Installment #6 - November 5, 2000
We thought we would need a taxi to carry us and all our stuff to the Jaipur train station to catch the overnight train to Udaipur, but none was available at our hotel. We located an auto rickshaw, and thought we might need a second, but the green monster, Rita, and the rest of our baggage fit in the rear, and I shared the driver's seat. Packing an autorickshaw so full was a novelty for us, but we have seen many vehicles, including auto rickshaws, so overloaded with people and cargo that we expect them to collapse in a pile on the pavement at the next bump in the road. But we have never seen that happen, and we continue to be amazed at what can be carried.
We have seen bicycle rickshaws carrying 6 foot by 4 foot by 2 foot display cases. A Vespa motor scooter with driver in front and a guy in back holding two large sheets of glass. A ladder 15 or 20 feet long carried between two bicycles. Several bicycle rickshaws with school bus enclosures carrying a dozen elementary-age school kids inside, and their backpacks on the outside. Vespas carrying a whole familyman, woman, three kids and some baggage. But I digress...
We shared a sleeper compartment with a mother and daughter from California, arrived at the Udaipur station about 10AM Wednesday, and settled into the Lake Pachola Hotel.
Udaipur has been called the Venice of the East. I think that that's a bit of an exaggeration, but I must admit I haven't been to Venice. Anyway, Udaipur does have several lakes with bridges connecting the various parts of the city. One of the best known attractions is the Lake Palace Hotel. Built in 1754 as a summer palace for Maharana Jagat Singh II, it occupies all of Jagniwas Island in Lake Pachola, and is now a luxury hotel complete with green courtyard, lotus pond, and swimming pool. The Lake Palace, along with the Monsoon Palace, were used as sets in the 007 movie Octopussy, and the tourist restaurants are still showing Octopussy after the evening meal.
I am not as much interested in the historical places of India as I am in the lives of current-day Indians. My favorite thing is to walk the streets and observe people doing what they do every day. And that is what I did in Udaipur. I got up early to beat the heat, and walked around town through the business streets and the residential neighborhoods.
I saw breakfast being prepared at numerous food stalls. I saw milk being delivered in large cans attached to bicycles. At each stop, the delivery man would open the large can and ladle milk into a smaller container. Fruit and vegetable vendors pushed their carts through the streets. A young girl led three donkeys loaded sometimes with sand, sometimes with rocks and broken bricks. People washed themselves, their clothes, and their dishes at sidewalk faucets and manual water pumps. At the lake, the ghats were full of women bathing and washing clothes. Those who perform their morning toilet in public places seem to have mastered the art of doing what needs to be done without much compromise of modesty.
At noon of our third and final day in Udaipur, we took a boat to the Lake Palace for lunch. Casual visits are not allowed, so this was the only way we could see the Lake Palace short of actually staying there, which, according to our guidebook, would have cost $210 to $550 per night. [Aw, c'mon, Allenyou only live once!] Lunch cost about 1600 Rs for the two of us (we typically spend about 200 to 250 Rsabout $5for lunch), but the Lake Palace was one place we did not want to miss. After lunch, I sat in the courtyard while Rita checked out the shops. We soaked in the ambiance until about 4:30PM before returning to our hotel to collect our baggage and catch the train to Ahmedabad.
It was not until after we arrived at the station that I discovered that the departure time had changed from the original schedule. The schedule we had prepared before leaving home showed a 7PM departure, but the reservation slip showed 9:15PM. We had a supper of bananas and tangerines on the station platform and fed the banana peels to a passing cow.
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This is our hotel in Udaipur, the Lake Pachola
Hotel, as seen from the east shore of the lake.
This is the view from the window of our hotel room
(We did not have a "Lake View" room). We were
told that rainfall has been below normal for the last
few years, so the Lake is quite low. It is also quite
green with algae and water plants.
Rita enjoyed the ornate Rajasthani carved rosewood
furniture in our room. Allen hit his head on the carved
rosewood headboard (Indians beds all seem to be
6 feet long, sometimes a little less).
A view along the road leading from our hotel.
You can see that passing on this road poses a
challenge for cars and auto rickshaws.
This funeral procession passed near our hotel
on the way to a nearby ghat (wide stone steps
leading into the water). The women are wearing
Rajasthani style saris. We were told that the men
would follow later bringing the body.
This is a view of the City Palace from the roof of
our hotel. According to our guidebook, this is the
largest palace complex in the state of Rajasthan.
Taken on a main road near the east shore of Lake Pichola
just after a case of gridlock (or whatever you call solidly
blocked traffic when no intersection is involved) had been
cleared. This was the first case of gridlock I have observed;
drivers usually manage to pass even in impossibly tight
quarters. Clearing it required some negotiation before an
auto rickshaw and a taxi backed into an alley and a parked
Vespa was moved a few inches.
"Men not allowed" seems to be a common rule at
beauty parlors in Udaipur.
This cow has found a restful spot on a quiet back street.
The gutter is carrying household waste water and
sewage toward the lake.
This is the Lake Palace Hotel, one of the best-known,
and most expensive, hotels in India. It completely occupies
an island in Lake Pachola. The James Bond movie
Octopussy included scenes from this hotel, from the
Monsoon Palace above the city, and an auto rickshaw
chase through (simulated?) Udaipur streets.
Octopussy seems to be a major tourist selling point
for Udaipur. There are a large number of rooftop
restaurants that feature dinner and a free screening
of Octopussy each evening.
We had dinner on the rooftop of M's Buffet with a
good view of the Lake Palace, and then enjoyed
Octopussy along with our dessert.
A view of the Lake Palace Hotel garden. This picture of Rita in the Lake Palace Hotel
shows some of the inlayed marble work.
This elaborately dressed gentleman is the "boatman"
at the Lake Palace Hotel. His position is similar to
"doorman", but his main duty is controlling the flow
of boats that carry the guests from the hotel to the shore.
Rita is seen here in the Lake Palace lobby
with a pair of large wooden models of
Rajasthani Khat-Putli puppet dolls.
I got a kick out of the picture-taking stance
of this German tourist.
- The deadline for placing your Spy Cream order is November 12. We have orders for 3,248 tubes so farI guess the green monster may come in handy after all.