It's never nice to arrive in a new destination feeling lousy, but checking in to the Tiger Hotel in Udaipur was a huge relief.
I felt terrible - flu-y and gross - and couldn't wait to crawl into bed. Despite my maudlin state, we made our way up to the rooftop for dinner, and it was all worth it! The view over the lake in Udaipur was incredible. The light was magical, and we enjoyed our first dinner in the 'most romantic city in India'.
Udaipur was our first stop in Rajasthan, and it was an amazing place to start. Also known as the 'City of Lakes'. Udaipur is set amongst a series of artificial lakes. Our accommodation was right on the shore of Lake Pichola, with the Aravalli Hills stretching into the distance. The streets around our accommodation were narrow and crooked, filled to the brim with shops selling art and textiles, and at times, completely overrun with motorbikes and tuk tuks, making it virtually impossible to walk down the road.
Since I was still feeling pretty terrible, we took it easy on our first day, and went to check out Bagore-ki Haveli. Haveli is a type of townhouse or mansion, and there are loads of them in Udaipur that have been turned into guesthouses. This one has been turned into a sort of museum/art gallery. Built in the 18th century, some of the rooms have been restored to what the house would have looked like while it was still being lived in. Other rooms hold museum-type exhibits, such as dioramas of a wedding procession, traditional Rajasthani puppets, or, my favourite, the world's largest turban.
Sadly, all this activity really took it out of me, and that was it for me for the rest of the day. I managed to rally in time to go out for a particularly romantic rooftop dinner, made slightly less romantic by my constant sniffing and nose blowing...
City Palace Museum
I geared myself up for a big second day in Udaipur. The main attraction is the City Palace, and we were ready to tackle it.
After a very confusing ticket buying process (there are several attractions within the complex, each with an individual ticket with a difference price, some available at different windows, with no clear indication of the best way to buy them), we walked away from the window with a ream of tickets. We had no fewer than 6 tickets each, and they were all enormous. As in, I couldn't fit them in my handbag. We had no idea what they were all for, but we were going for it.
City Palace and City Palace Museum
The first stop of the day was a tour of the City Palace itself with an audio guide. The City Palace in Udaipur is the largest palace in Rajasthan, and the tour was a fascinating slice of history. Again, the palace has been restored to demonstrate how it would have looked when it was still being lived in. Of particular highlight was the downstairs patio filled with peacock mosaics.
Boat ride - Lake Palace and Jag Mandir
From the City Palace, we made our way down to the lake for our boat ride. As we piled on, we headed past the Lake Palace. This luxury hotel (originally built as a royal summer palace) was featured in the James Bond film Octopussy (much celebrated by the city, where it's played in dozens of restaurants every night at 7pm), and is now a hell of a way to say goodbye to some hard earned cash. While you can't go into the island hotel unless you're staying, it was cool to cruise past and check it out from a distance.
Our real destination for the boat trip was the island of Jag Mandir, in the middle of Lake Pichola. Again, the island was a royal palace, but it is now a public space. We had read that it was a nice (but expensive) place to stop for drinks or lunch with a view back towards the city, so we were disappointed to find the place in chaos when we arrived. They were setting up for a huge wedding, so it was difficult to look around, and none of the eateries were open. While the view was nice, we didn't spend long, instead opting to head back to the palace to top up our refreshment levels.
After getting off the boat incredibly thirsty, we stopped at the first place we saw and grabbed a couple of cokes. We nearly died when the bill arrived and it was 500r ($10NZD)! That's probably one of the most expensive 'meals' we've had since arriving in India!
Durbar Hall and the Crystal Gallery
We had one last stop on our tour of the palace complex - Durbar Hall and the Crystal Gallery. Durbar Hall is the royal reception hall, and home to some of the largest chandeliers in India (and we've seen a surprising number of chandeliers since arriving here. The walls are covered with the portraits of the former Maharanas of Mewar, which is believed to be the oldest ruling dynasty in the world, spanning 76 generations.
