Last weekend we went to Udaipur (in Rajasthan), and while it wasn't the most magical place I've ever been, it definitely beats the pants off Baroda (that's assuming, of course, that Baroda would wear pants, and if I had to hypothesize, I'd say it definitely wouldn't). Udaipur is 350 kilometers away (about 217 miles), but of course it takes six hours by car to get there. We hired a refinery driver, who brought his friend along for the ride in his tiny hatchback, which made for a very cramped ride. The only really notable thing that happened on the way was when we stopped to pay the "border tax". The two guys got out of the car and proceeded to lock us in. Strange, we thought, but nothing too alarming about that - until a group of Rajasthani men came up and started banging on the windows and lifting up the door handles asking for money. Still, we weren't too worried, until another man came up and showed me his photo album full of naked men dancing and worshipping. Apparently this is in relation to some Rajasthani festival, but it is still a little off-putting to look at naked men in a photo album at a truck stop on the side of the road in India. That said, I've seen worse.
Two hours after the naked-men picture book, we reached our destination. Udaipur is billed as "the most romantic city in India", as well as "the Venice of the East", - both claims I find to be equal parts ridiculous and sad. However, sometimes, if you are in just the right frame of mind, the way the sunlight glints off the scorpion chew wrappers, the smell of urine evaporating off the sidewalk, and the huge fudgey piles of steaming cow feces can make you feel quite enchanted indeed.
But I joke, I joke. After you get past the fact that Udaipur is still India (and it is, very much so), it's actually a really nice city. There is a lot of really great interesting architecture, some beautifully-carved Hindu temples, and who could forget the most famous sight of all - the Lake Palace Hotel.
Carvings on Jagdish Temple, the "most famous and most beautiful temple in Udaipur."
For those of you who aren't aware (but why wouldn't you be), the 1983 James Bond classic Octopussy was filmed in Udaipur. (On a side note, that is quite possibly the single worst movie title ever.) Most notable are the scenes from the "floating" Lake Palace, which is actually built to cover the entirety of one of the islands in the middle of the Lake Pichola, making it look as though it floats. While we didn't ferry over to the palace (you had to either have a room or pay $80 a pop to eat at the restaurant), we did have a marvelous view of it from our hotel room, and pretty much all the rooftop restaurants have a view of it as well. It's that famous.
View of the Lake Palace from the City Palace museum.
The highlight of the trip had to have been sitting out on the Sunset Terrace bar, which overlooks the Lake Palace. It was a beautiful view, especially at sunset, but mostly we liked it because we got to drink beer. In public. Never mind that it was Kingfisher-hangover-in-a-bottle. It was beer.
Never before has a bottle of Kingfisher looked so glorious.
I think Morgan Freeman (as Red in The Shawshank Redemption) said it best: "We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men." Of course the sunset view wasn't too shabby either:
Lake Palace just after sunset.
The palace on Jagmandir Island. We went there on Sunday... nothing much there, but nice views of the city.
We also saw some traditional dance performances at one of the museums on Saturday night. It was really entertaining, and we have some great videos, but I don't know how to upload them, so you'll have to be content with pictures. Soooorrrry.
One of the traditional Rajasthani dances. Not to rub it in, but the videos are so much better.
Ten pots. Ten. This woman was a monster.
Because Udaipur is the "City of Lakes", its known for its multiple dhobi (clothes washing) ghats all along the lake. We saw lots of people washing clothes (and themselves) in the lake, especially on Sunday. Of course everyone knows Sunday is washing day. While I'd probably get offended if I saw someone washing their clothes or bathing in a lake in the middle of a huge city in the states (or China... yes, I remember getting all bent out of shape about this in Dagang), in India it just seems smart. The poverty here is so great that it seems natural for people to use this huge water source to keep clean. It's much better than the alternative (bathing in the puddles of Baroda during monsoon season).
This ghat was just outside our hotel. We didn't want to get too close for pictures for fear of being perverted, so we took this from a boat.
I suppose that about does it for our Udaipur trip. It was fun while it lasted, but after the six hour ride back to Baroda on Sunday, I think both Matt and I agreed it might have been just a little too far for a weekend trip. I have literally hundreds of other pictures (each one better than the last, of course) from Udaipur, but I'm tired. I'll leave you with just one more - the obligatory hand-held Matt and Cait shot.
Us in a rooftop restaurant. Soooo romantic. Please note how long and bushy Matt's beard was. He finally shaved it yesterday (because they finally put VGO in the unit. It only took five weeks).