Thank you India Someday for putting me up like royalty for these first couple of cities. The air-conditioned bus (with plush reclining chairs) from Ahmbedabad to Udaipur dropped me on the outskirts of town and I proudly negotiated a 50 Rupee rickshaw ride to the Old City.
My room (or shall I say rooms) at the Madri Haveli, in the master suite, made me feel like a queen. With multiple seating areas to choose from, nooks and crannies with beautifully shaped windows looking out onto the charming old city, a separate regal bedroom, and an eye-catching stone bathroom, larger than my NYC bedroom, replete with a giant tub, two sinks and a great supply of adorable Colgate toothpastes and other toiletries.
I made my way to the rooftop and was awe-struck by the stunning views of the lush mountains, beautiful lakes and enchanting city. I knew I’d be more than content if I never left the grounds and treated myself to some laptop time in what became one of the world’s prettiest offices.
I meandered the busy colorful crooked streets and worked my way towards the quintessential boat ride around Pichola Lake. I entered at Lal Ghat (where all tourists were Indian) and took the 250 Rupee ride around the beautiful waters, staring out onto City Palace and Jagmandir and Jagniwas Islands, quickly gaining a sense of the regal life of India.
Drawn to the green park space nearby, I wandered the windy paths, checked out some sculptures and spotted my first monkey hanging out.
Working my way back to the haveli, I stopped to visit the Jagdish Temple, all dressed up with lights, streamers and statues, and packed with folks celebrating Janmashtami; Lord Krishna’s birthday.
I slipped off my shoes and joined the packed line of exquisitely dressed women in colorful saris to enter the temple, built in 1651. A clay pot dangling high above the open public square, I grew excited for the community celebration that would happen the following eve. For now, it was teeming of people, lots of music, and in the evening, a midnight procession marking the birth of Krishna.
I was thrilled to meet Udaipur artist, Rajesh Soni. In addition to photography, he does beautiful work hand-coloring, in fine detail, others’ digital pictures, many of which were on display in the Madri Haveli Gallery. We drove in his car to the new part of Udaipur, passing the famous Fateh Sagar Lake (or FS as they call it here), where droves of locals go to hang out in the evening, sitting on the waters’ edge and eating at the plentiful food stands across the road. He brought me to a typical Indian thali place where unlimited vegetarian dishes are served by eager waiters. I’m so loving the yogurts and delicious aromatic flavors of each meal more than the next in this country!
Our drive back was insane, his small car in competition with the motorbikes, bicycles, rickshaws, people, cows, goats and who knows what else. The streets are windy, super narrow and barely have room for one car to go by. He had an impeccable sense of the car-size and magically finessed his way through the tightest of squeezes, at impressively high speeds.
I retreated to my royal room and woke to a rooftop breakfast fit for a king. Fresh fruit, black tea, cheese omelette, banana crepes and four pieces of toast with an assortment of jams and that delicious Indian butter. I enjoyed learning that the Amul brand of butter I’ve been loving, started out as a women’s cooperative. Some women started a milk society, collecting milk from everyone’s house, which eventually developed into a large established company.
I spent the day having my first Ayurvedic massage, meandering the Udaipur streets and lap-topping atop my glorious shaded rooftop. Struggling to find the place listed in Lonely Planet and overwhelmed by the plenitude of choices, I decided to go with a place in the Lal Ghat area where I was sold on having a woman provide my massage.
Loving a good massage and having experienced some of the best throughout my travels but never an Indian Ayurvedic treatment, I was curious. Throughout my hour of being gently massaged, I was curious if this woman’s work was indeed a good sampling of Ayurvedic massage because if so, I was going to exchange my rupees for bahts and head to Thailand!
Thankfully, the guy who ran this questionable operation, wanted a genuine debrief and had offered earlier to return my money if I wasn’t satisfied. Dissatisfied though I was, I didn’t intend to ask for a refund. We spoke at length about Ayurvedic massage and I much more enjoyed the next half hour of treatment he gave me. Moral of the story is make sure you go to a reputable place, especially if having a woman is important for you. It became clear to me that this woman had no idea what she was doing.
Overall, a restful day in charming, well-touristed Udaipur, the City of Lakes. I loved hearing the sounds of the Krishna celebrations and staring out at those beautiful hills.
Thank you India Someday.
Thank you You Wander We Pay.