Can we not have a romantic moment alone by the lake without being interrupted? Apparently not here. I guess we should have expected this given the number of tourists here.

One weird moment was when P went out while Chris was sleeping. Bad idea, it was hard to get 5 minutes alone with forced her to be straight talking with many approaching men that she just wanted to walk alone. One shop owner tried to get into some conversation, refusing to go into his shop he said that she could at least shake his hand. Okay. As she did he squeezed really hard on hers and did not let go to the point P said that he was hurting her hand. He replied that he was not pressing hard on it purposefully but was trying to gather her energy. He told her he was a psychic and starting saying lots of things he thought he knew about her like. For instance, he went on a roll that over the past 3 years P has always held a dream to come to India and was overwhelmed that it had now come true. Well not really we only decided last minute on the trip, we didn’t even research it at home beforehand. Then there was fact that P had a life changing moment in 2012 and is now a new person. All this was clearly not true but P agreed to them all in the hope he would let go of her hand that she could not prize lose herself. He said he felt very connected to her and must offer her a full session. In agreeing to this he finally let go of his firm grip of her hand and she finally escaped. Strange encounter.

One evening during our 4 day stay we went to a traditional dance performance at Bagore Ki Haveli. Getting comfy on the floor a couple rows from the front, the compere for the evening introduced a number of 'acts' providing a little background before each one. Each time, a small group of women came on stage and performed a dance to music created by 3 men at the side with traditional Indian instruments. The performances themselves were pretty impressive, we watched women dressed in beautifully coloured sari's spin non stop to the point we felt dizzy just watching, whilst there skirts and head scarfs floated so elegantly behind them. There was also an act where we seen them sat on the floor jingling their many arm and ankle bangles to the music. However the most impressive for Chris was the woman who ran around the stage, squatted on the floor to get a note from a platter and stomped on broken glass, all whilst balancing 8/9 bowls on her head! Very impressive. P however felt horrified that this women thought it was necessary to risk herself (stamping on Glass, with a disappearing neck with all that weight on it) all for the purpose of entertainment and so looked shamefully at Chris as he cheered her on. Apart from our differences with the last act, we both really enjoyed the whole night and fell in love with the sounds of traditional instruments here.

During our stay in Udaipur on our way to the palace we were approached by a group of young school children. We got talking to them briefly, surprised at how well their English was at such a young age. They were all so sweet and even asked P to take their picture. We both love our brief encounters with these friendly excitable kids.

One child who stood out to us was a little girl who appeared homeless. We saw her searching in bins for food and so after taking a picture we gave her a little bit of money. (see picture above) We know people say you should not do this and we usually don’t but she was clearly hungry and was trying to feed herself, not evening hassling anybody for food. Soo young too. It really broke our hearts. We did try to speak to her but with our terrible Hindi and her lack of English this was impossible.

Before visiting the famed palace we stopped by the Jagdish hindu temple briefly to have a walk around. Walking up the stairs, we could hear the sounds of singing and drums being played from inside the temple, it really added to the whole experience as we gazed up at the intricately carved towering temple. By the time we got up the stairs however, the music had finished and the congregation had completely dispersed. We really enjoyed strolling the grounds here appreciating the impressive carvings and watching the little squirrel/chipmunk like creatures nibbling away on nuts in the corners of the wall carvings.

Just around the corner is the city palace, built by Rana Udai Singh II in 1559 and is the 2nd largest in India. One of the first things we noticed about it as we were trying to take a picture, was that it wasn't symmetrical. Taj Mahal has set the bar for us now. We later learned from our guide, that the palace had grown over the many years as it had been extended by the many ruling Maharanas' (kings). Thus not only making it asymmetrical but also the biggest in North India. We hired a guide who led us through the palace museum explaining how they still have a king but he has no real power any more. The current king, described as a 'social worker' but sounded more of a philanthropist seemed to do a lot of charitable work for the people in the city. We also learned that Udaipurs monarchy were never ruled by the British - any king known as Maharaja was ruled by the British (apparently). Maharanas the other hand are were not. Now we knew the difference between the 2.

We walked through many galleries; some contained photos of the current family whilst others were filled with paintings depicting stories of past kings and battles. We passed bedrooms, courtyards and even a full grown tree on the 4th floor - apparently the palace was built over a mountain. The tour was really interesting and our guide was very informative, unlike our rushed experience in Bundi. We refused to pay the camera fee here and so had to leave our camera behind. Great palace though certainly worth a tour too.

The hostel we were staying in was very social and so had los of nice interactions with fellow travellers. P also took up the opportunity to do Yoga. This Yoga is getting addictive now as she seizes every opportunity to participate in it. It was a good session although the Yoga instructor was more interested in getting us into the weirdest stretches she has done so far.

While at the hostel we also took part in a cooking class one afternoon. Unlike the popular classes rated on trip advisor we were only able to watch and take notes (recipe & method), only really getting hands on apart with the chapatti making. That was a little disappointment just watching and writing notes but it was still an enjoyable afternoon though as we sat down (with 2 other British participants) and tucked into all this 'new' indian food. In total we 'made' around 10 dishes (4 were different types of chapatti) including dhal fry, stuffed parantha and a fruit curry to name a few. It was so delicious and filling. We'll be definitely be attempting some of these recipes when we get back home.

