Flashback Friday – Udaipur, City of Lakes

Today, I really felt the need to post a Flashback Friday blog post given that I spent half my morning talking with a good friend about my trip to India 3 years ago. It was a roller-coaster ride for sure, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. The memories I made during that trip were unforgettable, engraved in my mind and my heart forever.

So here is a blog post I had written in December 2014 during my stay in Udaipur, India.

Udaipur, also called “the white city,” is quite a stunning place. We were lucky to have stayed at Hotel Pichola Haveli, which is directly next to the glorious Lake Pichola. Its two greatest features, aside its lakes, are the City Palace and the Jagdish Temple. We decided to skip the temple, and it ended up leading to a wonderful set of events nevertheless.

We started off our day early and headed to Sahelion Ki Bari, a beautiful garden built by Maharana Sangam Singh. I won’t go into the history details, but I will quote a bit from our tourist guidebook, Fodor’s Choice: “The garden is painted with exotic flowers and themed fountains that have carved pavilions and monolithic marble elephants. The fountains don’t have pump: designed to take advantage of gravity, they run on water pressure from the lakes.” For the minimal cost of 50 Rs each, we took a lovely morning stroll through this glorious garden. It felt like being in some cheesy romantic film, I swear.

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Directly afterwards, our driver brought us back into town. He dropped us at the entry for the City Palace, where we paid for our tickets (115 Rs per person, 200 Rs camera fee) before heading inside for a nice long visit. Honestly, as magnificent as this building was, eventually, you get tired of the “forts and temples” routine. Around halfway through the tour, we decided to high tail it to the exit and managed to by-pass two large groups; we felt much less rushed afterwards. This was surprisingly one of the busiest spots we’ve visited since the beginning of our trip.

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I should take the time to mention it now that one of the reasons I loved our experience in Udaipur was the size of the city. I actually felt comfortable walking around the streets, trying to make our way back to the hotel (if I haven’t already mentioned it, we’re actually horrible with directions). It was evidently a city and not just some small town, but it had a homey feel to it and it helped me get used to the hustle and bustle of India.

Walking through Udaipur’s streets is also what led us to having a great (but partially nerve-wracking) day. We began by having no fixed goal in mind, but were just checking out some shops along the way. We stopped into one music shop, which seemed pretty good, but not more so than any other shop we had seen so far. We kept going and saw a quaint little shop one street over from our hotel called Krishna Music. We figured we’d go in for a look, especially since Richard’s been looking into getting some prices on a decent-quality tabla. There, we met the shop owner named Krishna, whom we chatted with for 45 minutes about music and different cultures. He showed us his personal tabla, which he was willing to sell to Richard for 9000 Rs (about $167 CAD) with a case, covers, tuner, and all. He played for us and said he could also give Richard a lesson. He offered us some chai, which we instantly accepted, and also showed us some of the more traditional music he played in concerts on Indian drums.

After all this, Richard was convinced he had found the right tabla, so it was time to make the purchase. We didn’t have enough cash on us (duh) so we went back to the hotel, the two of them on Krishna’s motorcycle, me on foot. Here’s where things started to get scary…

When we headed back out to go and pay, Richard got on the motorcycle again and Krishna yelled out to me “You wait here,” pointing to the wharf next to our hotel. I assumed he meant to wait so that he could come back and pick me up, but the distance to the shop wasn’t even a 5 minute walk, so I shrugged it off and walked anyway. At the shop, I found the door locked and no shoes on the front step. Weird… I waited 5 minutes, saw no sign of anyone. I thought to myself maybe he had another shop where he had a payment machine and that’s where they had gone. So I walked back to the hotel and waited. I mean, if we got lost somehow, the hotel would be the best spot to reconnect, right? Unfortunately, I didn’t have the room key so I was stuck in the lobby, hoping not to be bothered by any passer-by. I waited for 40 minutes, sitting on that fancy little couch, trying not to let panic get the best of me. Richard was a grown man, he could handle himself. Not to mention, he is about twice the size of that Indian guy. I shouldn’t worry, I told myself. Get a grip, I’m sure everything is fine… So after that whole 40 minute argument with myself about what could have happened, I decided to try my luck by walking back to the shop.

Relief washed over me as soon as I saw Richard’s yellow and grey running shoes on the front step of that music shop. The door was still locked, so I knocked to ask what had happened. I know Richard must have seen the panic in my eyes, despite the fact that relief was flooding through my body from that point on. He apologized for the whole ordeal, even though it was really no one’s fault, and explained that Krishna had taken him to the ATM to get cash out to make the payment. OH. Doy. That makes so much sense. And right after, Krishna only had an hour or so of free time to offer the lesson so they had gotten right down to it, assuming I would come to the shop. Well, lesson learned: always communicate clearly with someone before splitting up!
When I think back upon that experience, I’m glad I didn’t actually let myself freak out, because I could have. But I needed to trust that he had made safe decisions that hadn’t led him into a bad situation, and that we could handle being on our own even though we didn’t have cell phones to communicate with each other every time we didn’t know where the other was. It reminds me of the good ol’ days, as they call them, where you couldn’t just text someone saying “I’m here,” when you arrived at someone’s house. You had to knock, sometimes numerous times and hoped they would hear you and answer the door. And if not, then you went back home, assuming they weren’t there. End of story.

Anyway, regardless of all that drama, we had a fantastic day, and it wasn’t even over yet. You couldn’t have asked for a better ending: riding off into the sunset on a boat ride with a view of Udaipur City. Just remarkable. Absolutely breathtaking.

So to finish up, here are our tips and tricks for spending some time here in Udaipur:

  • Don’t bother taking the City Palace boat rides offered at 600 Rs per person. You can take boat rides for as cheap as 250 Rs per person anywhere along the lakeside; score!
  • You can feel safe about walking the streets in this city, even as a woman on your own. Don’t get me wrong, most places are completely safe as well, but this town just has a homey feel to it and makes you comfortable about being there despite the fact that you are obviously a tourist. (Always be vigilant nevertheless.)
  • Take a break from sight-seeing if you’re tired of the fort-and-temple routine. You won’t enjoy your experience if you force yourself to do something you’re not that interest in. Make the most of your time by according time to what you prioritize.
  • Richard’s tip of the day: Say no to heroin if someone offers you some on the street.

That’s all for now. Thanks for taking the time to read about our adventures; we hope our intel has been interesting, at least, if not useful for some of you!

Namaste. xo

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