After two days of camels, sand and quiet, we headed back to royalty in Rajasthan’s second major city – Udaipur.
Founded in 1559 in a lake district, it’s less chaotic than Jaipur, and in my opinion, much prettier:
The big attractions are the City Palace, built on the very edge of the main lake Pichola (pictured two above) as well as a second spot called Lake Palace which was built on the lake (in the far background below).
I think the massive City Palace covered my needs quite well. However, the ruling king of the time was obviously more temperamental. He wanted a summer getaway, but one that wasn’t too far away. So, the Lake Palace was born: built right on top of the lake, giving his highness plenty of cool air during the hot summer, only 200 yards away from his “rest-of-the year” palace.
Nevermind that the King could have peeled off some layers of his endless wardrobe to save himself from the heat, and save building an entire building to do the job. But then, it’s safe to say when you have piles of money, modesty is an unnecessary investment.
This may be why film producers chose it as the right kind of spot to represent the palace of Bond’s girlfriend in the 1983 film – Octopussy (seen at the start here):
Plus the production crew also chose other spots in Udaipur as well, like the city streets for a tuk-tuk chase:
As a tourist, you can walk around pretty much any day of the week and find at least one guesthouse screening the film. Nevermind that on Rotten Tomatoes it was voted the third worst Bond film – even worse than Moonraker, which despite its awfulness had some redemptive qualities later on as source material for Austin Powers. Octopussy – the stunt of flying a small plane through a warehouse at the start of the film is pretty amazing, but aside from that? Her tattoo?
Anyhow, back to Udaipur.
The Lake Palace’s grand reputation is also why it’s hard to visit. Since its royal heyday it’s been converted into a five star hotel fit for oligarchs or celebrities who, thanks to their undying wealth, never have to consult a price list. I say this, because I tried. And there’s no whiff of any mention of money on their site – only an indication on other blogs saying this: $$$$$$$. (translation: you’re not on our guest list).
Given the cold hard facts, Rose and I, and the rest of the public whose monthly car payments are undoubtedly less than the cost of breakfast at the Lake Palace, decided to attend the City Palace, which had been converted into a museum, and was only $$ to get in.
We toured around and similar to Jaipur’s City Palace, there were some peacock designs:
But unlike Jaipur’s palace, this one seemed a lot more ornate, with swinging chairs for royalty to ponder what massive building they should build next as another tribute to themselves:
to outdoor floors where I imagine the royals enjoyed watching their assistants take afternoon strolls for them:
While they lounged back, in these plush seats in the background, considering if it was possible to have someone add real gold to their eyelashes:
It had stained glass as well, that reminded of the neon lights in a Star Wars film:
And, two steps later, royals could look out over their subjects with the more paranoid wondering if there was an assassin out to get them, while the more confident thinking it was time to host another festival to find more court jesters.
We spent a lot of time there, because there was a lot of “there” to see. Including a big sun shield, made of swords:
Afterwards we strolled around by the lakefront:
Udaipur has a footbridge that connects two sides of the city – which, with the Lake Palace resting in the lake itself, has inspired some people to call the city: “Venice of the East”.
We also asked someone to take our photo, which was slightly more successful than the last time at the Taj Mahal, in that everything was in frame. The difference was: he thought it would be interesting if we could crane our necks to the right when we looked at the photo:
Later on that night, we left the waterfront:
And made our way into another hall just to the left for a folk festival. It was a packed house and showcased traditional Rajasthani dancing, with women with swords in their mouths and flames on their heads spinning each other in circles.
But the main event was an older lady, who Rose and I guessed had been on the circuit a long time, and perfected a dance turn from this:
Into a freestanding tower as she whirled around:
As she brought her show to a finish, it was our turn to start up our next whirlwind leg of travel: another overnight train, this time to Mumbai followed by a contentious ride in a tuk-tuk, an argument at a bus stand, 2hr walk trying to find a Wifi and bathroom (still couldn’t find both), a 1hr high speed overview of the city in the back of a cab before a 12hr overnight bus ride to Goa in front of a group of vomiting passengers.
Y’all come back now ya hear.