Rajasthan was the part of the trip which I was most eagerly anticipating but also the area I was most ignorant about before visiting. It turned out to be one of the most fascinating places I’ve ever been.
Before we arrived in Udaipur I told Nicki that I wasn’t expecting much from the city. For some reason I had convinced myself that it wasn’t going to be any good. As a result, I was a little bit worried that we had wasted a day by committing 2 nights there. Not for the first time, I was completely wrong.
As soon as we arrived I fell in love with Udaipur. There was a magical feel about the place, and an aura of romance around the whole city.
We checked into our hotel, which we later found out to be one of the most famous hotels in the city. We had been sticking to a budget and booked into this hotel thinking it was cheap, only to find out that Rajisthan’s cheap is really cheap. This meant that we had a beautiful hotel in a wonderful location beside the city’s most famous lake. The hotel was reminiscent of the one in Hotel Marrigold and we were convinced it was filmed there, only to find out it was actually filmed 30km away.
Our room had narrow ceilings and typical Indian archways with a separate small section with a dressing table. We were able to walk up the open plan stairs and view the lake from the rooftop.
We could probably have spent all day enjoying the hotel but decided to explore for the afternoon. We came across one of the city temples close by and took off our shoes to encircle it. We went inside the temple where a man called JP decided to disturb the peace by starting a conversation with us.
The artwork, embroidery and carpentry here are very unique and attractive. We were taken in by it all immediately and explored the market area for a large part of the afternoon. We found ourselves buying lots of items out of fear that we would never see such beautiful things at such cheap prices again. Of course there was also an authenticity about buying items from the hands of the person who made them.
Sunsets have become an unmissable sight since we arrived in India. I am sure they are spectacular for anyone but China has not given us a sunset in any ordinary capacity for nearly 6 months. So we have taken every opportunity to view it whilst we have been here. The most spectacular so far appeared on our first night in Udaipur, from a rooftop of a restaurant as we enjoyed our curry. The pictures express it better than words:
We then returned to our hotel to enjoy a hot shower and a beer on the roof.
The next day we walked to the palace, which was also situated conveniently close to the lake. On the way we witnessed a precession of women walking towards the temple, many apparently possessed by something. When we asked a local what was happening he responded ‘this is normal’.
The colourful saris were also present inside the grounds of the palace, where it seemed that a girls school were on a trip.
We then explored the majesty of the palace in more detail and learnt more about the history of Udaipur and the power struggles over its rule.
We then had the elaborate idea of buying handmade Rajisthani furniture and shipping it home. So we visited an area of Udaipur where furniture was sold. We later remembered who we were and that shipping furniture home isn’t quite in our budget.
Once again we enjoyed a curry in the evening. Opting for a cheaper option beside the river. We have both fallen in love with spinach dishes here and seem to have abandoned any desire to eat meat at all. India has all the flavours you need. The food here is the best we will ever eat.
We reluctantly rose to our last day in Udaipur. We headed out for a masala chai with our breakfast before making an impulsive decision go join a cookery class (as is our current love for Indian cuisine).
A man made us both sit on the back of his motorbike as he navigated his way through the busy narrow streets to an quieter area of town, finally met by a middle aged Indian women inviting us into her home. Already waiting for us and enjoying another masala chai were a Japanese and an American couple.
We started a 5 hour cooking marathon by frying some onion and potato bahjis and making mango and coriander chutney. The lady was a brilliant cook who, as a typical chef, was quite firm in her instructions.
We then went on to make 5 different curries. We were very lucky that our group were laid back and fun to talk with. It became a very good afternoon in the kitchen and the cooking was incredibly enjoyable. It is amazing how bland English food is in comparison.
The session ended with naan and chipati making before we all sat down together and ate our creation. Naturally, it was much more satisfying to eat the food we had cooked ourselves.
With our bellies full and our spirits high we were ready to embark on our overnight bus journey to the desert in the far West of India, close to the contentious border with Pakistan. It was a cold and claustrophobic night on the bus, but the days that lay ahead made the journey more than worth it.
Udaipur far exceeded my expectations to the point where I would suggest it to any traveler in India. It was a welcome break from the drama of Mumbai and a romantic introduction to the beauty and culture of Rajisthan. A lovely place.