06.04.2012 - 06.04.2012
One can see why the city of Udaipur was once deemed “the most romantic spot on the continent of India” by a British colonel in the 1800’s. All of the buildings bear the shades of cream, whites, rose, and gold. Its buildings are situated around Lake Pichola, which is quite serene and beautiful at night.
Relative to Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, it is less congested and the touts and shop owners are not as annoying. Still, they can be quite annoying but not as relentless.
We were fortunate to have a great view of the lake from the terrace of our hotel, Jaiwana Haveli. This place is owned by 2 very hospitable, polite, and honest brothers. We absolutely loved our stay here. They did not take any commission for advice, all of their prices and itineraries were displayed with prices included, and they always made good and honest recommendations. Also, the bathrooms and bedrooms were immaculately clean! Although this description should seem standard to most people, this was actually a rarity in most of the hotels we stayed at in India.
On our first day, Derek and I visited the Jagdish temple – a beautiful Indo-Aryan temple built in 1651. The money donated to the temple helps feed the poor. Udaipur has programs that promote an end to begging, and the Jagdish temple is a fantastic example of this. But as beautiful as the temple is, there were still a couple of things that “annoyed” me greatly:
1) Unwelcome “guides”: sometimes there are people who just start to talk to you and act as a “guide” even though you never asked for their help. Of course they expect some kind of tip after they give you basic knowledge about the place that you can easily find in a guide book. This “guide” annoyed me because we knew that there were no guides allowed on the premises and there is a sign that says “no tipping guides in the temple” since the money is to go to the temple and the poor. The best way to get rid of these unwelcome guides is to tell them that you don’t have the money to pay them and if they want to give you free information, they are more than welcome to. No unwelcome guide has taken us up on this offer.
2) Shoe Protectors: This is not a piece of cloth that is given to you so you can protect your shoes. Before entering the temple, you must take off your shoes. Usually, you are allowed to stow away your shoes in your bag or leave them outside the temple and no one takes them. But at this temple, there are people that surround you and force you to put your shoes into a cubicle where they will “protect” your shoes. When you leave, a random guy says “money for shoes”. Seriously – he expects you to pay him when there are signs that clearly say that there is no tipping and that the money goes to the temple. We didn’t tip this so-called “shoe protector” since the money we donated was rightfully placed in the recommended box within the temple, and neither did many other annoyed tourists we met.
Although quite rampant, one cannot let their visit to India be ruined by such behaviour. The best way to go about it is to be assertive and not reinforce the behaviour by giving in. But Jagdish temple is so beautiful and is a must-see! The carvings are exquisite, the music and chanting is melodious and cheerful, and the majority of the people are welcoming and friendly. (One of these pictures has racy kamasutra-inspired carvings randomly inlaid into the temple).
The next place we visited was the City Palace and the City Palace museum. We were lucky to run into our buddies from Jaipur and the train from Jaipur to Udaipur and explored these places together. All palaces and palace museums are over-the-top reminders of how wealthy the Maharanas and princes were. These buildings always have exquisite carvings, paintings, and a rich history of success, defeat, rivalry, and royal drama. Here are some pictures of the palace and the palace museum:
The weather in India is something I have been unable to cope with. The temperature is around 40 degrees celcius, there usually isn’t a cloud in the sky, and the heat is so dry. Apparently at these temperatures, Derek loses his wife to madness and he needs to seek ways to keep her sane. As suggested by our hotel owners, we went swimming at the palace. This was a brilliant idea. With our fellow travelers, we had some nice mocktails, mineral water, and took a dip in the luxurious outdoor pool area. I thought that the water would feel like molten, boiling and bubbling lava. I was very wrong! It was so cool and refreshing and I happily waded the afternoon away. For the cost of only $6 per person, Derek successfully kept his wife sane.
After a day of exploring the City Palace and swimming in its pool with Heino and Jeannette, we went find dinner. We crossed over the lake bridge and discovered a humongous full moon. Under the moonlight, Udaipur was quite beautiful.
Originally, I recommended a Veggie restaurant but as we walked towards the restaurant I quickly realized that this was not going to be doable. This particular restaurant was situated at the lake’s edge– but at the edge of the lake was a disgusting collection of garbage and sludge. I’m sure the food was probably amazing, however I couldn’t endure the stench coming from the lake so we went to a decidedly more appealing option.
The restaurant “Ambrai” is a gorgeous outdoor restaurant also situated by the lake, MINUS the stench and garbage. You could see large bats flutter across the moonlit sky, and the tables were romantically lit by candlelight. I was DYING to see a bat eclipse the moon so that the “batman signal” would be revealed, but to my disappointment it never happened. Despite the absence a “batman signal”, dinner was plentiful and delicious with fantastic company and drink:
… it was a great ending to an equally great day.