Friday, October 28, 2011

Udaipur tour 28 Oct 2011

India 28-Oct-2011

Traffic getting into the center of Udaipur was at a standstill Thursday night when we arrived; portions of the old city were closed to cars. After driving around, and not driving for portions of time, Praveen left the car on a street and we walked the remaining half-mile or so to the hotel. The streets in the center are twisted, hilly, and narrow.
Once we reached the hotel, I found the room to be elegant yet sparse. The electrical service is controlled by an outside switch (no leaving the iron on, of there was an iron, and enough power to run one). The bathroom has a hot water heater for the shower, which you must switch on ahead of time to get it ready.

In the morning, I met my guide, who was going to be Farooq, but instead was another gentleman, whose name was, um, I forgot to write down. I've now heard multiple variations on the Hindu deity naming schemes. His monologue varied from describing the panoply of supreme beings to the origin of the marble and other building material to a little about current conditions.
The center dome was barely visible behind a large wire mesh, and due to angles, not much was evident outside. The exterior of the building had an unbelievable number of carved figures, and each layer seemed to relate to some power or unit.

City palace museum
The Palace is no doubt a great building, with wonderful courtyards, terffici vistas, and an ancient art collection, as well as more recent historic artifacts like photos and mementos of the ruling family. Sadly, we did not see or enjoy much of this due to the crowds from Diwali holiday visiting at the same time. It was an experience to be in lines that channeled into a single small doorway, that led down to narrow winding steps. Generally everyone was patient, except for one person who decided waiting was not for him, pushing through the crowd to reach the bottleneck.
People were extra friendly to me, saying hello, with one gentleman asking me about my travel to India.

No boat ride
I told my guide I was not interested in a boat ride to any of the lake palaces, given the likelihood of long waits, crowded sites, and my general dislike pf boats. He seemed hesitant to change the plan, since it was paid for and he appeared to be ready with more monologues. After a week of seeing 500 year old buildings, I wanted to visit something more topical. Heritage is great, but what about the world we will live in tomorrow?

Water garden
We skipped the boat ride, driving to the water garden (the name escapes me, but one photo geo-location says N 24d 35m 14s, E 73d 41m 50s ). This was less crowded, cool with fountains, and had pleasant greenery, as well as few if any pushy potential guides, trinket sellers or mendicants.

Lunch - Aroma restaurant

For lunch, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant. While the food was good, I felt a bit off for some reason. Maybe the waiter didn't think much of me, or the feeling of eating on a card table under a mildewed tarpaulin, or the lack of other patrons save one gave me a strange feeling. But the food was spicy and filling, and I won't need to return soon.

City market walk
After being dropped off near the city center, my guide directed me through blocks of outdoor and indoor markets, explaining which areas sold which goods, how the businesses were handed down throughout the families, and a bit about how the city architecture has evolved from mud and brick huts to cement and steel structures. I took a few photographs, but with no hotel wireless and limited bandwidth to upload through my phone, the images will need to wait. I sent one through to Facebook, and one to Twitter, I think, so check one of those.
One area I skipped through lack of interest was the gem and stone market. This area is a world exporter apparently, and there seems to be plenty of consumers for those goods. I was able to get a replacement watchband, installed, for what could be considered a bargain. Again, photos later.

Dinner - Ambrai restaurant
Nice place, not too far a walk from the hotel (with a guide, as I don't think a map would suffice). Outdoor setting, live music playing, and more spicy food (mutton sagwala this time). But seeing a rat scampering among tables was a big let down (oh, look, it's Scampers!). The lakes look nice, very reflective views of the surrounding buildings, but the amount of trash I saw on the swales below the locks was enormous, and included at least one live big rooting through it. I hesitate to think what the water quality of such a contained reservoir would be. Probably worse than Baltimore's Inner Harbor?

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