Friday 10 Nov
We arrived in Udaipur exhausted after all the excitement of the Pushkar Camel Fair. The Pushkar Mela was an amazing experience and we had a lot of fun but the heaving crowds and noise, on top of sharing a tent in the desert with 20 other Indians all eager to talk to us, meant we had not had a moments peace all week. We were shattered. Fortunately, Udaipur in Rajasthan is the perfect place to recuperate. It's a beautiful city with elegant Mughal architecture, and a labyrinth of narrow alleyways to explore. At its core is the mirror glass Pichola Lake and the fairy tale 'Lake Palace Hotel' which forms the floating centre piece.
At night the hotel is lit up like a golden palace and you can see its reflection shimmering in the lake. The city is real James Bond territory. To get you in the mood, the Udaipur tourist board kindly puts on nightly showings of Octopussy in every hotel and restaurant (it was filmed here). It's all totally over the top, and can be quite annoying when you're trying to eat your evening meal, but it does have a certain charm.
We spent our days wandering around the bazaars, and watching the dozens of women thrashing the hell out of their weekly wash on the stone steps leading down to the ghats. At night we sat on roof top terraces and watched the sun sink behind silhouetted hills in the distance before the lights came on over the city. There was nothing to do other than relax with a gin and tonic and soak in the views. It was perfect.
We did manage to venture out one day. We hired a pedalo on the lake, but were shooed away by a doorman in a ridiculous maharaja costume when we got too close to the floating five star hotel. Apparently, we weren't their kind of clientele!
Udaipur is unlike any other city we've visited in India. It gleams, and is so clean you could literally eat your dinner off the street. Not something you can say about most urban areas in India. It was the perfect place to kick back and relax. A friend once described travelling in India to us as like giving birth. 'At the time it's horrific but afterwards you remember it as a magical experience.' It's not that India isn't wonderful, it is. It's just that it is also hard work and at times thoroughly exhausting. Places where you can truly relax are rare so when you stumble across gems like Udaipur, with good food, clean hotels and quiet streets, you really appreciate them.