Rajasthan is a state that’s southwest of Delhi – while we were in Chennai we decided to head out from Delhi and visit Udaipur and Jaipur. We really needed to book the trains and decide on hotels, which was all done from Chennai. Unfortunately we were a little late on booking the train from Delhi to Udaipur, and we ended up in sleeper class – not my first choice!
Friday the 20th we spent the day packing up and getting ready for the trip, then left for the train station in an auto around 4:30pm – our train wasn’t until 7pm but Nizamuddin station is quite far from Shalimar Bagh and then there’s the legendary Delhi traffic. Had we left any later, I’m sure we would’ve gotten caught in rush hour, but as it was we got there pretty early, around 5:30.
There are three levels of overnight sleeper – 1AC, 2AC, and sleeper (and then there’s second class, which is a pretty nasty free-for-all and just seats). The AC classes are climate-controlled, meaning you can’t open the windows – in sleeper class there’s bars, then a sliding glass pane and a shutter. Since we were travelling through the desert though, open windows = coldness. No bedding is provided in sleeper class, which is three tier…and we were in the upper berths!
It’s really high. And the ladder dealie to climb up was really not great either. Being the upper berth is actually good, because you get more headroom, and more privacy since people aren’t climbing over you to go to the toilet or something. I still wasn’t too into it though. And even though we brought blankets it was cold!
(The shawl is Seraphim by Miriam Felton, the sweater is B-Side. And I look like crap because it was like 11pm and I was on a train!)
Anyway, we finally got to Udaipur an hour behind schedule at 8am. A driver was waiting for us from the hotel, the Tiger (highly recommended; rooms were really clean and new, the staff was super helpful) – nice guy to wait an hour for the train to arrive! We went straight to the hotel, checked in, and took a nap and shower before heading out to explore. It turns out Udaipur is a pretty small town that’s really easy to explore on foot – it’s hilly, but everything is super close together. It is an extremely tourist-based town, so there are just tons of hotels, restaurants, and various handicraft shops.
The lake that the touristy part of town is situated on is low because of crappy monsoons, but it’s still cool to look out over – the Lake Palace (now Hotel) is right in the middle. I think what makes it look so odd is that there’s no land around it, like an island, it’s just plunked right down in the water!
Octopussy was filmed here and they’ll never forget it – there are nightly viewings at several different hotel/restaurants. We never did get around to seeing it, we were only there 1 night anyway!
The lakeside-ness of the town really is beautiful.
We ended up at the City Palace, which has a HUGE museum. Following the route inside, it seemed like it would never end. There were lots of interesting things inside, but after awhile we just wanted to get out and get something to eat! We ended up going to a restaurant owned by the same people as the hotel for lunch, Savage Garden – they had pasta and stuff, and it was kind of nice to eat non-Indian food for a change.
The City Palace from the other side of the lake – we went to a fancy hotel for a drink and actually ended up going back to the same place the next day for dinner.
Capping off the evening we went to see a dance show which was in the guidebook, and so the audience was entirely composed of foreigners. It was an interesting show, there were women dancing with pots of fire on their heads, a cool marionette guy, and this awesome lady – who started out with one and ended with ten pots on her head!
We only stayed the one night at the Tiger, but we had the whole next day to explore as well – our next train didn’t leave until the evening, so we stowed our luggage at the hotel and went to see the temple and do a little shopping.
We ended up at the cafe across from our hotel for a big chunk of the afternoon, chatting with an Irish woman who was leaving India the next day after a two month trip (hi if you’re out there!). It was really nice to just talk with someone who spoke English at the same pace! We went back to the City Palace later in the afternoon to try and catch the last boat ride out on the lake, but we were a little too late. I wasn’t that into the idea of going up to the Monsoon Palace, which is on a hill/mini mountain above the city, but we let an auto driver talk us into it (for an inflated price, we should’ve maybe haggled harder).
It turned out to be a really lovely excursion. The palace is about 8 km from town, and the roads up the mountain are pretty crazy! An auto-rickshaw doesn’t have a lot of power at the best of times, and climbing? It was a little scary.
There was a lovely view of Udaipur (can you see the Lake Palace Hotel?) and the palace was a really nice place to play with the cameras – we were there just before sunset, magic light hour! The palace itself has been quite neglected, although restoration is underway (a bit, anyway) – it’s really interesting this way though.
We went back to the fancy hotel restaurant (Ambrai) and had a really awesome meal beside the lake before picking up our luggage and heading to the train station.
Wow, this has gotten really long! We had a really nice time in Udaipur – it was a little quieter, smaller, and really interesting despite its touristy character. I think I’ll save our next stop for my next post – Jaipur.
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