Udaipur is another one of those fairy-tale places full of beautiful vistas and elegant palaces, including a few that fantastically sit in the middle of Lake Pichola. It's far from undiscovered and shops and restaurants go out of their way to cater to western tastes, but we were happy to wile away a few days enjoying some much missed comforts of home in this so-called "Venice of the East".
We rented a paddle boat to get a better look at the lake palaces. The marble Jag Niwas palace is now a luxury hotel, which some of you may remember from the Bond film, Octopussey (we reacquainted ourselves with this classic at one of the many nightly screenings held on roof-top restaurants around town). Security wouldn't let us get within 100 meters of the place, but we got close enough to confirm that the hotel's transport boats are paddled by a couple of small Indian men, not 12 hot blonds as the film suggests. Security shoed us away when we tried to approach the lovely Jag Mandir palace as well, which led us to vow our return to this city to do it up in style if we someday win the lottery.
We also visited the City Palace on the lake's western shore. It is largest palace in Rajasthan, but we were disappointed to find out that you can only explore a small part of the monstrous structure since most of it has been repurposed for 2 more upscale hotels. At least we were able to pretend to have the luxury of being guests at the former royal quarters by having a beer (served in crystal!) at the sunset bar.
From miniature painting workshops to sitar courses to palm readings, there are plenty of activities on offer in Udaipur. I attended a cooking class to learn the basics of cooking fragrant North Indian cuisine at home. Gil also treated me to an Ayurvedic massage and Shirodhara treatment as a belated birthday gift. Shirodhara consists of warm oil being dropped on the forehead for 30 minutes - it's supposed to cure you of all sorts of mental ailments, but I am as scattered as always, so I think I'll stick with the massage next time around.
While I was getting pampered, Gil was trekking all over Udaipur's hills with his camera trying to capture the beauty of this place to share with you. He also put in several tough hours taste-testing pastries and searching for the best pot of chai in town.
We also took in a classical Indian dance performance, which showcased traditional dances from all over Rajasthan. There was the peacock dance (with fabulous costumes, of course) and a one that involved clicking together metal instruments fastened to various body parts, but our favorite had to be the one where a woman danced with ceramic water pots stacked on her head. For the finale, the pots were stacked 8, maybe 10 pots high, after which she proceeded to dance on broken glass. That was a dance even Gil could love.
After nearly a week of kicking back and treating ourselves, we were just about ready to return to our normal regimen of bag-packing and sleeper trains...