India: Oct 16: Udaipur

These pictures and videos accompany the day's narrative.

Once in Udaipur, we checked into our hotel. It was nice, like a multistory mansion with rooms organized around a central area of open space. Lots of marble. The window on one side of our hotel room opened into column that opened up to the sky. It provided indirect light into the room all day, just like the similar structure I previously described in Delhi.

One reason we chose our hotel was because it offered Indian cooking classes. In fact, the adjacent building also offered some, as did the restaurant down the street. It seemed like there were cooking classes offered around every corner. It's funny that Udaipur became a cooking class destination, unlike much larger cities such as Jaipur or Delhi. According to one guidebook, it was our hotel's cooking class that started the whole cooking class craze as everyone else saw how successful it was.

We went down the street to Sunrise Restaurant for a decent breakfast. Incidentally, the restaurant also offered cooking classes. The restaurateur there told us a sad story about what happened when her husband died. She spent 45 days in mourning, and remained in the house for a year, following the tenets of her religion. Her husband's family cut her off. To earn money to survive the year at home, she had a kid collect laundry for her to do at home. Later in her life, she met an Irish person who encouraged her to start a restaurant and cooking class, and she did. Some cooking class attendees took notes, went home, typed up her recipes in English, and mailed them to her to give to later attendees.

Despite only being in Udaipur for half a day and only seeing a few blocks, we already had a good feeling about it. It's a cozy town, with a population of 400k versus Jaipur's 2m. And Udaipur clearly cares about how it treats tourists. The restaurateur told us the business association tries to discourage beggars and aggressive shopkeepers. The streets are clean. It must have a low crime rate: during a later day, we noticed a few stores were open and unattended. Likewise, one evening we noticed at least one store still had merchandise stacked out front. Also, I like how dense the town is. Indeed, by the end of the day, although we probably hadn't ventured more than half a dozen blocks from our hotel, even I was happy with the quantity of sights we saw. We saw a French and a German bakery. We repeatedly saw signs for rooftop restaurants. We'd dine at many of them. (I think it would be cool if there were bridges between all the rooftop terraces. I know the idea isn't feasible.) In short, Udaipur is a great tourist city--according to Fodor's, 60% of business is related to tourism--yet lacks the slimy competition and tackiness that is sometimes associated with tourism.

Anyway, after breakfast, we wandered into the Jagdish Temple, examined its intricate carvings, discovered that it's surprisingly comfortable inside--good air flow--, and listened briefly to some atmospheric music (bhajans/Hindu chants).

We then headed to Udaipur's main attraction, the City Palace and City Palace Museum. The City Palace is oddly designed. Courtyards seem placed haphazardly. Passageways are narrow. It's difficult to figure out where one is. We did, at least, often get nice views of the lake. I read that such a confusing design was actually intended as a defensive tactic intended to bewilder invaders. Further, I found the palace's style weird as well. For instance, some chambers are decorated with neon-colored stained glass. Incidentally, like many other Indian tourist sights, the palace complex has shops.

The museum displayed some miniature paintings. These were similar in quality to the ones sold by the artist in the palace complex in Jaipur, confirming our estimate that his were top-notch. Some of these paintings were compressed stories of Krishna.

After the museum, we grabbed a late, light lunch at Jaiwana Haveli's rooftop restaurant. It has great views, like the many other rooftop restaurants we'd eat at over our few days in Udaipur. Service was slow, as is seemingly the norm in Indian restaurants.

After napping--recall we'd taken an overnight train to arrive this day--, we went to "Dharohar," a show of tribal Indian dances and music put together by a local cultural center. The show was so impressive I think I ended up either photographing or recording a movie of every performance! (Thus, I have nothing to add here in writing.)

We ate dinner, another slow-service meal, on another rooftop: Tiger Restaurant. We tried it on a tout's tip and it didn't work out--the food was okay at best. Ah, well.

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