Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Most Romantic City in India - Udaipur, India

Destination:  Udaipur, India

Number of days spent:  7

Where we stayed:  Lake Shore Guesthouse (400RP) – right on the lake opposite the Gangaur Ghat.  The room was ok and we had a little problem with the hot water most days – we find it annoying when you have to tell someone to turn it on all the time.  With the view though, we could not complain too much…plus this was my introduction to the cutting edge in mosquito fighting technology – the electric tennis racket.  See one, push the button and swing!  To think, just a few short weeks ago we were in Bodhgaya respecting ALL living things.  Taking great pleasure in watching the mosquito carcass fry on the metal grate…oh how I have regressed.

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Best Restaurant:   Jharokka – The Lake Palace (yeah, that one on an island in the middle of the lake) had a fancy spread and we were very fortunate to take part in it.  Otherwise, not too many places stand out.  For good coffee and pastries head to Edelweiss.  Our cooking class was also excellent – but anything made with love is always better.

Best of:  The Mewar festival (previous posting) in all it’s colorful splendor, palaces on lakes, cooking classes galore

Worst of:  Everything that we wanted to do happened at night so towards the end of our stay we got a bit bored during the heat of the day 

Most memorable:    So many for Udaipur but our most memorable was winning the best dressed foreigner competition at the Mewar festival.  We won dinner at the Lake Palace and a couple of framed prints.  Not too bad for throwing on a costume and pretending to be the Raj with his lovely wife for a night! :-)

Useful Tip:  Cooking classes are everywhere in Udaipur but we highly recommend going to Shashi’s (same building as the Sunrise Restaurant).  The setting is humble so don’t expect a stainless steel kitchen with mirrors.  Instead you get an amazing woman and her story of overcoming being a Brahmin widow with two boys.  Still this day considered an outcast of society she does not get a lot of sympathy from the locals but she gets it from us!  Oh, and the food is great and the price is right (500RP/about $11 per person) so just go!

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Long considered the most ‘romantic’ city in all of India, Udaipur makes it onto most travelers itineraries and rightfully so.  Even during the dry season when the lake has shrunk almost leaving the lake palace high and dry it’s still a magical setting.   With the lake serving as a natural barrier, the Rajput’s set up an elaborate castle along it’s shores.  After successfully defending the castle, they further expanded their personal space with castles built on two different islands on the middle of the lake and a further, summer palace, high atop a nearby hill.  

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Once a year, faithful Hindu women dress in their finest and parade around town on their way down to the ghats for the Ganguar (also coincides with Mewar) festival.  The statues represent a version of Pavarti, wife to Shiva – one of the three main Hindu gods.  Married women pray to keep their husbands healthy and single women pray to find a good husband.    The festival is one of the most colorful and famous of Udaipur and Rajhastan.  Here are a few more photos aside from our previous posting.

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With all our events happening at night (cooking class, Mewar festival, etc.) we decided to hit one of the lesser known sights in the Royal Car Museum.  Oddly dubbed as “Soda with a touch of class” the ticket to the museum was supposed to include a soda.  When we arrived, the soda had been replaced with a juice box.  A Juice Box???  Now that’s class.  Apart from the hokey marketing scheme, the attendant opens one barn door at a time telling you a little about each car.  From the car used in “Octopussy” to old Buicks….when Buicks were cool to drive…the collection includes some nice cars, but not enough to make Jay Leno jealous.

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Part of the Mewar festivities included a “Best Dressed” foreigner competition.  The Tourist bureau provided the costumes for free so we decided to give it a whirl just for the photo opportunities.  After watching the fire dancing, the plate spinners and the lady who dances around with higher and higher stacks of bowls it was time for the ‘main event’ – us?  That was what the announcer introduced us as anyways.  Eight couples in total competed for the title.  We were only told we had to dress up and parade out in costume for a few minutes.  Little did we know that we also be asked a couple of questions – mainly they wanted to hear how great India and Udaipur are, have to dance a traditional dance and even give our hand at singing.  It was all for fun and at the end of the day we all had a great time.  When it came time to announce the results of the vote, we had won!  Dinner at the Lake Palace here we come!  

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While the royalty live like…well…royalty, life still continues for the common Indian like it has for centuries – on the outside looking in, but still mostly content with their lot in life.  Like most Indian cities, Udaipur has its fair share of poverty.  In the dried out portion on the lake sat cow pies – cow dung shaped into chips for fuel.  Poor kids go around collecting cow exhaust and selling these for about 1/2 a rupee.

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The night of our Lake dinner we headed up the hill via the cable car for an overlook of the lake as well as the city.  As the sun set, we got some great views of the city at night as well.

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Labeled as one of the top 100 boutique hotels in the world, the Palace is a masterpiece of opulence.  The palace, along with its other neighbors served as a backdrop to the James Bond film “Octopussy.”  From the red carpet lined personal boat dock to the multitude of hosts ensuring that you never have to stoop to opening your own door, the palace certainly was a treat and a pleasant break from the steady stream of thalis and chai.  Rack of Lamb and Poached Salmon anyone? 

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Jagdish Temple sitting in the middle of the city is the most important temple in Udaipur.  Built a little over 300 years ago, the temple contains all your usual intricately carved facades, poor beggars on the steps and the smell of burning incense wafting through the air.

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Bagore-ki Haveli by day serves as a museum and by night stages nightly dance and music shows.  The price is really reasonable and the show, while short, is well worth the price of admission.       

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After all our festival winnings (in addition to the dinner we also won a couple of framed prints) not to mention all the other trinkets we have collected from Burma and India, it was time to head to the post office.  Normally not a blog worthy affair, postage in India is done a bit differently.  After packaging your goods in a normal box, the box is wrapped in cloth, seams stitched together and wax seals placed all over the package.  Apparently there is a theft problem in the postal system so this is a way to avoid tampering.  It must work as our package arrived without incident. 

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A few pounds lighter and coming down from our Royal treatment induced high, we packed up and hopped on the night bus to Bollywood…err…Mumbai!

1 comment:

Connie said...

Hello! My boyfriend and I agree that Udaipur is the MOST romantic place in India! You have beautiful pictures and they brought back so many good memories of our time there! Thank you!

Safe travels,
Connie
www.connvoyage.com