The most fascinating part of this part of the tour though is the Crystal Gallery. Maharana Sajjan Singh went nuts ordering all sorts of crystal goodies from F & C Osler in England, but died before they arrived. The boxes were packed away and forgotten about for 110 years. Now, the whole collection is on display in Durbar Hall. From crystal chairs and sofas to crystal tables and footstools, and even a crystal bed, it's a mind boggling display of lavish excess. It also looks incredibly impractical and uncomfortable.
By this stage, I was fading pretty quick. After a quick bite to eat on our way, we headed back to the hotel, where I passed out, exhausted.
?Sound and light show?
I still felt terrible the next day, so we opted for a quiet one, and decided to venture out to check out the Mewar sound and light show that took place at the palace every night at 7pm. Sadly, we were informed that it wasn't happening, and were rather ambiguously told that it wasn't happening the next night either, so after a lackluster dinner, we headed back to the hotel, defeated.
Things did not go well for me after that. I'm not sure whether it was the dinner (probably it wasn't), but I spent a fair bit of time in the bathroom that night...
Mansapurna Karni Mata Ropeway and Temple
The next day, I took it easy, choosing not to leave the hotel room at all. I had little energy, and things were still not quite right gastrointestinally, but I felt a little better as the day wore on.
At 4pm, we headed out to walk 2.2kms to catch a gondola (as we would call it at home) up a hill to a temple to enjoy some sunset views over the city. While my energy levels were pretty low, it was great to be out of the house, and I was enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.
We got our tickets and rode the ropeway up, enjoying the expansive views. Once we were at the top, I started to feel really worn out really quickly. Every time I tried to walk somewhere, my head would spin and I'd be hit with waves of nausea. In the end, I sat on the stairs and waited for it to pass, while sending Zev off to enjoy the scenery and take some photos. While I was sitting, I started to feel a bit better - perhaps because I got to spend the whole time watching some squirrels play - but every time I tried to stand up to go find Zev, I'd feel faint again.
When he came back, I managed to wander for another 5 or so minutes before realising that it was just safer to head back to the hotel. Unfortunately, while there had been no queue to get up, there was a big queue to get back down. I spent an uncomfortable 10 minutes patiently waiting my turn (thank god there was an organised numbers-based system), and then an uncomfortable 5 minutes trying not to throw up on 4 strangers in the cable car.
Once I ran off the car at the bottom and pushed through a crowd of people to get out of there, I managed to get my shit together (aided by a bottle of water and some pharmaceuticals), and we flagged a tuk tuk to get us back to the hotel. I finally admitted defeat, and cracked open the antibiotics. Plus some paracetamol. And some ibuprofen. And an antihistamine. So you know. The whole shebang. Because fuck being sick. Zev went out for a romantic candlelit rooftop dinner for 1.
The next morning, I literally climbed out of bed and did a dance. While I wasn't 100%, I hadn't pooped for at least 12 hours, and my cold symptoms were finally starting to abate. Now for those reading at home - yes, I know that a cold is a virus, and antibiotics don't treat viruses. But the combo of the traveller's diarrhea and the cold were taking a toll on my immune system, and the antibiotics (taken on advice from the handy booklet that we got from the travel doctor) to treat my guts freed up some much needed antibodies to fight off the cold. It's science. I don't expect you to understand.
Anyway, we still decided to take it easy for fear of a relapse. We spent the day eating (carefully) and playing board games, but in the evening we ventured out to a cultural show at Bagore-ki Haveli.
This was definitely a highlight. The show demonstrated a variety of traditional Rajasthani dances, and some incredible puppetry. It was a really fun night, and a great way to top off our stay in Udaipur.
We spent one final day in Udaipur, again, taking it pretty easy and enjoying the rooftop views for the last time. Last night, we caught a hell of an overnight bus to Jaisalmer (12 hours away). It was rough, and I didn't get much sleep. But we pulled into Jaisalmer, were met by a tuk tuk driver from our hotel, and were dropped off to our magnificent hotel.
We were immediately sent up to the rooftop to take in the views of nearby fort while sipping our welcome chai. We're super excited to spend some time exploring the fort and hoping to spend some time out in the desert!
Lots of love,
S & Z