Udaipur - The Set for Octopussy
Udaipur Travel Blog› entry 24 of 36 › view all entries
The journey from Jalgaon to Udaipur required a train switch in Ahmedabad, and with 3 hrs to spare myself, Tom, Ian and Jesse headed into town for some dinner. Ahmedabad, in the state of Gujarat, is a large city with plenty going on. We found a nice little restaurant, complete with internal graveyard (green coffins all over), and it was here that I had my first Dosa experience, a kind of giant, crisp pancake filled with masala flavoured potatos and onions - really good. It was also here that we caught the best auto-rickshaw so far, with a huge (by rickshaw standards) sound system in the back that we rocked to all the way back to the train station.
The overnight train on to Udaipur was narrow gauge, shuffling from side to side. Ian was somewhat disconcerted when a large man sat down beside him as we played cards, and clamped has hand to his upper thigh for a full two hands as he interrogated us as to why we were playing cards, and that we must be gambling, which he insisted was illegal on Indian railways. We were playing asshole, as we often did, and this is a game of honour rather than cash.
When I woke in the morning we were 1/2 an hour from Udaipur and the scenery was stunning. We pulled into the station around 7 am and headed for the centre of town to find digs, which were really good. The town is situated on Lake Pichola, which had been enlarged by the incumbent Maharaja in the mid 16th century. In its centre sits the fabulous Lake Palace, made famous for its appearence in the James Bond film Octopussy.
Whilst we did not make it out to the Lake Palace, we did the guided tour of the City Palace on the mainland, and this was amazing (I'm already running out of adjectives for this place), with fine artwork and decoration, a labyrinth of rooms and passageways - a great place to play hide and seek! Apparently the palce can be hired for weddings, a cool $1,000,000 securring the place for three days all inclusive.
That first night the World Cup started proper, and we settles down to watch England v Paraguay in a very disappointing match. We would see all of England's games, along with those of Holland and Australia as our travel company rerquired, although they hardly had to drag us kicking and screaming! Udaipur would also provide our first experience of the bhang lassie, an infamous drink made of a sort of yogurt and herbs that was far more potent, and cheaper, than the beer.
Udaipur was also a great place to hire mopeds, which we did for two days to check out the fantastic scenery around. First port of call was the Monsoon Palce, perched on a hill some 8 km from town. The views from this somewhat run-down building were phenomenal, and the Palace itself was clearly once a building of great beauty, a crying shame that it has been allowed to fall away. By this time the 2 Mariekes had rejoined us, and due to a lack of mopeds at the rental shop we had to double up, with the inevitable punctures following, a real pain in the neck that cost us plenty of time. However, we did manage to make it to Ahar, where over 250 domed cenotaphs, built over 350 years, celebrate the lives of the Mewar Maharajas and various family members.
The following day we managed to obtain additional bikes and headed out to Tiger Lake, a large reservoir around 10 kms from Udaipur set about, yet again, stunning scenery. Again, unfortunately the day was punctuated by puncture stops and running out of fuel!
Udaipur really is a stunningly beautiful place, and far less dirty than most of the other towns and cities that I have visited in India - it is probably the first place that I would direct parents to, but it also has plenty to offer those of a younger generation. However, as ever, more plans were being hatched, and we wanted tigers. Ranthambore National Park is apparently one of the best places in all of India to see them, and we could be there within an overnight journey. Time was of the essence as it would close in a week or so due to the coming rains, so we made tracks...