Day 125: Udaipur, India. We spent this morning sorting out transport and accommodation for the next stage of our adventure. Tomorrow we head to Mount Abu, a hill station about 160km west of Udaipur.
We’d originally intended to catch the train to Mount Abu, however there’s no direct line, and the closest station (Abu Road) is about 45 minutes drive away. So we’re going to be brave and risk our first Indian journey by bus – a four hour journey with no air conditioning. Oh joy.
With bus transport and accommodation booked, we slung on our day packs and headed out for a long sunny walk to and around Fateh Sagar Lake, the northernmost of the two main lakes in Udaipur. The circumference of the lake is about 9km, and it’s a fabulous walk. A major highlight is that there’s a proper pavement for a large chunk of the way, which is pretty unusual in these parts.
As always, we responded to lots of people calling hello and waving as we went along. One couple carrying a toddler said hello and asked us how we were, as we went past. We turned into a small park and as we were walking around, the couple came running up behind us, calling and asking us to wait for them. Apparently their toddler (who we now know is called Sia) had started crying because she didn’t get a chance to say hello to us herself, so they decided to run after us to she could say hello, and shake our hands. How sweet. We gave Sia an Australian kangaroo keyring, which made her smile even more. As we left, her mum said “you will be in my memories forever”.
We stopped to look across the water at the Udaipur Solar Observatory, which is Asia’s largest observatory. Its major responsibility is solar observation, filling in between Australia and Spain. The lake water helps to keep the temperature consistent which makes for better images. Sadly no visitors are allowed on the island.
We had a quick break at a small coffee shop alongside the lake. Lil reckons the coffee was the best she has ever had (and given how many cups she gets through every day, that’s a big call). It was perfectly made, served in clay cups with bitter chocolate powder on top, and tasted absolutely divine.
We continued walking but got stuck a little further along, as two cows were in the middle of the road, and one had started head butting the other (a means of asserting dominance, and which can sometimes turn nasty). So we hung back, not inclined to try and pass them while they were jousting. A motorcyclist saw us cowering (no pun intended) on the pavement and got off his bike to shout at them and shoo them to the side of the road. We thanked him, and walked very warily around the animals for fear they started their head butting antics again. Never a dull moment.
We passed by the Moti Magri Hall of Heroes, and decided to go in and take a look around. It’s a great little museum with lots of paintings depicting stories from various kings of Mewar, an older name for the area, together with some very cool intricate models of Udaipur City Palace, Chittorgarh Fort and Haldighati Fort.
The museum also has a small selection of weaponry, with their weights displayed above each piece. One was a 16kg suit of chainmail, and Jim couldn’t resist giving the interactive exhibit a go, just to show how strong he is. Lil said he looked like a twit.
The grounds of the museum were also great – English style gardens and a huge outdoor upper level with marbled tiled floor and views across the lake and city.
We finished the lake walk and headed back towards our guesthouse, dropping into a supermarket along the way to pick up some toiletries. It was a fairly small store with goods piled haphazardly onto shelves. One of the staff was sitting on a stool talking on her phone in the middle of an aisle, and another staff member was lying napping on a large bag of rice.
The cash register was the most archaic piece of computing technology we’ve seen in a long time. For every single item, the elderly man behind the counter had to scan the bar code, which brought up a list of items on the computer screen, often not containing the item scanned. He then had to pick the right item, or substitute another item which cost the same amount, before moving on to the next one. It was tedious watching him going through the process. We bought eight items and it took us over five minutes to pay – if we’d bought a weekly shop we’d likely have spent all weekend in there.
Closer to the guesthouse, we stopped again to pick up water at one of the cute little sweet shops on our street, piled high with all sorts of goodies.
This evening we caught an Uber across town to a renowned thali restaurant called Natraj Dining Hall. When we walked into the restaurant, empty thali trays and dishes were already laid out on all the tables (it’s the only thing they serve).
We were only seated for a minute, with just enough time to wonder how it was all going to work, when a thali swat team descended on our table with serving bowls and baskets, filling our trays and dishes with vegetable curries, dahl, pickles, rice, chapatis and puris alongside big cups of buttermilk.
Every time we ate or drank a little of anything, someone would appear at our sides wanting to top up our dishes or pile more chapatis and puris onto our trays. By the time we left, only 40 minutes later, we were ridiculously stuffed. The food was out of this world – the best thali ever, but we felt like we might never need to eat again.
Then back to the guesthouse to start packing with a glass of warm Indian wine, followed by an early night.
Tomorrow we’ll be up very early, to finish packing and head to Udaipur bus station for our bus to Mount Abu. Let’s hope the Indian family in the room next door aren’t on the same bus, singing ‘The wheels on the bus go round and round…’