The bus ride from Jodhpur to Udaipur was a long one, seeing as I felt motion sick pretty much after one hour of driving, with still six to go. Halfway through, the bus did stop at a little gathering of kiosks, which is where I discovered how good salted turmeric popcorn is, so it wasn’t all bad.
In Udaipur, we hopped into tuk-tuks and were off on a roller coaster ride weaving in and out of traffic at high speed and having to turn around a few times because of the roads being closed off. They know what they're doing though and we arrived at our hotel in the middle of the old city in one piece.
Narayan Niwas heritage haveli was a stunning place and our room was naturally cool.
We quickly checked in before making our way across the street to the Rainbow restaurant. The restaurant was an absolute dream, with a rooftop overlooking the biggest of the seven incredible lakes and the restaurant serving really good food and drinks.
So far Udaipur was an absolute paradise and I could definitely see why it was Harsh’s favorite city.
The orientation walk wasn't until 5 pm, so John, Nina, Adri, Analyn and I decided to take a stroll down the street, looking in shops and getting a feel for the place. Weirdly Udaipur manages to be both an authentic and local city, with shops that are of much better quality than the usual tacky tourist trap and salesmen that let us roam without any pressure or stress, while also being positively Western, most of the locals accustomed to tourists and restaurants and cafes that have menus even foreigners understand and signs with ’vegan options available’!
At 5 pm Harsh took us around the old city, just around our hotel - past the city palace, temples and shops, pointing to good restaurants and ATMs. We ended up at the Rainbow Restaurant again for refreshing drinks.
At 6.45 we hurried to a Rajasthani Dance Show, which was already packed with people when we got there. The dancers were mesmerizing, and it was a definite highlight of the trip for me so far.
Afterward Harsh took us to a really nice restaurant, surprising Richard with a cake - as it was his 70th birthday - and all of us singing happy birthday to him.
It was a really nice evening, our mitch-match of a family laughing and talking the whole night.
The next morning Nina, Jenna, Adri and I were off to breakfast at Cafe La Comida just down the street, which had wifi and vegan milk. I ordered my first coffee of the trip - soy cappuccino - and the biggest portion of porridge I've ever seen. It was a lovely place and soon Harsh joined us and then Richard.
At 9 am we met up with the City Palace guide that Harsh had arranged for us and he proceeded to take us all around the ginormous City Palace for the next two hours, taking us through mesmerizing rooms and courtyards while telling us the history of the royal family of Udaipur. The guide was incredible and the City Palace beautiful.
We went on a hunt for what Harsh said was the best coffee in the city (Jheel’s) and found it by the footbridge with a bit of help from Google, most of us ended up ordering fruit drinks instead of coffee though before splitting up to do our own thing.
Adri and I went to the footbridge to take pictures, the others walking back towards the hotel.
We wandered down the streets for a bit, going into shops - while Adri was picking out postcards, I talked to the women that ran the shop, who turned out to have a whole family of artists. She got so excited that she started showing me her own and her husband’s personal paintings, which were stunning.
Adri and I took a quick stop at a small temple, Jagdish Temple, by the city palace and sat down to listen to a gathering of women singing and chanting for a little while.
A while later I sat down at the Rainbow restaurant for lunch, Theresa soon joining me. The rest of the afternoon was mostly spent lazing at the Rainbow, Adri soon joining us, then Jenna, then John and Nina and then Mich, some talking and some doing their own thing.
At 5.45 pm we met up again to go for the sunset boat ride on the lake and although we had to wear really hot and ugly lifevests the trip was stunning as the sun slowly set over the hills and palaces.
We met up with Harsh and Mich afterward and took another crazy tuk-tuk ride really far out, going to the other side of Udaipur for street food. We were the only foreigners there, everyone staring at us and all the menus in Hindu. Luckily Harsh was there to take away some of the stress and we were soon eating some of the most delicious food on the whole trip for the equivalent of 8 Danish crowns!
When we got back it was only around 8.30 pm and I wasn’t tired in the least, but the only person ready for an adventure was Richard and so we set off down the street for an evening stroll. We decided to take a peek inside the Jagdish temple by the city palace again, which we found packed with mostly women singing beautiful songs while a Hindu priest in orange did his rituals. We sat down in the back, the women close by smiling warmly and welcoming at us, two shy little girls mustering up the courage to run over to me to say hello. The atmosphere was indescribable and we stayed for a while trying to blend in.
We continued down the street reaching Cafe La Comida, which was closed by now, but going through to the back were a tiny elevator that took us to the fifth floor of restaurant Sun N Moon with the alleged highest rooftop in Udaipur. Opening the elevator we were met by only locals, girls dancing in the middle of the floor to a guy singing and playing the guitar. The atmosphere seemed electrifying and we ordered the only cheap drinks - lime soda (which for some reason came salted), taking them to the balcony, where we ended up sitting for maybe an hour talking. Richard has a spontaneity about him that I really admire, a positive spirit, an energy and a curiosity for understanding cultures that truly inspire me.
On Sunday I woke up at 7 am and made my way down to Cafe La Comida around 8, the others sleeping in. By now the owner knew me and I spent a long time eating my breakfast and writing, occasionally talking with the kind owner. It was a really nice and peaceful morning.
Around 9 am I went back to the hotel and to the rooftop,
soon joined by Nina and John, and so we went to the Rainbow, so they could order breakfast. We ended up sitting there for quite a while, Theresa and then Jenna joining us.
Around 11 am Theresa, John, Jenna and I walked over the footbridge to explore the other side of Udaipur, going down little streets until reaching a serene spot by the lake.
We ended up sitting by the lake for over an hour, chatting with a really friendly American named Scott.
We ventured back to the Old City eventually, for the third time going to the Jagdish Temple, seeing as the others hadn’t yet been there.
About half an hour later Jenna, Theresa and I haggled with a tuk-tuk driver for a little while, and off we went for a 30 minute drive to the Animal Aid Unlimited sanctuary and rescue center in the Badi village. At the sanctuary, a lovely German volunteer named Judith took us on a tour, where we met all the different animals. And I think the water buffalo might be my new favorite animal, one, in particular, seeming like a giant puppy, constantly wanting cuddles and attention. We saw a newborn calf as well and the pool where injured dogs get water therapy.
It was honestly one of the best experiences of the whole trip, giving us all so much hope and joy. And I would really love to come back to volunteer sometime myself.
Back in the old city, I took a lazy walk by myself, walking up the street to buy bananas and do some window shopping, before finding a lovely spot in the sun by the lake to sit down and rest a little. A really nice family wanted to take a photo, and I talked to a kind local for a while as well. The locals in Udaipur are such kind and warm people, seeming both honest and genuine. And walking back to the hotel I noticed how many people smiled warmly at me and greeted me, clearly much more open when I walked alone, compared to with a group.
At 6 pm everyone besides Theresa and Ana was off to a cooking class, where we were taught how to make Indian chai, snacks and four different meals.
It was such a fun experience, very insightful and absolutely delicious. I can't wait to host an Indian evening for friends or family when I get home, making everyone authentic Indian food (compared to the much duller and unvaried food that Indian food tends to be in Denmark).
This morning, on our fourth day in Udaipur, we woke up at 4.30 am and were off at 5 in tuk-tuks to the railway station.
We’ll be taking the train for six hours to Ajmer from there taking a private vehicle to Pushkar.
I’m excited for the rest of India, but Udaipur has really surprised me and I want to come back, so much more still undiscovered and a lot still to get more familiar with.