Friday, 3 February 2017

Many blessings in Udaipur

There was not much sleep to be had on the train, what with the snoring, the Nokia ringtones -- followed by loud, one-sided conversations in Hinglish -- the girl in the top bunk having night terrors, the train itself stopping and starting and juddering along, and the chatter of those that also weren't sleeping, I think we managed a total of two hours and two minutes sleep between us, and the two hours was just me.

We pulled into Udaipur three minutes early at 7.22 am and followed the throng through the station, thankful that we each only had a very small bag. Exhausted from the train we decided it would take less energy to walk the 2km to the hotel than to haggle with the auto rickshaw drivers.  So we made our way along the dusty early morning streets, thankfully a lot quieter than Delhi and with slightly less chance of being struck by a passing scooter; the city was coming to life, children were leaving for school, and people setting off for work.

We reached City Palace Road, which seems to be tourist central, but due to the early hour the place was pretty much deserted. Into a cafe for chole bature and a quick chat, we waited for our food watching the chai being prepared, the steaming pot repeatedly tasted and passed through a sieve high above the pot and then surged in tiny shot type glasses to a procession of customers. Our food finally arrived under a sheet of newsprint fresh from the kitchen of another restaurant. The spices caught me in the back of my throat on my first bite which had me reaching for the water and then as a consequence having to reassure the early risers at the other table that it wasn't too spicy.  Then, navigating a few more tourist streets before we were over a bridge and along the lake, past one cow and then a squeeze past the bum of a -- luckily not pooing -- other cow and its friend. And finally into the Gajkaran Haveli, where we decline the room with a lake view for one that is half the price with no windows at all. A pleasant wait under the warm sun in the rooftop restaurant while the room is prepared, Michael almost delirious from lack of sleep, and then the freshly made bed is too tempting so we set an alarm and catch a couple of hours sleep.

Groggy from not enough rest Michael manages to persuade us both into the warm shower and we are out for an afternoon of touristing. There are stray dogs everywhere, harmless and used to being completely ignored. We visit a couple of ghats, fairly deserted, just one mother and her young child washing clothes in the lake and a whole flock of rock pigeons pecking for crumbs on the shit covered concrete. Four dirty puppies, hair matted, sleeping in the shade, makes us wonder what they thought when they emerged into India.

We decide to visit the City Palace, which sits perched high above the lake, the crumbling elaborate stone buildings hinting of life of the Maharanas in times gone by.

A very late lunch of idli and sambar and a masala dosa, leading Michael to declare it the best he has ever had, and he has had a lot. We don't have the right change to pay the bill, so the owner says we can bring the rest tomorrow, ensuring that we return. Which is no problem for Michael, as he already knows his order.

In and out of some silver shops, having decided I want some earnings, having worn the bracelet I brought in Rajasthan four years ago every day since. None were quite right, though, and I managed to leave each shop empty handed, despite the persuasive nature of the shop owners and the rapidly decreasing prices as we made our exit. The long walk home, venturing out of the tourist area and Michael's eyes nearly popping out of his head when he spots the biggest bowl of gulab jamun he has ever seen; he buys four of the small doughy balls but I still can't quite decide if I like the rose water treats.

Back to the room and another nap, then biryani and aloo gobi at the hotel restaurant. A late walk in search of a sweet Indian deserts fruitless, so we return empty handed.