Dear friends and family,

Still in a somewhat altered reality, we find ourselves in Udaipur. The German couple at our last stop, Dungarpur, were wild about Udaipur. She said she had been once before and couldn't wait to go back. She was less thrilled with Dungarpur. We did not see much of the city or village of Dungarpur, but absolutely loved the palaces. Udaipur is a beautiful city, but also challenging.

Arrived in time for dinner. About 3 different people told us to go to Ambrai, so we did. It was a short distance from our hotel, on the lake. Very good food and lovely location.

There was a jetty nearby with a temple. People gathered there and were singing. Lovely. 

The City Palace, seat of the younger branch of the Mewar family. I believe I read they are the longest continuous ruling family in India. The entry fee is quartered with ¼ going to upkeep of the building, ¼ to a hospital, ¼ to another charity, and the Maharaja or Maharawal keeping ¼ for himself.

Another Ganesh

These window screens are ubiquitous and easy to overlook, but they are intricately carved by hand, of course, from marble. I wonder how many shattered before they got a good one? That orange spot on my forehead was applied by a Hindu priest at the City Palace. It smelled wonderfully of sandalwood.

A roof garden; technically not. The huge palace is built on a hill, so even though we have gone up flights of stairs and this appears to be a roof, it is actually the top of the cliff exposed.

A rather bad photo of a painting behind glass showing an elephant in armor and grasping a weapon in its trunk. In the background you can see a rider on a horse fitted with an elephant mask.

I've seen these horses with trunks before and never knew what it was. Our guide explained that in battle, the elephants would see the horses with the trunks and become confused, thinking it might be a baby elephant, and so refuse to attack them.

A cardboard cutout of one of the Maharawals in his later years.

A scale.

The room where the Rani kept her singing birds.

The Royal Swing

I think Udaipur is when we first noticed "marvel fatigue" begin to set in, as in "Oh, there's another marvel." You see so much in India, it's all so amazing and so different. Such highs and such lows. I feel badly that I have reached a point where I can no longer really appreciate and absorb all this incredible beauty and craftsmanship. Sensory overload.

Another example of less than stable scaffolding. 

Inventive facial hair; he's a guard at the palace.

We stayed at a hotel popular with Indian families: Shree Orchid Vilas. It had a beautiful location on one of Udaipur's lakes, Lake Pichola. We are told this is the main lake of Udaipur's three man-made lakes. Another mammoth project taken up sometime in India's colorful history.

The lake was gorgeous. There is a downside. Raw sewage flows into the lakes. The Indian government is working on cleaning up this situation, which would be another mammoth project. Meanwhile, they have banned people from bathing in it and washing in it, but it still happens on a daily basis. A couple young fishermen could be seen trying their luck near the large tree.

The hotel has a sort of resort look, little cottages with canvas roofs. Unfortunately, it does not work very well as sound-dampening and didn't keep out the almost constant din of vacationing Indian families; partying late into the night, and then cricket games starting at 7 in the morning. Also, they had bonfires nightly on the beach, so we had smoke filtering into our room and the occasional mosquito. We were there on a weekend so people were also celebrating weddings by lighting off fireworks and cherry bombs over the lake. Indian people seem to have a different concept of noise than we do. I looked at the reviews of this hotel (almost all written by Indian people) and literally nobody complained about the noise or the smoke (one person, an Indian from London, complained about dogs barking, which was almost constant).

Almost everyone did mention that you cannot get to the hotel by small car. The lanes are so narrow that you have to walk or take a tuktuk (one of those small Indian vehicles). The little stinking lanes are pretty daunting; garbage, overflowing sewage, dog shit, cow shit (which is more like dog shit, since the city cows eat garbage), people throwing liquids out the window into the street (we only saw this once), as we hear was common practice in Elizabethan England. 

A boat ride around Lake Pichola, which also takes in the Lake Palace, former pleasure palace of one of the Maharawals. He had his wives, he had his harem, but the pleasure palace was that little extra something.

Went by the Ambrai restaurant and the temple where the young people were singing last night. People are bathing in the lake.

Wash day for the vividly colored saris.

The luxurious and isolated Lake Palace Hotel, reached only by boat. I looked up the rates once; I think it's upward of a thousand dollars a night. We had a fair cappuccino here; nothing special.

Yes, it's beautiful, but what do you do all day?

Not sure if this is the royal barge or a replica of the royal barge. Lake Palace Hotel in background.

We are generally eating 2 meals a day in India. This is partially because our breakfasts are so huge, and we think partially because of all the spices in the food. Somehow we just don't feel that hungry, and it is not remotely nausea. The food is often delicious. (Tip: We never eat any raw vegetables. Era eats fruit, esp. papaya regularly, and Don does occasionally). No salads ever. We stopped for lunch at a rooftop restaurant far above one of Udaipur's busiest intersections with a Hindu temple across the street. Don witnessed a tourist getting butted by one of the cows strolling around Udaipur, of which there are many.

A movie of the intersection above, taken at ground level. You get a sense of traffic in Udaipur, anyway. Traffic in Delhi, Agra and Jaipur is much, much worse. Interestingly, the rather awful movie, Octopussy, had a chase scene through Udaipur streets, and this same intersection and temple were shown. The movie has been compressed so much that if you try to make it bigger, it won't look too great. Sorry.

Another view from the restaurant.

Having fun at Jai Laxmi Handicrafts. These people were so nice and their prices so reasonable that we paid their asking price. It probably helped that we didn't come in with a driver or a guide. Guides and drivers always, always get a commission if they bring you to a shop. And we recently heard that your travel agent company also gets a commission. What a system! In India, we hear, if a doctor prescribes medicine for you and you purchase it, the doctor gets a kickback. I don't know if this is uniformly the case. 

We try to avoid the supposed Government Handicraft stores. They seem to be pretty expensive across the board. American prices. The guides and drivers always try to steer you there; I think they have agreed to do so. The "Government Handicraft stores" (I am not at all sure that they have anything to do with the government) must offer the biggest kickbacks.

Don went next door to use their credit card machine, as Jai Laxmi's was broken. While he was there, a cow came by to get its daily chapati. Don said the woman had it all ready for the animal. Yes, I know it has horns. Apparently cows do have horns and in the West they are removed from the cows at a young age. 

The cow hung out and blocked the doorway for a while, so finally the woman sprayed some water on it and Don could get out the door.

Back at Ambrai 

Love from India,

Era and Don