The following day we took a cable car upto the viewpoint which overlooks the whole city. The cable ride is only about 5mins up but also offered some stunning views on the ascent. At the top of the hill we could see the huge lakes on either side of the city, the main palace, the summer palace/hotel in the lake and the rest of the city behind us. We didn't stay up there for too long as the sun was way too hot for us, so after taking some pics we quickly headed back into town.

On our way back into town we passed a clothes shop, Chris popped in to see if they sold any cheap t-shirts. He ended up coming out with an order for a traditional mens long shirt and pants (tailored to fit) for 600 rupees. Not bad at all plus they weren't too pushy. Sometimes shopping in India can be overwhelming, especially in the high tourist areas; sellers from every shop doorway beckoning you to come and have a look at their wares. Even when we say we don't want/need any art work (or whatever they are selling), they still insist you come in for just a look "looking looking", before they put on the hard sell. P also bought a Indian style long sleeve pink top and a few pairs of plain Alibaba pants to match. Both impressed with our purchases we left we huge smiles.

One thing we wanted to do whilst here was go on an hour sunset cruise around the lake. Unfortunately because its monsoon season and the clouds obscure views this option wasn't really available. They only offered 20min boat rides around the lake. Despite not being able to see the sunset, the boat ride was still pretty good as we cruised around the old lake palace; the very same one featured in the James Bond film 'Octupussy'. We passed ghats with locals washing their clothes in the river, rode alongside the abandoned looking Jag Mandir island and were treated to stunning views of the current palace from the lake. Udaipur truly is a picturesque city and even though can be very busy at times you can always find some sort of calm within the chaos.

One of the ways this was possible for us both was just enjoying the roof top living. Watching children play and women cooking the evening’s meal or gaze down at the city below. It provided such a peace and inner calm something we began to enjoy more and more as we travelled through Rajasthan. We took lots of pictures up there too enjoying our discrete elevated location, catching people in their moment. Priceless.

For our final evening we went to meet a shop keeper who had invited us earlier to her new 'restaurant' on the top of her terrace. One thing we noticed in India was that in all the restaurants we had ate at, it was only men that worked there. The women seemed to stay at home and cook for the family. So we were looking forward to sampling some traditional home-made cooking. We were served thali dishes with endless chapatis, rice and a selection of vegetables (some we'd never even heard of). The food was really good and didn't taste like any other thali we'd devoured prior. We were stuffed. We spoke with the lady afterward who said she'd only very recently got permission to open up her restaurant for business, the only other people who'd ate there was a couple from Germany. We told her the food was amazing and she should really push her restaurant as traditional home cooking. With a train to catch that evening, we couldn't stay long so wished her luck and hurried back to ours to grab our bags.

As tasty as the food was, we wasn't sure how she'd prepped it...we both fell ill the following day! So much for eating like a local.

Transportation: From Udaipor to Jodpur a night bus taking around 6 hours 450 Indian rupees

Hostel; Nukkad Hostel. Okay if it were not for the fact that your rickshaw cannot go straight to the door when they are these wild dogs running about at night.

Additional photos below
Photos: 43, Displayed: 32


Delicious 'home cooked' mealDelicious 'home cooked' meal
Delicious 'home cooked' meal

Unfortunately we think this made us both ill

8th November 2015

Squirrels in Jagdish Temple...
I loved seeing the little guys in your temple photos – I spent so much time watching them that the locals came over to make sure everything was ‘ok’! I was squirming reading about P’s handshake issue…I try not to be rude to touts etc, but I struggled to stay civil when they tried to shake hands with me. It wasn’t until after our Indian trip that a friend told me that she did ‘namaste hands’ when they tried it on her… I so wish I had thought of that too! :)
8th November 2015

Squirrels in Jagdish temple
What a great idea I also wish I would have thought of that too instead of being hand locked with that guy. I will certainly try that next time as would love to go to the north of India. Not on this trip though. Yes we also spent time admiring the squirrels busy at work. Cute little fellas they were.
9th November 2015
Window frame

Love this photo!
The women look so beautiful and colorful in their saris! So glad you got a good guide this time and bought great clothes without a hassle! But yikes, that 'fortune-teller' story was pretty scary. Ren's comment on the 'namaste hands' was brilliant. And I guess there were more tourists here because it was so gorgeous and had boat rides, a cable car and lots of rooftops. Lovely images!
11th November 2015
Window frame

window framed portrait
I do miss seeing these women impeccably dressed in their colourful saris, it simply had us in awe. Saying this, we feel the same at the minute. We are in Cartagena, Colombia and we just love the colour here. Yes I agree, understandably sooner or later these picturesque places start attracting people. Apart from a little hassle (i.e. the gripping fortune teller) we still enjoyed the whole experience of being in Udaipur.
16th November 2015
Protection from the chaos and the sun

Different personalities
Each town has something new to offer, a different pace and personality. That is what makes traveling so wonderful as you never know what is coming next. Even though your cooking class was demonstration only it sounds like a great option. The people and to animals are a recurring theme and we understand. Sorry the rains prevented the harbor cruise but you found all kinds of things to keep you busy.
16th November 2015
Protection from the chaos and the sun

Different personalities
They were very different. Do we mention the animals alot? Guess it really came as a surprise to us seeing so many on the streets of cities and built up towns. Always had us laughing. We loved India and it really was soo different to anywhere we had travelled to so far. Being weary of some friendly strangers was a shame but I guess in these areas known for tourists you are bound to get some characters trying to part you with your cash. Loved Jaisalmer especially our evening was really nice.

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