Wednesday, February 17, 2010


Upon arrival on the night train to Udaipur, we took a tuk-tuk to a hotel recommended in Lonely Planet and checked into about the cutest little room ever. We were told it was over 200 years old, and we believed it, given the way it compared with all the old buildings from that era we'd been in. It had nice paintings on the wall, a cute window seat, and one room for the toilet/sink and another for the shower, making in the first place we've stayed so far where you could shower without getting the toilet wet. Pretty sweet. It was only 500 rupees, so we happily took it, took showers, and had breakfast (including Nutella toast) at the rooftop restaurant.

Our first site of the day was the City Palace Museum, which at first was very busy, but oddly the crowds petered out over time even though it seemed to be a one-way museum with no options even for an early exit. The first portion of the museum was about local history, with some mediocre art to illustrate important events that we didn't have the historical background to appreciate. Nothing like coming to a place like India to illustrate how Euro-centric our educations were. However, the second half of the museum had nice art, furniture, views, and well-restored mosaics that made us wish we'd paid the 200-rupee camera fee. Oh well.

The museum took us a few hours, so the next stop was lunch at the Lonely Planet recommended restaurant Maxim's Cafe. Service was incredibly slow but we had a good time chatting with a pair of women from Australia and an Asian-American couple. The Asian-American couple are nearing the end of a 6-month tour and had lots of tips to share. They said that as soon as a hotel makes it into Lonely Planet, they double their prices (something we were staring to suspect), and that if you go across the street you can generally find very similar rooms and amenities for half the price. They said that sometimes they leave her with the bags in the lobby of one hotel while he makes an excuse to go out and checks out other hotels in the area. They also said they've had good luck hanging out in the lobbies of the fancy hotels and using their internet. And that the street food is amazing, and around 5 rupees, and that they've been fine eating it at any popular establishment regardless of seeing the food cooked or not. All four spoke highly of Varanasi, so I think we will try to stop there.

From Drop Box

After lunch we went to a cultural museum in an old Palace with its rooms restored and decorated to be representative of life there back when it was new. It was a small but nice museum. After that we wondered the streets for a while, finding a nice little general store with a very helpful owner who helped us find a lens cloth for our camera (something the camera shops didn't have!) at a sunglasses shop. We also purchased a little bottle of hand sanitizer from him (since you can't really trust the tap water for that), something we've been seeking for quite a while with no success. Later in our wanderings we stopped by a used watch shop and Josh picked up a Sandoz automatic (self-winding) watch for 1000 rupies. He is very happy with it.

We returned to the touristy area in time to grab a few bananas before returning to the cultural museum for an evening performance of traditional dances from Rajasthan. We didn't bring our camera as we figured it would be too dark. Big mistake. The dances were really cool. There was one depicting a sword battle between two guys, one riding on a tiger. In another a couple women did an energetic dance with flaming pots on their heads. Another was by puppets, the most amazing marionettes, one with a sexy dance with jiggling boobs and hips, another with a magician who took his head off and did a variety of things with it. Finally, there was a dance by a woman who kept adding pots to her head until she had a stack taller than she was on top of her head!

After the show we stopped to put our shoes on and who should we meet coming out after us but Resy, the Dutch nurse we spent the day with in Fetepur Sikri 10 days previously! We went to dinner together and heard about her trip out to Jaisalmer where she did an overnight camel trip. We'd decided against that before, but she made it sound really nice, and made us wish we'd left time for it and didn't have a flight already booked back to Delhi 36 hours later! We arranged to spend the following afternoon sightseeing with her via tuk-tuk.

In the morning we tried to take the boat ride out to one of the islands on the lake, but arrived too early. When we were walking back to our hotel, another hotelkeeper called out to us to try his rooms. We said we had a hotel already and he said he had rooms for 300 rupees. Remembering what the Asian-American couple had said the day before, we went up and had a look. It was larger, but less cute than the room we already had. He also claimed to have 24-hour hot water, though we didn't check. Josh offered him 250 for it and he took it. So we checked out checked out of our other hotel and moved across the street for a similar room a half the price, just like they said. Of course we're only talking about a $5 savings, but out of a $40-$60/day target budget, that's not bad, and it'll add up.

The boat ride ended up being kind of disappointing: a nice view of the city from the water, but then a little boring. The island had looked cool from the mainland, but when we got there the hotel that owned it would only let us walk around a small boring courtyard and go to their overpriced restaurant, which we declined to do. We wondered around the City Palace grounds for a bit after, until it was time to meet Resy.

Outside Lame Courtyard

Lame Courtyard

Lake Palace Hotel, featured in Octopussy.

City Palace

We found Resy outside our old hotel lobby, excitedly waiting for Nutella toast. We joined her for a tuk-tuk tour of a variety of gardens in the vicinity, including one we took a paddleboat out to. We picnicked on bananas and American Style potato chips and talked about how much better it would be if we also had peanut butter or Nutella. Later, it occurred to me that the guy who was so helpful with the lens cloth and hand sanitizer might know where we could buy such things. Resy agreed to go on such an expedition with us, and when we found him it turned out he actually carried Nutella. We bought his last two containers. He was all out of peanut butter, but said he was getting more the next day. We ended up finding another shop with peanut butter later.

We took a break and got on the internet for a while to print out our boarding passes and try to post to the blog, but had difficulty uploading photos.

We went to dinner at Queen Cafe, which was highly recommended in her guidebook and had the most amazing pumpkin curry. Except we didn't really believe it was pumpkin, it seemed like apples. Either way, it was really good.

When we were almost done, we were joined by a young man from London who was taking a year off between high school and college to teach English. He was taking 2 weeks off from that for some sightseeing. The most incredible thing though was that he was drinking the tap water. The restaurant owner obviously thought he was nuts, just like we did, but he said he'd gotten a cholera vaccine back home that also protects against Delhi Belly. Said he's been drinking the tap water for months with no trouble. I want that vaccine!

Resy gave us her contact info and some details on the cheap European airline that goes to Holland, so that we can visit her when we are in Europe. Sweet.

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