We were quite excited about our visit to Udaipur as we had heard that it was a relaxing place, and we were well in need of some relaxation. We weren't disappointed. The bus journey from Jodphur wasn't especially long but was painfully uncomfortable, however we located a good guesthouse that had been recommended to us and settled into a room with a large private balcony with a lake view.
Udaipur is a beautiful, fairly small city surrounding a man-made lake which is overlooked by the 16th century City Palace. In the middle of the lake is a luxury hotel named the Lake Palace which is famous for being the setting for the James Bond film Octopussy. The city is on higher ground to the rest of Rajasthan and so is slightly cooler, and the surrounding area is much more green than the desert landscape which we had become accustomed to over the previous couple of weeks. One nice feature of the city is that many buildings have paintings of Rajasthani-style elephants on the walls which brighten up what might otherwise be a fairly plain street.
We spent the first day there doing … not a lot. We made the most of the views and good people-watching from our guesthouse's rooftop restaurant and lounged on our balcony enjoying the lakeside breeze.
We also finally treated ourselves to massages; whilst previously travelling in Thailand and South East Asia we had enjoyed regular Thai massages, but unfortunately had found massages in India to be relatively expensive so hadn't had any. We had been recommended a reasonably priced place to go to in Udaipur (we were assured that the owner would tell Monique that she reminded her of her daughter and consequently give us a discount, which proved to be accurate) and we each had a full body massage. Mine was really good as I was massaged by two people at the same time; they must have seen me and thought “This is a two man job”. Monique's masseur paid a little too much attention to the buttock region for her liking; perhaps she sensed some tension from the uncomfortable bus journey.
Possibly our best discovery in Udaipur was a bakery. For some reason every bakery in India seems to be branded a 'German Bakery' despite the fact that Germany isn't renowned for its bakeries. So far on our trip each of those so called German Bakeries has sold produce that looks great but tastes pretty awful – dry, bland and too sweet. Even so, it's difficult to resist trying something when you fancy something sweet and are optimistic that this one might be good. This time, however, things actually tasted like they were supposed to taste. Hallelujah! We immediately made plans to return before leaving the city.
That evening we stopped by the lakeside to enjoy the lakeside at dusk before heading to the guesthouse. After sitting for a while Monique pointed to something flying overhead and asked “Is that a bat?”. I looked at the huge winged creature she was referring to, laughed and replied “Of course not, unless it's some sort of giant killer bat – it must be a bird”. We then watched in awe for about 30 minutes as a stream of thousands of what turned out to be (non-killer) fruit bats streamed across the night sky in a long line. A really unexpected sight.
The following day we finally got around to doing some sightseeing and visited the Palace which was very interesting, thanks largely due to our decision to take a guided tour. There was quite a lot of excitement amongst the palace staff, as the prince was test-driving a number of cars that day, and so 5 or 6 Porsches were parked in a line inside the entrance to the Palace. We opted against paying an extortionate additional $10 each to see the royal crystal collection – imported all the way from an exotic sounding place named Birmingham!
We also took a cooking class – something that I had been particularly keen to do whilst in India. Having eaten good food at a tiny family restaurant (more like eating in their living room than in a restaurant, complete with helping the children with their English homework on the adjacent table) we took an early class with the owner. We learned how to make chai (something which, after spending 31 years years in England and never having drunk a cup of tea, I have acquired a taste for) an aubergine curry and chapatis. It wasn't the best cooking class but worthwhile nonetheless – I will definitely be making home-made chapatis in the future.
After a day-trip to a couple of nearby sights, which are worthy of their own blog post in due course, we took a sleeper train to Agra. Udaipur didn't match the other cities in Rajasthan for sights, but it was a really enjoyable and relaxing few days in a beautiful city that allowed us to re-charge our batteries before our final couple of stops in India.