The overnight train down to Udaipur in AC2 was seriously nice, I had my own reasonably comfortable bed curtained off from the rest of the world with a window running all the way down watching night time India fly by. It was all that was available and compared to the other classes was quite expensive, £10 for an 8 hour journey.
In the morning on the way in you see many golden hills and cliffs surrounding the city and it actually reminded me a lot of California in the summer, as well as this of this the streets around the main touristy area are pretty hilly and reminded me of a mini Indian San Francisco. Randomly picked a place in the guide to wing it to and thankfully they had a couple of rooms free, probably as it was still so early in the morning. Lake View Hotel - if you ever go to Udaipur stay there, the rooms are good and cheap and the view from the top is the best around. Situated almost right on the top of a hill to the side of the city you can easily see the rest of it from the rooftop. There are stunning lakes all around with a couple of island palaces within the main one. It's a pretty incredible place the first time you see it, and I decided it was the best place I'd seen in India so far. They also did a mean scrambled egg on toast with "backed beans" mmm.
All the hotels are in the main tourist area and half the people wandering around are westerners which certainly made an interesting change. Headed out the hotel and had a wander down to the lake side, there were a few stepped ghats down into the water which people were using to wash and clean their clothes. The odd cow or donkey walked aimlessly around. Got chatting to a couple of people including a little kid of about 10 or so who spoke surprisingly good English. His dad worked in the lake palace hotel playing the flute in the restaurant. The lake palace hotel looks incredible and is effectively a luxury hotel floating on a lake but is in reality on an island entirely covered by the building. You're not even allowed on unless you're a paying guest, and rooms are about £400 a night, a far cry from the £4.50 I was paying. This kids Dad was on a weekly wage of 800 rupees (a bit over £10) working full time in a hotel where guests spend that much literally on peanuts. Another incredible example of the divide in this country.
Over the next couple of days did a random rickshaw tour around the rest of Udaipur which to be honest was a bit of a waste of time, as there isn't much to see outside the center of the city. Checked out the city palace which is a huge imposing structure where the Maharaja would rule from nicely able to see most of the region from the top. The museum inside detailed the history of the region and the palace, much through old paintings. I was amused by the sheer brutality of most of them, it seemed back then past times involved going out and killing all means of wild animals as well as staging elephant, tiger and leopard fights. It all reminded me a bit of Gladiator and the roman coliseum, all that was missing was the pitting of slaves against the animals! No wonder most of these species were now on the brink of extinction within India. Took a boat over to Jagmandir Island, an island palace built by the Maharaja to chill in, just because he could. This island and the city palace houses luxury and expensive hotels and restaurants and it was bizarre to find this much cleanliness and expense just a short walk from the main gate and out onto the cow, dog, begger and tout filled streets outside - but that's India for you. I noticed the rich tourists staying at these hotels were mainly British or American, had hired guides and translators with them at all times and went from place to place in a nice clean air conditioned taxi. What a boring way to see India..
In the evening I got a rickshaw up to the monsoon palace, it's a long steep journey through a protected wildlife sanctuary and sure enough there were funky looking moneys dotted about. Apparently there used to be hundreds of tigers and elephants in the region but now there were none.. I wonder why.
The view from the top over the whole of Udaipur and the surrounding mountainous landscape is stunning especially as the sun sets, ruined only slightly by the hazy smog that is so prominent across this country.
Instead of finally getting around to writing this blog I ran into a few Ozzies and a kiwi I'd met earlier. Mik, mik and mik - talk about easy to remember. Ended up getting drunk on cheap kingfisher and watching Bond - Octop**** on the top of the hotel. They seem to seriously love that movie here as a lot of it is set in India, with bond even staying in the lake palace hotel here in Udaipur, so many of the hotels have nightly DVD sessions. Its hilarious to watch while in India as you realise on the whole just how little this country has changed in 25 years. Huge amounts remain the same except now everyone has mobile phones!
Headed to the station later on in the evening to catch my epic 17 hour train down to Mumbai. Unfortunately didn't quite have the luxury of AC2 this time round and was in a middle bunk of 3 with not enough head room to even half sit up - fun times. To top it all off I was finally slightly suffering from the classic Delhi belly so didn't expect to sleep particularly well. Ironically all I'd really had to eat was a chicken burger from the nice restaurant in the Udaipur city palace - sods law.