On our way from Jodhpur, we were excited to get to Udaipur. Of all the places we’d visited, I knew least about Udaipur apart from its roll in the James Bond film, Octopussy - which is why I was excited.
The most renowned sight in Udaipur is the Lake Palace. Once a Royal Home to one of the frankly confusingly large number of Royal Families of India, it is said that following a royal invitation to The Kennedys, Jackie suggested it should be turned into a hotel. It was and is now run by the Taj Group. We called to make a dinner reservation but it is not open to non-residents - a policy introduced since the terrorist attack in main Taj hotel in Mumbai in 2008. Naturally, we had a look for their availability on Trip Advisor but at over £600 a night, we thought better of it.
Where we were staying was unusual. Well positioned but in need of work, on one of the smaller landmasses sticking out into the lake, built on the old foundations of Udaipur which meant open sewers in the streets and predictable smells at street level. Still, we were essentially saving about £580 a night based on our Lake Palace enquiry. It was pleasant enough and the bed was comfortable.
Once settled, we headed into town for a wander, and in search of a gin & tonic and a showing of Octopussy - a novelty to most visitors but certainly the most boring of evening activities for the local restaurant owners who still offer it every night of the week in varying levels of comfort.
As the sun set, we watched the light change over the lake and once we’d decided on ‘Black Pepper’ as our restaurant of choice, we settled in for a game of Shit-Head (the only card game Sarah and I know), the strongest Gin & Tonic we’d encountered on our trip and waited for darkness over a masala papad.
Octopussy was (had it been viewed at home), a massive disappointment, cheesy, old and full of mediocre acting mainly in part form good old Roger Moore but given we were in Udaipur, it was amusing and fun to try and recognise the various areas they’d used for filming. We later found out that most tuk-tuk drivers claim they (or their parents) were in the film. Incidentally, and according to legend, the term tuk-tuk was not used in India for the auto-rickshaws until Octopussy was filmed and brought the slang with it.
Of all the places we’d visited on out trip, Udaipur so far was the most amiable place we’d seen. As a town, it wasn’t rammed while it was busy and fast paced. The variation in housing, colour and style along with the constantly changing lake view made Udaipur infinitely interesting.
The Royal Palace (different to the Lake Palace) - positioned above the lake with a marvellous view every sunset - was, from a distance, exquisite. Still largely owned by the royal family with a large quantity open to the public, we made the mistake of trying to have a look around it on a public holiday. We made it up one flight of stairs before deciding that the human congestion and humidity led to us wasting our ticket money and retreating. Indians could school Europeans on the art of ignoring queues and invading personal space, all the while trying to sneak photos of Sarah as selfies on their phones and giggling with their friends.
We thought the surroundings, people and general atmosphere of this small city was marvellous. Like everywhere in India, there were many things taken from granted at home that one needs to be relaxed about - this was something I found hard at first but Sarah took to it like a duck to water. It may have been that by this time we were -as a team -used to India’s idiosyncrasies, and I had finally relaxed into it. On a side note, we’d also found the only place so far that provided an above-average coffee, in fact, it was excellent coffee. This was one thing I missed more than anything but not in Udaipur with many hotels mixing nescafe instant with milk and leaving it on a hot plate for the duration of breakfast!
As a smaller place, there was more of a village feel, plenty of milling about in the public spaces but large enough to warrant the necessary wanderings with a camera and the now familiar hunt for an animal in a sweater (top gallery).
Udaipur, as a whole is now on my top-10 list of places anywhere in the world. It was a refreshingly calm and relaxed place and we both decided that if we were to live anywhere in India, this would be the place.