Two weeks ago we posted the final installment of articles about my tour with G Adventures through the Golden Triangle of India. By now you’ll probably agree that the only possible followup to the intensity of that particular corner of our precious little planet is full-out R&R.
From prior experience, I knew that a quick return home would be about as peaceful as surfacing quickly from a deep-sea dive. A more liminal destination was in order – someplace neither here nor there.
Last trip, that place was McLeodGanj, home of the Dalai Lama. This time it was Udaipur, to celebrate a festival of colors in India’s whitest city.
Our guide generously offered us his home for the festival, and long before we found out his home was a haveli (palace) eight of us rearranged our plans to make the trek.
Everything in India is a trek, right? We boarded the train from Jaipur for the scheduled seven-hour journey, planning for nine and pulling in at about eight-and-a-half. The train gave me the impression I was behind the Iron Curtain, with dilapidated seats in a light-aqua color that spread to the painted steel. My companions were blogging during the experience and can provide more detail than I care to recollect (Check out The Adventures of Jess and Chris and Joey Sees the World).
It makes sense that the trip is rather involved (though a modern airport makes connections to Delhi a cinch). The city is nestled in a pristine mountain range, 2,000 feet above sea level. It’s that strategic position which kept it free from both Mughul and British colonizers – that, and fierce pride.
On the street, Udaipur isn’t dissimilar to other cities of Rajasthan: cows jostle with pedestrians in the medians to avoid passing traffic, tourist shops line the street, no shoe is left unsoiled. But there’s a subtle difference: softer, quieter, slower. Dispositions seem rosier. Greetings don’t typically include requests for rupees. Dogs wag their tails.
It’s up above that the city knocks a punch. Take a deep breath before ascending to the rooftops – where so much daily life occurs – because the views will leave you gasping. White palaces tumble down the hillsides like geese to a watering hole, their intricate latticework screens and domed roofs transcending personal aesthetics and arriving at the category of “just flat out beautiful, period.” The crowning gem is the City Palace on the highest hilltop, but everybody turns their gaze to Lake Pichola and its “floating” water palaces which give rise to the moniker The Venice of the East.
If any of this looks familiar, you’ve likely seen it in an Incredible !ndia ad campaign for the Ministry of Tourism. Or in a glossy magazine spread showcasing the world’s most luxurious hotels (the water-ringed Taj Lake Palace is one of the world’s most exclusive properties). Or in the James Bond film, Octopussy, which screens year-round throughout the city (I seem to find my way into a lot of his destinations; but then again, the man knows how to travel).
At night it only gets better. Daytime dirt is bleached away in the strong floodlights directed on the palaces, stars twinkle on the lake, and silence falls.
Sorry, did I not say that loudly enough? SILENCE FALLS. It’s a very strange thing to hear in an Indian city, and it had our synapses firing in alarm until we figured out why we felt so out of sorts.
However, the calm was about to be interrupted. The festival of Holi would begin, and with it would come horns and music, swirling clouds of color-saturated powder, and more than enough mischief to adequately herald spring. Stay tuned next week, and we’ll tell you more…
Have you been to Udaipur, or are you dreaming of a trip? Let us know what you’re thinking…
I’d like to extend my thanks to Flight Centre UK and G Adventures for making this trip possible and to the Narayan Niwas, Udaipur for providing accommodation and a place in which to rekindle my romance with India.
Udaipur (oo-DYE-poor) is the capital of the district of Udaipur, located in the Indian state of Rajasthan about 250 miles southwest of the state capital of Jaipur and 410 miles northeast of the national capital of Delhi.