Hello! Firstly, apologies for the seriously long delays between my India blog posts, but life and work just seems to get in the way, so please be patient with me ;o) In my last post which you can read here, I shared my adventures in Jodhpur, and now it’s onward to Udaipur, Rajasthan.
We’d decided to hire a driver to travel between Jodhpur and Udaipur, and arranged everything the day before the trip, with the manager at our accommodation. Agreeing to set off early, we were up and ready the following morning, took a tuk-tuk to the meeting place of our driver, and waited. And waited. And waited. An hour went by. Next thing our hotel manager turns up, explaining there had been a problem with the car, and we’d now be going to Udaipur with a different driver. Jo and I were starting to see that anything we did or organised whilst in India, would never be a simple process.
We met our new driver, jumped in his car and set off in the direction of Ranakpur Temple, a Jain temple made of marble, and something we wanted to see up close. We chatted back and forth with our driver, and warmed to him immediately. He was the loveliest man, a very fatherly type, and we felt safe in his company and knew he’d look after us.
We drove through some small towns where the only description I can come up with is ‘total poverty’. It is such an eye opener, and every time I experienced these moments, and saw people smiling and laughing, it confirmed how little material possessions we actually need, to make our lives a happy one.
A few hours drive later, we arrived at Ranakpur Temple. As you’ll see from the photos above and below, it’s pretty magnificent! We slipped off our shoes, and ascended the stairs into the temple, where there are over 1444 marble pillars, with no two pillars featuring the same carving. It was the perfect pit stop between the two cities, and I’d highly recommend it.
Back in the car, we carried on, driving through the mountains towards Udaipur, arriving early evening. Our lovely, kind hearted driver, dropped us at the entrance to the old city, hailed us a tuk-tuk, making sure we didn’t get ripped off, and gave us his number in case we had any problems. We jumped in the tuk-tuk and chugged off towards our hotel.
Udaipur, also known as the City of Lakes, has a more serene feeling to it than any of the other spots we visited in India. Full of exquisite palaces and temples, we quickly realised this city has a slower pace, and the locals were a lot more relaxed too. It was a welcome change, to feel life move a little slower for a few days.
Our slow paced mornings in Udaipur always started with coffee at Millets of Mewar, a vegan AND GLUTEN FREE restaurant. The food here is delicious, from the gluten free pancakes to the curries, and I highly recommend it if you’re staying nearby. Jo and I would sit there for an hour or so, sipping almond milk cappuccinos, whilst putting the world to rights.
We spent our days in Udaipur wandering around, with no itinerary, visiting the City Palace, discovering great cafes and chit chatting to locals.
And it was on one particular evening when chatting to a store owner, and suddenly hearing a lot of noise down the road, that Udaipur’s slower pace suddenly picked up. The store owner explained that it was wedding season, and the noise was in fact the groom and guests walking parade style to meet his bride. Actually, let me clarify, the guests were walking, the groom was on a magnificent white horse, looking like something out of a fairytale book.
Within minutes, we managed to be swept up in the middle of the parade, with guests going crazy around us, dancing, bellowing at us to dance, little old ladies nudging us from behind to move forward towards the wedding venue and everyone saying ‘you’re coming to the wedding!’. It was 10 minutes of utter madness and fun, but we certainly weren’t dressed for a wedding, and we managed to wiggle out of the clutches of the guests and stand on the side of the road to continue watching the party go by.
I had one ‘interesting’ situation happen in Udaipur. An encounter with a massage guy, who stands outside his centre, and asks to check your health by pressing on your palms. I obliged, and to be fair, he was extremely accurate when it came to my aches and pains. Deciding to book a massage, I turned up for my appointment, was lead upstairs to the room, and told to undress. This sort of massage is not for the faint hearted, there was no ‘I’ll leave the room whilst you undress’, he just stood in the corner and waited. That’s fine, I’m pretty relaxed with that sort of thing.
The massage was an hour long. Was it good from a technique point of view? Yes, sure. But oh my days, I would have had friends running out of that room crying. This man claims he travels to Europe to work on clients, so therefore you would assume he’d understand what type of dialogue is acceptable/not acceptable to westerners. The man was creepy. Physically I did not feel violated, but his conversation with me and his word choice were not okay. I am so thankful that I am able to feel strong enough in myself and not come across as weak or afraid to these sort of people, especially when you have some strange 6ft man hovering over you on the massage bed and he says ‘don’t worry, I won’t touch your special flower’. Honestly. Those are the exact words.
I’ve had experience with an Indian healer before, and I know that they are much less prudish than us westerners, however I also feel that this massage therapist in Udaipur isn’t someone you should trust. As it turns out, one European woman reported him to the police and he went to jail for a bit, and as I asked around about his reputation, the general reply was that he’s very good at massage but a ‘very bad man’ – the locals words. Wow. SO, please, if you’re in Udaipur DO NOT VISIT Bharti Massage Centre. You’ll recognise the man immediately, he’s an older man, usually in trousers, shirt and sandals, with long hair pulled back in a ponytail, and he works with his son. I’ve since read all sorts of negative reviews on other tourists experiences there, and whilst nothing happened to me that I felt violated in a physical sense, I know his conversation would have deeply affected some of my friends if they’d been in my shoes. I’d like to protect others from that potential negative experience.
Aside from that bit of drama and a random encounter with a Swiss hairstylist, where I ended up being her ‘model’ for a dress fitting for one of her upcoming shows, we drank coffee, ate delicious food, we even had Mexican and margharita’s one evening, whilst perched on a rooftop balcony that overlooked the lake.
The one thing I had been very weary about throughout my trip, was getting ill, because I have a 100% success rate at getting sick in second/third world countries. So every coffee I sipped, I would eye it up, suspicious of how fresh the milk was and how clean the cup was. I’d wash my hands in anti-bac gel a gazillion times a day, and kept up with my daily dose of probiotics.
And so it was, that I kept this 100% success rate, and found myself waking up feeling incredibly unwell at 4am, on the morning we were due to leave for Jaipur. I was A. thankful that Jo and I had booked separate rooms at this particular hotel but B. wondered how on earth I’d manage to get myself together by 7am, get in a taxi, and take a flight. And don’t say ‘well why didn’t you just take immodium?’ Oh I did, and threw it back up 10 seconds later. I knew this day was not going to be pretty….
To Be Continued in my next blog post x