7 Nov 2013
Today we meet at 8.00am and go for breakfast together at a bakery – there are French and German bakeries everywhere. Then we meet our local guide for a tour of the city palace. Although it is less crowded than yesterday, it is still packed with people from Ghujarat. It is again a large magnificent palace with different sections added in different centuries. The original palace looks the same imposing 3 or 4 storeys high but it is in fact built around a hill so that the top floor is actually the ground floor.
We hear about the history with lots of violence and battles for power by Hindu Kings (maharajahs) and Islam Moghuls. When the Moghul invaders came through they gave the maharajahs the choice of joining or fighting. If they joined, they got one title, if they fought and lost they got a little title but the Udaipur maharajah fought and never lost so he got a special title of Maharana. We learn that ‘Pur’ means place, so the first part of a place name like Jaipur, Udaipur etc is usually the name of the founding king of the town or city. The ending ‘garh’ of a place name means fort.
There are some spectacularly decorated rooms and views of the city but the pressing throngs make it very difficult to get a good look and it is getting very hot. Personal space is not valued here and people just push their way through regardless of whether you are in the way. Our guide is losing his voice trying to talk above the crowds. At one point the group gets split as one half take a wrong turn and end up in a courtyard while the others are touring the galleries above. It takes quite a while for us to be reunited and then we manage to escape through the entrance route.
I start to feel a bit like a movie star because all the local visitors appear to think it is a good idea to get a photo taken with a blond westerner and I have group after group come to ask if they can have a photo taken with me. I try to be gracious about it.
Seven of us have booked to go to a cooking class – quite surprisingly run by a man, Mr Shakti who turns out to also be the owner of our hotel. He is quite famous for his cooking and has newspaper articles about him from all around the world. But he loves the showmanship of running a cooking class and does his best to entertain us, although some of the jokes are a bit lame – I smile dutifully at the comments. These are occasionally quite clever e.g. when the ‘spice girls’ had to show us their cooking skills. We start with Masala chai, different Masala vegetables, Malai Kofta (delicious potato croquets with cashew nut and raisin stuffing and a cream sauce) and Biryani rice. We have the results for lunch and have the recipes as well so that we can make them at home. They have a shop as well where we can buy spices and spice boxes. I quickly buy some masala chai spice mix but then I have a date with destiny.
Most of us have decided to have our palms read by an astrologer that Intrepid have used for years. We approach it as a bit of fun – but in fact there is a lot of accuracy in much of what is said (this was quite upsetting for one of the group). I am happy with readings of luck and success – and apparently my straight thumb means I am very determined. I am in a period where I may meet a life partner but I need to calm the influence of Mars in my sign and must fast on Tuesday and wear pearl and coral to assist this! An interesting experience with some information that is useful and some that can be discarded.
Isabelle and I went shopping after this and I did purchase a small coral (and turquoise) pendant as a start. We watched a man carving elephants – with a baby inside – out of marble and purchase some of these for gifts. We go to a textile shop and I purchase a table cloth having decided that perhaps the designs weren’t too busy after all. And we completed our expedition with coffee and goodies at Café Namaste. Time for a rest and to sort out laundry and shopping to make them fit in our bags.
Dinner is at another rooftop restaurant on the other side of the lake. We are pleased to discover a bridge across a narrow part. I have Chicken Salwar with a spinach & tomato gravy. I sit with Barbara and Hans and Naveen, and we learn a lot about life in India.
Naveen is getting married on 12 December and has ordered his outfits for the wedding to be made in Udaipur and will pick them up on his next trip through. He shows us photos of the long red coat, the flowing white robes and the western style suit that he will wear over the several days of the wedding ceremony. Naveen’s older brother and sister had arranged marriages but he has been allowed to choose his wife, Rimu. His parents are keen to get the wedding out of the way so that they can go off and travel.
We have a very early start in the morning – even Naveen comes back with us to go to bed.
For this and other similar tours see:
Peregrine Adventures (Comfort tours)
Geckos Adventures (for 18 to 30s)
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