Udaipur was a really great change of pace from Jodhpur. The lake was easily within walking distance from our hotel and as we approached monkeys ran across the road in front of us and camels and elephants were being ridden in the streets as tourist attractions. The man-made lake is reminiscent of Venice with the lake palaces jutting straight up out of the water and boats ferrying people all over the place. The bridges even look Italian. We were lucky enough to get a view of the sunset exactly as our boat ride around the lake was wrapping up. That evening we were treated to a quick Thali dinner by our guide… treated because he is from Udaipur and paid for our dinner… quick because he is from Udaipur and was anxious to go visit his family.
After dinner Kim and I walked through the local bazaar where tons of fireworks were available for Diwali… I haven’t bought any… yet! As we walked through the market we kind of got lost but found our way back to the more lit up section and eventually to a sort of carnival that was going on. It was packed with people and all sorts of lit up rides (powered by diesel generators and engines). We had left our camera back at the room unfortunately, but it was an amazing experience celebrating this festival with the locals… and we were really the only foreigners there. Everybody walked up to us, “Hello, Hello” shaking our hands and staring at us. Nobody was trying to sell us anything, these were just the middle class citizens of Udaipur celebrating their holiday and a little perplexed as to why these two Americans were walking around, but happy to say “Hi” and grab at my arm. The experience of being tattooed in Nepal and India is different than it was in Tibet. There is a tradition of tattooing and piercing here… old women have tattoos around their arms (not heena, real tattoos) and nose piercings of all sorts. So it’s not the strangest thing in the world, but again, a colorful sleeve is an oddity. Everybody says “cool tattoo”… and a lot of the time it’s a lead in to a sales pitch. But when we’re not walking around shops there is genuine interest that reaffirms what I said before about my pleasure at having this tattoo. It has definitely changed this trip for me… on the one hand it is very strange to lose your personal space when people walk up and just grab your arm without asking. On the other, I am interacting with lots of people in a way that I wouldn’t if I were a more inconspicuous traveler. I can only guess, but I think it’s somewhat like being a celebrity, to give up your privacy for a different level of access and instant familiarity with the local people.
The following morning we set out for the Jagdish temple and the City Palace which we could see from the lake the night before. The temple is a Hindu temple but looks a lot like the Jain temple we visited in Jaisalmer. With Jainism and Buddhism developing around the same time and both sharing a lot in common with Hinduism it’s not surprising to see these temples share a lot of symbolism and architecture. This temple had images of fighting elephants and kama sutra figures carved into the intricate stone columns around the temple perimeter. Inside worshipers were chanting for the upcoming Diwali festival. After the temple we made our way to the City Palace which wasn’t quite as impressive as the fort in Jodhpur. The museum was a little tedious but the views of the city from the top of the palace were fantastic.
After some gift shopping we took an auto-rickshaw to the top of a hill overlooking the city to the Monsoon Palace. The views from this hilltop were absolutely amazing. You could see both lakes with Udaipur sandwiched between and the sun set nicely for us again.
Following a few errands we made our way back to the hotel where we met all the girls and headed off to a rooftop dinner that had been arranged. I think at this point I should mention something I forgot earlier… Aside from our tour leader there is only one other guy in this group of 15. As he and his wife are often on their own I find myself the only guy in a big group of girls. It’s ok… I think most of our waiters and rickshaw drivers think I’m pretty lucky! And aside from Kim pouring through some trashy gossip mags with the Australian girls the topics of conversation haven’t been toooo feminine. I won’t complain.
Dinner was back near the Jagdish temple at a beautiful hotel restaurant with a great view of the lake from the roof. We could see the city and all the palaces all lit up, and enjoyed a fireworks show. Since we had forgotten our camera the night before, we made sure we took it with us when we visited the carnival again. One of the girls in our group went with us and this time we felt a little more comfortable to actually participate a bit and check out some of the rides and spectacles. We walked into some sort of snake charmer’s tent expecting to see snakes… but it was the human headed snake “illusion”… pretty cheesy. Then we went on the fastest ferris wheel ever (maybe I can upload the video later if I get a faster connection). Our stomachs were a little weak after that so we made our way back to the hotel to get some sleep before another up at dawn morning for our bus ride to Pushkar.
Thankfully I slept most of the long ride to Pushkar as the scenery was much the same as it has been every bus ride. We are now at a really beautiful hotel and tomorrow we’re up early again, not for a bus ride, but for a sunrise hike up the hill from the Brahma temple. Then we’ll visit the temple… the only Brahma temple in all of India. Pushkar is also situated around a lake which is supposed to be just as scenic as the one in Udaipur.
We’ll soon be on our way to Jaipur where I believe we’ll be celebrating Diwali with everybody… hopefully with some fireworks. They have been going off more frequently every evening as the festival draws closer.
I would love to be putting photos into these posts and making audio posts of some of the great samples I’ve been recording, but our internet time in India has been plagued with technical difficulties. My mp3 player/recorder/portable hard drive is mysteriously an “unknown usb device” at every single computer here and this device requires no special drivers (worked everywhere at home, in China and in Nepal)… all attempts to update Windows here fail because all of the copies of Windows seem to be pirated and fail Microsoft’s genuine authorization. Then the connections are slow and just getting the photos into the galleries are a challenge. So I think what we’ll be doing is a lot of updating with more details when we get home. In the meantime enjoy the photos we can get into the galleries.