While Sam was off having some serious adventures, I was seeking the opposite — a city where I might relax and breathe a little bit, and found exactly what I needed in Udaipur.
Although I spent a week there, I wrote only one sentence about it in my journal, and that sentence was Udaipur is winning all the prizes. That city had everything.
Udaipur was all sunrises from the guesthouse rooftop, and storytelling over chai with the rest of the early birds. The first light warmed the buildings one by one and women in beautiful saris drove dozens of donkeys down the narrow streets. The cows yawned and half-heartedly began chewing their first plastic bags and discarded cigarette packs of the day.
Slowly, belatedly, the city woke up, and the silver shops lifted their metal grates and the pashmina peddlers began draping their wares in the yellow light, and the tour guides straightened their collars and got ready for the onslaught of visitors to the city palace. The energy levels in the spice market steadily mounted as vendors hauled out the hugest bags of salt/chilli/cane sugar you’ve ever seen and the pekora and kachori vendors set their oil vats a-sizzling.
So every day I went for a walk around town and talked to the merchants and sampled the street fare and did more or less a whole lot of nothing, and it felt wonderful. One of the major highlights of my time there was the cooking class I took with Mrs. Shashi and four travellers from Poland — and we got to talking about the Polish poets Czeslaw Milosz and Wislawa Szymborska (thanks, Professor Moritz!) of all things, while mastering the perfect masala sauce.
But by far the highlight of my time there was the day-trip I took with three lovely girls to Kumbhalgarh fort and Ranakpur temple, a couple of hours’ drive outside of town.
The drive itself was spectacular: Rajasthan is a desert state, and the snaking road is carved from an unending range of terrific, desert mountains, but at the base of these purple-grey towers of sand were rice paddies! Rice! In the desert! The bright green of the rice fields under the mountains was an extremely strange, wondrous sight.
At the fort itself, we may have, er, ‘bypassed’ the technical boundaries for tourists, but we were desperate for the view! And it was totally worth it:
And then we finished the day at one of the most beautiful, sacred places I have ever seen: the Jain temple of Ranakpur, and right near sunset. There is, in fact, nothing I can say about this place that will do it justice, just as no photograph came even close to capturing the magic of that place, so you will just have to trust me on this one: you should go there. You should go there and marvel.
Throw in some glorious sunsets over the lake, serious temperature dips in the evenings, and late-night conversations wrapped in blankets, and you just about have it for Udaipur. By far the highlight of my stay here so far.
Hope you’re all well. Keep in touch!
From India with love,