India: Going to the white city of Udaipur

10 to 11th February 2015

The image of Taj Mahal remains fresh in my mind and as I left with Diana for Udaipur, I looked back at Jaipur and said goodbye to the pink city and all of my memories. Mission: Dance at Wendy’s wedding = complete. Now, bring on the holidays! The drive to Udaipur takes one through Ajmer and Pushkar. It was only natural that we also make a stop there. There is no better way to see and understand the country than to travel by road. You don’t miss out on any hidden scenery and come to understand many of the social phenomenal that occur in your host country. For example, it was interesting to see many empty and somewhat isolated apartment blocks. With her growing population, India do need more housing however like China, is the supply and demand balanced? Can people afford it? I’m curious about the cost of apartments in India – I do hope it’s not as insane as the ones in China.Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 11.18.54 AMScreen Shot 2016-07-21 at 11.16.43 AMScreen Shot 2016-07-21 at 11.10.12 AMRajasthan’s landscape, although barren is no short of being colorful and interesting. It was great to see rural women and the occasional holy cows. ( From my research, rural women have fairly low status). It was also interesting to drive past brick factories which are common in the Western parts of the Asia continent. It is not hard to imagine that work condition is bad, the pay is low and that it is a mini community of struggle, child slavery and well- a tiny micro-economy. In fact, everywhere I look, there is a mini-economy and community going on. One of my favorite photo is the one below of the smiling gentleman and his family-owned store. Although his house, which he shares with other families, is in a poor state, the thing that I find most attractive is his great genuine smile and positivity. It is a tea stand often graced by locals and he was happy to see us.Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 11.19.30 AMAjmer’s Dargah bazaar which is a short walk from the train station is filled with small side streets. Architecture and murals are delightful and although we would like to have a stop-over at the lake, we had to race towards Pushkar. Pushkar (lotus flower in English) is a holy Hindu city filled with the usual Indian flavor: colorful lanes, temples, lots of energy and great markets. With the lake as its main attraction, the city is also dotted with ghats and temples. Pushkar lake, said to be created by Lord Brahma is a holy spot and thus a place of pilgrimage for Hindus. Pushkar’s markets are equally colorful with cows mixing with locals who just chill all day and watch passing tourists.

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Like my previous distraction in Jaipur, loud music and a wave of fiery red saris caught my attentions. I wasn’t sure if it was a wedding or a festival but again, I stood aside and just watched on with a smile on my face.

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After a nap, we arrived in Udaipur and I  spent the evening walking around the city center and stocking up on local artworks. I know that many people have warned me against walking alone at night in India but by using common sense, one will be fine. It was great to see the city at night time and especially wonderful to be invited to tea by a great Indian couple who sold me their paintings.

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Like a slice of the most tallest wedding cake, Udaipur is stunning and sweet!  Udaipur is not famous because of Octopussy. James Bond did not make the ancient city filled with lakes, forts, gardens and palaces famous ok? Udaipur has always been a romantic and gorgeous setting,  a colorful city filled with art, lively festivals and fairs. Like many other cities in Rajasthan known as the country of the Rajputs (sons of princes), Udaipur is a royal city and the capital of the Mewar rules.SONY DSCLegend has it that Maharana Udai Singh  met a holy sage who asked him to establish a kingdom in the fertile valley that is present-day Udaipur. Like so many ancient cities be it in Myanmar or Cambodia or Laos or Sri Lanka, there has always been that common theme of a ruler, a holy sage which leads to the founding of a city. Before Udaipur, Chittorgarh was the capital but due to frequent attacks, it was moved to Udaipur. This can be seen in 1568 when Emperor Akbar ( YES! YOU KNOW WHO I’M TALKING ABOUT!) attacked the Mewars. The Singh moved his capital to Udaipur – a naturally safe area due to the city being surrounded by the Aravalli Hills.  When the Brits moved into India, Udaipur became a princely state of British India in 1818.

Such an interesting history and I’m on my way to see her. The walk from my hostel to the Udaipur centre is great since I’m able to mingle with the locals. It’s located in a neighborhood (15 minute walk from the Clock Tower) amongst local houses both big and modern- small and basic. The people are curious and extremely friendly and yes photogenic!

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Someone else loves my hat!

Udaipur is a very artistic city – clearly seen from the many colorful murals around the city and on my way to see the City Palace, I came across LaLa, a local artist who is well known locally as a great art teacher. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at his artwork and ended up buying some very unique jewelery.SONY DSCAfter a left turn from his store, the gates of the City Palace revealed itself.Built over a long period of time, it is considered to be the largest royal complex in Rajasthan.There are a series of palaces inside the city palace complex with most of them facing east. 30.4 m in height and built towards the east of Lake Pichola, it was built by 76 generations of the rajputs. When so many take part in such construction, you will surely get a blend of interesting architecture. As I walked on the white marble floor, passing through murals, balconies, towers and wonderful artistic remnants, it is easy to fall in love with either the colors of the palace or the majestic view of the lake……

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or the city from the upper terraces.

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Due to the gentle and picturesque backdrop of the lake and mountains, the white palace looks like a tall and decorative wedding cake. Since it has a romantic feel to it, I was not surprised to witness a wedding rehearsal. This is a great place to hold one’s wedding and watching them rehearse is like being invited to a very royal reception.

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There are so many great palaces each with their own artistic theme and as much as I adore the murals, mirror works, paintings and balconies, my favorite one would have to be open space which allows great movement  from one point to another and most importantly: panoramic view of the magical city.

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I could stay in the Peacock square (inner courts of the palace) for ages. Like the gates that I saw in Jaipur’s City Palace, the peacock once again takes center stage. The three peacocks represents summer, winter and monsoon and each is made up of 5000 pieces of glass. The black and white floor adds a great modern touch to this historical court and for a minute, I imagined myself dancing here…with none but someone who loves me for who I am. It certainly is a romantic spot since many couples both local and international pay a visit to Udaipur. It was lovely to meet a young couple with a great sense of hour. When the gentleman told me that they are from “Bangalore”- I smiled and said : ” So are you both like a programmer or engineer?” He smiled and replied: ” Yes, except my wife is much more better than me because she programs me!”  Bangalore: 8.42 million people also known as the Silicon Valley of India – I’ll save it for next time.

Before saying goodbye to the City Palace, I caressed it one last time since this could be the last.

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As the City Palace disappeared slowly behind me, I met up with Diana for one last time by Pichola Lake. Artificially created in 1362, the islands and surroundings have been decorated with temples and palaces. The iconic Lake Palace and currently a hotel often makes a scene in movies…say my obsession “THE FALL”

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Diana left for Delhi and I have one two more days left in my epic India trip. It was great though to hang out with some great local women who first approached me to say hi. I guess they are not used to seeing a lone traveller.

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With wonderful Teena

Night fell and I said goodbye to Teena, her husband and two adorable kids. They invited me to see their apartment in the morning and taught me how to make tea. On my way back to my guesthouse, my sari shopping adventure turned into a Bollywood dance battle with the local family. Just the way to end my Udaipur trip.

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I’m always excited when I land in a new place. Saying goodbye kills me. The casual strolls, the wonderful art and historical feel, the city, her people and all those memories will stay with me for a lifetime.

I drifted off to sleep and saw myself walking on the roof of Teena’s apartment with the City Palace walls in the near distant.  Tomorrow morning, I’ll be longer there.

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The Blue City awaits…..