After the chaos and noise of Mumbai, my arrival in Udaipur provided an entirely welcome dose of relaxation. During my four days here, I've managed to properly get over my jet lag and stop noticing the heat.
Udaipur is Rajasthan's 'Lake City', with its Old City quarter dominated by the City Palace and the Lake Palace of the area's ruling Maharanas. The Old City is a maze of narrow, winding streets lined with various tourist amenities, and buzzing with intermittent motorbike and autorickshaw traffic. Rooftop restaurants are features common to most of the hotels in the city, and provide panoramic views across the city towards the hills that rise sharply on the horizon.
In this setting, everyday Indian life proceeds at a pace that is sedate enough for me to follow. Whereas Mumbai was a mill of activity, Udaipur is quiet enough for me to pick out individual threads of activity. Occasionally, a caravan of donkeys worms its way through the streets; men push carts of produce from building to building, calling out their wares.
On my second day here, I was taken on a tour of the city by a friendly and informative rickshaw driver who walked with me through the bustling and colourful fruit and spice market, where the locals do their daily shopping. Beyond the city, I also stopped at the Maharana's Monsoon Palace, perched high on a hilltop in a wildlife preserve. From the Palace, I gazed down at Udaipur spread out far below.
The most picturesque moment however did not come until last night, when I was eating dinner at sunset at the Dream Heaven restaurant. (I had malai kofta, which I highly recommend!) As the light faded, I noticed a stream of black shapes materialising from the darkness in the sky over the City Palace. For nearly an hour they appeared, sweeping along the dried-up lakebed and past where I sat nursing my after-dinner coffee. The shapes had been passing for a few minutes before one flew close enough for me to realise that they were not birds, but rather bats coming out for their nightly hunt. Below them, local kids continued their game of cricket on the lakebed, entirely uninterested in a sight that I found amazing. A centuries-old Rajasthani palace, a stream of bats, and kids enjoying a game of cricket - all in a single glance! Absolutely incredible.
And yet, I can feel that it is time to move on. This afternoon I'm catching a bus to the Hindu holy city of Pushkar, about 7 hours north of Udaipur. Apparently the city has a number of spectacular Hindu temples as well as 46 holy ghats lining the city's central lake. I'll let you know in a few days how that goes!
(And I'll upload photos as soon as I can find a computer with either a memory card slot or a USB port!)